Bike Routes

30 Best Ontario Bicycle Trails

10 yearsFor the 10th anniversary of the launch of this site, I have compiled 3 lists that favour the better rides in the province of Ontario, Canada. One for each category I review, Park Paths, Rail Trails and Mountain Bike Trails. This is out of the 180 significant, signed, off-road trail locations I know.

I often get asked, “What’s your favourite trail?”

Not being a simple or short answer, I tend to reply that each bike trail has its unique qualities and it depends on what I feel like riding any given day. And this would be true for you as well, so this is not the definitive “best of list” but then again you can’t go wrong riding any of them.

They all are popular for good reason. Read my reviews and see what suits you. In no particular order, here is what comes to mind:

family cycling park path

10 Best Park Paths in Ontario

  1. Granger Greenway- beautiful winding gravel trail, a few big hills but worth it
  2. Thames Valley – 3 river paths to follow in London
  3. Cornwall Waterfront – good riding along the mighty St. Lawrence River
  4. Rideau Canal – cycle by the calm waters of this old canal in Ottawa
  5. Island Lake – wooden bridges and boardwalks take you on a pleasant loop
  6. Guelph Royal – explore the riverside, woodlands, university and gardens
  7. Humber Valley – a long ride from the lake up to the 407
  8. Nokiidaa – a day trip and scenic ride through Aurora and Newmarket
  9. Niagara River – beautiful views, a perfect area for a weekend tour destination
  10. Ajax Waterfront – cruise this section along Lake Ontario and beyond 

Caledon rail trail

10 Best Rail Trails in Ontario

  1. Tay Shores – Georgian Bay views and cool breezes to Midland
  2. Lang Hastings – a winding trek through rolling farmland
  3. LE&N – head south to Lake Erie on this relaxing route
  4. Algonquin – cycling fun for the family by the campgrounds
  5. Caledon – close to Toronto, with town spots on the way
  6. Victoria – from farmland into cottage country, beautiful in the fall
  7. Millennium – a tourist getaway on the Prince Edward Peninsula
  8. K&P – the start of your bikepacking adventure
  9. Thronton – Beeton – a scenic, north of Toronto spin
  10. G2G – for those who want many km under their wheels

mountain bike jumping

10 Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ontario

  1. Albion Hills – a Toronto favourite that has all the great qualities of mountain biking
  2. Hydro Cut – fast, hilly loops near Kitchener.
  3. Georgian – flat rock riding with gnarly bits and great views
  4. Laurentian – bare rocky hills and drops keep MTB riders happy, excited in Sudbury
  5. South March – a rockfest of fun and challenges near Ottawa
  6. Turkey Point – so many loops it will take you days to do them all
  7. Durham Forest (Dagmar, Glen Major) – tons of hilly, flowy runs with boardwalks 
  8. Hardwood – $$ but worth a visit to fill your day with a variety of well-established loops
  9. Harold Town – assorted MTB tracks and structures for all levels
  10. Copeland Forest – plenty of loops, large climbs with fast long descents


I am sure I missed some favourites. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts. Which trail destinations do you think should be on or off these lists?

Cycling Trail Guides of Ontario

My 3 books that cover most of the routes on this site

P&R bike trail book vol 1

PR Trail Vol 2 book cover

MTB book cover

September 1, 20236 Comments,
Groomed Fat Bike Trails in Ontario

When the snows blow but you still have the bike bug in you, it’s time to pull out your trusty fat bike for another winter on the powder.

As you know, you can take your fat bike out and find many local parks and woodlots to ride in.  Good fun up to a point…


Benefits of Groomed Trails

But as the snow gets a little too deep, it may be time to find packed trails. Those paths are likely packed down because they have lots of traffic: not only more fat bikes but other hikers, their dogs, cross-country skiers, people on snowshoes and even horseback riders. 

Now, that’s not to say there are traffic jams on the nature trails, users spread out quite thinly, usually. This still causes the packed snow base to be lumpy bumpy with footprints.  With temperatures oscillating between above and below freezing, conditions can get ugly, icy and unfit for good riding. 

At some point, you may wish to go elsewhere, pay a little money, and have a more exclusive and managed trail base to ride on. There are also free locations on my list below which are managed by a small army of MTB volunteers. Thank them one day by helping out with your time or money.

Groomed trails reserved for fat bikes (and maybe snowshoers) has some undeniable benefits. Typically they are well signed, one way, safer (less icy), not too hilly, and maintained and designed for your sport.

And having groomed trails to ride on certainly reduces the friction and efforts of cycling to get farther and faster on your fat bike than in deep snow.

