Come Wander

Stepping into your local outdoor outfitter or bike shop last year to find nothing but empty shelves was a good indication that bikepacking, the activity that combines backcountry camping and off-road cycling, will be a popular option for a COVID-friendly outdoor getaway this year. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran ready to take on multi-day tours or a new fan looking to test out the waters, there are plenty of routes to explore that wind through the gravel rail trails and old logging roads of Ontario’s Highlands.

Note: Know your abilities and ride within them. Some of these routes traverse deep into the forest with a variety of potential hazards. If you’re new to cycling or backcountry camping, start with easier routes or day trips. Always alert someone where you’ll be and when you’ll return as cell phone reception is non-existent on many of these routes. And of course, practice Leave No Traceprinciples.

Haliburton Forest Route – 50 km

Area: Haliburton Highlands
Level: Beginner

One of the many Haliburton Highlands routes mapped by local Thom Lambert is what he calls “The Best of Haliburton Forest.” At only 50 kilometres on the gravel roads of Haliburton Forest, it’s a mellow bikepacking trip suitable for most cyclocross or gravel bikes. Book ahead for a campsite at Wolf Lake and add some extra adventure by further exploring the hundreds of kilometres of gravel trails in Haliburton Forest during the day, or take a drive out to one of Thom’s other gravel routes

North Frontenac K&P Loop – 68 km

Area: Frontenac County
Level: Beginner

If you’re new to bikepacking or want a quick weekend getaway, this straightforward loop in the backwoods of North Frontenac takes you deep into the forest, away from the hustle and bustle. Overnight camping is available at the backcountry sites of North Frontenac Park Lands along the way. Food stops are limited so pack what you need and enjoy your immersion into nature! Local Wanderer Paul Galipeau shares the full details and map.

Griffith Highlander Overnighter – 69 km

Areas: Ottawa Valley
Level: Beginner/Intermediate (short but challenging)

The Griffith Highlander Overnighter is a fairly simple route clocking in at about 70 km of single lane forest service roads surrounded by Crown land. While it is short, it packs a punch with 700+ metres of climbing and some sandy sections. It’s also a very remote area with only one town en route so don’t be caught unprepared! Get the full scoop on Bikepacking.com

Hastings-Haliburton 50/50 – 257 km

Areas: Hastings County, Haliburton Highlands
Level: Intermediate

When you’re ready to take on multi-day routes through the backcountry of Ontario’s Highlands, this loop through Hastings and Haliburton counties is a great starting point. With stops in Bancroft, Minden, Haliburton, and a few other hamlets along the way, rest assured you’ll never go hungry – nor will you have to haul your own beer if you crave a cold pint.

Sharb-Echo Scramble – 296 km

Areas: Frontenac County, Lennox and Addington County, Hastings County
Level: Intermediate

This is another rugged backcountry route developed by our Local Wanderer and Frontenac enthusiast Paul Galipeau. His write-up on Bikepack.ca suggests the route is best in late summer to avoid spring flooding and hunting season. There are a few spots to stop for food (and even a winery en route!) but this route is more geared towards those who are prepared for a backcountry trip where you may not encounter a soul.

Hella Hastings Tour – 347 km

Area: Hastings County, Lennox and Addington County
Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Laura Voskamp and her partner Adam created the Hella Hastings Tour as an option that departs from their hometown and heads north to explore the landscapes and gravel roads of central Hastings. Highlights include a stop at Flinton Conservation Area, abandoned settlements from the 1850s, and dockside sunsets on the Hastings Heritage Trail.

Central Ontario Loop Trail (COLT) – 457 km

Area: Hastings County, Haliburton Highlands
Level: Advanced

The Central Ontario Loop Trail, known by most as the COLT, takes riders through a large portion of Central Ontario stretching from Lake Ontario almost to Algonquin Park. Most riders start in the areas just south of Ontario’s Highlands and save the best for last, in our opinion. Both you and your legs will know when you’ve hit the rolling hills of the Highlands. This route is for experienced riders and is best tackled with thick, knobby tires as there are some rough areas.

Hasty Highlander – 474-704 km

Area: Hastings County, Haliburton Highlands
Level: Advanced

The Hasty Highlander will keep you on your toes with two optional add-ons in the Haliburton and Bancroft areas. The bare bones route (shown in red on the map) developed by Matthew Kadey is 474 kilometres that follows a similar path as the COLT. But two optional loops provide additional riding if you so desire, bringing the total kilometres to just over 700 km.

