Canadian Shield XL
The Canadian Shield XL is a bikepacking route unlike any other in the region. At 1200km in length and with nearly 15,500 metres of climbing, there is no other route that can provide the same amount of challenge. This route will take you through, over and across some of the most rugged and beautiful parts of Western Quebec. With the vast majority of the route being unpaved, this route takes you over hills and mountains, around beautiful hard to reach lakes, on some of the best rail trail in the region and along backcountry roads that are for the most part free of traffic.
Within close proximity of Ottawa and Montreal, the Canadian Shield XL isn’t too far away. Featuring national and provincial parks, ski hills, nature reserves and rail trail, the route will take you through forests that were once the building block of this country.
The CSXL is a combination of three challenging routes through Western Quebec: the Canadian Shield 400 and the Northwest Quebec Explorer, two routes which make up the Canadian Shield Bikepacking Route. To add even more adventure, the Trouble in Tremblant loop adds another 300km and 5000 metres of elevation to the itinerary. This route is designed to take you through some of the most difficult terrain in the region and reward you with epic scenery, amazing riding and an adventure you will never forget.
- Provincial and Regional Parks: Riding through Gatineau Park is always a pleasure. Being in a provincial park so close to the nation’s capital is a great way to explore the national capital region. The Mont Tremblant Provincial Park will take you way off the grid and outside of cell phone coverage. The Montagne du Diable Regional Park will provide you with lots of remote riding through Northwest Quebec on every type of surface imaginable.
- Nature Reserve: The Papineau Labelle Nature Reserve is an epic area of lakes and wilderness that will challenge your bike handling abilities as you ride on roads littered with loose gravel and fist-sized rocks, cross country ski trails and unmaintained roads that require 4-wheel drive.
- Single-track/double-track: Getting off the bigger trails and onto some of the single-track will challenge every mountain biker out there. Some great sections can be found in Gatineau Park, Mont Ste. Marie, Mont Tremblant and Montagne du Diable. Steep double-track climbs and flowing descents take the rider on some of the best trails in the parks.
- Rail-trails: The Veloroute des Draveurs, Chelsea Community Trail and Petit Train du Nord give you a chance to cover some ground while enjoying the views.
- Viewpoints: Check out the Champlain and Étienne-Brûlé lookouts in the Gatineau Park, for some fantastic views of the mighty Ottawa River and all the farmland that grows along it’s banks. The radio tower in Mont Ste. Marie will give you amazing views of the ski resort before descending some epic trails. Crossing the historically important Gatineau River, the Paugan Dam was built nearly 100 years ago and provides epic views of the Gatineau River and Outaouais region.
- Covered Bridges: The CSXL route crosses many covered bridges that were of vital importance to the development of the area. They also make for great photo opportunities along the way.
- Remote hiking trails: Some parts of this route take you onto hiking trails which may require you to hike-a-bike if it is too steep, rocky, etc.
Navigation Tips and Tricks
In order to more effectively navigate the Canadian Shield Bikepacking Routes, we have gone ahead and broken down the route into smaller more manageable files of approximately 200km per section. We have also removed the POIs to allow it to load more quickly and feel less cluttered. I still recommend you download a copy of the full file onto your phone, for quick reference of POIs and more in-depth analysis throughout the adventure. This route would be extremely difficult to complete using traditional maps and it is therefore recommended to use a GPS device or smartphone while riding this route. The Canadian Shield Bikepacking Route is often updated to make your experience as good as possible, whether to re-route to avoid road closures, or to add in a new piece of track that you are sure to love, so it is highly recommended you use the newest and most up-to-date maps.
There are a couple different methods to add your route on your Garmin/Wahoo/Other GPS device.
The 1st method is to “Pin” the route to your device. The “Pin” button can be located in the top-left of the page when you open the map.
The 2nd method is to click the “Send to Device” button just below the route title. This method requires you to download the appropriate file to your computer and upload onto your device. You can follow the steps and instructions to complete the transfer.
I personally always use the “Pin” method as I find it much quicker and easier.
Be sure to spend some time practicing with your device and making sure you understand how it works.
You can join the Bikepack Adventures Club page to get some of the premium member benefits for free, such as the ability to download any of the routes on the Bikepack Adventures RideWithGPS page for off-line use.
I have taken the liberty to break up the route files into 200ish km segments which can be downloaded by all Bikepack Adventures club members.
Shorter route options
Are you looking for a shorter route option? Want to tackle just a part of the Canadian Shield Bikepacking Odyssey? Want to break up the CSBO into 3 smaller pieces? Have a look at the options below.
Northwest Quebec Explorer
Northwest Quebec was once a part of Canada where only the hardiest of men went. They went to work as miners, lumberjacks, log drivers and more. Fast forward a couple hundred years and it is now bikepackers that are the tough men and women taking on the challenges of Quebec by riding the Northwest Quebec Explorer.
Taking the rider through the Papineau-Labelle Nature Reserve, across rail-trail, onto Devil Mountain single-track trails and through rugged ATV trails as you make you way through the regional park, beautiful gravel roads leading you to Maniwaki after which you will ride a combination of rail-trail, gravel roads and single-track as you wind your way back towards Gracefield.
Northwest Quebec Explorer Lite
The Northwest Quebec Explorer Light was designed to cut out the roughest sections of the Northwest Quebec Explorer while still maintaining most of the sights. The NWQE Light removes the sections that run through the Papineau-Labelle Nature Reserve, the tough single-track and ATV trails of Devil’s Mountain and the multi-use trails of the Lake of Cedars.
Trouble in Tremblant
This ride is called Trouble in Tremblant for a reason. Not only is it going to kick your ass with massive climbs as you weave your way through the Mont Tremblant Park, there are also very limited opportunities to re-supply once you leave the comforts of the Mont Tremblant ski resort. The ride starts right at the entrance to the Mont Tremblant ski resort village where you will have a chance for a photo before it all begins. It’s also a great place to have a last minute coffee.
Although the shortest route at 274km, this route has an incredible amount of climbing and should be given due respect.