That said, many locations have Nordic skiers in the area and you may need to share their wider paths to help get around to the singletrack sections.

couple on fat bikes

Snow Depth and Weather Forecast

I did some research to see which resorts and
bike clubs offer groomed Fatbike trails.  :^)

Here’s What I Found:  

Albion Hills – NW of Toronto, open fields, woodlots, hilly, black Trails only3 loops = 8.2 km, low Fee, Rentals

Albion Hills fat bike trails

Durham ForestOBT review – NE of Toronto, about 10 km, trails may be different this year than the map, volunteer grooming

Hardwood OST review – North of Barrie, 4 loops = 10.5 km on snowshoe trails and shared Nordic track. More riding km available on weekdays, Fee, Rentals

Horseshoe OST review – North of Barrie, 4 loops = 9 km on snowshoe trails, Fee, Rentals (more riding beyond into Copland forest)

Walden OBT review – Sudbury area, ~ 10 km on snowshoe tracks + more on more riding along Nordic ski paths, Fee

Bracebridge RMCOBT review – ~ 15 km singletrack, volunteer grooming, lots of snow

BRMC winter fat bike trail map

Turkey PointOBT review – on Lake Erie south of Brantford, 24 km loop, volunteer groomed, check conditions limited snowfall

This route involves the following key areas:  (starting from the top right corner of the Strava image and riding counter-clockwise)
– the Dump trails – E8 (parking)
– Concession 2, cross Turkey Point Rd. to W4
– Motorhead & Wild Turkey – W4
– Luke Lake trails – W5 (parking)
– Multi-Use Quad trail to Gibson Road
– Big Easy South
– Planet of the Apes
– Cross Turkey Point Road into the Provincial Park
– 226 to Saudwinder
– Fish Hatchery laneway to Fish Hatchery (building)
– Rainbow Ridge to Pail Trail
– enter the Dump trails at E5 or E6, back to the parking lot.
*There is not a lot groomed over at ECO – W1 (limited parking), if riders park here.  Eco is in the midst of a major construction project so the main parking area there is no longer available:
– One for the Vine (on west side of Burning Kiln Winery, to Definite Mabee – out & back)
– Pettifogger – W1, to Front Rd. to Compromise to Gibson Rd. and Big Easy South.

Turkey Point Fatbike trail map.

Agreement ForestOBT review – Halton area, ~5 loops = 16.5 km, volunteer grooming

Highlands NordicOST review – Collingwood area, ~ 10 km new trails, share snowshoe tracks mainly, Fee, Rentals

GeorgianOBT review – Parry Sound, ~ 15 km share Nordic tracks, Fee

Hiawatha OBT review – Sault Ste. Marie, snowshoe paths, Nordic tracks, Fee

Larose ForestOBT review – SE of Ottawa, fat bike trails from P1 are being groomed

Gatineau Park, map – Ottawa area, Quebec side, 24 +27 km, Fee

Dufferin Mono Tract – N of Orangeville – ~22 km, volunteer grooming

MansfieldOST review  (bike review coming)- west of Barrie –  +10 km?,  Fee

Dufferin ForestOBT review – beside Mansfield ~34 km, not too hilly,  volunteer grooming

Hydro CutOBT review – Waterloo –  ~ 25 km,  volunteer grooming

Guelph Lake OBT review – Guelph –  6 km?, volunteer grooming

Oro NetworkOBT review – numerous locations between Barrie & Orillia, + 50 km,  volunteer grooming


*Know of other groomed loops in your area to add to this list, let me know.

fatbike riding trail

The author of this site, Dan Roitner has recently published a new Mountain Bike trail guide. This book is full of ideas on where to ride your Fat Bike this winter.

Buy it for cheap from this site, as an eBook or Paperback

mtb trail guide

Before You Go

It’s best to check before going that the site is open and the weather and traffic are on your side. You may need to register and/or reserve online. (There may be a fee.) With the influx of extra riders this year, book any fat bike rental or lessons way ahead. 

With the Covid lockdowns again, this has put a lot more users on the trails than normal. I would guess there is three to five times more traffic than before the pandemic.

Fat bikes are made for a soft trail base like snow, sand, boggy ground, etc. In these venues, using your regular MTB may not be allowed or frowned upon. If your tires are not wide enough, they will sink into the snow, causing grooves or ruts. This is not cool. Perhaps it won’t be an issue today, but when the snow forms a crust and hardens up, it is no fun for other fat bike riders days later.

Just because it snowed does not mean it’s good to ride. Too much powder snow needs to be tramped down by a groomer or snowshoes to make it a good riding day. If you have to push your fat bike through the snow it’s too soft, too deep.  Pick another day.

Also, please be considerate and avoid riding on the Nordic ski tracks, as much as you might wish to; fat bike tires will destroy the trackset for all skiers who follow. 

Here is more on trail rules from the Walden Club so you play nice and do not annoy others.


That’s it! Get out there, enjoy the byways and stay warm and safe. – Dan Roitner


So you still want more info, then check this out – Riding Fatbikes in Ontario

fatbike riding trail
December 29, 20224 Comments,
My Bike & Barge Tour in Holland

Though not an Ontario bike trail destination, this one certainly has to be on your list. If you ever have the chance to cycle in Holland, you will love it! I can’t rave about it enough. It’s truly the best country in the world for cycling. 

And the way my wife and I did it made it even more unique: we took a Bike & Barge tour of Southern Holland during the last week of May 2022. 

The concept is you ride your bicycle during the day and meet up with your barge (riverboat) in the evening to have dinner and sleep on it. In the morning you have breakfast and ride off, while the boat sails to the next evening’s destination. If it rains or you are feeling tired, you can stay on the boat for the day’s ride, but we actually never sailed on it the whole week, odd as that seems.

