Route Review: The Cannonball 300
The Cannonball 300 is a roughly 300km gravel and road loop around the Greater Hamilton, Lake Erie and Niagara regions of Southern Ontario. Taking its name from a bicycle model once produced in Thorold, Ontario, it’s a great way to explore the eastern portion of Southern Ontario’s Lake Erie coastline, and has ample overnight destinations including a wide variety of Ontario conservation area campgrounds or in-town hotels.
Below are routes intended for riding the Cannonball 300 as a 2-day trip, starting from old Ancaster.
Route Highlights & Sights
- The Dundas Conservation Area trails
- Brantford’s trail network along the Grand River
- Downtown Port Dover
- A long section of flat, scenic road riding directly along the Lake Erie coast with virtually no traffic.
- The Welland Canal
- Niagara Vineyards
The Cannonball 300 is a very flat route that consists of a mix of gravel rail trail and road riding—you don’t need a mountain or gravel bike to complete it. Overall, the technicality of the cycling along the Cannonball is easy (the official site brands it as an “introductory bikepacking route”), but—like any route—it depends on how many kilometres you’d like to ride in a day. I’ve done the route in its entirety on two occasions: once in three days in a group, and once in two days when cycling alone. Doing it in two days meant ~170km per day, and it was definitely more of a challenge (but a fun one!).
Using an app or bike computer that supports navigation, this route is pretty easy to follow. The trickiest bit is a section in St. Catharine’s with a lot of short turns, but otherwise there are long stretches without turns, and the trail portions are usually easy to follow. Even if you get lost, there are many towns and cities along this route, and for the most part you are never far from civilization.
Food & Snack Stops
If you are leaving from Hamilton, the food options are not numerous until you reach Brantford, and then there is a big stretch until Port Dover where there isn’t all that much to eat or drink if you stay close to the official route. Once you arrive in Port Dover, there are many food options, and for the most part, the same goes for the remainder of the route given the number of towns and cities the route passes through. There is however, a long-ish stretch between St. Catharine’s and Hamilton of road riding that can get very hot and/or windy, without many stores or towns nearby. I recommend stocking up in St. Catharine’s before tackling the final portion of the route.
Hotel & Campsite Availability
There are plenty of conservation areas and hotels along this route. I’ve stayed at the Haldimand Conservation Area, and Byng Island Conservation Area for camping, which are both about half-way into the trip. I’d recommend the Byng Island sites if you’re interested in camping; they are right along the Grand River and nicer than those at Haldimand.
I’ve also stayed at The Inn at Lock Seven along the Welland Canal which was quite nice and not very expensive—the rooms here are in direct view of boats passing through the canal.
There are plenty of other options for lodging, both camping and hotels, as indicated on the official route.
The Cannonball 300 is a great weekend bike trip—it passes through a number of interesting Southern Ontario towns and cities, including Brantford, Port Dover, Port Colborne, Welland/Thorold/St. Catharine’s, Hamilton, and Niagara’s vineyard district. It strikes a nice balance of rural vs. urban riding, and the scenery never gets boring as a result. Due to the large portions of rail trail, the overall inclines of the route are minimal and the entire trip can be done on virtually any bike. I would agree with the official site’s assessment of the route as a great “introductory bikepacking route” and can see myself riding it again in the future.