Author Topic: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice  (Read 6061 times)

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Offline hkennedy

Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« on: January 15, 2014, 07:29:28 pm »
We are planning a tour across Canada - beginning this May.  Living in BC means we're OK with route planning here, but would appreciate opinions on routes which get us off the beaten track in provinces east of BC.  We LOVE small towns and will likewise LOVE quieter roads.  Having said that - we don't want to spend the rest of our lives getting across the country ; )
Thanks for your advice!
« Last Edit: January 15, 2014, 07:37:38 pm by hkennedy »

Offline geegee

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2014, 07:25:39 pm »
I've cycled acros Canada twice, taking different routes. The first time I took the Trans Canada from Vancouver to Calgary and meandered through some small roads in the Prairies on my way to Winnipeg, then went across the north shore of Lake Superior. Last year I took the Yellowhead through Edmonton and Saskatoon, and then crossed into the USA along the south shore of Superior.

There is a big difference whether you go across the south or the north of the Prairies. The south has more interesting towns but the north has more varied scenery and landscapes. Unfortunately, a lot of the small towns in the Prairies are pretty depressing, they are tearing down wooden grain elevators and consolidating services in larger centres. If you intend to avoid the TransCanada east of Calgary, I enjoyed riding out to Drumheller (awesome collection of dinosaur bones) and then crossing into Saskatchewan at Alsask towards Rosetown. From there you can cycle towards the massive Gardiner Dam (one of the largest embankment dams in the world) which holds back Lake Diefenbaker. Traffic will be super low on the roads that cut diagonally from Elbow to Moose Jaw. Moose Jaw is really interesting, make sure you soak your tired legs in the mineral pool at Temple Gardens and take at least one of the tunnel tours.

Cycling in Manitoba is terrible all around but if you take SK13/MB2 from Weyburn SK to Winnipeg, It would probably be one of the better routes with nice small towns . Many of Manitoba's highways have no shoulders, so get a good mirror and watch out for trucks.

It is really tough riding in Northern Ontario, the climbs around Lake Superior can be steeper than those in the Rockies. It is well worth doing once, though. When you get to Sault Ste. Marie, go to Velorution bike shop to ask for advice heading east. They have a quiet route that meanders through Mennonite country and skips the busy highway at least up to Sudbury. They also have a free campsite in the back of their store. There are a lot of options depending on whether you decide to go to or skip Toronto. I'm in the Ottawa area, let me know if you need specific advice on the area.

Cycling in Quebec is much more convenient with the Route verte system which goes to practically every region of the province. As for New Brunswick, I particularly liked cycling through the Acadian shore (Campbellton-Shediac) better than the St John river valley (via Fredericton). It is more off-track and gets you close to the bridge to PEI.

Cycling the long way through Newfoundland From Port=aux-Basques can be tedious, so if you decide to take the ferry to Placentia instead, ride around the south of the Avalon Penninsula via Cape St. Mary's to get a good taste of island life before heading to St John's.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 01:33:00 am by geegee »

Offline Norsman

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2014, 01:51:00 am »
Cycling in Manitoba is terrible all around but if you take SK 13/MB 2 from Weyburn SK to Winnipeg, It would probably be one of the better routes with nice small towns . Many of Manitoba's highways have no shoulders, so get a good mirror and watch out for trucks.
I agree with most of the info in this post but on my cross Canada ride I found SK 13/MB 2 awful to ride.  The road surfaces were poor, the shoulders, in particular in Manitoba, non-existent or inadequate, and, to top it all off, there was a multitude of trucks on the highways.  I thought that if I was going to do it again I would look at going down to SK 13 at Gull Lake and then down to SK 18 before I got to Weyburn.  I also looked at using the TCH to Regina and then using SK 48 to head southeast. Through most of Manitoba I would use either MB 3 or 23. If I used either or these routes I would plan on bypassing Winnipeg and perhaps get back on the TCH near Ste. Anne or Richer. Unfortunately I only know these roads from what I can see on Google maps.  Perhaps someone else can comment on whether or not these are better routes.

Offline PrairiePedaller

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 04:26:35 pm »
I've lived in SK all my life so I can offer a little bit of feedback, especially concerning the SE portion of the province. (Plus I just want to ramble about my province a little bit.)


Quote
There is a big difference whether you go across the south or the north of the Prairies. The south has more interesting towns but the north has more varied scenery and landscapes. Unfortunately, a lot of the small towns in the Prairies are pretty depressing, they are tearing down wooden grain elevators and consolidating services in larger centres.

Geegee hit the nail on the head with this. You'll find SK much more scenic north of Saskatoon. If you really wanted to go the scenic way head through Prince Albert via SK 3 and you start getting into the edge of the Canadian Shield a bit earlier than you would if you stayed south. I can't speak to the condition of that highway though as I haven't been up that way for a couple of years.