Instead, the boat was our floating hotel and travelling restaurant. Pretty cool, eh?

Our “barge” was a very long riverboat (so long I could hardly get a photo of it) at 91 m and it had 52 cabins.

Holland, like most of Europe, has what I call a compressed landscape: the scenery is compact and forever changing. By the end of the week, I could not remember it all. (Glad I took plenty of pictures and videos.) And the history of Europe, of course, goes way back. We passed homes built in the 1600s. Old enough?  

We averaged 50 km a day, which anyone can do at a leisurely pace in the Netherlands. The bike paths are wide and smooth, with no potholes or cracks worth mentioning. A pure joy to ride, car-free and carefree.

Our five days of cycling took us along established bike paths 90% of the time, with only a few detours onto quiet country roads. It was a well-thought-out mixture of scenic countryside routes that passed by quaint, well-kept cottages and farms and through small historic towns.

Dan and lots of signs
Dan and lots of signs to get places

Holland tour map
Holland tour map

Modern Rotterdam skyline
Modern Rotterdam

Modern Rotterdam mall
Modern Rotterdam mall

Our Dutch Loop

The trip began and ended in Rotterdam, and each night we slept in a different place. We passed through Kinderdijk, where we admired the famous windmills; Dordrecht, where we took in a steam engine festival; through the wetlands of a national park on the way to Gorinchem, then up to Utrecht. After that, we headed to Schoonhoven, which turned out to be one of our favourite areas, with patios to stop at for a cup of java or beer. The next day, we biked to Gouda, known for its cheese and market square, before making our way back to Rotterdam.

On the final day, there was an optional sixth 40 – 70 km ride out to Scheveningen on the coast and back, but we opted to walk the city instead.

Two things you will not see much in Dutch photos: wires—most are buried undergroundand fences.  Fields and homes are outlined by canals, rivers and watery ditches. They make the best fences (as long as you do not ride into one).

Part of our Dutch adventure was taking ferries and riding over countless bridges and locks to get across the water. Riding on top of dikes gives you grand views of the flat surroundings. Much of the landscape is farm fields with livestock and trees lining the roads. 

The weather seems to change almost hourly. And when the North Sea is a-blowin’, you will know it. A relentless headwind on the fifth day made me wish I had an eBike. 

One day we spent hours visiting the beautiful De Haar Castle outside of Utrecht. That made us late getting back to the boat, and we did hit some rain. But it wasn’t an issue since we knew there would be a hot shower and meal ready when we got there.

De Haar castle
De Haar castle

De Haar castle hall
De Haar castle hall

Gorinchem homes on canal
Gorinchem homes on canal

Market in Gouda
Market in Gouda

One of the most remarkable and pleasant revelations was how easily an English-speaking tourist can get around in Europe. English is the common language over there. Aren’t we lucky!?

In Amsterdam, I saw more signs in English than in Dutch. How great for tourism (Quebec, take note!). A server can give you an English menu if you ask. Anyone under 40 has likely learned some English in school and can help you out. Amazing! And the people are so friendly…can you tell I love this place?.


The Bike & Barge Experience

Our journey was with SE Tours on the MS Normandie. There were about 60 passengers and nearly all used eBikes every day, my wife included, which gave me a chance to test one. (More on eBikes later, now my wife wants one.)

What I found nice to see is that these new eBikes enable many seniors to extend their life-long love of cycling just a little more. And for those who may not have cycled in decades, an eBike gets them back out on the pathways, without fear of not being able to finish the day’s ride. (I heard a 78-year-old on our tour was still using regular pedal power. Wow!)

The rental bikes supplied (we didn’t bring our own) were almost new pedal power or eBikes and ran very well. They were upright cruisers with a typical Dutch-style design, and heavy, with only a few gears. But in Holland, one does not change gears oftenit’s so flat—so this wasn’t a problem.

All the rental bikes came with a rear waterproof side bag and an optional handlebar bag. We packed a raincoat, pants, and vest in case it got cool, which it did at times, even in late May.

Bike and Barge tour 07
Cyclist and barge
Cyclist and barge

Dan & Teresa lov'n the ride
Dan & Teresa lov’n the ride

SE Tours gave us route map booklets and GPS tracks we could load on our phones. Every morning in the onboard lounge, a staff ride leader would host a slideshow and chat about what to expect (or what to avoid) on the route for that day. While we appreciated this, Holland has such marvellous paths, signs and directions it was almost overkill. If you pay attention, you just can’t get lost. Our tour leader rode the route, but we did not have to follow him.

We found the onboard food tasty and varied, almost as good as on the big cruise ships. And the beer selection was all fine German brands⁠—no American lite draft, thank you. Breakfast was buffet style where you packed a lunch for later on your day ride.

Staff were helpful and friendly, and our room was made up every day. In the evenings, we could wander into town for a walk, and some nights there was musical entertainment in the large lounge.

As it happened, on our week most of the other cyclists were from Germany and Austria, and all were older, retired folks. There was a little bit of a language issue, but we managed just fine with smiles and small talk. If you prefer to hang with your own age group or nationality, inquire before booking. 

