Finding a good cycling loop you can do more than once is like striking gold – you know it will become a favourite that you will revisit again and again. In Ontario's Highlands, those cycling gems are around every bend in the road, calling intrepid cyclists to explore rugged gravel trails, scenic winding roads, and cross country routes. 

In the Ottawa Valley, Chris Hinsperger is a longtime cyclist who is passionate about riding, and is always on the hunt for a new route to explore, one that will take him deep into the highlands, challenge him to do his personal best, and still give him a nice spot to relax at the end of the day over a pint of beer with friends.

For all you cyclists out there, the Lumberjack Loop* is your gravel ride in waiting, and can easily be extended to create a cross country cycling itinerary that will take you far on two wheels. This loop will take you to microbreweries, a cidery, cafes and eateries, and there will even be a farm stay in your future on this mostly-gravel ride. 

Here is our take on Chris’ suggested route, with an additional day thrown in (because why not?).

*This route was developed in partnership between Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork and Madawaska Valley Cycling.

4 Days, 3 Nights of Gravel Grinding and Gears

Start Here: Calabogie

Perched on the edge of Calabogie Lake, the town of Calabogie is cute as a button and a must-visit destination for outdoor lovers. With Calabogie Peaks found here, you know in advance that hilly terrain is on the agenda for any cycling from this destination. 

• Start your ride with a breakfast of champions from Oh-el-la Café.
• Gear up with a bike rental from Madawaska Valley Cycling. You can even book a VeloGuide tour through here and amp up your ride, or extend your trip.
• Pick up some snacks (or lunch, or a beer or two for the end of the day) from Redneck Bistro.

Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 372km • 4 hr 40 min From Ottawa: 102km • 1 hr 15 min

Referred to as 'the funnest small town in Canada' by CBC's comedy series, Still Standing, Calabogie more than lives up to the name.  From indoor activities like restaurant hopping, to outdoor adventure in watersports, backwoods play, and skiing Ontario's vertical drop at Calabogie Peaks, there's plenty of fun to be had at this outdoor paradise.

Time Spent Here: It's best to get started early on your ride, but don't worry, you'll end up back in Calabogie at the end of your trip so you will still have plenty of time to explore.

Next Stop: Calabogie Rustic Farm Market

Your legs will still be fresh, so you can keep pedaling and hit up this market on the way back to Calabogie, or take the time to stop now. 

• If you are planning a picnic lunch, this would be a great place to stock up on some fresh, seasonal produce and dry goods. 
• Chat with the owners about what got them interested in community supported agriculture and supporting small farmers. 

Next Stop: Balaclava

This ghost town was a busy industrial and farming centre in the latter part of the 19th century, but slowly decayed when it was overlooked as a railroad town. The lumber mill here continued to operate on water power until the late 1960s, and the town store operated until the mid-1970s. Today the town is abandoned and makes an interesting spot for photos.

• Stop for a photo at the sawmill ruins here.
• Take a break for a  picnic snack or lunch.

End Your Day: Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork

You may be beat by now, but probably hungry as well, and you’ll be in the right spot here. These small farmers create gourmet foods from ingredients grown on their property (think organic pierogi or grass-fed beef sausage rolls). They also operate a bike stop with parking and an accommodation option that sleeps up to six people, and are ideally situated on this loop as a place to spend the night.

• Check out the farm and ask how you can help out! These folks offer a “Farmer for a Day” option as well, and you can even learn to milk a goat. Check their website for booking details.
• Check in with Brooker’s Cider and see if they are doing tastings or are open for sales so you can plan when you will make a trip out there.
• Book a dinner picnic in the pasture (or in your accommodation) using the ingredients you brought from Calabogie Rustic Farm or a farm-fresh meal from the farm. 
• Crack open a beer and sit outdoors and bask in the quiet (and the fact that you’re finally stationary after a hard day in the bike saddle).  

Time Spent Here: Try and get to the farm at least a couple of hours before dark so you have enough time to explore and stretch your legs before heading to bed to rest up for tomorrow.

Start Here: Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork

The early part of today will be a luxury as it will be on paved roads. Don’t get spoiled though, there is a pretty hefty change in elevation in your future of 705 metres over the first 30 kilometres, then a series of hilly, gravel roads before you end your day back at your accommodation. 

• Contact Brooker’s Cider before heading out to see about doing a tasting or getting some cider. This is your last chance!
• Pre-order a breakfast straight from the farm, with farm-fresh eggs (maybe laid that day), local jams, and local bread. 

Next Stop: Douglas

The small community of Douglas is home to a growing Mennonite population so your two-wheeled transportation may be passed by the four-legged kind with a buggy behind it. This stop will be a short break before you continue on towards Eganville.

