August 06, 2020

Biking (and Hiking) Around Sudbury

With COVID-19 making international travel impractical for the foreseeable future, it was time to look closer to home for vacation. Helen and I spent this past week near Sudbury. A place with great hiking, lots of blueberries, and even a few pleasant surprises when biking around.

Pleasant Cycling Surprises

Our 30 kilometre ride started along the Trans Canada Trail southwest of the city. The trail is on road along Southview and Kelly Lake Roads with low traffic volumes, while Kelly Lake has some painted bike lanes. Southview may appear to have bike lanes, but they are really urban shoulders. The entrance to the off-road trail at Kelly Lake was rocky and required us to walk our bikes for a few minutes. Once past the rocky part, it was packed gravel which was fine for my road bike and her Brompton.

Separate walking and cycling signals at the Regent Street trail crossing
Most of the Trans Canada Trail is packed gravel with good wayfinding

Trail wayfinding was good and a bicycle crossing was present at Regent Street, though I wished there was one button activating both pedestrian and cycling signals. After a short on-street section along Riverside, we used a tunnel to cross the railway tracks into Downtown Sudbury, which was very practical and had beautiful murals to boot.

This tunnel allows pedestrians and cyclists to go under the railway tracks to get to downtown Sudbury
Murals while coming up the tunnel into downtown

After a stop at Sudbury Paint & Custom Framing which sells great Indigenous art, we continued to eastern Sudbury to check out a few stores. Elgin Street did not have bike lanes while Howey and Bancroft Drives had painted ones. Given asphalt was common between the sidewalk and roadway, Sudbury may want to consider raising the bike lane to sidewalk level. Even so, the reduced traffic compared to nearby Kingsway (Regional Road 55) made this experience acceptable.

Google Maps didn't catch this raised cycle track on Second Avenue North

Despite Google Maps not showing any cycling infrastructure, there are proper raised cycle tracks along Second Avenue North which was a real treat. Yield signage, dedicated crossing lines, left turn boxes, and yellow tactile bus waiting areas can be found along the street. Some of the curbs could have been fixed to improve accessibility, but it is very good. Maybe Toronto could learn from Sudbury in adding these cycle tracks along suburban arterials?

Lakeside view from near Bell Park

Going back, we stopped at Bell Park with their views of Ramsey Lake and is pretty nice. We then took Paris Street which has the same cycle track treatment as Second Avenue. However, the cycle track ends just before Walford without any transition to the intersection.

Why would a city end a cycle track before an intersection?

We used Walford, Regent (with their awful sharrows), and Bouchard-Southview to return with a pit stop at Stack Brewery to pick up some beer. While Sudbury may not be the most bike friendly place around – Ajax still gets my nod for medium sized Canadian municipalities – it’s decent with some pleasant surprises.

Hiking Ups and Downs

The Mount Ramsey Trail in the Laurentian Lake Conservation Area

Our main reason for visiting Sudbury was to hike some of the trails nearby. One park which got our attention was the Laurentian Lake Conservation Area. The Point Trails were a good workout with steep climbs and views of Laurentian Lake, though the threat of thundershowers cut our hike short. The Mount Ramsey Trail was an excellent place to pick blueberries which prompted a second visit; arguably better than the so-called “Blueberry Hill”.

One of the many mushrooms along the A.Y. Jackson Lookout Trail

Elsewhere in Sudbury, the A.Y. Jackson Lookout trail northwest of the city – named after one of the Group of Seven Canadian painters – is worth checking out for the waterfalls and different types of mushrooms.

The Lake of the Woods as seen from the island lookout

Outside of Sudbury, we did separate day trips to Killarney Provincial Park and Manitoulin Island; both of which are at least an hour and a half drive away. The roads in Killarney could use some maintenance, but their Lake of the Woods Trail is worth doing. Not only for the views around the lake and of Silver Peak – the park’s highest point – but an island in the middle is a great spot to have some lunch.

A beaver dam along the Cranberry Bog Trail

The Cranberry Bog Trail was also good with lots of lily pads, red coloured rocks, and a beaver dam.

The only bridge to Manitoulin Island swings open to allow boats to go through

Manitoulin Island’s Cup and Saucer Trail was a disappointment and could be considered one of the worst trails we have done. The trail lacked diversity with few signs of wildlife, while one of the tree trunks had gum everywhere which was gross and nearby construction activity spoiled the views from the lookouts.

The Cup and Saucer Trail wasn't worth it with large crowds and construction ruining the views

The large number of hikers we saw on our way back posed problems for physical distancing, while the only good thing was the lack of mosquitoes.

Maja's Garden Bistro is a worthy place to stop for lunch on Manitoulin Island

Despite the trail mishap, we enjoyed the lunch at Maja’s Garden Bistro in Mindemoya. Both the ham quiche I ordered and the beet salad Helen ordered were well done, the friendly staff served the food and water in a physically distant manner, and the garden and patio were visually pleasing. The painted bird houses in front were a cute touch. Manitoulin Island has some good cycling routes, but those will have to wait for another trip.

Final Thoughts

The biking experience in Sudbury serves as a reminder that it never hurts to bike around in places not normally perceived to be bike friendly. You never know what you may find. It’s also good to take a break from cycling once in a while; whether it be hiking, picking blueberries, or even paddling a canoe which we did the day before returning to Toronto. Now after having rested up, it’s time to get back to business.

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