If you wish to plan a Bike & Barge trip of your own, there are many tour operators and resellers, see what is possible. Of course, there are plenty of other countries to explore on a bike (with or without a boat). I did a memorable tour of the Loire Valley in France years ago that I should write about. It’s a great way to travel in comfort, without needing a fully loaded bicycle. Start dreaming…


To learn more and book a bike tour of your own, visit SE Tours
One of the largest tour operators in Europe, specializing in the bike & barge concept.

If you book with SE Tours, mention OBT in the comments and add the promo code – ontariobike5
They may compensate me a wee bit, and help fund my next bike trip if you do.


And if you want to know more about the cycling ways of Holland, read my other article –
 Cycling in Holland & Denmark is the Best

Dutch bicycle path
July 13, 20222 Comments,
Cycling in Holland & Denmark is the Best

In May 2022 my wife Teresa and I set off for a cycling adventure in northern Europe. We knew it might be a good destination. We booked a bike and barge tour in southern Holland (this will be the subject of a future post) and also spent time cycling in the cities of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Within days we knew we were riding the best bike paths in the world!

That is a mighty grand claim to make, but others have said the same, and I echo their praise. For those of you thinking of going one day, I am going to share my observations here in a series of articles this summer.

In Holland, no matter where you want to go, there is likely an off-road bike path to get you there. And you can get there safely, on smooth, well-marked paved paths, with an abundance of signs and maps. And maintenance of these paths is excellent, with hardly a bump or crack anywhere!

Cobblestones are a different matter: there are plenty of paths with them in the city, but here again, they are in great shape. In the narrow old sections of town, routes are shared with cars or pedestrian paths. On wider streets, designated lanes existlots of them. Bikes get priority and everyone knows to look out for them. Even on one-way streets, cyclists are often allowed to ride the other way.

I can give almost as much praise to Copenhagen. Though paths are not as well defined and signage is not as clear as in Holland, this city is still certainly a worthy cyclist destination. (We did not have a chance to ride the Danish countryside.)

In both countries, we saw bicycles everywhere. Bikes piled against walls, bikes chained to poles, miles of bike racks and huge garages full of bikes. Cycling is king in these lands!

Amsterdam bike path
Amsterdam bike path

Dutch Cycling Psyche

Why does this extensive Dutch network of paths exist? One guess is because the country is FLAT, with no sizable hills (beyond the height of dikes). This makes cycling easy for everyone. Distances are short and winters are brief and milder than in Canada, though, to be fair, there is still plenty of seasonal rain and wind to contend with.

Most Dutch people ride a bike as a utility vehicle, not as a recreational pastime. These bicycles are made to commute, go to work or school, carry your kids, get groceries, make deliveriesin short, to do almost anything. And it’s a great way to get from A to B for many eco, monetary, and health reasons.

Increased bicycle use means reduced car use. Fewer cars on the road is a benifit when you truly need to drive. I noted there seems to be less traffic congestion in Holland than in Canada. 

Not all cycling is for commuting or chores. On a Sunday morning in Rotterdam, we saw bike clubs out for a spin in club jerseys on race bikes. So they do ride bikes just for fun, too. 

The odd thing was those groups wear helmets. Otherwise, no one does. Perhaps the public perception is they are not going fast enough to need one? Well, I perceived city cycling traffic during rush hour as an overwhelming, chaotic opportunity for mishaps. So we wore ours, and no one cared.

Another observation is when it rains, Dutch riders are as unprepared for wet weather as we seem to be back home. Students scurrying home from school, moms with kids, workers hastily trying to make it back to the officenone of them prepared with rain jackets or pants. We had brought some; you should, too.

bike path through museum
bike path through museum

bicycle use chart

Trail Design

What always works well in trail design is establishing a standard system of making a path, marking it with paint, and posting directional signage that is logical and placed where you expect directions to be.  And Holland does all of this well, everywhere!

Actually, there are signs that tell cyclists they must use their own path and NOT use the road. This lets cars move along faster. Even mopeds have to use bike paths sometimes to get out of the way. And most of the time in the cities there is a separate third pedestrian only path. Does this not seem like a more harmonious means of getting everyone moving?

There are often three separate traffic lights at an intersection: one each for bicycles, motor traffic, and pedestrians. It’s amazing how they wired and synchronized this all up. And it works!

In much of Holland, the asphalt on bike paths is coloured pink, there is often a concrete barrier and/or raised curb to ride on, and plenty of painted road markings show the way. Denmark, not so muchmy wife found the city paths in Copenhagen not so obvious for a touristbut it’s still much better than Canada.

Amsterdam bike path
Amsterdam bike path

Different Bike Designs 

Perhaps because of the lack of hills, locals use a different design from North American bikes. You sit more upright, there’s no crossbar or shocks, and there are only a few gears: perhaps 1 -3 to 7 gears in the rear wheel hub that help for climbing medium grades.

What almost every bike does have are fenders, chainguard, lights, a larger saddle, a carrier rack, and a key lock to stop the back wheel. Their bikes are a basic design, built to last, easy to repair (as a mechanic told me), and seemingly indestructible.

