Touring - Tour across canada. Route suggestions?
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06-19-10, 05:36 AM
I'm likely to be out of work at the end of this year, and may be able to take the opportunity to retire. For a long time I've promised myself that when that happens, I'm going to tour across Canada - a country I've visited several times, admired, and in which I have a number of friends.
So, the planning starts here. I'm thinking three months, starting in May 2011, probably starting in Vancouver and heading east until I reach the end of the continent. Unsupported, some camping, some credit card B&B/motelling. There are various websites and blogs that describe similar tours, but I'm interested in whether anyone here has done this, what routes they'd recommend (and especially what routes they'd avoid!) and any other useful suggestions that Canadian members - or others with experience of cycling in Canada - might have. Thanks in advance.
From the Vancouver airport, if it were me, I would make my way down to White Rock (and the International Peace Arch), and then east along 16th Ave to 264 St. From there I'd go south to 0 Ave, right along the border, and follow that to Hwy 11 right below Abbotsford. From there, get a good map of the area -- the Abbotsford travel agency has some -- and follow Vye Rd. and onto Old Yale Rd. and up Powerhouse Road, Wells Line Road, Interprovincial Highway, Boundary Rd. etc. ... it kind of follows the contours of the mountains through there ... VERY scenic. You'll be in Chilliwack, and I'd go through Chilliwack on Vedder Rd, onto Yale Road (crossing the TransCanada).
You might have to ride the TransCanda for a little while between Yale Rd and Agassiz Rosedale Hwy, but once you get onto Agassiz Rosedale Hwy you can get up to Hwy 7, which will take you to Hope.
From Hope, you've got three choices (Hwy 1, Hwy 3, and Hwy 5). I think Hwy 5 is the Coquihalla and I don't believe you are allowed on that one, but I might be mistaken. However, either of the other two choices are probably OK. Hwy 3 is likely the most quiet of the bunch. One thing to note here ... whatever direction you choose to go in BC from here on will not have shoulders and will be very rugged and fairly remote ... unless it is the middle of July, in which case the roads will be clogged with RVs.
If you want to end up in Banff relatively quickly, I'd go with Hwy 1, but be aware that the traffic can get a bit annoying. If you've got lots of time, I think I'd meander along on Hwy 3 and some others there along the south of the province, or I might make my way north from Kamloops up Hwy 5 (you can cycle it from this point - I have, it's quite nice) to Jasper.
If you do the south route, I'd come north on Hwy 93 to Radium Hotsprings (lovely area!) to Banff. If you're in Jasper, I might ride the Icefield Parkway south to Banff. From Banff, take either Hwy 1 (TransCanada) or the 1A. The 1A is more scenic and has very light traffic, but the road is pretty rough. The TransCanada is busier but there are wide shoulders so it isn't too bad. I'd stay on one or the other to Calgary.
Again, if it were me, from Calgary, I'd make my way to Drumheller (to see the badlands!) Drumheller http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/ , http://www.dinosaurvalley.com/ is interesting. Then I'd take Hwy 9 out of the province into Saskatchewan (but I would avoid Hwy 9 prior to Drumheller). However, if you wanted something a bit more scenic, and if you've got time, I would make my way a bit further north and cross into Saskatchewan at Lloydminster, although Hwy 16 can be pretty busy too.
If seeing Banff and Calgary isn't that important to you, I'd head south from Jasper to Saskatchewan River Crossing and then east on Hwy 11 to Red Deer and across to Drumheller from there. Hwy 11 is the most beautiful highway I've ever ridden.
Saskatchewan ... hmmmmm ... well, you might first try to pick up a good map that will tell you which roads are paved, because from here to Ontario not many of them are. Qu'appelle Valley on the east side of Regina is nice ... but Regina isn't particularly. I think if I were you, I'd aim to enter Manitoba around Russell, just south of Riding Mountain National Park ... and I'd take a little trip into Riding Mountain National Park http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/mb/riding/index_e.asp ... you'll be desperate for some scenery by then!! Oh, but a warning ... avoid Yorkton at all costs ... it is the Bermuda Triangle of the prairies!! :lol:
There are several routes you could take through Manitoba ... the quickest would be Neepawa, Gladstone, Portage La Prairie and then Hwy 26 into Winnipeg (NOT the TransCanada, unless you've got a death wish). But if you've got time, head south from Neepawa to Spruce Woods area http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/spruce_woods/ - there's a nice campground there, and a desert which they'll take you out on with a horse and cart ... it's interesting. Then I'd probably go over to Hwy 34, down to Hwy 3 to Morden (good breakfasts in the hotel there!), and north on Hwy 3 to Carmen (lovely swimming facilities and park) and into Winnipeg.
