There was a time that if you saw a vehicle with a cargo rack in Northeastern Ontario, chances were strong that you would only see a canoe, kayak or some other kind of watercraft lashed onto it. Nowadays, you are just as likely to see one or more bicycles strapped aboard as well.
Recreational biking has increased exponentially over the past two decades, and the City of North Bay has responded to this trend by creating several urban and wilderness trails that can be enjoyed year round by bikers of all levels of skill.
Kate Pace Way
For a safe, family-based bike outing ride, it is hard to beat the Kate Pace Way in North Bay’s downtown core. Named after a world famous North Bay athlete, it runs 12 kilometers from the north end of the city’s scenic waterfront complex down to the village of Callander to the south.
At the Memorial Road end of the trail in the north, bikers have a spectacular view of Lake Nipissing as they enjoy their own dedicated paved path that takes them past two kilometers of sandy beaches, beautiful gardens, food vans, and a full service marina. There are numerous parking lots along Memorial Road where visitors can park their vehicles for free.
During the summer months, the Heritage Railway and Carousel Company is open. For a small fee, adults and children can ride on an authentic Edwardian era carousel featuring hand carved wooden horses or ride a miniature train powered by a real steam or diesel locomotive.
The Kinsmen Trail
Just before Memorial Road ends, the Kate Pace Trail turns east away from the lake and runs parallel to the historic Canadian Pacific Railroad route. At this point, cyclists have a choice of continuing to ride along 10 more kilometres of trail that will take the eventually connect to the village of Callander, or they can turn north up the Kinsmen Trail.
The Kinsmen Trail is a 6 kilometre route that zig-zags through downtown North Bay along a the natural course of the Chippewa Creek. Like the Kate Pace Way Trail, the Kinsmen Trail is paved and open for use by bikes, in-line skaters and pedestrians. There are some points where trail users will have to cross an open road but the crossings at major intersections are served by traffic lights.
The Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area
If mountain biking is more your speed, North Bay has two sets of excellent trails set within the city limits. Both take advantage of a massive 70 metre high granite ridge that dominates the landscape north of the city. The Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area is located in the north-west part of town, next to the Laurentian Ski Hill.
The 6.6 kilometers of unpaved trails run through mixed forest and open meadow and is rated moderate to difficult. There is free parking at 15 Janey Street and the public may also use the washrooms in the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority building during normal business hours. Look for the Ski Club/Conservation Authority Building that boasts a big lookout tower.
The Campus Trails
Another popular mountain biking destination are the Campus Trails on the north-west fringe of the city. As the name implies, these 20 kilometers of trails are adjacent to the shared campus of Canadore College and Nipissing University. If you are arriving by car, from Monday to Friday visitors must use Lot 4, the Visitors’ Lot. There is a small parking fee. On weekends, visitors can park on any lot for free.
The trail head is located just behind the Canadore College building on the western fringe of the campus. You will see a large pond and the trails begin on the far side. Visitors can also use the washroom facilities of Canadore College. Download a map of the Campus Trails here.
The Campus Trails vary in rider skill levels from easy to very difficult. In the warmer months bikers might also encounter a fair number of hikers so be prepared to share. The Duchesnay Trail connects to the west end of the Campus Trails. There is a series of striking waterfalls on the south end of the Duchesnay Trails but, because of the steepness and rugged features in many parts of this terrain, bikes are not allowed. If you have the energy, it’s well worth parking the bikes at the top of the trail and taking a scramble down and up the falls.
Extend Your Stay
If you happen to be riding an urban trail or just passing through downtown North Bay and suddenly get a hankering for an outstanding soup, salad and/or sandwich kind of lunch, the Opera Bakery Café at 164 Main Street West is where you will find it. Operated by Kiera Hardie, a former pastry chef for Toronto’s world famous chef Susur Lee, the Opera Bakery offers specialty coffees, delicious hand-crafted desserts and hearty lunches.
If you’re looking for an interesting place to stay in the North Bay area that is close to the urban bike trails, an excellent choice would the Adani Beach Retreat Bed & Breakfast. Located right on the shore of Lake Nipissing, the Adani offers body massage packages, luxurious rooms and a full breakfast on their lakeside veranda to start your day.
Are you biking in North Bay? Share your favourite trails and photos with us using the hashtag #neontario!