Victoria to Montreal Cycle Tour Itinerary
Route planning can be daunting but is often one of the most exciting parts of a cycle tour. The prospect of having four months to do whatever I want brought a big smile to my face when I first sat down to start planning. It quickly became evident that there is an excess of information available from other cycle tourists about which routes they enjoyed most and why. I found it difficult to sort through all of the suggestions and implement them effectively in writing my own itinerary. New positive accounts of adventures from the road pushed me back and forth between endless possibilities. Eventually, I put my engineering skills to use and came up with a set of criteria that would help me decide which recommendations to follow and which to scrap. I wanted my route to be safe, enjoyable, and doable.
Route Planning Criteria
Safety on a bike tour depends largely on how wide the shoulder of the highway is. Safety on a bike tour through Canada also depends on how remote your route is. Will you be camping in the backcountry? Will there be others using the roads you’re using? How many days will you be cycling until you get to the next town? I wanted to take all of these factors into account.
Enjoyability is relatively subjective. Since I’ll be cycling through Canada, my home country, I wanted to take the opportunity to see as much of Canada’s wilderness as I can. I’d be crossing the country at 18 kilometers per hour with plenty of time to take in the scenery.
Do-ability also depends on a number of factors. Everyone will be starting out from a certain level of fitness, and that will improve over the course of the tour; however, there is no cheating where your fitness baseline is. What you can change is the distance and elevation you plan to cover. As an amateur triathlete, I like to think I’m relatively fit, but believe me when I say elevation profiles were a factor in my decision-making process.
A few helpful resources I can recommend if you’re planning your own bike tour through Canada are BikingAcrossCanada.com, “Bike Across Canada Route Network” on Facebook, and ConnecTour.ca’s “route” page. BikingAcrossCanada.ca hosts a library of cycle touring blogs that recount people’s journeys across the country. It also has a very helpful question-and-answer page as well as an informative route page. The administrators of the Bike Across Canada Route Network group on Facebook have made a great effort to provide a conclusive set of maps documenting their recommended routes across Canada. They also update their routes regularly. ConnecTour has planned a full itinerary for their 2021 tour across Canada, and has made their route available to viewers of their site on their Route page. I suggest looking there for additional ideas about routes for crossing Canada by bike.
I settled on a route that follows the Great Canadian trail through most of British Columbia, transitions to a route developed by ConnecTour.ca through the prairies, and links up to Mont Laurie, Quebec to ride the 200km P’Tit Train Du Nord (rail trail) into Montreal. After weighing routes up Vancouver Island, straight to the mainland, through Bella Coola, or along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, I decided on the one with the milder of the two elevation profiles to get me through British Columbia. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail would still allow me to see parts of BC that I haven’t seen before but would leave me the option to move to the road if I decide that will be better. Although the idea of a solo cycle tour appeals to me, I am sure that I will want some company on the road by the time I’ve crossed the Rockies. So, I decided to link up with ConnecTour through the prairies. In Manitoba, I’ll split off, still using ConnecTour’s route, but moving faster to ensure I’ll make my August 8th arrival date in Montreal. In Sue Sault Marie, my route takes a more northern path, skipping Toronto and Ottowa, but linking up to Mont Laurie, where I can get on the P’tit Train Du Nord which takes me south into Montreal. Based on my route, the total distance for the trip from Victoria to Montreal is 5635.5 kilometers. Of course, this will vary with detours and changes to the original plan; however, it gives us a good starting block to build an itinerary off of.
A reasonable, even ‘conservative’, estimation of daily distance is 90 kilometers per day. I know from experience that it’s difficult to jump in, from nothing to cranking out (no pun intended) 100-kilometer days back-to-back. So, I was expecting to start with 70 kilometers days and work my way up to 100 plus kilometers days. Then, during my practice tour, I ran into some seasoned cycle tourists who assured me I’d be doing between 100 and 150 kilometers per day. I settled in the middle with my 90-kilometer assumption. With this and the presumption that I’ll be taking a day off every week to recharge myself and my electronics, the trip will take me 63 days, or 10.5 weeks. If I leave on May 8th and arrive on August 8th, I have 93 days or 13 weeks to complete the trip. This gives me a generous two-week buffer to enjoy time staying still or exploring local attractions.
I used this information to write out a detailed and summarized itinerary with the earliest, ideal, and latest, arrival/departed dates. The earliest arrival/departure dates are based on doing 90 kilometers per day starting on May 8th. Ideal arrival/departure dates use all of the available time and are weighted according to the mileage covered between landmarks. I have to make the latest arrival/departure dates if I want to make it to Montreal doing 90 kilometers per day for the rest of my tour.
For dates, see the itinerary below; for all details, regarding the route itself, please refer to my RidesWithGPS route.
In the detailed itinerary, below, I’ve included all dates and a few details about the route during that stage:
Stage 1: Victoria, BC to Summerland, BC (506 km)
- Start: Sunday 9 May 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 9 May 2021, Sunday 23 May 2021)
- Finish: Monday 17 May 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 16 May 2021 , Sunday 30 May 2021)
- Lochside Trail from Victoria to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.
- Ferry from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Tsawassen on the mainland.
- Highway connections from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to Hope, British Columbia.
- Great Canadian Trail or highway (depending on trail conditions) from Hope, British Columbia to Summerland, British Columbia,
Stage 2: Summerland, BC to Nelson, BC (487 km)
- Start: Monday 17 May 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 16 May 2021 , Sunday 30 May 2021)
- Finish: Tuesday 25 May 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 23 May 2021, Sunday 6 June 2021)
- Kettle Valley Rail Trail from Summeraland, British Columbia to Nelson, British Columbia.