Note: I would strongly recommend avoiding the TransCanada across Manitoba as much as possible. There are no shoulders ... you're just out there with all the traffic. Other cyclists have died trying to ride the TransCanada through Manitoba, and there are much better choices for roads - either Hwy 2 or 3 will get you across to Winnipeg with a lot less hassle than the TransCanada.
From Winnipeg, I'd go up to Bird's Hill Park in the north (you might camp there, it's nice), and then out toward Elma on Hwy 15. Then get onto Hwy 44 to West Hawk Lake http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/whiteshell/index.html ... but try to avoid that road on a weekend. There are no shoulders in Manitoba, and that road will have a lot of RV traffic on it on the weekends. There is some nice camping in the West Hawk Lake area.
Then you have to get onto Hwy 1 (or Hwy 17 as they call it in Ontario) but it isn't too bad for traffic, and it is scenic. Kenora's kind of nice - lots of lakes around there. I've only been out as far as Dryden, so I don't know if you'd want to head south and take Hwy 11 out to Thunder Bay, or just stay on 17.
I have heard that Hwy 17 north of Lake Superior is not a good road for cyclists, and I've heard that most cyclists prefer to drop into the US and go under the lake ... but someone else will have to confirm that for me.
So ... that's a brief tour of western Canada!!
You might be able to get some more info from here:
06-19-10, 06:59 AM
That's fantastically useful. Thanks for being so generous with your time. Time is something I'll have plenty of, so I'd be inclined to take the quieter/more scenic route at every opportunity. I'll keep you posted.
Any other suggestions will be just as gratefully received!
06-19-10, 09:30 AM
Depending on how much you like to climb, this will probably factor into your route through BC. The Trans-Canada(#1) east of Hope is probably the most tame. You basically have three passes (Jackass in the Fraser Canyon, Roger's between Revestoke and Golden, and Kicking Horse between Field and the border).
For the most part, BC has excellent shoulders though there are small stretches that don't have much. Kicking Horse Canyon immediately east of Golden comes to mind. At times when there is no shoulder, there may be a passing lane.
The Crow's Nest (#3) west of Hope is probably the most aggressive route across BC with the most climbs. I highly recommend this route. It is extremely beautiful. But be warned it is hilly.
The Coquihalla (#5) from Hope has two, long sustained climbs. There are in the vicinity of ~7% for 15 to 20 km each.
Check out this site (http://www.vanc.igs.net/~roughley/bike_bc.html). Lots of information on BC roads.
As for the #17 around Lake Superior, I found it to be in the top three for scenery when I cycled across. I have motorcycled the southern shore years previous, but I really don't think that it has the scenery that the northern route does.
Traffic can be bad at times, but if you get early starts in the morning, it may help alleviate some of the RV traffic.
I found the dodgiest road, the stretch from Ste. St. Marie to Espanola (and probably on to Sudbury if you continued that way). I also met cyclists that have actually bussed, or considered bussing that stretch.
Heading south at Espanola through Manitoulin Island, then ferrying over to Tobermory would be longer than cutting straight across from Sudbury - but it would be quieter and more scenic IMO.
Anyway, I'm sure that there will be more people chiming in from various parts of the country.
06-19-10, 10:34 AM
If you are open to other options, you might also consider starting in Victoria and going north up the Island and either catching the ferry to Bella Coola or Prince Rupert. I have done all three routes (including Vancouver) and they certainly all have their merits. I found the highway 20 from Bella Coola to be the most rewarding: very little traffic, great scenery but a lot of bear poop on the highway. But yes, there will be a lot more rain up north. Starting in Victoria would also allow you to check out the Gulf Islands and ease into your trip.
