Trends come and go in the cycling world, but idyllic rail trails, challenging gravel routes, and rugged mountain bike trails never go out of style. Locals have known for years that Ontario’s Highlands is a cyclist’s paradise, with all of the above and then some.
Whatever bike routes you are searching for, we have it. And they’re likely peppered with local gems to explore, like backroad breweries, chip trucks galore, quaint general stores, and plenty of overnight options.
The secret is officially out: Ontario’s Highlands is the place to be for cyclists of any type.
Gravel and Rail Trails
With the added benefit of wider tires and all the comforts of your standard road bike, gravel bikes are becoming a popular choice for the bike that can do it all. If you have an appetite for adventure, check out these gravel routes and rail trails in our neck of the woods.
- Almonte Roubaix: Cruise the backroads of Lanark County on this 71-kilometre route that begins and ends in Almonte. Don’t miss a key stop for snacks at the Clayton General Store.
- Haliburton Forest: Explore the logging roads of Haliburton Forest at your own pace or join the Hurtin’ in Haliburton gravel race in September. Book an off-grid cabin to make it a multi-day trip.
- K&P Trail: Rockhill Bed and Breakfast in Sharbot Lake is the perfect base for riding the K&P Trail. Plan a ride to Back Forty Artisan Cheese or ask your hosts for the scoop on the best swimming holes.
- Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT): Stretching 300-kilometres from Smiths Falls to Petawawa, the OVRT attracts cyclists of all skill levels. Start in Renfrew for a variety of options and a pre-bike snack at Bonnechere Bakery and Bistro.
Exhilarating by day and uber-relaxing by night, bikepacking takes backcountry riding to the next level by combining it with an overnight camping stay. Load up your bike and get ready to sleep under the stars on these Ontario bikepacking routes.
- North Frontenac Loop: This 67-kilometre route through the North Frontenac Parklands starts in Calabogie or Plevna and is a good candidate for an S24O (sub 24 hour overnighter) route. Plan to spend some extra time in Palmerston-Canonto Conservation Area.
- Hastings-Haliburton 50/50: If you like a good challenge and lots of hills, this 257-kilometre route is for you. Build in time to stop for snacks at local favourites like Agnew’s General Store.
- Griffith Highland Overnighter: Only 90-minutes from Ottawa, this route takes you through mostly unmaintained gravel service roads. We recommend stocking up at Calabogie Brewing Co.
- Sugar Bush Stomp: The massive Log Driver’s Waltz bikepacking route has a variety of shorter routes like the 332-kilometre Sugar Bush Stomp. Pause for pancakes enroute at Wheelers Maple.
Mountain Bike Trails
The Canadian Shield’s rocky terrain coupled with the rolling hills of Ontario’s Highlands makes for some of the best mountain biking in southern Ontario.
- Forest Lea: Traverse the technical single-track trails ranging from six to 25-kilometre long located deep in the forests outside of Pembroke. Stop in for a post-ride drink at Square Timber Brewing Co.
- Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride: Get in some downhill riding with the handy lift service offered in summer. With on-site rentals this is also a good spot for beginners. Don’t leave without grabbing a bite at Rhubarb on the Hill!
- Bennie’s Corners: Ride 11 intermediate trails at this trail system just outside of Almonte and then refuel with vegan treats and coffee from Keepers Coffee in Pakenham.
Fat Biking Trails
Many of the mountain bike trails in our area transition into playgrounds for fat bikes in the winter months. Here are a few that we recommend for your next adventure.
- Glebe Park Trails: Haliburton Mountain Bike Club’s Glebe Park trails are available for fat bikers in winter. Restore your energy levels with filling Mexican fare from Poquito Loco.
- BORCA Trails: Beachburg Off-Road Cycling Association’s (BORCA) trail system includes trails that runs alongside the Ottawa River. Stay at the Whitewater Inn and ask owner Cindy which trails are her favourite.