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  1. #1
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    The ultimate cross-Canada no highway route?

    Hi all -

    Well, we are working our way through SE Asia and dreaming of Canada! We plan to cross the country next year but we'd also like to live a long life and it's just no fun riding with cars whizzing past so we want to do it without touching the TCH if possible, even though that will add a considerable distance to the trip. We admit that in some parts, the TCH might be the only option but we would like to circumvent it and other busy highways as much as possible.

    This is where you come in. What routes spring to mind as being good cycling routes? If we get some good suggestions, maybe we can play connect the dots. We will start in Vancouver and we have to pass through Edmonton and Saskatoon (family). We would also like to hit Sudbury. We don't mind going way off the beaten track - reckon we can pack food for a week - and wild camping. We are pretty familiar with the Maritime provinces but suggestions for BC and Manitoba/northern Ontario would be particularly welcome.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    Actually - you cannot - unless you have a canoe.
    There are stretches in northwest Ontario where there is no option except the TCH.

    However, there are plenty of options elsewhere.
    Machka can be a big help in Alberta.
    Consider taking Highway 20 out of Bella Coola.
    There is a murderous climb over Heckman Pass
    but the road is mostly paved after the pass and very lightly traveled.
    Hwy 20 connects with Hwy 97 at Williams Lake.
    You can stay on pavement cutting south to 100 Mile House
    Then over to Clearwater and up Hwy 5 to Mount Robson
    Or you can use back road to Quesnel, Hwy 26 to Wells
    Then forest roads up to Purden Lake to Hwy 16.

    Regardless of which way you do it, you have to cross the Rockies on a highway.
    (Since cyclists cannot ride most trails in the national parks)
    I much prefer the Yellowhead - Hwy 16, over the TCH - Hwy 1, or Hwy 93 - the old TCH.
    From Jasper you can follow the old road to Athabasca Falls.
    Make sure to take the fire road into the backcountry at Sunwapta Falls.
    You can miss the TCH altogether by cutting east at Saskatchewan River Crossing.
    Take Hwy 11 to Rocky Mtn House and Red Deer.
    Then continue on Hwy 12 to the Saskachewan border.
    Then follow Hwy 51 and Hwy 14 into Saskatoon - a college town.
    From Saskatoon, you can head north of the Yellowhead Hwy on provincial roads -
    Then cross north of Lake Manitoba and skirt north of Winnipeg to the Ontario border,

    From there - unless you have a canoe - you have to get on the TCH.
    I'll let someone with eastern experience continue in Ontario.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Actually - you cannot - unless you have a canoe.
    There are stretches in northwest Ontario where there is no option except the TCH.
    Thanks for such a detailed reply! We will get out our basic maps (hope to get better ones when we arrive in Canada) and take a look. I figured that there were some stretches around northern Ontario where we'd have to hit the TCH in parts, although one map we saw on a wall here suggested there was a road north and almost parallel to the TCH through the north. It was perhaps not the most accurate. The key for us is just to minimise the risk as much as possible and see some nice things along the way. Your information will help a lot. Thanks again.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  4. #4
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    To bad you have to go through Saskatoon.
    The south offers some beautiful open spaces and badlands. The Geat Sand hills, Grasslands national Park, Frenchman Valley area, Big Muddy ect. Just like the old west.
    Beautiful at night.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    You can avoid the TCH all the way between Vancouver to the border of Manitoba/Ontario.

    From the Vancouver Airport head for White Rock and then aim for 0 Avenue (or 8th Avenue in places) all the way across to Chiliwack. You can head up for Harrison Hotsprings somewhere in there and make your way to Hope on, I believe, the Flood Hope road.

    Rowan and I are currently scouting out Hwy 3 in southern BC ... we've just driven Abbotsford to Trail today on Hwy 3, and it is definitely doable by bicycle ... provided you've got good climbing legs, especially for the 20 kms on the west side of Osoyoos. That is some climb!!

    There's a shoulder on most of Hwy 3 between Abbotsford and Trail, but there are places where the shoulder disappears or is questionable. Be prepared for a bit of variety. When you leave Hope, leave with supplies. There isn't much in the way of supplies until Princeton. But after Princeton the towns are a bit more plentiful, and there are fruit stands etc.

