‘Tis the season for cycling in Ontario’s Highlands, and we know that if there is one thing a cyclist treasures, it’s a new, virgin route to explore. Ottawa Valley cyclist, Chris Hinsperger, knows this well, he's cycled hundreds of kilometres on the rural roads of Ontario's Highlands, and provided his two cents on some of the best routes to try for the first time, or to come back to again and again.

Whether you’re looking for a short bike trip between cute-as-a-button small towns, an off-road cycling experience, or maybe even your first bikepacking adventure, Ontario’s Highlands can be your go-to destination. 

Your cycling adventure starts here. 

All Time Favourite: Eganville to Douglas Loop

238 km

The Lumberjack Gravel Loop tackles Chris’ favourite ride and takes it to another level. This loop will quickly become your new favourite gravel loop, in great part due to its flexibility. It can easily be extended to create a cross country cycling itinerary, or shortened to make it more manageable from a time perspective. 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. Download the full itinerary here.  

Madawaska Valley Cycling Tour 
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There are so many stops on this route to explore the region more, but a few notables include a farm stay at Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork, a visit to Bonnechere Caves near Eganville, a killer milkshake at The Boat House BBQ, and a chance to explore the small towns of Pakenham, Almonte, and Carleton Place.

Small Town Hopping Rail Trail: Renfrew to Smiths Falls

76 kms
The Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail offers a light and easy ride on the mostly level gravel former railbed. It’s fair to say the hardest thing about this route will be navigating the sometimes coarse gravel on this trail, but when you factor in the small towns that pepper the way it will be worth it.

Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario

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If you do this route from end to end (Renfrew to Smiths Falls) you can spend the night in a 1940s caboose at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. A must try for good as homemade fare is Sip, located only a short walk (or bike ride) from the museum. En route you can also stop to refuel at a restaurant in Pakenham, Almonte, or Carleton Place. 

Rail Trail Out & Back: K&P Trail in Sharbot Lake

Access to 180 km 

This out and back trail gives you a chance to see the Canadian Shield topography of Frontenac County up close and personal. As a former rail trail that once connected Kingston to Pembroke, its mostly level gravel surface means you can get farther, faster, and with less effort. Tackle the northern portion towards Calabogie and Renfrew if you have wider tires and a sense of adventure.

Cycling the K&P near Sharbot Lake
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Because this is an out and back trail you’ll likely end up spending most of your time off-bike in Sharbot Lake. Spend the night at Rockhill Bed and Breakfast, and refuel with a cup of coffee, ice cream or baked treat from Cardinal Café & Shop. Brand new in 2023 is Belong Sharbot Lake, a gastro-diner that is also a must visit.

Mountain Biking: Off Road in Lennox & Addington

10 km

Off-road cyclists will love the trails at Flinton Forest in Lennox & Addington. The Pines section of the forest caters to mountain bikes and takes you through similar Canadian Shield topography as the popular Bon Echo Provincial Park. Push yourself on 10 kilometres of old logging roads and single-track trails complete with bermed curves and natural elevations. Download the trail map here.

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Stop for a photo opportunity at Flinton Falls, where you can also enjoy a picnic from Addison's Restaurant, a little north of the forest trails.

Sir Sam’s Loop in Haliburton Highlands

100 kms

The beauty of the Haliburton Highlands will be on full display for this 100-kilometre ride on paved roads. They don’t call this area the highlands for nothing – expect plenty of changes in elevation along the route. Chris and his wife did this route one year, and loved it. This ride will also take you through small communities that will be the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat or to stretch your legs in Haliburton, Carnarvon, or Minden.

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Spend the night for some post-ride pampering at Sir Sam’s Inn & Spa or at one of the resorts along the route like Ogopogo Resort, Heather Lodge, Kashaga Lodge, or Pinestone Resort. Must stops for a hearty meal is Pepper Mill Steak House in Minden, Rhubarb Restaurant in Carnarvon, and don’t miss a chance for an ice cream cone from the iconic (and cone shaped) Minden River Cone.