Elora Cataract Trailway
The Elora Cataract Trailway is 47 km long and is an excellent ride. I first cycled it in 1996 and have returned in 2002 and again in 2009. Each time they had made improvements and the riding surface is now very good for the entire length.
I have prepared a map, (which will soon be updated to show the centre section with granular surface): click here.
The Village of Elora has many amenities that draw visitors, the trailway being the newest. It starts at the eastern fringe of the community where the Grand River Conservation Authority has constructed a parking lot and kiosk. The trail surface is a stone dust about 3 metres wide, and the trail is about as close to flat as you will find. After about 2 km the trail enters the Village of Fergus, which unfortunately has not as yet realized the potential of this former rail line. Signs direct the cyclist along local streets, but it is also possible to follow the right-of-way through much of the village. Toward the eastern end of the community the trail becomes less obvious and a detour to the streets is advised. At one point the right-of-way is elevated and a missing bridge makes it mandatory to follow the local roads.
On the eastern boundary of Fergus the constructed trail resumes. There are a few road crossings but otherwise it is continuous to and over the Shand Dam. On the left you will see Lake Belwood and to your right is the picturesque valley of the Grand River. The entire area is part of the Belwood Lake Conservation Area, where there are washrooms and a host of recreational features such as boating and fishing. As a cyclist you get to pass through for free, though you are asked to pay the entrance fee should you wish to stop and use the amenities.
Jumping to the eastern end of the trail, we find the community of Cataract. It is named for a waterfall on the Credit River, located within the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. The trail begins within this park and, although the surface is a bit crude and cyclists should be careful along this short section, it is well worth seeing. The scenery is wonderful and there are hiking trails in the park that are worth exploring. Walk your bike if it is busy along the hiking trails, and some cyclists may feel more comfortable walking their bikes along the cycling trail where it skirts the gorge.
Outside the park the trail heads westward with pleasant scenery to Erin. The village centre is about 500 metres to the south, a pleasant village and worth a visit. The trail continues west of Erin to Hillsburgh, then on to Orton. Ride further and you will arrive back at Lake Belwood.
Amenities along the developed sections of the trail consist of distance markers at each kilometre plus occasional benches. Water must be found by leaving the trail and going into the villages along the way, except at the Belwood Lake Conservation Area. Outhouses are available at some of the parking lots. These are generally very nicely done and have descriptive kiosks with information.
Accessibility for Wheelchairs and Suitability for Children
Most of the trail is suitable for both wheelchairs and children. There are road crossings and some carry a fair bit of traffic, so children should be supervised. The Fergus section is along village streets and some may be busy.
How to Find
In Elora the trail head has a parking lot on Gerrie Road, between County Road 18 and Colborne Street. From the village centre head east (parallel to the river) along either Road 18 or Colborne Street. There is a garden centre at the intersection of Colborne and Gerrie.
Parking is available at Belwood Lake Conservation Area but you will have to pay.
A good parking lot with kiosk and outhouse has been constructed in Erin. It is located at the north end of town (about 500 m from the shopping area), to the east of Highway 24 (which is the main street). You can not see it from the highway so watch carefully for a sign as you head north from town.
Thanks to Brian Pietrzyk I now have a GPS file for this trail. It is in GPX format, which you can download, then upload to your GPS device. To download the file right click on this link and select "Save Link As..." (in Firefox) or "Save Target as..." (Internet Explorer). In IE you may need to change the extension so that the saved file is elora cataract trail Sept 07.gpx: Elora Cataract GPS File
Where to Stay
I don't normally recommend accommodations but I am going to make an exception. I stayed in a very nice B&B near Belfountain, which is close to Erin. This B&B is also convenient to the Caledon Trailway.
Heatherlea Highlands Bed & Breakfast
I am not getting compensation for this plug
The Elora Cataract Trailway was originally the route of the Credit Valley Railway. The main line was constructed in 1879 between Toronto and Orangeville, and the branch line from Cataract to Elora was built at the same time. In 1883 the Credit Valley was incorporated into the Ontario and Quebec Railway, and the following year it was leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway. It operated as the CPR's Elora subdivision until 1988 when it was abandoned. The Grand River and Credit Valley Conservation Authorities acquired the right-of-way in 1993. A community group, the Elora Cataract Trailway Association, has been working with the two conservation authorities to bring the project to fruition. Memberships are available by contacting:
Elora Cataract Trailway Association
Box 99, Fergus, Ontario, N1M 2W7
Tel: 519-843-3650 Fax: 519-843-6907