Weekend Bucket List: Explorer's Edge, Temiskaming Loop, and Algoma Country
Three weekend rides you need to experience
Riders looking for a weekend getaway can find a surprising diversity of routes in Ontario, Canada. Sparkling blue lakes, deep green forests, and epic mountains are all just a few hours north of the Greater Toronto Area. Here’s my top picks for phenomenal weekend rides to get your motors running, ranging from short hauls to heavy mileage.
The lake-filled countryside around Algonquin Park is one of Ontario’s most well-known and beloved regions. Start early Friday afternoon before rush hour hits, and an hour later you’ll be cruising the long sweepers, banked corners, and dips and rises of one of the most fun highways in Ontario; the Buckhorn Road. Starting in the town of Flynns Turn, about 40 km north of Peterborough, follow Highway 507 north to Gooderham.
You’ll want to stay the night in one of the many comfortable Bed and Breakfasts in the Haliburton Highlands, and get an early start north on Saturday morning to catch the morning sun on the glittering lakes along Highway 35 on the way in the heart of Explorer’s Edge, the world-famous Algonquin Park.
Highway 60 through the Park is a great cruising road, with easily accessible beach turnoffs. On the other side, grab lunch at the Mad Musher in Whitney before heading south to ride the glorious Elephant Lake and Peterson Roads. The historic Peterson Road, one of the best riding roads in Southern Ontario, begins in Maynooth. The long sweeping tree-lined curves meet the sparkling blue waves of Baptiste Lake and continue as Elephant Lake Road for another 15km to the small town of Harcourt.
But the fun’s not over – Regional Road 48/Dyno Road between Highways 118 and 28 adds another 5km of tight little twisties through a sun-dappled green canopy overhead, ending right at Silent Lake Provincial Park.
On your ride home on Sunday, stop at the Petroglyphs Provincial Park for a look at the pre-Columbian rock carvings. Take the backroads home through Keene, near Rice Lake, for the best BBQ of your life at Muddy’s Pit. Or if you’re looking for something a little fancier, the Riverhouse Company in Lakefield is a treat.
For those looking for a weekend adventure further afield, try the Temiskaming Loop around Lake Temiskaming, through Ontario and Quebec. The stunning combination of geography – with scrubby bush giving way to rolling farmland surrounded by massive cliffs and mountains and the boreal forest – is rare in North America.
Starting as early as you can from Toronto, head up Highway 11 to North Bay, and make your way east on Highway 17 to Mattawa. If you can, don’t miss the spectacular Eau Claire Gorge Conservation Area along the way.
The road in is a little rough – a ride that can handle gravel is definitely required. Staying the night in Mattawa sets you up for a morning ride up the Mattawa shortcut, Highway 533. It’s a bit of a wild ride – if you’re on anything with decent ground clearance, long travel suspension and some tires with aggressive tread, this will be some incredible fun. Those on a Goldwing or Harley will want to take the 63 north to Temiskaming, which is easily one of the most scenic in the province, as the road runs directly beside the Ottawa River.
At Temiskaming, you’ll cross the lake into Quebec. Highway 101 north winds you through golden canola fields and the historic town of Ville-Marie to Notre-dame-du-Nord and the bridge back into Ontario. Make your way around the Lake to your room at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in New Liskeard, where they take good care of riders.
Sunday morning, cruise your way around Lake Temiskaming to Haileybury, and head south on Highway 11 to North Bay. Have a late lunch or dinner at Winnie’s Pub before heading back to the big smoke.
Grand Algoma Ride
For those who like to pack on the miles, the loop of the Grand Algoma Ride gives you almost 2000 km on some of the most epic roads in the province. Six hours north of Toronto, the tiny town of Thessalon is the starting point for Ontario’s Tail of the Dragon, Highway 129, which weaves through incredible landscape that changes as rapidly as the technicality of the road.
Starting with lush farmers’ fields and long gentle sweepers, soon you’ll be looking over boreal forest with sharper, never-ending sweepers and dramatic descents surrounded by massive cliffs and endless forest valleys. A 10 km stretch of incredibly tight turns next to a beautiful river caps off the route. There is a two-mile patch of gravel, so if you’re on a heavy touring bike, be prepared to stand up!
Continue north to the historic logging town of Chapleau for lunch at Gus’s Family Restaurant, then head west on Highway 101 to Wawa. If it’s a hot one, stop at Potholes Provincial Park to soak your feet in the ice cold river.
In Wawa, plan to spend at least an hour at Young’s General Store, chockablock full of intriguing gift ideas, local snacks, fishing accessories, and a giant pickle barrel. It’s a must-see, from the stuffed moose on the porch to the jalapeno fudge. And don’t forget to snap a photo of the iconic Goose on your way out of town.
The ride between Wawa and Sault Ste Marie is one of the most exhilarating parts of the Lake Superior coastline. In 230 km, the road goes inland just once – through the deep green of Lake Superior Provincial Park – before you come out again at the absolutely stunning Agawa Bay, where peach-colored sand stretches out for miles.
If you finish for the day in Sault Ste Marie – about 600 km from Thessalon – the Water Tower Inn is a good place to rest your head. Ask for one of the Trailhead rooms that has handy hooks for helmets and gear. From the Soo, you can head home the way you came, or dip down along Highway 6, one of the prettiest roads in the province, over the hundred-year-old swing bridge, and ride through the rolling hay fields of Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. Stop in Little Current for lunch, or if you arrive on Saturday night – for a 900km day – there are a few motels on the Island, including several in the lovely town of Mindemoya.
From the island harbour of South Baymouth, hop on the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to Tobermory and enjoy the view of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay stretching into the horizon. The quaint villages and quiet countryside of the Bruce Peninsula and Grey County offer a peaceful finish to a weekend on the road.
No matter what your riding preference, from the renowned Highway 60 through Algonquin Park, to the ride along the Ottawa River in Northeastern Ontario, or the epic scenery and long distance touring options in Algoma Country, I’m confident in saying, once you go north your weekends will never be the same.
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