But after putting in 300+ km on these bikes, I was longing for my own trusty steed back home. Yup, they can keep them. I found the handling not nimble, and while the upright position in the saddle might be more relaxed, it is not the best for pedal power. And in a headwind, I was not at all streamlined. 

These bikes are also made with a lot of iron. They’re so heavy you would die doing hills anywhere else in the world. Many now are eBikes, which helps with the weight issue.

Renting a Bicycle

We were supplied bikes for our bike and barge tour of Holland; more on that in my next article…

If you don’t bring your own wheels, there are many ways to rent one. In Amsterdam, we rented from our hotel, where their stock was awful. It took three tries to find a decent bicycle and that one only half worked. My thoughts are that when cycling in a new, foreign city, I don’t need mishaps to derail my holidaythank you, no.

In Copenhagen, we figured we’d be smart and rent from a bike shop. But it was a national holiday. Bike shops were closed. 

We decided to try the online bike rental companies with rental bicycles scattered in racks all over town. They’re a common sight in any large European city. But on this sunny, beautiful weekend, everyone else in Copenhagen also thought it was a fine day for a spin. Finding two rental bikes was challenging. 

We installed the phone app for Donkey Republic, whose orange bikes we had seen parked on curbs and medians. Once we had set up an account, we looked over their location map and saw dots appearing and disappearing within a minute. Yikes! These rentals were going that fast.

We changed our plans, deciding to walk to a fort outside of the city core and hoping two bikes there would become available later in the day. Thankfully that worked out and we did not have to walk back another extra 10 km.

About online bike rentals, and for that matter using public transit. This modern age has made things easier and also more complicated. I would suggest before you even leave Ontario to find the services you might need, download the required phone apps, and set up your accounts with a password, confirmation, and credit card number… rather than doing all this during your holidays, which sucks. Also, to make it all work, expect to run data any day you plan to rent a bike or ride public transit. 

A step up in renting is an eBike. These are very popular if you want to ride in style with little effort, but naturally the hourly rate for these deluxe machines is higher, than for standard pedal power. 

It should be mentioned that in other cities we visited (Stockholm, Helsinki) variations of an electric scooter were available to rent. What we did not see much of on our trip, thankfully, were gas mopeds.

Copenhagen waterfront trail
Copenhagen waterfront trail

Dan in Copenhagen
Dan in Copenhagen

Consider riding bike trails beyond Ontario and see the world!

There are a lot of great bike-friendly destinations to explore, but I can’t think of two better countries than Holland and Denmark. In countries with such established bike-minded infrastructure, it’s a carefree joy to ride there, plus the scenery, food and people make the experience altogether so wonderful.


You Must GO – Dan Roitner


I also wrote about my week of touring southern Holland while sleeping every night on a riverboat. – My Bike & Barge tour of Holland

Holland canal cycling path
Holland canal cycling path

July 7, 20222 Comments
Where to Safely Take Kids Cycling?

My nephew Anthony recently asked me for advice on where he could take his son cycling. Having gone through many years of biking with my son Trevor in tow, I know that kids can get bored easily and parents can get concerned about road safety. I gave it some thought, then sent him a shortlist of suggestions.

Then the wheels in my head kept turning (MTB wheels, lol) and I realized that other parents have the same dilemma every weekend: Where can I take my kids outside to get away from their screens, video games, and electronics? 

I feel your concerns. So let me come to the rescue with some excellent kid-friendly bike rides around Ontario that the whole family can enjoy. 

Are you a parent who needs to feel your children are able to exercise in a safe environment? You have come to the right place: this website features only off-road, car-free bike trails. Most of these routes are entirely on trails and paths, with at most 15% requiring you to veer off occasionally onto a side-road bypass. You can’t get better than that.

For your sanity and everyone’s better health, read on! You can scroll down to jump straight to the trail recommendations, but I advise you to read this whole post, since it’s got some great info.

father with bike trailer
boy learns to ride

Basically, kid-friendly bike routes have all of these four things:

  • They’re safe – Look for off-road, car-free routes with minimal hazards and street crossings with lights
  • They’re easy to cycle – You want paved, level, wide paths and small, gentle hills
  • They have amenities – Playgrounds, washrooms, picnic areas, food/drink close by
  • They are interesting – Winding, varied paths, bridges, boardwalks, tunnels and water features


There are a few stages you will go through as a parent with children and a fondness for cycling. 

The first thing is: don’t let the arrival of a newborn end your cycling days. Sure, it’s going to be a lot of work at first and a big change. Just adapt to the circumstances and keep cranking. 

Once your son or daughter is ready to be introduced to your world of cyclingprobably not before their first birthdayyou have a few ways to start.

Long before your child is able to propel themself, you can transporting them in a child seat on the bike or in a trailer you tow. Chain Reaction Cycles has baby seats.

No matter which option you choose, always make them wear a helmet (like you do) and strap them in!

You can balance better without another little person on board, so I went with the trailer and bought one with a ski attachment so I could take Junior cross-country skiing in winter. Double trailers can seat two little ones.  MEC sells a few versions of bike trailers.