- Some sections between Rossland and Salmo will be on the CrowsNest Highway.
Stage 3: Nelson, BC to Banff, AB (512 km)
- Start: Tuesday 25 May 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 23 May 2021, Sunday 6 June 2021)
- Finish: Wednesday 2 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 30 May 2021, Sunday 13 June 2021)
- Highway connections from Nelson, British Columbia to Banff, Alberta.
Stage 4: Banff, AB to Alsask, SK (493 km)
- Start: Wednesday 2 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 30 May 2021, Sunday 13 June 2021)
- Finish: Thursday 10 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 6 June 2021 , Sunday 20 June 2021)
- Highway connections from Banff, Alberta to Alsask, Saskatchewan.
- In Calgary, Alberta, I will be meeting up with ConnecTour to ride with them from Calgary to Russel, Manitoba.
Stage 5: Alsask, SK to Melville, SK (536 km)
- Start: Thursday 10 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 6 June 2021 , Sunday 20 June 2021)
- Finish: Saturday 19 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 13 June 2021, Sunday 27 June 2021)
- Highway connections from Alsask, Sakatchewan to Mellville, Saskatchewan.
- I will be riding with ConnecTour from Calgary, Alberta to Russel Manitoba.
Stage 6: Melville, SK to Dugald, MB (505 km)
- Start: Saturday 19 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 13 June 2021, Sunday 27 June 2021)
- Finish: Sunday 27 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 20 June 2021 , Sunday 4 July 2021)
- Highway connections from Melville, Saskatchewan to Dugald, Manitoba.
- I will be riding with ConnecTour from Calgary, Alberta to Russel Manitoba where I’ll split off to continue south to Dugald.
Stage 7: Dugald, MB to Atikokan, ON (555 km)
- Start: Sunday 27 June 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 20 June 2021 , Sunday 4 July 2021)
- Finish: Tuesday 6 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 27 June 2021, Sunday 11 July 2021)
- Highway connections from Duggald, Manitoba to Atikokan, Ontario.
- I’ll be following ConnecTour’s route, for the most part, from Russel, Manitoba to Sue-Sault Marie, Ontario.
Stage 8: Atikokan, ON to Marathon, ON (483 km)
- Start: Tuesday 6 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 27 June 2021, Sunday 11 July 2021)
- Finish: Wednesday 14 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 4 July 2021, Sunday 18 July 2021)
- Highway connections from Atikokan, Ontario to Marathon, Ontario.
- I’ll be following ConnecTour’s route, for the most part, from Russel, Manitoba to Sue-Sault Marie, Ontario.
Stage 9: Marathon, ON to Iron Bridge, ON (526 km)
- Start: Wednesday 14 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 4 July 2021, Sunday 18 July 2021)
- Finish: Thursday 22 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 11 July 2021, Sunday 25 July 2021)
- Highway connections from Marathon, Ontario to Iron Bridge, Ontario.
- I’ll be following ConnecTour’s route, for the most part, from Russel, Manitoba to Sue-Sault Marie, Ontario where I’ll be branching off to meet up with Mont-Laurier, Quebec.
Stage 10: Iron Bridge, ON to Petawawa, ON (512 km)
- Start: Thursday 22 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 11 July 2021, Sunday 25 July 2021)
- Finish: Saturday 31 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 18 July 2021, Sunday 1 August 2021)
- Highway connections from Iron Bridge, Ontario to Petawawa, Ontario.
Stage 11: Petawawa, ON to Montreal, QC (520 km)
- Start: Saturday 31 July 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 18 July 2021, Sunday 1 August 2021)
- Finish: Sunday 8 August 2021 (Earliest, Latest: Sunday 25 July 2021, Sunday 8 August 2021)
- Highway connections from Petawawa to Mont-Laurier.
- Le P’tit Train du Nord from Mont-Laurier to Montreal.
The following is just a tabulated version of the itinerary above:
|Landmark||Cumulative Distance [km]||Distance From Previous Landmark [km]||Earliest Arrival/Departure||Ideal Arrival/Departure||Latest Arrival/Departure|
|Victoria, BC||0||0||Sunday 9 May 2021||Sunday 9 May 2021||Sunday 23 May 2021|
|Summerland, BC||506||506||Sunday 16 May 2021||Monday 17 May 2021||Sunday 30 May 2021|
|Nelson, BC||993||487||Sunday 23 May 2021||Tuesday 25 May 2021||Sunday 6 June 2021|
|Banff, AB||1505||512||Sunday 30 May 2021||Wednesday 2 June 2021||Sunday 13 June 2021|
|Alsask, SK||1998||493||Sunday 6 June 2021||Thursday 10 June 2021||Sunday 20 June 2021|
|Melville, SK||2534||536||Sunday 13 June 2021||Saturday 19 June 2021||Sunday 27 June 2021|
|Dugald, MB||3039||505||Sunday 20 June 2021||Sunday 27 June 2021||Sunday 4 July 2021|
|Atikokan, ON||3594||555||Sunday 27 June 2021||Tuesday 6 July 2021||Sunday 11 July 2021|
|Marathon, ON||4077||483||Sunday 4 July 2021||Wednesday 14 July 2021||Sunday 18 July 2021|
|Iron Bridge, ON||4603||526||Sunday 11 July 2021||Thursday 22 July 2021||Sunday 25 July 2021|
|Petawawa, ON||5115||512||Sunday 18 July 2021||Saturday 31 July 2021||Sunday 1 August 2021|
|Montreal, QC||5635||520||Sunday 25 July 2021||Sunday 8 August 2021||Sunday 8 August 2021|