There is nothing like getting out as a family in the spring when the leaves start to bud, the world wakes up from its winter slumber and the trails and back roads of Renfrew County are teaming with new wildlife and the smells of spring.
For our young family, this is a time we look forward to all winter long; a time when we can once again wander on our Side by Side ORV’s and ATV’s through the Ottawa Valley and Renfrew County. We spend our winter months dreaming of the chance to explore both the new trails of the Renfew County ATV Club (RCATV), along with our old family favourites. The Club’s trails connect Greater Madawaska to Madawaska Valley, from Calabogie to Golden Lake and beyond.
Having ridden many of these trails before, we wanted to share one of our favourite long-weekend ATV trips. Since we travel as a family, we tend to incorporate many stops and shorter days for our young daughter, but this is a route that is both beautiful and fun whether you’re travelling the first long weekend of the summer or the last, with family or with friends.
Our ideal long weekend starts with an evening stay at Calabogie Lodge Resort and we always plan to arrive in time for dinner so we can dine at Redneck Bistro, where everyone is welcomed like a neighbour.
The first early morning, we enjoy the breakfast, friendly service, and view of the morning mist coming off Calabogie Lake at the Valley Food & Drink Co., located inside Calabogie Lodge Resort. Then off we wander, following the trails out of the Lodge with a goal to piggy back our way along Calabogie Road to Hydro Dam Road and grab some scenic pictures as we cross the Hydro Dam Bridge. These trails wind past countless little lakes and camps, offering high points and awesome scenery along the way, but somehow few riders know these routes and vast lookouts exist.
After enjoying the view from the bridge, we like to work our way over to the top end of the Omhpa trails networks and appreciate the easy riding of the SXS trails back north towards Matawatchan, where an RCATV trails welcome sign marks the perfect place to stop for a snack.
Following the Matawatchan Road, we head towards the Madawaska River and often end this day a bit early, so we can enjoy this beautiful waterway, perfect for swimming, fishing, and roasting hot dogs on an open campfire. With cottage rentals, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds around, there are many options to stay overnight, but we usually go the cottage route. For dinner, we like to head into Griffith to grab some handmade well-topped pizza and fries at Calvyn’s.
The second morning, we hop on the bikes and head down the road to the Pine Valley Restaurant in Griffith for an always satisfying breakfast, the best coffee in the valley, and even live music on occasion. Once we’re fuelled up, we take this opportunity to top up the bikes as well at the Griffith General Store.
Then off we go down Blueberry Lane to find some of the best riding trails Ontario has to offer, weaving through awesome forest scenery, around untouched lakes and past highland lookouts. We head towards Opeongo Road, created by early pioneers, which is the perfect place to catch some spectacularly high views of Lake Clear before heading to the Opeongo Mountain Resort/Moose On the Beach chip truck to enjoy a lunch break by the water. After lunch, we pick our way through the trails and foothills of Foymount Hill (which is the second highest point in Ontario) to find the town of Cormac.
Heading back down the Foymount Hill we turn into Cormac and back on the trail headed to Wolfe Road where we start to leave the high country, travelling past memorable century-old farms and stone fences to connect up with the old Arnprior Parry Sound Rail Line, now the B102 recreational trail, in Bonnechere Valley. We prefer following this east into Pikwakanagan Algonquin First Nations, where we can grab gas and some snacks for the night at Pikwakanagan Fuels. A stop in Golden Lake/Pikwakanagan would not be complete without a visit to see Amanda Welk at her quaint log house, turned Cottage Cup, for ice cream, butter tarts and some shopping.
There are countless great options for an overnight stay in the Golden Lake area. If we’re looking for another night on the water, we tend to stay at the Sands on Golden Lake where we can get in some swimming (it can be chilly in spring, but you have to do it) and an evening fire. There’s a restaurant on site, but this is also only a quick ATV jaunt down Highway 60 should we want to grab dinner at Golden Lake Chinese Restaurant.
This last day is time to turn back towards home. After breakfast, we head back through Golden Lake and follow the trails southwest, weaving past some amazing old pioneer cabins.
We like to make a stop at Teewy’s Lake park along Highway 41 for a quick break and snacks before heading back down to Flat Road in Dacre and through Balaclava, yet another Ontario ghost town, then south on Flat Road towards Kennelly Mountain Road.
Time permitting, we often stop at the Kennelly Mountain Motocross track to watch dirt bikers traverse the challenging terrain and jumps of this amazing course built along the side of a rolling hill.
Once past the motocross track, we make our way to Black Donald Lake. We can’t drive past Black Donald Tent and Trailer Park without stopping in for an ice cream and a final top up of fuel, where we get to ring the hosts on an old wind-up phone for help with gas and goodies.
From there it’s back out to Calabogie Road, then we switchback our way along the trail to the Calabogie Lodge, where our truck and trailer is waiting for our tired and happy crew.