When they get to be three to four years old, they get restless and heavy to tow. Now it’s time for you proud parents to buy them their first bike with training wheels. (Those training wheels won’t stay on for long.) 

Another step up for toddlers are push bikes that help the little ones work on their balance. These can eliminate the need for training wheels when they grow into a bigger bike. MEC sells push bikes.

Keep raising their seats and handlebars and replacing their bikes with larger models as the years pass. Chain Reaction Cycles has kids bikes for all ages.

As I pulled together this list, I kept in mind (and you should, too) a few things specific to riding with kids. Kids have short legs and short attention spans. They are little monkeys and need to burn energy.

Every year you can ride farther and faster—but at their pace, not yours. You need to be a patient parent to deal with all the delays, drama, and spills. Depending on your children’s energy level and desire to cycle (or not), you may only get in a few kilometres for the first few years.

bike trailer
family bike ride

Keep the ride short. (Well, at least shorter than what you may wish for until they are teens, then you may suddenly have trouble keeping up, lol.)

Always turn back sooner than you want to. Don’t wait till they complain and bonk out. 

Stop often. Especially if your child is not actually engaged in pedalling and is just looking out from the trailer.

Make it fun for them. Some kids will need to check out every set of monkey bars they see. Give them opportunities to run about. Bring a ball or frisbee. 

Make sure there is ever-changing scenery. I’ve found this is the most important way to keep kids on their bikes. Trails with lots of twists and turns in the path, and/or bridges, boardwalks, and tunnels are winners. Rivers, creeks, and ponds add interest, and the possibility of wildlife sightings, to keep kids moving. 

Bring snacks. Juice boxes, water sippy cups, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts. Bring nothing messy like melting chocolate.

With all these points in mind here is what I recommend. Since most of these trails run flat along creeks and rivers, none of the locations I list has any large hills to climb, nor fast descents that can stress out your kids (or you, when you’re watching them!). There will still be a few short climbs, trail intersections, and street crossings you need to supervise.


Here are my Top Kid-friendly Cycling Paths:

Park Trails

Rouge Valley – Park Trail  – twisty, ever changing, loads of bridges and boardwalks, greese

Oshawa Creek – Park Trail  – winding, tons of bridges and tunnels, beach & playset at lake

Highland Creek – Park Trail  – bridges, winding creek

Toronto Islands – Park Trail ferry ride, scenic, plenty of playgrounds and beaches

Ajax Waterfront – Park Trail scenic, bridges, beaches

Nokiidaa – Park Trailchanging scenery, playgrounds, ponds, old Newmarket

Rouge Waterfront – Park Trail water, beaches, large bridges

Humber River – Park Trail playsets, bridges, flower garden

Island Lake – Park Trail – long bridges and boardwalks

Taylor Creek + Warden – Park Trail – ponds, 3 water creek crossings 

Beaches Boardwalk – Park Trail – beachcomb the peninsula, sailboats, swimming

Upper Etobicoke – Park Trail – playsets, bridges

Rideau Canal – Park Trail – boats, locks, falls, gardens

Upper Ottawa R. – Park Trail – views of the river, play areas, beach

Grand River – Park Trail – playgrounds, old bridges, falls

Welland Canal – Park Trail – kids love big boats, and locks

Thames Valley – Park Trail – London has lots of playgrounds + Storybook Gardens


Rail Trails

Riding a Rail Trail with kids is a little more challenging. While these former railway beds offer an easy, largely flat ride, most are not interesting enough for younger kids, nor are there many or any amenities or playgrounds to stop at. Still, here are a few that could work out nicely with older kids.

Thornton Cookstown – Rail Trailbridges, a creek, and nearby ice cream, in Simcoe County

Tay Shore – Rail Trail – paved, lakeside location on Georgian Bay 

Brock – Rail / Park Trail – walk through a train tunnel

Greenway – Park / Rail Trail – bridges, dams and falls


(I will post a list of kid-friendly Mountain Bike locations in another article soon.)

kid bike splash

My last thoughts:

Kids get hungry and thirsty, and they need bathrooms often. I wish I could say that Ontario city parks have an abundance of toilets and snack bars; they do not. So use ’em when you see ’em and pack your own extra nibbles or it will be hell. 

Planning a picnic stop halfway is also a chance to break up the outing and get a bit more riding out of your child later. Give them a riding goal. Promise and ice cream once they get to a certain point. And bring napkins when it gets messy, as it usually does.

The last issue: Keep an eye on them. Once you give them wheels, you’ve given them freedom, and they may dash off. Stay in range and have other adults along to help watch over larger groups. Assign a lead bike and a spotter at the back. And while you are at it, work in some basic riding skills and safety and biking etiquette, and now everyone’s having a good time.

With that sensation of freedom on two wheels, you will have hooked them for life on cycling. Awesome job, Mom & Dad!

fully loaded bike trip

April 9, 2022No comments, , ,
Where to MTB as a Tourist Near Toronto

Where to Mountain Bike Ride when Visiting Toronto?

So you love mountain biking and what better time to do it than on a holiday. Whether you are visiting Toronto for a few days or longer, here are a few tips and destinations I would suggest.

