Beneath the lights and glam of Niagara Canada's Clifton Hill attractions, casinos, the wondrous Falls and wine country hype - lies some of the province's most pristine and preserved natural scenery. Connected by the Great Lakes - Ontario and Erie, and the Welland Canal, Niagara offers explorers of all levels
an ample opportunity to discover the region. My choice: two wheels and no motor.
I've lived in the Niagara region for five years total, and I recently decided that it was time that I start discovering what's in my own backyard (especially because I live in an apartment). Living in the north end of St. Catharines, I sit somewhat pretty with Lake Ontario within view, scenic walking paths mere footsteps away and roads with designated bike lanes leading to the Welland Canal's Parkway Trail.
For Father's Day, I invited my parents to join me on an afternoon cycle along the Welland Canal's Parkway Trail. It's the perfect trail for people wanting to pedal at their own speed without the stress of automobile traffic. It's a place where joggers, roller skaters, skateboarders and walkers can let their hair down and enjoy what they're doing.
The full length of the Trail is 42 km starting from St. Catharines and extending to Port Colborne (or vise versa). The 9 km flat path starting at Lock 1 at Port Weller stretching to the St. Catharines' Museum at Lock 3 is a popular choice for locals and tourists.
We started from Lock 1 with a packed lunch and no finish point in mind. As we pedaled along the smooth pavement, we were surprised at how relaxing it truly was. With the wavy water to the left and green grass and leafy trees to our right, the sounds of nearby traffic were quickly out of mind.
As we continued down the path and neared Lock 2, we were greeted by a flock of Canadian geese. Guarding the grass as if it were gold, they stuck together and minded their business, leaving the pathway clear for people to pass by.
Lock 3 soon appeared and we were delighted by the park and picnic area to which we rode. Tall trees provided much needed shade over certain areas, and picnic tables were available for public use. We parked underneath a tall tree to eat. The area was busy with families lunching, children playing and cyclists resting.
A stone's throw away from the park and picnic area stands the
St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Centre. The museum demonstrates the history and heritage of the city and the Welland Canal, with its best feature being the Welland Canal Viewing Platform. Watching the boats rise as thousands of gallons of water pour in beneath them is truly a unique experience - for tourists and locals alike.
After taking photographs of the museum's outdoor attractions (giant anchor and face-in-the-hole cut-out stand), we hopped back on our saddles and headed back to Port Weller. The journey back was just as relaxing, and I managed to get close to some geese for a photo op. As we put our bikes back on my dad's truck we felt accomplished and energized by the fresh air and nature's surroundings.
There's no shortage of cycling routes and trails in Niagara, and to help you make the most of them, the Niagara Region has created an easy-to-use map.
You can download the map here or pick one up at one of the many local bike shops or tourist information centres.
Welland Canal & Friendly Trail Chiwawa Bike Trip
Welland Canal Lock 3
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Leanne Overby lives in St. Catharines, ON. Her passion for travel developed while teaching English in South Korea for a year and spending 2½ months travelling through Southeast Asia. When she's not daydreaming about where she'll go next, she works as a media relations coordinator and spends her free time frolicking around with her camera, running, re-watching 90210 and indulging in local cuisine.