• Stop at the Douglas Grocery store for any sundries you may need (or a breather).
• Swing past the Douglas Mennonite Farm and farmstand and, if they’re open, fill your saddlebags with some fresh produce and handmade goods.
• Stop for a photo at McRae Mill Dam Ruins, roughly halfway to Eganville. This would be a good place to have a picnic lunch using goodies from the Mennonite farm.

Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 374km • 4 hr 12 min From Ottawa: 116km • 1 hr 13 min

Time Spent Here: You could spend an hour at the Mennonite farmstand, if you think you are on track for time. 

Next Stop: Bonnechere Caves

This is a must stop on your route, even just for a few minutes to wander the coolness of the caves and cool off a bit. You can make this stop on your way out or your way back as you will pass by this way again today. 

• Walk across the street to the Fourth Chute Falls and see if you can find any fossils Imprinted in the sandstone here.
• Take a tour of the cave and learn more about the geology of the region and how the underground cavern was formed. 
• Chat with cave owner, Chris Hinsperger, who is the cyclist who was inspired by this itinerary and wanted to share it with everyone. 

Time Spent Here: Plan on two hours here to really get a flavour of the caves. The rapids at Fourth Chute Falls are also mesmerizing and the perfect spot to stop for a rest and snack.

Next Stop: Eganville

You will fall in love with Eganville! The Bonnechere River runs straight through the centre of Eganville and creates a lovely setting no matter where you are in town.

• Stop at Bonnechere Museum in Eganville, also known as the Ordovician Fossil Capital of Canada, teaches visitors about ancient life along the Bonnechere River. 
• Time for lunch? A hearty meal from Rio Tap & Grill will keep your legs in pedaling shape for the rest of the day. Their soup of the day is a must try, any day of the week.
• Drop by Fifth Chute Coffee for a caffeine boost to keep up your energy. While you're there pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread for sandwiches tomorrow (or tonight).
• As you leave Eganville you can hang either left or right at the Y, because this is a loop, but if you decide not to stop in Eganville you may want to go left to hit the food and drink earlier.

Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 350km • 4 hr 20 min From Ottawa: 135km • 1 hr 35 min

Laying in a deep limestone valley, Eganville is known as the Ordovician Fossil Capital of Canada.  See these fossils up close at the Bonnechere Caves, and go deep underground to do your own fossil hunt. 

Time Spent Here: Plan on at least an hour or more here, especially if you will be eating a full lunch you’ll want to take time to let it settle before heading out on the road.

Next Stop: Mud Lake Loop

The loop around Mud Lake features a number of spots where you can stop and take a picture or stretch your legs. This loop takes you back to Eganville and then back down to Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork to spend the night.

• Feeling a little sweaty? This stop will give you a chance to change that in a fragrant way! Open by chance or by appointment, Opeongo Soaps uses locally sourced goat’s milk and rainwater to make their artisanal soaps. 
• Stop for lunch or to pick up something for dinner from Kokomish Café, on Golden Lake. Their pizzas are a local favourite, and after your ride you won’t need to worry about calories.
• The Boat House BBQ & Fries has been pleasing palates for 10 years and is another great option for a stop to refuel. In summer, a must-try is one of their famous milkshakes from the ice cream shack. 

This loop will take you through territory of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan.

End of Day: Egan Inn

Egan Inn can be your "home away from home" at the end of a long day pedaling. Be inspired by the Victorian era rooms and the views from the inn and take some time to sit down and take a breather. You earned it!

• Visit a local restaurant for dinner – Rio Tap & Grill serves up good as homemade meals that will refuel after a long day in the saddle.
• Take a stroll through town to unwind and stretch your muscles.
• Look back at suggestions for things to do in Eganville to see what you missed on your first pass through town.

Start Here: Egan Inn

Say good-bye to your hosts at Egan Inn and swing past Fifth Chute Coffee for breakfast before heading out on your last day of cycling the Lumberjack Gravel Loop.

Next Stop: Calabogie

You’ve completed the Lumberjack Gravel Loop and deserve some much needed rest and rewards. If you didn’t explore Calabogie on Day One of this itinerary, this is your chance to really get an idea of the culture of this town that’s passionate about the outdoors.

• Bring your bathing suit and a towel to Barnet Park for a relaxing swim to soothe your tired muscles in the cool water of Calabogie Lake.
• Lounge on the patio at Calabogie Brewing Co. and savour a refreshing pint (or two) as a reward at the end of the day.
• Enjoy a fine dining meal overlooking Calabogie Lake at On the Rocks or head to Calabogie Peaks to the on-site restaurant, Canthooks. 
• Try the Redneck Burger at Redneck Bistro for a "Valley-style" dish that won't leave you hungry.
• Plan ahead to your next visit to this region and book a tour from Madawaska Valley Cycling to explore this region even further.

Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 372km • 4 hr 40 min From Ottawa: 102km • 1 hr 15 min

Referred to as 'the funnest small town in Canada' by CBC's comedy series, Still Standing, Calabogie more than lives up to the name.  From indoor activities like restaurant hopping, to outdoor adventure in watersports, backwoods play, and skiing Ontario's vertical drop at Calabogie Peaks, there's plenty of fun to be had at this outdoor paradise.

Time Spent Here: Depending on how fast you cycle and when you set out for the day you could arrive back in Calabogie with several hours before the sun sets to dedicate to exploring the community.

End Your Day: Somewhere Inn Calabogie 

This trendy inn is a boutique hotel that offers a Zen-like, minimalist accommodation with a focus on the outdoor experiences you can enjoy in Calabogie. The rooms here are big oversized and so soothing and beautiful you may not want to leave again. Some even offer a soaker tub in the room that your sore muscles will love.

• Lounge in a hammock right at the inn, or gather around the campfire to chat about your ride and meet new people. 
• An on-site wine bar will give you plenty of fine wines to choose from (and you may even want to uncork one for enjoying at the bonfire).
• Take a guided hike, coordinated by Somewhere Inn.
• If you’ve ever wanted to try Stand Up Paddleboarding, now is your chance. Rent a paddleboard from Mad River Paddle and set out on Calabogie Lake (you can also book a private or semi-private lesson).
• If you’re there on a Friday, lather on the insect repellant and get installed on the inn lawn for an outdoor movie after sunset. 
• Pre-book a massage or treatment at dOMe Retreat for a uniquely relaxing experience (not this is off-site and you will need to drive here).

Time Spent Here: If you can’t fit in all of the above into your time after you check into the hotel, plan ahead to tomorrow. Somewhere Inn is literally its own destination, so don’t feel bad if you can’t squeeze it all in.

Start Here: Somewhere Inn

If you didn’t fit in everything you wanted to do here yet, that’s okay, just book your next cycle in this area and you’ll know exactly what to do first when you arrive.

Next Stop: Nick Smith Centre, Arnprior

You will need to drive or cycle to access the OVRT in Arnprior, where you can park your vehicle at the Nick Smith Centre for an out and back ride on the trail. Cycle south on the OVRT towards Pakenham.

Next Stop: Pakenham

You will fall in love with the village of Pakenham. This is a perfect destination for cyclists who want to take a short break from their ride to sit and enjoy an ice cream cone while watching the river rush past. 

• Visit Cartwright Springs Brewery in Pakenham to taste what beer made with fresh spring water tastes like. Chat with owner, Andre Rieux, to learn all about why he started his brewery here.
• Pizza for lunch sounds like a great choice, and you’ll love the local favourite Centennial Restaurant, right on the main drag in Pakenham.
Scoops ice cream has your favourite flavour, guaranteed.
• Have a caffeine refill at Keepers Coffee Bar, and why not tag on a baked treat to your order?
• Picnic by the Mississippi River as it rushes through Pakenham next to the Five Span Bridge.

Lanark County
From Toronto: 377km • 4 hr 40 min From Ottawa: 59km • 50 min

Cartwright Springs Brewery takes locally-made to a whole new level, using natural water from an artesian spring located on the property, just 15 metres away.

Time Spent Here: Plan on two hours here if you are stopping for lunch.

Next Stop: Almonte

There is SO MUCH to do in Almonte! You will need to be stingy with your time here, especially if you plan on continuing on to Carleton Place to spend the night (lots of options for when to end your trip – you can even keep going to Smiths Falls).

• Lock your bike up at Almonte Old Town Hall because you will be able to walk everywhere in the downtown.
• Walk the Riverwalk Trail, that runs from Almonte Old Town Hall all along the riverfront into the heart of the downtown.
• Stop for lunch at the Barley Mow and dine on the patio with a view of the Mississippi River.
• The brand new cocktail bar and small plates restaurant, The Stirling, will be the ideal spot to relax with a pint and take a much needed break at the end of your ride.
• Snap a picture with the life-sized bronze statue of Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball.
• Shop the many boutique shops on Mill Street, including clothing, art, books, and more.

Lanark County
From Toronto: 360km • 4 hr 30 min From Ottawa: 52km • 50 min

Dr. James Naismith, the founder of basketball, was born in Almonte, where the original homestead still stands today.  Visit the Dr. James Naismith memorial statue on Mill Street, and get your picture taken with this Canadian legend.

Time Spent Here: You could literally spend all day in Almonte, but if you will be continuing on your cycle trip to Carleton Place or Smiths Falls, best to keep it short. Overnight options in Almonte are The Riverside Inn, while in Carleton Place you can choose between The Comfort Inn and The Grand Hotel, both great places to rest at the end of your trip.