7 May, 2024

Great Waterfront Trail Adventure: Experience Northern Ontario by Bike and Raise Funds for Trails

Cyclists of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure standing in front of the welcome sign for Ojibway Park sign

The Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA) is an annual fully supported cycle tour hosted by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and trail communities. Each year, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust – a charity that stewards the vision, mission and expansion of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail – features a different section of the 3,600-kilometre Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, an epic trail that makes up a significant proportion of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario.

From August 13 to 20, 2024, the GWTA is taking place in Northern Ontario, starting in Sault Ste. Marie and ending in Little Current on Manitoulin Island. The cycle tour follows the 367-kilometre-long Huron Shores Trail, also called the Lake Huron North Channel section of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail.

Marlaine Koehler, Executive Director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, explains that a “fully supported cycle tour” means that participants can ride at their own pace, get support if they need to finish cycling early, receive excellent mechanical support to help care for their bike, and more. In developing the trail, Trans Canada Trail and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust partnered to create the 470-kilometre expansion, which was the first signed cycle route in Northern Ontario in 2017.

An epic ride from Chippewa Falls to Manitoulin Island

Four cyclists riding on a bridge for the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure

The GWTA stops at several communities en route, with seven overnight stops. Marlaine says, “Riding through villages, hamlets, forests and wetlands and along shorelines that you may have never seen before gives you an appreciation for the sense of place and history of the region. Local communities host rest stops and overnights during the tour. Mayors and councillors greet the group, join us for dinner, and share the history and what they love about their communities.”

Marlaine adds that participants will have the chance to meet First Nation partners and experience moving cultural experiences: “This year, we will enjoy Breakfast at Bashiin in Garden River First Nation and celebrate a gorgeous new section of trail with signage describing the site’s fascinating history and importance to Indigenous medicine. We will also dine with the Mississauga First Nation and the community in Blind River, who worked closely to create a fascinating heritage trail network.”

Raising funds for trails and trail resources

Five cyclists riding down hill on a trail | Cinq cyclistes descendant une colline sur un sentier

Funds raised through the GWTA help to support the Waterfront Regeneration Trust charity’s work to complete, expand and enhance the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, and maintain top-notch trail user resources. The Waterfront Regeneration Trust aims to expand the Trail to connect with communities along Lake Superior and develop binational trail experiences to coincide with the opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in 2025, part of the Trans Canada Trail!

Participants can also register without fundraising. “Experiencing the trail is the best way to support the communities and businesses that support the trail, and it fosters a sense of stewardship for the special places you’ll pass en route. We welcome as many people as possible to see the trail’s vision emerging,” Marlaine says.

GWTA highlights

Cyclists of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure | Cyclistes de la Grande Aventure Waterfront Trail

Set out on an updated itinerary and enjoy added experiences since the tour’s last incarnation.

Hear the water rushing over the Chippewa Falls and hike to the top of the bluffs for a stunning view of Lake Superior.

Enjoy beer or cocktails at a popular local brewery in Sault Ste. Marie, plus a tour of Sault Ste. Marie in a double-decker bus.

Meet Elders and an Indigenous youth drumming club at Breakfast at Bashinn in Garden River First Nation.

Tour the Simpson Mine to see what it was like to be a copper miner in the 1850s.

Swim at one of the many beaches en route or enjoy the sunset from the Blind River marina.

Check out Thessalon’s new Coastal Trail.

Cool off in Aux Sables River at the base of Chutes Falls.

Learn more about the tour’s itinerary and register. As a special welcome to Trans Canada Trail subscribers, the organizers of the GWTA are offering a $50 discount on registration for adults. Use the code TCT24 during sign-up.

For those who want to support the event but cannot join the ride, check out the GWTA’s Canada Helps Page.

Thank you to trail and tourism partners

The ride is supported by Destination Northern Ontario, Algoma Country, Greenbelt Foundation and CAA, as well as the communities and First Nations connected by the trail.