Cycling with kids
but safety can be a big concern. Many on-road bicycing routes have a bit too much motorized traffic for comfort. The solution is to find off-road cycling paths where kids can hone their cycling skills and parents can relax and enjoy the outing.
Niagara's Greenbelt has many kilometres of safe and well-marked off-road bike pathways where you can take the family. You'll be sharing the trails with pedestrians, roller-bladers, and other cyclists, but you won't have to worry about dodging cars and trucks.
The following destinations offer family-friendly off-road cycling opportunities. Some trails are paved and groomed, others are gravel pathways - but all are grade-separated and well away from traffic.
The Niagara Parkway (Niagara on the Lake through Fort Erie) is the Holy Grail destination for family cyclists. With over 56 km of grade-separated, paved or stone-dust trails, family groups can bicycle safely and securely through some of the prettiest countryside anywhere, and enjoy access to free parking, picnic facilities, washrooms, playgrounds, and a host of other features and attractions. Because the Parkway is primarily a linear trail running from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, loops are a bit of a challenge, and you may find yourselves re-tracing your path if you want to stay off the roadways - but there are some small loop routes possible as well that can be handled even by smaller children. Notable are the cycling trails through Paradise Grove, the Commons, Fort George, and Butler's Barracks, which link up with the Niagara River Recreational Parkway and provide some short but interesting off-road cycling loops.
Burgoyne Woods Park (St. Catharines) offers a modest network of roadways and trails within the park which are frequented by family cycling groups. Terrain can be a bit hilly, and road and trail surfaces are occasionally potholed and muddy, but in good weather there are some good family cycling opportunities, as well as other park attractions to divert the little ones when they tire of riding around.
The Welland Canals Trail (St. Catharines to Thorold) offers an exciting paved cycling path alongside the world-famous Welland Canal. It currently stretches 10 km from Lakeshore Road, St. Catharines to the flight locks in Thorold. Kids will enjoy the close proximity to the canal and its monumental lakers, and be able to observe the functioning of the canal's locks and lift bridges at close range. The St. Catharines Museum, Welland Canals Centre, and Lock 7 Viewing Complex are all accessible from the Trail.
The Steve Bauer Trails network in Fonthill (Town of Pelham) offers several kid-friendly cycling stretches along its 6 km length, especially the rail-trail section which runs and runs southward from Regional Road 20 past Pelham Town Square (parallel to Station Street) then continues through fields and forest all the way south to the Welland border. Use the bike trails in your next visit to Fonthill, taking in the Pelham Farmers' Market, the weekly summer evening bandshell concerts in Pelham Town Square, the parks and playgrounds, and the many wonderful local eateries like the Lazy Loon Restaurant and Ice Cream Bar or Keith's Restaurant, renowned for local fruit pies.
More experienced cyclists might like to head south and visit Welland via the Stop 19 Trail, or head east towards Thorold along the NS&T Fonthill Spur (north of Regional Road 20) and connect up with the Greater Niagara Circle Route at the Welland Canal.