You might also want to pick up the following guide/s:
They give options for getting off of the pavement. It's not as bad as it may sound as far as comfort. You follow a lot of rails to trails which means the distance may be greater between two points but since it's a rail grade, you will avoid big climbs. For example, you have the Blueberry Paulson between Christina Lake and Castlegar BC. You can avoid this climb by riding the Columbia Western Railway which gives you great views of Christina and Arrow Lakes, long tunnels, high trestles and no cars (but unfortunately the occasional ATV). I can't say enough about it.
Here are some photos from last years trip if you are bored and have the time:
I did not read all of the above but I bet Machka already mentioned the Icefields Parkway.
Have fun planning and if pass through Nelson and have the time, PM me.
Here are over 60 links to information about bike touring in Canada (http://www.biketouringtips.com/searchTips.html?country=Canada&state=&place=&id=&subtopic=). Obviously, not all (or even most) of them will be of interest to you but some will be and I hope they provide a good place to start.
I've never biked in Canada and it is on my list of "must do before I die" tours, especially the Western part.
06-19-10, 11:49 AM
Thanks, guys. Great advice. The more I look at it, the more I think it's unreasonable to have to wait until next year!
aroundoz, great pics. The more Northerly route from Bella Coola sounds intriguing. I'm not too worried about climbing. Presumably it's rare for bears to actually eat passing cyclists?
Only joking. As a matter of interest, I once encountered a brown bear with cub while hiking on a trail near Whistler. That was a sphincter-tightening moment to exceed anything I've experienced on a bike. She allowed me to beat a cautious retreat.
06-19-10, 01:49 PM
Around my neck of the woods (NW Ontario) most people take the south route Kenora > HWY 71 > Fort Francis > HWY 11 > Atikokan > Thunder Bay.
Most of the trucks and other traffic takes the north route and local traffic takes the south route(local of course being an area the size of England).
I don't have personal experience yet but i plan on doing the HWY11>71>17 triangle this year.
Entering Thunder Bay I would stop at Kakabeka and see the falls then take HWY 11/17 to Arthur street into the city. The TdC and other reports I have read take local roads from Kakabeka but they have no shoulders and the Highway has a good car size lane to ride in.
oh and +1 on Drumheller and Tryell, I couldn't think of missing that.
06-19-10, 04:45 PM
I would start at the far west coast of Canada (ie Tofino). You can fly into Victoria but then you would have to take your bike on the Tofino bus (they do have a bike bag you can reserve) to start (highly recommend the walk-in campsites at Long Beach). Also of course you get a preview of your first day's ride while on the bus. There's a short (~10 km) stretch which is a little unnerving - narrow highway with no shoulders, some short steep pinches (18%), curves, rock face on one side and drop off on the other. But the scenery is totally beautiful worth it!
If you start on Vancouver island you could also make a side trip to visit a few Gulf island which have their own unique culture to them. spinninwheels and I liked Denman island so much on a bike tour we did on Van island that we decided to move there! Cycling tourists always welcome to stop by.
(OOPS this is crazybikerchick, accidentally posted under spinninwheels)
A little collection of Canadian photos ... mainly taken while cycling ... mainly taken in the mountains ... :)
06-20-10, 07:40 PM
I'm travelling across Canada right now, taking my time checking and taking routes that are a bit off the beaten path. I'm in Yellowknife, NWT right now for example :) Definitely would not recommend following my path as it was 7 days of torture with bugs, sinking gravel roads, and no services.
When I went across BC, I went up Vancouver Island, took the ferry up to Prince Rupert and headed East. I rode till about 100km from the Alberta border, and performed a little detour south into the Interior, and finally the Kootenays. I would recommend taking some time to go through the Okanagan and Kootenays as opposed to heading east on Highway 16, the Yellowhead. I'm still deciding on my route across Alberta and the rest of the country, but I have until Nov 30th before weather absolutely turns sideways on me. Follow me at http://www.tiredofit.ca
06-21-10, 09:00 AM
If you decide to travel BC, I would avoid the Okanagan at this time. The tourist traffic is getting heavier and you have limited options for quiet roads. (motor homes are like flies in the area) The Kootenays might be a better choice until September.
06-21-10, 01:41 PM
Thanks again, all. Keep 'em coming. Sleizure, that's quite a trip you're making. I don't think I'll be venturing quite as far North as Yellowknife, but if I do you can be sure I'll be bringing some DEET.
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