The Georgian Trail runs between Collingwood and Meaford in Ontario's principal ski country. It is very pleasant and well worth visiting. It was my very first rail trail in the autumn of 1995, and I enjoyed it so much I started my quest to cycle lots of rail trails. I cycled part of it again in 2008.
The trail is 35 km long and is constructed with fine granular that should give no difficulty to bikes with even the thinnest tires. It starts at Birch Street near Collingwood harbour and runs south of Hwy 26 to almost Thornbury. There are glimpses of Georgian Bay to north, and the ski hills frame the trail on the left.
Not far from Thornbury the trail crosses to the north side of the highway (be very careful crossing here), and continues into the village. It crosses the Beaver River on an old trestle/girder bridge with a new deck, and it is worth stopping to see the view and to watch the people fishing. Past Thornbury the trails climbs steadily and the shoreline moves quite far to the north. It passes through a couple of apple orchards, then descends into Meaford and ends near the harbour.
It is difficult to prefer one section to another. Adjacent lands are not generally forested so there are good views across the countryside (bring plenty of sun lotion). The Meaford end is more tranquil because the trail is away from the highway, while the Collingwood end has the ski hills and glimpses of Georgian Bay. It is regrettable that we don't better see the bay, but the traveler can always take a side trip.
Most road crossings have attractive markers that both name the road and indicate what amenities are close by -- water, swimming, food. The trail also has a number of benches, in case you'd like to stop for lunch. (No picnic tables, however.). Restaurants and shops can be found in Collingwood, Thornbury and Meaford. Cyclists are reminded that they should always carry plenty of water and tools for making minor repairs.
Accessibility for Wheelchairs and Suitability for Children
This trail is very good for both, owing principally to the excellent surface. Parents should be aware, however, that there are road crossings, and the one at Highway 26 has vehicles traveling at high speed. The section between Thornbury and Meaford has only a few minor crossings, except in town.
How to Find
The trail can be accessed at any cross road along its length, though few parking lots have been specifically constructed. There is a small lot at Beaver River in Thornbury and there are lots at Gollingwood and Meaford harbours. Otherwise, park along the cross streets.
In Collingwood the trail starts at Birch St. near the harbour. In Meaford the harbour is very close to the downtown. In Thornbury, look for the bridge over the Beaver River, north of the highway. It is adjacent to the town hall.
The Georgian Triangle Tourism Association has a web site which lists tourist information for the area, including accommodations. They can be telephoned at (705) 445-7722.