Log Driver’s Waltz – 794 km

Areas: Ottawa Valley, Lanark County, Frontenac County
Level: Advanced

The mother of all bikepacking routes is the Log Driver’s Waltz, a nearly 800 kilometre route developed by Jen Adams and Eric Betteridge. About half your time will be spent in Ontario’s Highlands as you follow the inter-provincial loop that showcases the stunning landscapes and deep culture of the area. Bet on plenty of climbing, scenic vistas, and café stops along the way as you traverse through the towns of Renfrew, Sharbot Lake, Almonte, and Carleton Place.

Note: If you’re feeling really ambitious, like on-your-bike-for-three-weeks kind of ambitious, the Hasty Highlander and Log Driver’s Waltz connect to create a 1,737 kilometres mega bikepacking route.

Bonus: Eastern Ontario Rail Trail Loop – 384 km

Areas: Frontenac County, Ottawa Valley, Lanark County
Level: Intermediate

Last year, Frontenac County local Jonas Bonnetta departed on a multi-day adventure set almost exclusively on gravel rail trails, which he affectionately dubbed the Choo Choo Loop.” His journey took him on the connecting K&P, Cataraqui, and the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trails through countless small towns in Ontario’s Highlands, including Smiths Falls, Arnprior, and Calabogie. While Jonas decided to go ultra lightweight by staying in accommodations, camping options are available along the route.

 

Stories

9 Awesome Bikepacking Routes in Ontario’s Highlands

Stepping into your local outdoor outfitter or bike shop last year to find nothing but empty shelves was a good indication that bikepacking, the activity that combines backcountry camping and off-road cycling, will be a popular option for a COVID-friendly outdoor getaway this year. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran ready to take on multi-day tours […]

9 Sweet Spring Treks

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out. These days the warm weather has us feeling like running through the streets calling out “Spring is here! Spring is here!” just in case anyone has missed the first sweet signs of spring. It’s been a long winter and we’re more than ready to […]

Thinking of Camping in 2021? Read This.

The ground may be covered by snow right now, but we’re dreaming of the warm weather and the camping season to come in the wild places in Ontario’s Highlands. Camping reservations have recently opened at provincial campgrounds across Ontario and if last year was any indicator spots will book up fast. You can book a […]

Ontario Snowmobile Loops & Trips

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  If you have been longing to cruise along snowy trails where the winter forest towers over you and the rush of the frosty wind fills your ears, this is the year to get out and explore the landscapes close to home. COVID-19 has made […]

Coming Home

Discover the story of Sarain Fox and her journey home to the Ontario’s Highlands, relieving memories of ice fishing and snowmobiling along the way.

Shinny Rinks and Sledding Hills

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  The hill spills beneath the runners of your toboggan, plunging into a darkness made even deeper by the sparkle of snow beneath the moonlight. Your nose is cold but your mittened hands are warm, and your heart is pumping in anticipation of careening downhill […]

Fall in Love With Winter

Unique winter experiences in Ontario’s Highlands that will give you something to brag about.

Light Up the Holidays

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  When the holiday decorations go up in December the whole world begins to shimmer with magic. Every car ride or stroll is filled with wonder as we drink in the night filled with sparkling holiday lights of all colours. For the next […]

Recharge in the Snow

Disconnect from the everyday with a snowmobile trip through Ontario’s Highlands.

Brighten the Darkest Months

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  When the days start getting shorter and the sun becomes something you crave more than chocolate, you know you are entering into the darkest months of the year. It can be easy to feel a little down and dreary at this time […]

5 Foodie Road Trips That Will Get You Somewhere

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  If you’re dreaming of packing the car and setting out for a day trip to find the best foodie experiences in Ontario, we’ve got your back. Where else can you visit and sample products from craft breweries, distilleries, and cideries, cheese makers, […]

Get on Board with Charcuterie

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  You’ve heard the word and maybe you’ve even seen Instagram pics of colourful charcuterie boards, and if you’re lucky you’ve sampled this meaty treat yourself (in case you wondered, it’s pronounced shahr-ku-tuh-ree). Charcuterie is originally a French word that literally translates to […]

The Skinny on Fat Biking and Other Extreme Winter Sports

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  If you were sad to pack away your bike for the winter, are lamenting the loss of beautiful weather for an early morning run, or regretting all the days you could have been churning through whitewater this summer but weren’t, we have […]

Discover the Beauty of Winter Camping

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  You waken to the sound of new snow drifting onto the top of your tent or cabin, landing light as a feather one snowflake at a time. The world is hushed and the air snaps with cold but you are warm and […]

Embrace the Norwegian Concept of “Friluftsliv”

Friluftsliv (free-lufts-liv): Free air life *Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  If you’re worried about being stuck indoors this winter, the Scandinavians may have the solution with this hard to pronounce and consonant-filled word: friluftsliv. Loosely translated, friluftsliv means “free air life,” a concept that was coined by […]

