Note: I have been told (August, 2000) that the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority does not have funds to maintain the trail and anyone traveling it does so at their own risk. The trail is not closed to the public. Further information about the trail and plans for future development can be found at County of Frontenac. Information about the trail in Kingston can be found at the website of the K&P Trails Group.
I arrived at the K&P trailhead at about 4:00 p.m. on a pretty July day in 1996. I had heard good things about the trail and I certainly knew that the countryside north of Kingston is what many call "God's country." This trail promised to be a little different from all the others, and it turned out to be true.
I had some difficulty finding the trailhead, but only because it was a little further north of Snow Road Station than my research had indicated. A sign pointed to the trail and a crude but acceptable parking area is provided.
As I started up the trail I immediately found that surface was going to be cruder than I like. This should not have been surprising in this part of the country, which is not downtown Toronto. The path is more like a gravel country road, and it is even accepted that people may drive on it, as it is the only access to some properties. I encountered one moving and one parked car during my 40 km ride.
My hybrid was able to negotiate the surface, but a mountain bike would have been better. I rode in a lower gear than I like, and I had to constantly hit the brakes and negotiate around ruts, stones and washouts. The surfaces I fear most, loose gravel and sand, were rare.
The biggest drawback of the ride was the bugs. I seldom use insect repellant because I fear its health effects more than I hate bugs. I have doubts that repellant would have been effective because these were not your everyday mosquitoes and gnats, but horseflies, deerflies, and probably a few species that have never been catalogued. If I kept moving, they weren't too bad, but the surface prevented me from moving as fast as I would have liked, and I had to stop occasionally to take photographs. I rushed each picture. God help anyone who has to stop to fix a flat.
The countryside proved to be every bit as tranquil and scenic as I had expected. I never saw another person during the entire 3-hour trip, save the people in the passing car. There are a few hamlets along the route, and an occasional farmhouse, but I never actually saw anyone at them. Don't even hope to find water or a toilet, let alone a store, unless you are desperate enough to knock on someone's door. Carry a copy of Kathleen Meyer's "How to Shit in the Woods," (1989, Ten Speed Press), if you think the occasion might arise and you are inexperienced in such matters..
The trail passes many swamps and marshes, which explains the proliferation of insects. Swamps used to be considered wasteland and every opportunity was found to fill them in. Today we know that they are enormously beneficial to our ecosystem and support an abundance of wildlife. They are really very pretty and it would have been fun to linger, were it not for the bugs.
There are a few lakes as well, and they are about as pristine as you can get. Around the midpoint of the trail there is forest and somewhat of a respite from the bugs. The countryside is gently rolling, but I understand there are larger hills along the northern half, and larger lakes too.
As I cycled the trail, I recalled a story I heard back in public school about German prisoners during World War II. Apparently there were prison camps in northern Ontario, and some prisoners escaped into the bush. It wasn't long before the bugs got to them and they returned to the respite of the prison. It makes me wonder how the people who built this railway, and all the others who pioneered the vast northern shield, were able to cope. Perhaps it was better in winter, harsh though it may be.
Now that you are properly prepared for the hardships of this trail, let me also advise that this is not necessarily an experience to be missed. If you are prepared for a less-than-ideal surface, and especially if you can do the trail in the spring, before the bugs, then I would encourage you to cycle it. I would think about the third week of May might be ideal, as the snow should be gone, the blackflies should not have started, and spring should be in full bloom.
How to Find
Take Hwy 509 northwards from Hwy 7 to the community of Snow Road Station. From Snow Road Station continue northward for about 3 km and watch carefully for a sign. The trail will be on the right and there is a small clearing for parking. Can also access at Barryvale from the north, but I can not provide any better description since I did not enter there.