Many of us have travelled around and wondered where are those hidden trails the locals frequent? Finding them and getting the real deal as to if they will suit your taste in riding is a time consuming task that does not always pan out. Hence this post, and on a grander scale this site, is here to help you.

Are you bringing your MTB? If not, here are a few places that rent.

Next, which top rides close to Toronto would I recommend? There are many that are good on our map but if you only have time for one bike ride, look through the list below.

Unfortunately there is only one trail system in Toronto itself (the Don Valley), any other loops are too short or convoluted to make your visit in a strange city enjoyable. So you will need a car and typically an hour or more to drive to one of these trailheads. And Toronto traffic is a gauntlet at times so plan your trip, and give yourself half a day.

Near Toronto

Don Valley –   in Toronot (if you can’t even leave town) central, moderate, flows, hilly
Kelso – (west of Toronto) hilly, variety
Albion Hills – (north west side of town) hilly, variety, long
Centennial Park – (central close to Toronto) short, easy, flows
Durham Forest – (east side) easy to hard, large area, joins with Glen Major

OK, what you really want is an EPIC Ontario ride when you visit. Hmm, it won’t be as EPIC as riding Utah but it could be different and fun anyway. You’re on holidays and have all day to ride and you’re looking to take back tall tales and life is short. Here are a few MTB rides a little further from Toronto, but certain to please.

A Day Trip

Hardwood – (due north) full service, great trails, mtb bike rentals
Haliburton Forest – (further north) large, trails just keep going
Ganaraska Forest – (east side) has a IMBA Epic trail, endless trail and not too tough
Harold Town – (new) IMBA designed trails, maybe too short but all sweet
Hilton Falls – (west side) rocky, trails keeps going…NE and W

And if you need to ride in the winter we have an indoor ride park – Joy Ride 150

TIP: One last bit of advice if you want to find a trail, which is to hitch up with an organized ride by checking out bike club websites for what’s scheduled. Send them a note, ask if you can join them.

It’s a great way to get guided to the best track, in the best direction. The locals know their turf and will not only welcome you but it’s always safer to ride with others and you could make a few friends.

So come out and visit Toronto one day   – Dan

March 30, 2022No commentsEPIC
Farewell to Mike’s Buckwallow MTB Trails

Over the winter I had the opportunity to chat with Mike McLaughlin, the owner of the Buckwallow Cycling Centre, which unfortunately has been closed for the last two years due to Covid-related issues.

We had a couple of long phone chats about the history of Buck, its closure and future, and Mike’s retirement, with a few funny stories in between.

I thought it appropriate that this OBT site should pay homage to Mike and his beloved “project.” Buckwallow was truly a unique location in Ontario: one of the few private enterprises that took a chance on mountain biking and offered trails to ride on private land, at a great value.

Located just north of Gravenhurst off Hwy 11, Buckwallow was well managed and clean, with a folksy, country vibe to it. Well-designed loops made the most of Buck’s Canadian Shield location, using the area’s rounded granite mounds as part of the trails with great effect. 

The singletrack had a hard-packed, smooth base with occasional root clusters to negotiate. It wasn’t overly hilly, nor were there wooden structures with extreme jumps or ramps. We came for the challenges and the variety of rocky trails we couldn’t find further south in Ontario. Eventually, the trail network included 12.5 km of wide main trails plus 19.5 km of singletrack22 loops in all.

Getting there from Toronto was a two-hour drive. There weren’t many signs to help you find the place, or an official website. There was no budget for that. Mike wasn’t looking for large numbers of people; he preferred word of mouth to bring in “good people.”  And it worked: over the years, Buck grew and was loved by many. 

Early days at Buckwallow
Early days at Buckwallow

You were sure to meet Mike (or his hired student helpers) whenever you pulled into the parking lot. They always had an inviting, friendly greeting to get you started, a sign that this was to be a special MTB day. 

Mike’s connections with the area began many years ago when his dad ran the KOA campground across the road. The main trails at Buck were established as cross-country ski tracks in the winter. 

He tells me the origins of Buckwallow were small and the growth was gradual. Mike had no plan or grand ambitions and felt lucky in his situation. Owning the land, living nearby, and working on-site led to good things. It was a very fulfilling, successful endeavour, he recalls. Perhaps not so much financially, but it was the best job he ever had and you could tell he loved doing it.

Back around 1994, Mike saw MTB races being held on the Santa’s Village property (now called Porcupine Ridge). A friend, Jeff Hill, was running them and Mike suggested hosting a race on his land. Jeff was a mountain biker/promoter first, while Mike was more into building trails, so they were a good match.

Mike and Jeff came up with the name Buckwallow and created the logo featuring a deer on a bike. The first singletrack they builtTrail #1—was Moose Mayhem. (They numbered the trails in the order they were made, which Mike admits did confuse things a bit.) His favourite trails are Missing Link (# 13), Still Here (#21) and White Tail Fawn – WTF (#22).

old trail map

old Buckwallow map

Buckwallow MTB trail map

Buckwallow MTB race
Buckwallow MTB race

It took them a few years to get trails ready, and by the late ’90s Buckwallow hosted races Tuesdays and Sundays. Mike remembers his first race had only seven riders. 

