Great Lakes waterfront trail - CycleBlaze

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Great Lakes waterfront trail

Jane Fletcher

This June we are planning to bike parts of the Great Lakes waterfront trail. I’m looking for recommendations on particularly beautiful portions of the trail or places to avoid. Thanks for the help. Jane

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4 months ago
Lyle McLeodTo Jane Fletcher

Hi Jane, 

I don't know if this is technically part of the Waterfront Trail, but Kirsten (spouse) and I really loved the section along the St Lawrence between Gananoque and Cornwall, in particular the section just downstream of Morrisburg (upper Canada Village). This was one of our favourite sections of our 2015 x-Canada ride. This whole section is largely dedicated bike path with wonderful historic towns and villages. The highlight of this was the relatively short, but beautiful Long Sault Park.

This pic really doesn't capture how pretty the ride was
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4 months ago
Jane FletcherTo Lyle McLeod

thanks Lyle, this is helpful. We are trying to plan our ride around some of the most beautiful sections with lots of small towns along the way.

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4 months ago
John SaxbyTo Jane Fletcher

Thanks, Jane.  A few observations on the Trail:

I grew up on and just north of the Lake Ontario shore east of Toronto (Cobourg-Peterborough area, including Northumberland County), and have a deep affection for the landscapes.

So, I was tickled to see the Waterfront Trail assembled and signposted.

I haven't cycled the length of the Trail as such, although I did cover the Oshawa-to-Kingston section on my tour of east/central Ontario in 2017. (If you're interested, that's posted on CycleBlaze, here: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/ontario1/) At other times, I've ridden the Trail east of Kingston to Prescott; and have cycled that part of the Trail on the Hamilton-to-Burlington waterfront west of  Toronto; and the trail east of Cornwall to the western outskirts of Montréal.

Summary suggestions:

1)  +1 for Lyle's recommendation on the Long Sault parkway.

2)   I deliberately avoided the Toronto section of the Trail on my 2017 ride, choosing instead to take the GO Train from Union Station to Oshawa (See the details in the journal above.).  I've lived in Tronna and have visited it (far too) many times in recent years.  It is a Big Sprawling Sub/Urban Blob.  Its suburban and peri-urban areas especially are dominated by motor vehicles and not very friendly to cyclists or pedestrians.  OTOH, if you're coming from Niagara, and you're going to cycle through the city, then the Trail is the best way to do it.

3)   At Brighton, a couple of days' ride east of Toronto, the Trail splits: The right-hand fork takes you to Prince Edward County, and the left fork goes on Hwy 2 along the Bay of Quinte to Trenton and Belleville.  I highly recommend spending a few days in the County.  Bucolic scenery, lotsa B & B's, lots of cycling routes, sand dunes, and--surprise!--first-rate food and wine.  The Black River Cheese factory makes & sells the best old cheddar I have ever tasted. Unfortunately, the factory has been taken over by a Montreal-based conglomerate, and now they no longer sell the 8-year-old cheddar. (Takes up too much valuable storage space.) The five-year-old is still better than anything else I've ever tasted, and very occasionally they have the 6-year-old. There's a good bike shop in the small village of Bloomfield, the Bloomfield Bicycle Company. They have sussed out the County's routes, and will send you a very good paper map. Here's the link, and you can see the map on the home page: http://www.bloomfieldbicycle.c...

4)  From the County, you can take a variety of routes east to Kingston. The shore road, Hwy 33, is the most straightforward & common route. It can be busy in tourist season, but the surface and shoulder are generally good, and mid-week, it's not too bad.

Hope that's helpful, Jane.  don't hesitate to get in touch if you have questions, etc.

Cheers,  John

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4 months ago
Scott AndersonTo John Saxby

I have a question about climate.  This ride interests me too, but if we fit it in it would likely be in August.  What’s the weather tend to be here?  Hot and humid?  And what about traffic?

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4 months ago
John SaxbyTo Scott Anderson

Thanks, Scott.  August is often the best month to travel in Ontario -- still warm, but most of the bugs have disappeared.

That said, "it depends..."  In Sept 2017, I had temps ranging from 6C at night to 30C at midday. [Barely 3-4 hours total daytime showers, tho', spread across 10 days' riding :-) ] There were still bugs in mid-Sept., because we had had a cool wet spring, so that summer didn't really start until July.

July and August are the busiest travel months for motor traffic -- school holidays run from late June 'til Labour Day.  Still, I've found that, away from Toronto's sprawl, secondary highways and County Roads are entirely OK for cycling. The Trail includes quite a few kms on the old Hwy #2, for example, which runs from Windsor to Montréal -- but I have found it to be pleasantly uncrowded, with mostly local traffic. The Motoring Mob tends to favour the multi-lane #401.  (Why??  Beats me.  I almost never use the 401.  I can handle the traffic, but not the waves of existential despair that the mere sight and sound of the wretched thing generate within me.)

Along the Trail, there are plenty of camping grounds, motels, and B & B's.  The Guide to the Trail lists many of these.

On a related topic, Scott:  Are you guys still thinking of a circuit of the Gaspé?  I mention this because I've changed my summer "plans", and am now looking at a three-week tour along the S coast of the Gulf of St Lawrence, from Bathurst, NB, to & around Cape Breton and via NE Nova Scotia, finishing up in Truro, NS.  Surprisingly, I can at last take my bike on the train to Montréal and then Bathurst, and assemble in reverse order from Truro.  My dates are still t.b.d., but probably will be three weeks within mid-July to mid-August.  Be nice to meet up if the stars align.

Cheers,  John

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4 months ago
Jane FletcherTo John Saxby

Great info and some things to think about. We are coming from niagra but will have a sag car (there will be 5 or 6 of us) with us so could skip parts that aren’t especially lovely, we could opt to skip over those spots and head to places with nicer riding. We do want to visit Toronto but also want to see some really beautiful countryside.

Thanks, 

jane



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4 months ago
John SaxbyTo Jane Fletcher

Thanks, Jane.  One or two other items which may be of interest (or not):

As you go N along the Niagara River from Niagara Falls, the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake is well worth a visit.  It's well-kept and very pretty, and also hosts the Shaw Festival from May to November.  If you enjoy theatre, you could do a lot worse than spend a day or two there.  The Shaw is top-notch theatre, but not especially pricey. GBS is the focus, as you might expect, but each year the works of other playwrights, both Canadian & international, are on offer.

The Niagara peninsula is also a notable wine-producing area, and if you have a sag wagon, you could easily spend a day (at least!) visiting different wineries.

Much of the Trail also runs close to sites from the the War of 1812-14, especially but not only in the Niagara area.

And a further note on theatre:  Some of the small towns along the lake and the St Lawrence river feature summer theatre.  It's amateur, rather than professional, but usually quite enjoyable. Locales include Cobourg, Gananoque, and Prescott.

If you're staying in Toronto, there's a huge array of airbnb sites, B & Bs, and hotels. To simplify transport, I'd suggest staying in the downtown area, south of Bloor St., and between, say, Dufferin to the west and Parliament to the east.

Cheers,  John

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4 months ago