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Four epic Canadian loops that you need to try

Plan out a big-one day or casual two-day ride

Photo by: Matt Stetson

Travel and summer both seem very far away for many Canadians right now. Although we aren’t exactly at a point where either is here, there’s no harm in planning out all the cycling you’ll be doing when you can. These loops from across Canada can be ridden clockwise or counter-clockwise, in one day or over a few days.

The Big Loop—270k m, 2,700 m elevation, Victoria

Ocean views, remotes roads through old forests and small towns, Vancouver Island’s 270km “Big Loop” has it all. Run for several years as the Victoria Fondo, this epic adventure has become a local favourite for those seeking a big day out.

From downtown Victoria the route travels alongside the Salish Sea in the wood bridges and winding corners of Highway 14. It then passes through the Jordan River surfing outpost along the way to Port Renfrew. If you plan to ride this route look out for the lone grocery store before the turn onto Pacific Marine Highway—there won’t be any other stops before Lake Cowichan.

From Lake Cowichan, there are options for the return to Victoria. The classic route runs over the Malahat (pushing the route over 2, 700m of elevation), but for a more relaxing return take the Milly Bay ferry to Brentwood Bay and ride home on the quiet side roads of the Saanich Peninsula.

RELATED: Port Renfrew: A wild West Coast gravel adventure

Cabot Loop—62 km, 490 m of elevation, Summerside, P.E.I.

The Cabot Route offers a blend of Prince Edward Island scenery—island countryside, sea and sky. It begins at Cabot Beach Provincial Park and winds through the Kensington and French River areas. The route also passes by the Anne of Green Gables Museum, the Keir Memorial Museum, a pioneer cemetery and a beach just off of Cape Road.

The first third of the ride is relatively flat, but as it goes on riders will encounter more hills between Kensington and French River. After French River there are a few steeper hills, but the ride levels off and finishes back at the starting point in Cabot Park.

Golden Triangle—330 km, 3,604 m of elevation, Alberta and B.C.

The Golden Triangle is a 330 km cycling route located along the border between B.C. and Alberta. It forms a triangle with Lake Louise, Alta., Golden B.C. and Radium Hot Springs B.C. as the three points. The route crosses the Continental Divide of the Americas twice— when it passes through the Kicking Horse Pass (between Lake Louise and Golden) and at the Vermilion Pass (between Radium Hot Springs and Lake Louise).

The ride also passes through Yoho, Banff and Kootenay national parks. At its highest points the trail reaches elevations of 1,640 m.

Those who want to make this into a multi-day trip or a particularly painful one-day ride can extend the route by riding to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise.

Lake Simcoe Loop—207 km, 884 m of elevation, Bradford, Ont.

Start the Lake Simcoe route just south of the lake in Bradford. The loop hugs Lake Simcoe and passes through the surprisingly varied towns around it. If you choose to ride clockwise around the lake you’ll start by passing through Holland Marsh, a wetland commonly referred to as “Ontario’s vegetable patch.”

The ride will pass through Barrie, a few smaller towns then Orillia—the midway point and a good place to stop and grab some food. The Lake Simcoe loop is great in the summer as it passes a number of small beaches to cool off in, particularly on the eastern side of the lake.