Cache in with Geocaching in Haliburton

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  You wander through rural communities, along rugged trails, or gravel sideroads, fixated on one thing and one thing only: your next cache. When you are geocaching, you can’t help but become fully immersed in the moment, setting your sights on an outdoor […]

After Turkey Burn

*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.  Thanksgiving dinner is something we dream about all year long – the perfectly roasted turkey dishes up with cranberry sauce, potatoes and veggies, and often paired with more than one glass of wine or a cold pint of beer or cider, not […]

Tiny Cabins, Yurts, and other Glamping Getaways

So you’ve seen the Instagram posts of friends or family seated around a rustic campfire, enthusing on the beauty of nature and a rugged camping experience, but you’re thinking “That’s totally not for me?” Hey, don’t sweat it, you are not alone. Camping isn’t for everyone, and who says it should be? If everyone were […]

Shiver-Worthy Spooky Spots

There’s something lingering in the air throughout October, leading up to the culmination of all things spooky on its final day – Halloween.   October starts with the summer’s lush canopy of green bidding a final farewell through a stunning display of vibrant colours. When the leaves die off and settle as a multi-coloured blanket on the forest floor, and the fog rolls in over the lakes and […]

Haunted Walks and Hair-Raising Ghost Tours

Have you ever wandered through an older building and felt the hair raise on the back of your neck, and not been sure why? It may be you are sensing something that others aren’t, some spooky aftereffect from a historical wrongdoing or the ghostly pinings of a disgruntled spirit. Many small communities in Ontario’s Highlands […]

Beer, Butter Tarts & Burritos (By Bike)

Could this be Ontario’s tastiest bike route? A natural backdrop of Canadian Shield, shimmering lakes and lush Crown land forests surround you as you pedal down a 50/50 mix of quiet paved roads and gravel rail trails that traverse a series of communities. These small towns and rural hamlets are now known for art and […]

Cycle Through Fall

In my humble opinion, there is no better time than fall to hop on my bike and hit the roads, gravel, and trails of Ontario’s Highlands. I don’t have to worry about overheating, nor will I find myself pushed to my limit while trying to outrun a swarm of deer flies for 20 kilometres (true […]

Cozy Up to Fall Camping

So you’re not ready for camping season to end? Here’s a tip: It doesn’t! Just because the summer is over doesn’t mean we need to head indoors, when it comes to camping experiences, fall is where it’s at. Fall camping is an entirely different (and some would say better) experience from summer camping –no bugs, […]

The Best Fall Canoeing

Discover these top lakes and rivers in Ontario’s Highlands to discover the beauty of fall colours from a canoe.

Best Highway 60 Hikes

So, you’re ready to hit the road. The King’s Highway 60 is calling your name – and who could blame you? The vistas on this route are stunning, from the Ottawa Valley to the Madawaska Valley. Every kilometre is a captivating experience. It may seem like you could cruise forever on this roadway, but everyone […]

With Love, to Frontenac County

Now more than ever we are drawn to our community, and the places that help us to unwind and get outdoors. To get away from the crowds and reconnect with our roots. Frontenac County tempts us to sit back, unwind and check into vacation mode, to rediscover a world of countless lakes and a region […]

With Love, to Haliburton Highlands

We are so lucky to come from a place that has it all: phenomenal views, rugged landscapes, abundance of trails, and infinite opportunities for recreation, all enticing you to leave your comfort zone and step into the wild. Here, endless forests meet cool, clear lakes and rivers to create incredible vistas that reach out to […]

With Love, to the Ottawa Valley

From the rushing waters of the Petawawa, Madawaska and Ottawa rivers to the unspoiled woodlands of Algonquin Park, the Ottawa Valley is a sultry enchantress, enticing us with adventure. Renowned as a world-class whitewater destination and for the challenges found in its rugged hills and lush dales, the Valley pushes us to do more, live […]

With Love, to Lennox & Addington

Known for its pristine wilderness, incredible views and rugged natural spaces, the majestic beauty of Lennox & Addington speaks to the wanderer inside us all. From the craggy peak of Mazinaw Rock at Bon Echo Provincial Park to the starry skies overhead, there is wonder waiting to be discovered here, a vivid reminder of how our […]

With Love, to Hastings County

The deep lakes and meandering rivers here are ripe with life, both on land and in the water. This land is known as a region rich with minerals, and we haven’t forgotten how our communities were settled by the gold rush, where miners flocked, eager to delve into the earth to unearth its riches. Thick […]

Feel Like a Kid Again

Remember when your whole summer was devoted to swimming, playing, catching frogs, and finding adventures? At one time, this was an entire season fueled by ice cream, Freezies, and hot dogs. August always felt so short, and by the time it rolled around you’d scramble to finish your summer bucket list, savouring each shortened day […]

