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Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

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Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
3 posts
39 reviews
Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

My family, including teen daughter, is cycling the Greater Niagara Circle Route counter-clockwise: from St. Catherines to Welland to Port Colborne, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls, NOTL and back to St. Catharines.

We have met a lot of cyclists going in the other direction - which means uphill from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie. We did the uphill part from St. Catharines to Thorold. We are covering the 140 km route in 6 nights to give us time to visit places on the way.

I am curious about what cyclists consider to be more preferable in terms of direction, and why. On the 60 km from Port Colborne to Niagara Falls, I felt like I was going uphill a lot of the way (until the end) - but clearly was not - must have been the weight of the panniers.

8 replies to this topic
Niagara Falls, ON
Destination Expert
for Niagara Falls
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8,015 posts
45 reviews
1. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

It must be an optical (or physical) illusion. The land above the Escarpment - Thorold, Welland, Port Colborne, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls - is virtually flat (at 600-625 ft. above sea level), as is the land below - St.Catharines and Niagara on the Lake ( at 325 above sea level), with the only real elevation change being the escarpment itself.

I think that choice of direction is strictly personal, based on starting point and pehaps being at certain places at certain times.

BTW, what were your good & bad parts? I personally think the Friendship Trail, between Port Colborne and Fort Erie is very boring, not to mention severely overgrown with vegetation from lack of maintenance.

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
3 posts
39 reviews
2. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

We just got home to Toronto (took the Bike GO train from Niagara Falls this morning).

We did a total of about 110 miles (175 km) from our front door to the train and then from the train to our first night's accommodation, and the start of the Greater Niagara Circle Route. We opted not to close the loop from Niagara on the Lake back to St. Catharines, because of what we heard about the trail being on the road, rather than running alongside.

Here's our itinerary - I hope that other people will share their stops etc.

Night 1/Day1. Train to St. Catharines, Sunday night - cycled to and stayed in a great B&B and next day, cycled to Lock 3 Museum at the Welland Canal. Headed south to Welland (about 37 km total).

Night 2/Day 2. Stayed in Welland (Best Western). Next morning, cycled to Port Colborne (barely 10 km).

Night 3/Day 3. Stayed in Port Colborne (King George Inn - the former city hall). Next morning cycled 60 km to Niagara Falls, stopping for a couple of hours in Historic Fort Erie.

Night 4/Day 4. Stayed in Niagara Fall and recovered - 60 km in one day was long - and I only cycle locally to the shops and along Lake Ontario trails. Then cycled about 10 km to St. Davids, Niagara on the Lake (NOTL). After we arrived in St. Davids, we cycled to a couple of local wineries.

Night 5/Day 5. Stayed at B&B in St. Davids and cycled in and out of NOTL - about 30 km roundtrip.

Night 6/Day 6. Stayed 2nd night in same B&B, and then cycled back to Niagara Falls along the parkway to the VIA train station and Bike GO Train back to Toronto.

We LOVED the Welland Canal part of the trail, south from St. Catharines to Port Colborne. The ride to Fort Erie from Port Colborne was actually nice, because it was hot and the trees provided welcome shade. The hairiest bit was off-trail along Stanley Road and St. Paul's road, going to our B&B from Niagara Falls. Busy Roads that emphasized why the trail is so special. Most spectacular - definitely, the part going down the escarpment in Niagara Falls from the south - AMAZING (and I have been visiting Niagara Falls for 40 years, since I was a teen).

On balance, doing the route counterclockwise was good for us, but we did it both ways in and out of NOTL. I climbed the escarpment twice. It's not such a scary proposition now. I think that most families and cyclists of all ages and experience could do most of the trail.

Niagara Falls, ON
Destination Expert
for Niagara Falls
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8,015 posts
45 reviews
3. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

Great report Prof. Unfortunately, this St.Catharine's forum is not very active. Why not repost as a trip report on the Niagara Falls forum,where many more people will see,and benefit from, it.

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
10 posts
43 reviews
4. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

If one wants to drive to St Catherines to park and start the trail from there, where could I park for 3 days?

Mentor, Ohio
Level Contributor
2 posts
42 reviews
5. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

Has anyone got a route map of the circle route?

Mentor, Ohio
Level Contributor
2 posts
42 reviews
6. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

Perhaps at Brock University.

Edited: 10:16 pm, June 25, 2013
Niagara Falls, ON
Destination Expert
for Niagara Falls
Level Contributor
8,015 posts
45 reviews
7. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

niagararegion.ca/government/…gncr-maps.aspx

Toronto, Canada
1 post
8. Re: Cycling Niagara Circle Route: clockwise or counterclockwise?

I just rode this route. I would recommend going counter clockwise. Going counter clockwise will have you climbing a bit (as Lake Erie is higher than Lake Ontario), but once you've done this you will find the friendship trail easy pedaling. Usually the wind blows easterly, so you will have a tailwind. Riding the Niagara Parkway, once in Queenston, you will be glad to be going mostly downhill.

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