    However there does appear to be quite a few camping options along the way.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Highway 3 in B.C. is fun. There's not much of a shoulder in areas, but that's not a problem. The traffic on that highway isn't too bad and the motorists, including the big truckers, give cyclists lots of room.

    From Hope to the Allison Pass summit is a long climb. There's a descent and then another climb afterward. From Osoyoos to Anarchist Pass is another climb. This one is a little tougher, although it's not as much elevation gain.

    I prefer to get off Highway 3 in Princeton and follow the Princeton-Summerland road to Summerland. About half this road is paved. There's a gradual climb until Chain Lake or Thirsk Lake. Then, when the road becomes gravel, it's downhill until Trout Creek Crossing. You've then got one big hill and then downhill.

    Alternately, you can take the Trans-Canada Trail which runs parallel to the Princeton-Summerland road. This route will let you avoid most of the climbs.

    There's also a rail trail east of Osoyoos. This will let you avoid Eholt Summit between Greenwood and Grand Forks. It will also bypass the Blueberry Paulsen summit between Christina Lake and Castlegar. (This section of the trail is one of the most beautiful rides in B.C.)
    Life is good.

  7. #7
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    Interesting replies. Thanks all!

    Are the rail trails/transcanada trail mentioned actually ridable? We had a good experience in Quebec and then horrible ones in NB. PEI was okay but there and elsewhere in the country we've heard ATVs are a problem. We are very wary of trails as they can quickly go bad and just turn into miserable timewasters.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

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    No, the trans Canada trail is just a concept for raising funds from people who don't get out much. Locally it can be great, it can also be terrrrible. I had to laugh, I was by car at the NB Que. border the other day and looked to the right in time to see the meeting of the trails. Big wooden arches a small shelter, etc... just perfect for a ribbon cutting ceremony. I know the NB trail is a joke just feet from there, and that was before this springs terrible floods. I love NB and I love NBers, but they should spend less time managing their cycling image and actually put some asses in seats. The thing about the NB trail is it has some fascilities, camp areas etc... Since you won't be riding it you need to keep the eyes open for these as they can be useful.

    Stuff like cycling across the country don't really make any sense. It's like the old climbing idea of a directisima, or route that rises like a drop of water falls. I wonder if the whole thing is actually worth doing, or which of the Can or US trails is actually the best.

    Beware what Machka says about hills. she actually likes to ride a bike, if Machka goes there I am probably going to find a different route.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Don't we all like to ride our bicycles?



    And the TransCanada Trail really isn't "TransCanada" ... it comes and goes. From what I've seen of it too, you'd want a mountain bike to ride the bits that do exist.

  10. #10
    Hooked on Touring
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    Hey -

    Are you willing to do some dirt or not?
    I've ridden BC Forest roads all over the province - from Yukon Terr to Akamina.
    They are great, quiet, with lots of free camping.
    However, they are often mudpits any time before June.

    I would figure that you want to enjoy the Canadian Rockies and Icefields Parkway as part of trip. From Vancouver you could head northeast towards Jasper - then down to Sask River Crossing and to Red Deer. Then have family in Edmonton meet you there. That way you can have some great mountain riding plus good roads across Alberta to Saskatoon. (The Yellowhead Hwy - Hwy 16 - across Alberta is not much different than the TransCanada.)

    The stretch between Kamloops and Valemount in BC along the Thompson River - Hwy 5 - is really loverly, plus you can make a side trip to Wells Gray Park. So the problem is getting from Vancouver to Kamloops. I have never done this stretch of the TransCan because it has a lot of traffic and tunnels in the Fraser Canyon. (Less traffic since the toll road opened.) You can take Hwy 99 from Vancouver to Cache Creek, but it is pretty busy and narrow to Whistler. Or you can take the Crowsnest Hwy - Hwy 3 - from Hope to Princeton, then cut up to Kamloops on Hwy 5A. There are numerous forest road options in this stretch. Plus there the unpaved road along Harrison Lake to Hwy 99 that bypasses Whistler.

    Machka can attest to the beauty of the the David Thompson Hwy - Hwy 11 - in Alberta.

  11. #11
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    "Don't we all like to ride our bicycles?'

    There is Paris Roubet like, and 'call the sag wagon' like. I think we know where you fall... I don't call for help, but I have my limits on hills.

