Ten Things You'll Love about Ontario's Great Lakes Waterfront Trail

March 24, 2016

Guest post by Jo Sharland

1. You’ll love the distances you can ride

Two decades ago, the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail was launched to celebrate and reconnect people to Canada’s Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth. Back then, it ran just 170 miles (270km) from Hamilton, Ontario to Trenton, Ontario, along Lake Ontario’s northern shore. 

Today, this fully-signed route welcomes walkers, runners, and cyclists to enjoy 990 miles (1600km) from Grand Bend on Lake Huron to the Ontario-Quebec border on the St. Lawrence River. 

2. You’ll love the variety

No day on the Waterfront Trail is the same. One day you can be riding through preserved wetlands to the sound of bird song; the next day you might be riding through a bustling beachside town. With 76 lakeside communities to explore, every day is a new adventure on the Waterfront Trail.

3. One of ten cycling trips that will make you fall in love with Canada

At the last count, the trail traveled through a total of 495 parks, beaches, and natural areas. The Waterfront Trail was recently rated as one of ten cycling trips that will make you fall in love with Canada on Marianne Wisenthal’s 2015 article from The Loop.

4. Closer than you think

Connections to the Waterfront Trail are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from many locations in the U.S. Here’s a lot of detail on how to connect to the Trail.

Connections via Adventure Cycling Bicycle Routes and U.S. Bicycle Routes:

At Marine City, MI and Sombra, Ontario, the Sombra Ferry, across the St. Clair River, connects U.S. Bicycle Route 20, running east/west across Michigan from Ludington to Marine City, to the Waterfront Trail. This connection is also Adventure Cycling’s Lake Erie Connector route. In fact, the Lake Erie Connector continues following the Waterfront Trail from Sombra, Ontario to Fort Erie, Ontario.

Also at Marine City, MI, another Adventure Cycling route, the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route’s Detroit Alternate Route connects to the Waterfront Trail at Sombra, Ontario, via the Sombra Ferry.

And at Sandusky, OH, the Pelee Island Ferry connects the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route’s Detroit Alternate Route to the Waterfront Trail, using a different option, at Leamington, Ontario. Regardless of which option you choose on the Detroit Alternate Route, you’ll eventually travel north, consistent with the proposed Waterfront Trail along Lake Huron’s eastern shore from Sombra, Ontario to Owen Sound, Ontario.

Finally, Adventure Cycling’s Underground Railroad Bicycle Route links to the Waterfront Trail at Buffalo, NY by crossing the Peace Bridge into Fort Erie, Ontario. And, the Northern Tier Bicycle Route also passes through Buffalo, NY.

Connections via one of these seven border crossings:

  • Rooseveltown, NY to Cornwall, Ontario, the Waterfront Trail’s eastern endpoint. Cross the St. Lawrence River by bridge.
  • Ogdenburg, NY to Prescott, Ontario, by bridge over the Saint Lawrence River.
  • Wellesley Island, NY over the Thousand Islands Bridge on the St. Lawrence River at the east end of Lake Ontario.
  • Buffalo, NY to Fort Erie, Ontario. Connected by the Peace Bridge.
  • Niagara Falls, NY to Niagara Falls, Ontario. Connected by the Rainbow Bridge.
  • Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario, via the Blue Water Bridge over the St. Clair River (Interstate 94).
  • Detroit, MI to Windsor, Ontario via the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

Or, connections via ferry:

  • Pelee Island Ferry: Operates between Sandusky, OH, Pelee Island, Ontario, and Leamington, Ontario.
  • Sombra Ferry: Operates between Marine City, MI and Sombra, Ontario.
  • Walpole Island Ferry: Operates between Algonac, MI and Walpole Island, Ontario.
  • Kingston-Wolfe Island Ferry: Operates between Cape Vincent, NY, Wolfe Island, Ontario, and Kingston, Ontario.

5. Love the great value

Current U.S.-Canadian exchange rates make 2016 the perfect year to plan your ride. Everything from hotels to hash browns will be 30% cheaper this year. What are you waiting for?

6. Three Great Lakes to discover

990 miles (1600km) of Waterfront Trail now connect Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron, making the Great Lakes more accessible than ever by bike thanks to the Trail.

7. Get off the bike and have fun

Whether it’s the bright lights of Toronto, the thrill of Niagara Falls, or the beach life in Grand Bend — there’s so much to do both on and off the bike. Visit a distillery, a winery, and a craft brewery all in one day as you ride along the shores of Lake Erie through the city of Windsor.

Looking for more action? Naturally, watersports abound on the beaches of the Waterfront Trail. Take your pick from the excitement of cable wakeboarding in Sarnia, to popular stand-up paddle boarding available at many beaches along the Waterfront Trail.

8. You can ride for a day, a week, or longer

Rent a bike and plan a short day trip or bring your bike and plan to ride a longer stretch. All the information for planning your trip is available on our website, including detailed maps and suggested itineraries.

9. The Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA)

If you are interested in joining other like-minded cyclists, the GWTA is an annual supported cycling holiday showcasing part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. In 2016 the GWTA will be celebrating the extension of the Trail to Lake Huron with a five-day cycling adventure from beautiful Pelee Island to the bustling beach town of Grand Bend. Daily distances in 2016 range from 30km to 110km. For more information on the GWTA and to register, visit the events page of the Waterfront Trail website.

10. Love the history

The Great Lakes are historically significant to both Canada and the U.S. As you ride along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail look out for heritage plaques and interpretive panels relating to the Carolinian forest, the Underground Railroad, the War of 1812, and wind energy, as well as many other fascinating stories. Plus, museums and historical buildings routinely appear along the trail. Look for Fort Henry in Kingston, Fort George in Niagara on the Lake, and Fort Malden in Amherstburg.

Photo 1 Simon Wilson | Photos 2 – 4 by Erica Jacobs

Guest post by Jo Sharland, Tour Director of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure


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Carri Ward April 26, 2016, 8:58 AM

Is the trail deprecate from auto traffic the entire way? I am interested in taking my family including 3 children 10,14,16.

I don't love them riding with traffic.



John Geiger April 25, 2016, 1:19 PM

Road a good portion of this a few years back. Excellent adventure! Lots of great towns to stop in and everyone was helpful and friendly. The route was well marked and we rarely had to use our maps or guide book.


BentJay April 21, 2016, 3:02 PM

When I rode around Lake Ontario in 2010 the Canadian company, Tilley awarded me their hat since I toured the whole shebang! Here's the link to my tour:


It was a real joy!

Gordon March 28, 2016, 4:27 PM

Ok. Convinced me. 2016 around Australia then over to do this shorter ride.

Kathleen March 26, 2016, 12:18 PM

This just changed my 2017 bicycle vacation plans with my granddaughter! Looks fantastic!

Jim March 25, 2016, 10:32 AM

Distance should read 1600km (990miles)

We have been metric since the early 80"s :)

Robert Zickefoose March 25, 2016, 10:11 AM

sounds great

Ken Wheat March 25, 2016, 4:29 AM

This serendipity. I hope to travel this route soon.

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