Cycle Haliburton

What’s your favourite flavour of cycling? Do you prefer digging in off-road, pedaling hard for speed and distance, or just a light taste with a short meander? A bike ride can be what you want to make of it, which is part of the fun, isn’t it? Haliburton Highlands’ varied terrain calls cyclists to explore […]

Bikepacking in North Frontenac

Imagine a weekend of backcountry camping in a quiet forest just a few hours from Ottawa or Toronto. As you settle down at camp, you think back to the fresh moose tracks you saw earlier that day and the amazing swim you had when you stopped for lunch. The scenery feels familiar but something’s different. […]

Your Guide to COVID-19 Safe Travel in Ontario’s Highlands

This year the key to exploring is to keep it local; this is the time to explore our own backyards, and the regions close to home that have so much to offer us in the way of exhilarating outdoor experiences, fantastic food and drink, and blissful relaxation. If you’re exploring a new corner of Ontario’s […]

Secret Swimming Holes

Shhh…we’re not supposed to tell you about these swimming holes…some of them don’t even have names and you may never find them without a map, but we understand that when it’s 40 degrees out with the humidity and the public beach is packed the hunt is on for the perfect swim spot. Those in the […]

Go Backcountry

You waken slowly in the early morning, the high-pitched warble of birdsong drifting lightly through the trees overhead. The sky is faintly brightening with the coming of dawn, and the natural world is gradually blossoming to life. Around you there is no trace of human activity, no murmurs of voices, clanging of dishes, or whir […]

An Ode to Summer

A throwback to summers gone past, with inspiration for this year’s adventure.

Just Show Up

Hit the water and take advantage of these easy kayaking and canoeing opportunities in Ontario’s Highlands.

Highway 7 Hikes

Stretch your legs by exploring these nature hiking trails along Highway 7.

Spring is Calling

Hanging around the city when the scents of spring are tantalizingly tickling your nose is tough. This is when you yearn to get away from the slush, pack the car and head out for an almost-spring getaway to the countryside, where baby animals, maple syrup, G-rated fun, and fresh air are calling. Get out of […]

Spring Break

The sun is warm, the air smells like spring, and the birds are singing their special warm weather songs. It’s official; spring has sprung. After a long Canadian winter, spring getaways are a time-honoured tradition for families here in the great white north, and haven’t we earned a little fun in the sun? This is […]

Winter Just Got Awesome

Learn to climb or brush up on your skills with an epic ice climbing adventure at SOIceFest 2020 in Maynooth, ON.

Ultimate Après-Ski Experiences

Meet up with friends after a day well spent on the slopes or on the trails. Discover these top places in Ontario’s Highlands to celebrate the Apres Ski!

Climb a Wall of Ice

Challenge yourself to reach new heights with an ice climbing adventure at these places across Ontario’s Highlands.

Embrace the Dog Days of Winter

If you can’t beat winter, join it with an epic dog sledding excursion through some of the most beautiful forests in Ontario.

3 Cheers for Mom

Discover ways to give a mom a Mother’s Day to remember, with gift ideas that go above and beyond.

Batter up!

Get a behind the scenes look into the world of baseball at Sam Bat.

Where Am I?

Climb to new heights at the Medeba Ice Wall and enjoy the unique view from the top.

Where Am I?

Make fresh tracks along premium snowmobile trail, the RAP Tour Loop.

Winter? Bring it!

Discover your love for the season with a classic Ottawa Valley winter.

One Last Ride

Watch JR Alli’s video and see what he discovers when he allows himself to just wander.

An Action-Packed Weekend

Read how Will Tang from Going Awesome Places raced muscle cars and experienced thrills on the rapids with whitewater raftering in the Ottawa Valley.

Whitewater Rafting as a Family

Read about how one family took on whitewater rafting on the Madawaska River and why they can’t wait to do it again.

The Freedom Finder

I’m a Freedom Finder. I wander with speed! I seek out opportunities to make fresh tracks, blaze new trails, and get my adrenaline pumping.

Where Am I

Explore the sweet moments and ageless beauty of Perth, Ontario.

All Terrain, All the Time

Pack your saddle bags and press the throttle for an ATV adventure like no other in Ontario’s Highlands.

Raging the Rapids

SUP Instructor Courtney Sinclair takes her passion for paddle boarding to the whitewater.

Hair-Raising Drives

Explore roads of Ontario with these drives that make you reach for your hairbrush.

Roads Worth Riding

Plan your next motorcycle ride along the hand-crafted roads of Ontario’s Highlands. Wind around vast lakes, to fill up on culinary delights, and converse with friendly locals.