Following the well-worn trails of First Nation trade routes and clad in the iconic red toque, the Voyageurs embodied the freedom of the endless spaces of Northern Ontario’s rugged wilderness. Modern-day cycling adventurers will discover this storied past on quiet paved and gravel backroads that serve as bike trails in the Voyageur Cycling Route, along the shores of heritage waterways and crossing historic portages.
This cycling experience is part of the Red Toque Multi-Adventure featuring paddling, cycling and hiking.
Type: Road and Gravel Ride
Distance: 86 km one-way
Lee Park, North Bay
Kaibuskong Park, Bonfield
Explorer’s Point, Mattawa
Ride Supports (See the Google Map for location):
- Outdoor Bike Fix Stands in North Bay, Callander, Astorville, Bonfield, Eau Claire and Mattawa
- Bike Parts & Repair Shops in North Bay – Wheelhouse Bikes; Cheapskates; Cycle Alley; SportChek; CycleWorks
- Cell coverage can be limited.
- Services and amenities vary in rural communities. Always call ahead for business hours.
- See google ride map for food and services for cyclists stops, phone numbers included.
This cycling adventure located on the traditional lands and waterways of the Anishinaabe begins on the shores of Lake Nipissing in North Bay. Starting with an easy ride along the Kate Pace Way, a 12 km paved, multi-use trail, roll into the community of Callander. Back on the shores of Lake Nipissing at Callander Bay the route follows along quiet village roads. Callander is a great place to grab a bite to eat at one of the certified bicycle-friendly stops. Don’t miss the lookout at the south end of the village for a sweeping, bird’s eye view of Lake Nipissing.
Heading east from Callander follow the Voyageur Cycling Route signs along Lake Nosbonsing Road towards Astorville. It is common to spot other road cyclists on this flat stretch of road with new pavement heading to the steady sweeping uphill on Astorville Road —jump into those low gears! Once you crest the hill, get ready to roll fast along the rolling northwest shore of Lake Nosbonsing, but careful: the shoulder is also thin in spots.
East of Astorville, cyclists can expect quieter roads and grittier pavement. It’s a quiet escape to push over gentle rollers while feeling the peaceful life in the rural countryside as you arrive in the community of Bonfield. Kaibuskong Park, just off the route, is a nice spot for a packed lunch and limited services. It’s also a good starting point if gravel riding is the activity of choice. Heading back onto the Voyageur Cycling Route, grab food at the Yogi Bar take-out or stock up on snacks at the convenience store – it’s the last fuel stop until Mattawa!
From Bonfield, the landscape begins to change along with the road conditions. Expansive farmlands are interspersed with large pockets of forest and wildlands. Mount Pleasant Road transforms into an undulating gorgeous gravel road. Some sections have bigger gravel pieces; consider lowering your tire pressure.
One of the highlights of the ride is a 12 m waterfall at the Eau Claire Gorge Conservation Area. It’s well worth the 1.5 km side trip. Lock up, or walk your bike, along the 1 km hiking trail to the gorge.
Continuing another 9 km on gravel road, then back to pavement around Chenier Road. Majestic pines line the river into Mattawa. This is the historical pinnacle of the ride where the Ottawa River meets the Mattawa River, and Indigenous, Francophone and English history merge in the oldest settlement in the region.
The region is steeped in a human history dating back millenia. With a history so grand there are no end of discoveries around every corner.
has been preserving and sharing North Bay’s history since 1973 and is located in downtown North Bay within the historic Canadian Pacific Railway Station. Built in 1903, the station was restored in 2004 to house the museum.
Located in the former home and practice of Dr. Dafoe this museum showcases the story of the Dionne Quintuplets, and other histories of the area such as the logging industry, shipping on Lake Nipissing, geology and more.
A historically significant site where the Mattawa River flows into the Ottawa River, this “meeting of the waters” was a common stop for First Nations including the Hurons, the Nipissings, the Algonkins and the Iroquois. In the era of the fur trade and voyageurs, the site became significant with a trading post established by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Explorer’s Point is now the home to the Mattawa Museum a beautiful red pine log building that commemorates this important history.
Located at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, the center showcases the area’s natural and human history with a variety of exhibits. It features a large birch bark freighter canoe, replicating the vessels built and used by the voyageurs in search of beaver pelts to trade in Montreal, as they traveled the 2000km journey to Fort William on Lake Superior.
Three large white crosses stand high on the crest of the Laurentians on the Quebec side of the river. Historical records show that in 1686, a group of French explorers and missionaries led by Sieur de Troyes were on expedition to James Bay to seize English settlements. While traveling up the Ottawa River they marked the place where the two rivers meet by erecting the three crosses.
22 carved wooden statues stand tall throughout Mattawa and the area. They represent historical figures and notable characters from the region’s colourful past.
Don’t miss the spectacular Eau Claire Gorge. The trailhead is approx 1 km off the main road leading to a short hike that takes you to the top of the towering cliffs where the Amable du Fond River thunders through the narrow gorge.
The La Vase Portages cross the watershed divide between Trout Lake-Mattawa River and Lake Nipissing. This area was infamous amongst the voyageurs as the “mud” river with approx 7km of “land” travel thought to be the most difficult in the entire cross-country route. Today, the La Vase Portages Conservation Area provides access to the historic canoe route and hiking trails.
Designated a Canadian Heritage River, the Mattawa River is steeped in a long history of First Nations transportation, exploration, fur trade and logging. Samuel de Champlain’s interpreter, Étienne Brûlé, went inland with a band of Algonquin in 1610, and five years later he accompanied a party of Huron over the route, producing the first published map of the area. The best way to experience this historical waterway is to get out on the water. A number of local outfitters can help: Voyageur Adventure Tours; Shockwaves Paddle Adventure; Algonquin North Outfitters, Sisu Adventure Rentals
GRAB & GO
Mattawa. Pick up some homemade treats to fuel your bike ride.
Callander. A wide variety of specialty food and snacks, GF, Vegan, Keto to grab and go. Come back after your bike ride for a unique retail experience.
SIP & SAVOUR
Against the backdrop of Lake Nipissing on Callander Bay, 1886 is a casual cottage bistro with black & white photos, hand-crafted butcher block tables and barn board accents. The Bistro won best bicycle-friendly business in northeastern Ontario in 2021!
Bicycle-friendly, live music, spinning vinyl, local beer and delicious fare, The Raven and Republic is a great way to top-off the day’s ride!
has a range of uniquely northern accommodations from quiet campsites to lodges and simple B&Bs as well as a host of familiar hotels.
Stay With Us Summer Hotels
Once the students have left, college and university residences turn into affordable summer hotels all across Ontario. North Bay is no exception. Stay With Us at Nipissing University and Canadore College.