Route Review: The Cannonball 300

File under: Bike Touring, Cycling, Routes

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.

Overall Ratings

Sights & Highlights★★★★☆
Cycling Difficulty★★☆☆☆
Navigation Difficulty★★☆☆☆
Food & Snack Stops★★★★☆
Hotel & Campsite Availability★★★★★
Overall Rating★★★★☆

Route Map

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

Cycling Difficulty

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!).

Navigation Difficulty

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.

Overall Rating

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.

Route Photos

Brantford Rail Trail path
The first portion of the trail exiting Hamilton is nice, shaded gravel rail trail.
Brantford bridge
As the route approaches Brantford, the scenery gets a bit more interesting with a number of bridges and paths crossing one another.
Brantford Grand River Trail seen from above.
Passing above another trail via one of the bridges entering Brantford along the Grand River.
Ontario agricultural buildings in a field.
Some agriculture buildings along the section of the route that contains the most farm land, between Brantford and Port Dover.
Port Dover beach along the coast of Lake Erie.
Arriving in downtown Port Dover, you will likely be greeted with the sounds of motorcycles, but also by the surprisingly tropical-feeling beaches opening up into Lake Erie.
Road along the Lake Erie coast in Southern Ontario.
One of the most scenic parts of the Cannonball route is this calm two-lane road that hugs the coast of Lake Erie between Port Dover and Port Colborne for a good number of kilometres, before feeding into more gravel riding. This road changes names many times along the way, but it is populated by a wide array of small (and large) cottages, some of which are quite interesting.
A campsite along the Grand River at Byng Island Conservation Area, in Ontario.
Byng Island Conservation Area is the best camping location I have used on this route—my site from 2023 is pictured here, and backed directly on to the Grand River before it feeds into Lake Erie.
Rail trail on the way to Port Colborne
There is a good 30km or so of “single track” rail trail en route to Port Colborne; though it is very easy to ride.
The Welland Canal in Port Colborne.
Downtown Port Colborne intersects with the Welland Canal, which the route follows all the way north into St. Catharine’s through Welland and Thorold. Port Colborne is a good place to stop for breakfast or lunch, depending on your schedule. Surprisingly large boats and cruise ships pass through the Welland Canal into the Great Lakes further north, or enter Lake Erie here traveling south.
The Robin Hood factory in Port Colborne.
The Welland-Niagara region contains a lot more abandoned industry than the more populated GTA; the large Robin Hood factory is the most notable of which along the Cannonball route.
The "Cannon Ball" bicycle mural in Thorold, Ontario.
The focal point of the route in Thorold along the Welland Canal—a mural remembering the “Cannon Ball” bicycle produced here, which the route is named after.
The Cannonball bike mural in Thorold, Ontario.
A wide view of the “Cannon Ball” bicycle mural.