The Silver Lining of TBay’s Mountain Bike Scene
Words by Michelle McChristie
Photos by Darren McChristie
There’s only one word to describe the feeling of cruising through the boreal forest on clean ribbons of singletrack while twisting and turning over the contours of the land: fun.
To the uninitiated, the idea of biking around an old mine might sound a little odd, if not dangerous. But it’s not that strange for Northern Ontario where relics of the mining and forest are commonplace, especially in the bush. It was silver that attracted settlers to Shuniah township, located east of Thunder Bay, the name Shuniah is derived from the Ojibway word zhooniyaa, meaning money or silver. The Shuniah Mines mountain bike trails are built around the Duncan-Shuniah silver mine which operated from 1867 to 1881. The only hints of the area’s history are the fence along the Grand Chasm trail which keeps people (and their pets) safe away from old shafts and the quartz along the trail which attests to the unique geology of the Canadian Shield.
The mountain bike trails at Shuniah Mines are the most fun you can have on two wheels in the Thunder Bay area. The network of trails has grown and improved over the years thanks to the efforts of the Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club and the City of Thunder Bay. The trails are impeccably maintained and well-marked with signage and trail maps located everywhere you need them. There is mixed bag of intermediate to advanced trails that feature smooth singletrack, challenging climbs/rewarding descents, and some technical singletrack with a-frames, bridges, drops, and a teeter totter. Most of the trails are short (under one kilometre), so plan on riding a few more than once if you want to lengthen your ride. Biking in from The Bluffs, Centennial Park, Cascades Conservation Area, or Kinsmen Park (Trowbridge Falls) will add some mileage and give you a chance to warm up before you hit the singletrack.
There are an unlimited variety of routes you can take when you combine the trails in these areas and the Trailforks App is a handy tool to help navigate. Whatever your route, remember that the Grand Chasm and Doctor’s trails are one-way; all others are two-way.Here’s one option for an intermediate rider, starting at Cascades Conservation Area:
Follow the Blue Trail to Cascades Access 1 which merges with the Adventure Trail. In Shuniah Mines, follow the Hill Top Trail to Road to Hell, then Cassandra, Crossover, Dagobah, and Prologue. Hop back onto the Adventure Trail and take a spin on BMX, then back to the Adventure Trail to connect to Grand Chasm (a must-ride!), then Peekaboo which spits you back out on the Adventure Trail. Next, follow Doubletrack, Doctor’s, The Stranger, and finally Hilltop back to the Adventure Trail. If you’ve had your fill, return to the Adventure Trail then Cascades Access 1 and, finally, the Blue Trail.
Total Distance: 41 km
Total Descent Distance: 8 km
Total Descent: 308 m
Highest Trailhead: 280 m
Total Vertical: 63 m
Need another reason to ride Shuniah? The Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club is hosting the Shuniah Forty Miner XC Marathon on September 24, 2016.There are 12, 24, and 48-km races plus, your entry fee includes admission to the Port Arthur Rotary Club and Sleeping Giant Brewery’s Oktoberfest bash (mmm, local craft beer and fresh pretzels!).