  12. #12
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    Hills and dirt are no problem. Massive mud pits and rock-strewn trails are an issue though. Keep the suggestions coming
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

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    As for BC, I drove around the Kootneys a couple of weeks ago. I don't think you can get over the rockies unless you use a highway (I could be wrong). The crowsnest highway seemed very nice, long corners, wide shoulder, nice grades and not too much traffic (afterall, why would trucks take the 3 if you could take the 1 which isn't that far away). You could also check out the 6 and a bunch of others in there, they are stepper and not as wide, but there isn't much traffic on those roads. I would also spend some time in the Okanagon checking out wineries and backroads and make the best of such a diverese landscape that BC has to offer (Ocean, Coastal rainforest, mountain, desert, Mountain, interior rainforest, mountain, mountain, mountain, and then your in Alberta, and it is not nearly as exciting). There is a Black Sage road north of Osoyoos, which goes to Oliver, and then there is a road that goes east and takes you out of the Okanagon valley. I don't know, just giving you some ideas.

  14. #14
    Senior Member gregstandt's Avatar
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    This woman rode across Canada without going on the TCH. A good story with complete route info.

    http://www.adventurecycling.org/stor...oss-canada.cfm
    Relax, it's a bike ride.

  15. #15
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    This is a pretty ultimate ride across Canada. Sorry it doesn't help much but its worth taking a look.

    I walked trails that are part of the TransCanada trail. There were ropes to help hikers go uphill.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  16. #16
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    What month are you planning on leaving Vancouver? Leaving early (~ mid to late May) in the cycling season, while providing somewhat quieter roads, may be more challenging at higher elevations. Not that this would be a deterrent for camping, but more so for forestry roads and their lack of snow maintenance.

    I would second Newspaperguy's recommendation of the Crow's Nest. Though if you're planning on passing through Edmonton, choosing a more northeasterly route might be more prudent.

    There's a wealth of information here on BC routes.

    edit: If you plan on taking the Crow's Nest: Allison, Blueberry/ Paulson and Kootenay are names you won't forget.
    Last edited by spinninwheels; 08-31-08 at 10:32 PM.
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  17. #17
    Always planning a tour birvine's Avatar
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    Hi,

    I live in Cochrane, in northeastern Ontario which is along the TCH's northern route. There is the odd place that I can think of that misses the main highway, but some might be fairly circuitous. I am unaware of anything that parallels the TCH around here.

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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinninwheels View Post
    What month are you planning on leaving Vancouver? Leaving early (~ mid to late May) in the cycling season, while providing somewhat quieter roads, may be more challenging at higher elevations. Not that this would be a deterrent for camping, but more so for forestry roads and their lack of snow maintenance.
    Good to know... we are planning to leave probably just about the time you described, early May. Not afraid of cold weather cycling and camping as long as the roads are relatively clear. If we leave any later we may not make it across by the time we do our long route and visit family!
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  19. #19
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    If you want to stay in Canada while crossing into Ontario, I don't think you have many choices other than the TCH. Northwestern Ontario doesn't provide much in the way of choice, though you can bypass some traffic in Kenora using Hwy 17A, and when you get to 71S to Fort Frances and 11 east from there (both TCH) I'd recommend those; the traffic is lighter and the drive much more pleasant than taking Highway 17. This will get you most of the way to Thunder Bay with some nice stops in between. You can use Hwy 102 to bypass Thunder Bay but at that point you might want a city for restocking. Coming out of Thunder Bay on 11/17 might be hairy on a bike but at least you're sharing the road with the memory of Terry Fox, so that should provide some spirit. Once 11 branches north you're pretty much stuck on 17, the TCH: luckily there are some spectacular vistas of Lake Superior along that stretch. When you reach Wawa you can take Hwy 101 north to Timmins and into Quebec, which will take you to Rouyn-Noranda and to Hwy 117 to Val d'Or, at which point you can pick up La Route Verte (I think 117 makes up part of that route) and into the rest of the well-connected Quebec bike trails, which will get you to the Maritimes.

    If you want to hit Sudbury, unless you want to head up north to Timmins and then all the way back down 144, adding a few hundred km, you might be stuck on Hwy 17.

  20. #20
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    Yeah, we've been looking at the Ontario maps... we might well dip into the U.S. --- across Canada with a bit of America thrown in for fun? I hope they don't mind our stamps for Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan.... It looks like there are some potentially nice routes through the States for that stretch.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

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