Cycling to and from work in rush hour traffic and pedalling familiar weekend trails may have you thirsting for a new and uncharted cycling adventure; one where you can leisurely explore new sights, culture, flora and fauna.
Canada's vast national parks and rural destinations provide endless scenic routes to explore while taking in the remainder of summer and enjoying the brilliant colours of autumn. Part of the appeal of cycling is the amount of ground you can cover, up close and personal, in the great outdoors and the freedom to stop when and where you wish. Here are a few getaways where you can do just that.
1. The Bridges of Kings County, New Brunswick
Kings County, in southern New Brunswick, is the covered bridge capital of Atlantic Canada with 16 romantic, wooden structures that resemble barns. Originally built in the early 1900s, these bridges inherited the nickname of "kissing bridges" because suitors would steal a kiss from their sweethearts while travelling through by horse and carriage.
Transport yourself, and your bike, to a time when covered bridges were major links in New Brunswick's road system, and learn the bridge lore and heritage of the region. An 80-km route will take you to eight of the bridges, including the French Village Bridge. One of the longest remaining bridges at 57 meters, it overlooks favourite fishing and swimming holes. At the end of your journey you can stay at the campground at French Village. A less rigorous route of 35 km will take you to four covered bridges, including Smith Creek #5 or Oldfield Bridge. This is the bridge that's featured on the 1992 New Brunswick quarter celebrating Canada's 125th birthday.
2. Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan
60 km north of Prince Albert on the southern edge of the Great Northern Forest in Saskatchewan, Prince Albert National Park offers many backcountry trails by picturesque lakes and beaches, fescue prairie grasslands, and wildlife such as elk, bison and deer. It also inhabits the only fully protected white pelican-nesting colony in Canada. A few self-guided routes to try are the Anglin Lake Trail, a 12-km return trip that winds its way through the aspen and poplar forest and along the Spruce River. The Fish Lake Trail, 12 km one way, meanders past several lakes, through the Aspen forest to the Fish Lake campground, where you can set up camp for the night before embarking on another trail.
Other recommended cycling trails are the Freight Trail, 27 km one way, this historic trail dates back to the late 1800s when furs and supplies were transported between Prince Albert and La Ronge. While cycling in the park you may want to visit the cabin of celebrated 1930s naturalist and conservationist, Grey Owl. The cabin, which was Grey Owl's last home, sits on the shore of Ajawaan Lake. Camping is available near the site. The cabin is not accessible by bike. Hiking, canoe, kayak or motorboat access is preferred.
Visit www.pc.gc.ca/albert for more information.
3. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
You don't have to be a Tour de France contender to sign up for one of Steve Bauer's bike tours. The former Tour de France champion and Olympic medallist runs a bike-touring company called The Yellow Jersey with his wife, in southern Ontario's Niagara-on-the-Lake region. Day trips through the Niagara region with stops at local wineries are popular excursions. One to try is the 25 to 30 km guided tour of the orchards and vineyards surrounding Niagara on the Lake's Peller Estates and Marynissen Estates.
In the historic town of Queenston visit Laura Secord's estate and Queenston Heights Historical Park for views of the Niagara River. A gourmet lunch is served at Peller Estates, followed by a lesson in wine making and a wine-sampling session. Visit The Yellow Jersey's website at www.stevebauer.com/index2.cfm for information on day tours and extended trips.
4. Kananaskis Country, Alberta
Hop on a mountain bike and follow the trail of Olympians. Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country, Alberta is the site of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games Nordic Ski Events and will host the 2005 Cross Country World Cup in December. Stunning rocky mountain views, including Mount Rundle, and the fresh mountain air make this an exhilarating mountain biking experience. Bike rentals, skills lessons and guided tours are all available.
Visit www.trailsports.ab.ca for more information.
5. Halifax's Lighthouse route, Nova Scotia
Freewheeling Adventures, a cycling and multisport touring company based in Nova Scotia, offers many creative cycling adventure getaways across Canada. The South Shore Secrets tour promises to be a magical and memorable trip. This is an action-packed six-day itinerary along the Lighthouse route, beginning in Halifax. You will cycle to quaint villages, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenberg, the fishing town of Liverpool and seaside hamlets of Vogler's Cove and Little Harbour. Enjoy an afternoon cruise on St. Margaret's Bay, croissants in the village of Chester and a visit to the sea-caves reached through underground tunnels at Ovens Natural Park. Choose guided or self-guided tours.
Visit www.freewheeling.ca for more information.