Canadian Shield 400

The Canadian Shield 400 is part of the Bikepack Adventures Grand Depart routes. It’s an all-encompassing bikepacking route throughout the Outaouais region, just north of the nation’s capital, Ottawa. At 419km long, it is just enough to provide you with a long-weekend challenge that will push your physical and mental fortitude. Hitting up some of the top sites in the Outaouais region such as Gatineau Park, Paugan Dam, Mont Ste. Marie, Gracefield, Kazabazua and Otter Lake, this route will challenge you with gravel roads, unmaintained winter roads, rail trail, single-track and double-track.

With nearly 100km of riding within the Gatineau Park and 12km of single-track in Mont Ste. Marie, you will spent over 25% of your riding time on trails. That is massive within the world of bikepacking.

  • Gatineau Park: Riding through Gatineau Park is always a pleasure. Being in a provincial park so close to the nation’s capital is a fun way to spend a couple days.
  • 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 and Mont Ste. Marie. Steep double-track climbs and flowing descents take the rider on some of the best trails in the park.
  • Rail-trails: The Veloroute des Draveurs and the Chelsea Community Trail give you a chance to cover some ground while enjoying the views.
  • Viewpoints: Check out the Champlain and lookout in the Gatineau Park for some fantastic views of the mighty Ottawa River and all the farmland that grows along its banks. When you make your way up to the viewpoint at the top of the Tower of Power climb in Mont Ste. Marie you’ll be treated with some great views of the region as you descend the ski hill.
  • Paugan Dam: Crossing the historically important Gatineau River, the Paugan Dam was built nearly 100 years ago.
  • Swim: Lots of great swimming spots for a chance to cool down. Quebec is covered in lakes that make for a great stop-over.
  • Descents: There is a pretty technical descent after cycling up to the radio tower in Mont Ste. Marie. If you are not very confident with single-track descents, I recommend you ride back down the double-track you went up.
  • Photos: Don’t miss the photo opportunities at Étienne-Brûlé Lookout, Champlain Lookout and any of the locations throughout the park with a bench.
  • Warning: The Gatineau Park can be very busy in the summer, particularly the area south of Lac Meech. Be mindful for other cyclists and hikers.
The Canadian Shield 400 is the shortest of the Bikepack Adventures Grand Depart routes. However, it is not to be taken lightly and isn’t just a gravel ride. This ride can be completed on a gravel bike, but the bigger the tires the better.
  • Mountain Bike: For mountain bikes, it is recommended to use tires on the bigger end of the spectrum, in order to provide as much comfort as possible. Something in the 2″ to 2.25″range would be ideal, while larger tires or a full-suspension bike would be overkill.
  • Gravel Bike: A cyclocross bike is not recommended for this route. That does not mean it is impossible to complete it on 38C tires, it just means that it would be fairly hard on the body. If using a gravel bike with 700 wheels, you’ll want to have the biggest tires your bike can accommodate. Only ride a gravel bike if you have a lot of experience riding singletrack on drop bars or you may find yourself walking more than you like.
  • Setup: Run tubeless if possible. You can use bikepacking style bags or a hybrid setup with small panniers. A lighter set-up allows for easier riding, especially in the hillier and more technical sections. You are also going to want to have a wide range of gear options for climbing the bigger and tougher hills.
  • This ride starts with you heading north on the Chelsea Community Trail (rail-trail) before turning off onto some double-track  as you make your way north to Wakefield.
  • Crossing the covered bridge you follow the river until Farrelton, cross the bridge again and ride some sweet gravel roads as you head towards the Paugan Dam, where you will take on your first big climb of the ride.
  • After crossing the dam, you ride a mix of paved roads and gravel on the way to Mont Ste. Marie, where you will get to ride some epic single-track.
  • Leaving Mont Ste. Marie you continue north to Gracefield where you will reach the furthest point north on the route. On the way out of Gracefield you get on the Veloroute des Draveurs for a few km before turning back northwards heading towards Lac Cayamant.
  • Heading south from Lac Cayamant will take you through some really rough unserviced roads after which you will finally reach Otter Lake, the perfect place for a Casse-Croute stop. You will take some rugged trails that may be flooded as you wind your way through trails, gravel roads and unmaintained winter roads while getting back towards Lac des Loups and the Gatineau Park.
  • Finishing the route, you cover a significant portion of the Gatineau Park, hike-a-bike through streams, and take some rarely ridden trails, all on the way to trail 56, which cuts east towards Lac Phillippe.
  • After a stint on the TCT, you get onto the rough and tumble trail 36 to Meech Lake, where after a small section of paved roads, you will make a huge climb up to the Champlain and Étienne-Brûlé lookouts. Finishing off the route with some epic double-track and sweet descents, you are not too far away from Chelsea Pub and one of the amazing beers.
This route goes through some of the best parts of the Outaouais region, from Gatineau Park to Mont Ste. Marie to Gracefield and back. Passing through many small towns there are ample opportunities to find a hotel for the night. Campgrounds are located sporadically and there is always the option to wild camp.
  • Hotels: Chelsea, Wakefield, Masham, Lac des Loups, Otter Lake, Gracefield, Mont Ste. Marie
  • Campgrounds: Check the POI’s for camping locations
  • Cabins/Glamping: Gatineau Park has several locations where you can rent beds in a cabin, yurt, etc. They book out early in the season, so it is recommended to book early.
  • Wild camping: The Gatineau Park is a large park in the national capital region with plenty of options for wild camping for the night. Please follow “leave no trace” practices and be aware that wild camping is at your own risk.
  • Fresh water everywhere: Lots of lakes and creeks to fill up your water bottles. There are also water taps near the areas with camping where you can fill up.
  • Spring water: There are spring water taps in both Wakefield and Gracefield that run 24/7. Both springs are within 5 min of the route.
  • Restaurants/Cafes/Bars: Throughout the ride there are not tons of food places other than Chelsea, Wakefield, and Masham. Make sure to carry lots of snacks and food as this riding is tough and you are bound to eat more.

Average Physical Difficulty – 5

From easy rail trail to rolling gravel roads to rugged and unrelenting terrain with steep climbs, the Canadian Shield 400 provides an excellent route to explore. The areas of Mont Ste. Marie and Gatineau Park will provide a bit more rugged riding to challenge you as much as possible without being so difficult you feel it is impossible.

Average Technical Difficulty – 6

The Canadian Shield 400 bikepacking route provides the rider with a huge variety of riding types, from the non-technical rail trail and relatively flat gravel roads along the Gatineau River to the more challenging riding to be found in Mont Ste. Marie and the Gatineau Park that will throw tons of single and doubletrack your way, with big climbs and rocky descents. Overall, this route provides a good selection of all types of riding and is the perfect intro to bikepacking or shorter trip.

This route was created by:

Chris Panasky, host of the Bikepack Adventures Podcast.

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