The Best Bicycling Trails
Rail Trails are a wonderful place for cycling. Railroads have been abandoning unprofitable lines and wise communities and citizens groups are turning them into linear parks for bicycling, hiking, and other recreational uses. This web site reports on the best ones in the Province of Ontario.
This site is privately maintained by me to encourage the use and development of these trails. It has been my quest over the past fifteen years to seek out the best rail trails and canal towpaths in the northeastern USA, Ontario and Quebec, principally from a cyclist's point of view.
Some mountain bikers and hikers prefer rough trails and there are cyclists who demand smooth pavement or the challenge of steep hills. Rail trails and towpaths appeal to people who want a challenge but not necessarily hardship, and want to get their recreation away from the danger and noise of traffic. They are ideal for families on a short jaunt but they also suit the rider like me who wants to cycle 40 to 75 kilometres, but in tranquility and safety. Most mountain bikers, road cyclists and hikers will love these trails.
This site will tell you about the best trails in Ontario, how to find them, and the conditions to expect when you get there. I will even tell you a little bit about the trails to be found in our neighboring province and states, and there are photos of my cycle touring in Europe.
Why Rail Trails?Former rail lines make wonderful trails because the grades are moderate and the rights-of-way are mostly separate from road traffic. Often they follow rivers and shorelines, some of the more scenic vistas. The basic subgrade is in place for the trail developers to apply a finished surface for recreational use.
The Ontario government, conservation authorities and citizens groups have acquired many rail lines that have not yet been improved. While adventurous mountain bikers enjoy the challenges of the rough surfaces that generally remain after the tracks have been removed, most of us, whether mountain biker or road cyclist, prefer a reasonably smooth surface. I have found that asphalt is not necessary and a fine granular or stone dust is excellent. Such improvements, along with bridges, parking areas, and information kiosks, still cost a lot to do properly.
I have discovered that most of the pamphlets, newspaper articles and even guidebooks fail to adequately explain what conditions one might expect. It is rather disappointing to drive to a destination only to find that the trail is so rough that it is no fun.
I am also seeking canal towpaths because they too are flat and readily adaptable to recreational purposes. Towpaths were the pathways that were used by horses or mules as they pulled barges along canals such as the Erie in New York State. Ontario canals such as the Rideau and Trent were developed after the introduction of the steamboat, so unfortunately there are no towpaths in Ontario.
The Ontario TrailsI have highlighted trails that I believe to be the best in Ontario. They are basically the longest rail trails that have good riding surfaces (the Victoria & Haliburton and the K&P; are exceptions with fair riding surfaces). I have ridden these, plus a few others, but there are still others that I haven't seen and would be pleased to hear from people about them.
Click here for the Trail Location Map; or go directly to any of the trail pages:
Last Updated on July 26, 2012