Quote
From there you can cycle towards the massive Gardiner Dam (one of the largest embankment dams in the world) which holds back Lake Diefenbaker. Traffic will be super low on the roads that cut diagonally from Elbow to Moose Jaw.

This is also accurate information. Gardiner Dam is amazing to see and to add to that, the Qu' Appelle valley on the other side of Gardiner is one of the province's treasures. Lots of sleepy little towns surrounding Lake Diefenbaker. There is a cable ferry crossing at Riverhurst that I would recommend checking out if you go through that part of the province. Saskatchewan Landing is a very nice provincial park at the western portion of Lake Diefenbaker.

Now for what I really wanted to talk about; the extreme southern part of SK. The SK 13 can take you all the way across the province and the largest communities you will encounter are Assiniboia (pop: 1200), Weyburn (pop: 10,000), and Carlyle (pop: 1400).  The westernmost  part of SK 13 is very near the Cypress Hills and is another one of our province's treasures. The Cypress Hills lay claim to the highest point in SK at 1392m. The area is a mixture of forest and grassland. Be ready to climb, but enjoy all of the scenery! From Eastend to Cadillac I have no idea what the road is like. East of Cadillac the road condition will be fine for biking. The 13 from Weyburn to Redvers has been mostly resurfaced over the last 6 years or so  so expect blacktop there. East of Redvers the road starts to deteriorate and once you hit the MB border (MB 2)  the paved shoulder disappears and biking may get more difficult. I would also add that east of the junction of SK 13 and SK 6 that there is quite a bit of oilfield activity. By the time you reach southeast SK, the spring weight restrictions on the roads will most likely be off and there will be MANY heavy trucks on the 13. I would recommend the 13 over the more southward SK 18 however because my experience with the 18 is that it is in atrocious shape. Another option to consider would be taking SK 9 north from Carlyle to the #1 highway and then east to Winnipeg. You would go through the Moose Mountain Provincial Park via that route which is beautiful in the summertime.

All that being said, we do always get at least a couple of cyclists a year going cross Canada through the area and I have never heard any real negative reviews of the southeast. Expect sunshine and wind. I recommend staying in Arcola!



Offline jamawani

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2014, 07:10:14 pm »
Haven't been east of Winnipeg - but have done oodles west of there and up as far as the Mackenzie River in the NWT and the Yukon. I also fondly remember the "Queen of the North" which was my favorite ferry on the Inside Passage.

That said - there is an excellent, quiet route halfway between Calgary and Edmonton - i.e. neither the TransCanada or the Yellowhead. If you are okay with riding only the northern half of the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Sask Xing, then you head east from there via Red Deer, Castor, and Kerrobert, SK to Saskatoon. You can even deviate a little off these routes thru Panoka and Hardisty and loop south of Saskatoon for even less traffic. Granted, if you skip Red Deer and Saskatoon, you will be missing most services for quite a few miles.

Have you considered starting your trip in Bella Coola or Prince Rupert? It's about 200 miles further using the Yellowhead Highway and can be wetter - esp. in May - but with very light traffic. Hwy 20 is a bear - literally with grizzlies galore - and Heckman Hill is brutal. I haven't had the pleasure of riding up Heckman, but riding down I nearly burnt out my rims. The Bella Coola route is roughly the same distance to Jasper as from Vancouver - via Williams Lake and Clearwater. From Bella Coola to Williams Lake it is super remote, but if you are familiar with backcountry BC, then you should be fine.

Have a great trip - - J

Offline Saskawhat

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2014, 01:26:30 am »
I've done limited cycling in these areas but know the regions pretty well. In terms of scenery you will not find anything better in southern Sask. than the Cypress Hills/Maple Creek/Eastend area. If you're in SW Sask. I'd recommend finding a way to hit all 3. From there, if you have the time, I'd zig-zag north to Highway 1 and the Little Red Market Cafe in Mortlach, then south again to Assiniboia and east on SK-13 to Pangman. East of there is oil country and you're pretty much taking your life in your hands, but Big Muddy to the south of Pangman would be worth a look too.

If you choose to stay north of the Trans Canada, the Qu'Appelle Valley on SK-11 near Lumsden or on SK-9 between Whitewood and Stockholm is pretty incredible. On the Manitoba side, as others have mentioned most of the roads are junk. One exception is the Pembina Valley area by La Riviere (south and west of Carman).

Let me know if you want more information on specific towns/accommodations along or south of the Trans Canada on the Saskatchewan side.

Offline hkennedy

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2014, 01:29:06 am »
thank you so much for your info - we'll add all of the suggestions to our maps and def plan to hit the cafe you mentioned!

Offline Saskawhat

Re: Cross Canada Tour - looking for route advice
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2014, 12:59:10 am »
Hope the trip is going smooth. Post an update if you get a chance when you come through Sask.