It was a small start, yet every year numbers kept increasing. Hosting O-Cup races gave Buckwallow credibility among serious mountain bike enthusiasts; Mike would go on to host these races for a dozen years.

Word of mouth is how Mike likes to run a business. It brought in good, caring people, who are loyal and respectful of the trails, leaving no litter and giving the wildlife their space. “And there were no bike thefts, either,” he adds.

By 2002 you had to put a mere $2 in the dropbox for hours of thrills and spills. A season pass was twenty bucks. There were still only six loops back then, yet 600 riders paid the first year, then 800 the next.

Mike could see he had a good thing going, so he closed his business as a millwright to give more time to managing and maintaining Buck. The building you see by the parking lot was his woodshop where he would produce trim for cottage renovators. 

Buck was not a large operation. I can tell from how Mike speaks that he most enjoyed building and maintaining his little “bit of paradise;” actually riding the trails was secondary for him.

Mike is thankful for Bert, Donnie, Cal, Mark, Terry and the many other volunteers who pitched in over the years. Their help was indispensabletheir reward, a free place to ride. 

He encourages other groups to take on the task of cutting new trails in this province, noting that places like the Hydrocut and The Farm, achieved by the Waterloo and Kingston bike clubs respectively, came from riders working successfully with landowners.

MTB at Buckwallow
Mike on his Fatbike
Mike on his Fatbike

Mike McLaughlin
Mike McLaughlin

Mike recalls a few storiesI assure you he has manythat are too good not to share. 

One is of a woman coming back from a ride complaining about a large black dog (bear) in the woods. Another time, the parking lot was full of high-end sports cars. As usual, he left a slip of paper on the windshields to say hello and remind them to chip in and pay the toonie when they got back. They did not. He laughed this off, noting that real mountain bikers know better. 

Then there was the mess left by a tornado that knocked down 100 trees. And the classic lost-riders scenario, where each rider would come back to the trailhead looking for the other rider, all afternoon!

He chuckles about the roadies who would initially boast how much mileage they usually did. But upon returning from the ride, dripping in sweat, they were humbled by how few miles they actually did on Buck’s trails.

Though some of us mountain bikers are serious riders and racers, Mike says most visitors to Buckwallow were families who would ride about 12 km in an hour and a half. They tended to be white-collar workers who needed exercise because of their sedentary occupations. Those in the trades, doing physical labour, were more inclined to rest on the weekends at home.

And the only nasty crashes occurred during races, when riders pushed too hard.

When Covid came along in 2020, Mike felt MTB riding was a safe activity. He got the trails ready and was attempting to start up things for July.  But when regulations required him to track users and lock up the outhouses, and he was unable to get any hired help to manage the gate, he had to keep Buck closed. 

By May 2021, a posting on the Buckwallow Facebook page stated that Mike had decided to retire and keep Buckwallow closed. As reluctant and emotionally difficult as it felt to end it, he could see that it was going to be another summer of Covid hassles.

As well, he had come to terms with the fact that working 12-hour days during the riding season to maintain the trails is a “young man’s game”. Nature had started to take over the network and there was just too much labour ahead of him.

Mike trail building
Mike trail building, again!

The Future of Buckwallow


Mike’s wish is that someone in the family could take over the enterprise, but that seems unlikely. There have been 20-odd proposals by other parties to reopen Buck, but none have suited Mike and the certain way he sees things.

No one seems to understand fully the amount of labour and time required to keep it running. 

As of April 2022, Buck remains closed and Mike is in no hurry (being retired) to reopen under new management, if ever! (Even good things have an end date at some point.)

For Mike, it’s never been about the money; it’s always been about “customer relations,” good service, goodwill to the MTB community, and delivering good times on the trails.

You can leave your best wishes for Mike below in the Comments, on the Buckwallow Facebook page or as a phone message – 705 687 8858. 

He is sure to appreciate them, knowing that he brought joy to many, many mountain bike riders young and old over the last 20 years.

That was always his greatest reward.


You can learn more about Buckwallow on my trail review page.

Buckwallow MTB riders
Photos courtesy of Bert Schuh, Rick Smith and the Buckwallow FB page.

mtb trail guide
March 14, 202218 Comments,
Using Travel Guides – to Plan Bike Rides

Plan Your Cycling Routes with Travel Guides


I have used travel guides for most of my life as a valuable resource to help me find destinations of interest. They have reduced my research efforts and saved me travel time by pointing me in the right direction. Here is why you should invest in a few good books.
I have listed a few favourites here.

Guide books reveal local hidden gems, or distant epic rides just waiting for us adventurous types to discover. They prompt our curiosity to explore and investigate further, beyond the pages of the book. And if they’re written well, they instil a desire to experience this new place, to go there, and soon.

Some travel guides are broad in scope, covering North America or world destinations. Others focus on local areas or topics like bicycle routes, scenic roads, nature parks, waterfalls, historic buildings, train history, ghost towns…the interests seem endless.

Whatever turns you on, there is likely a book about it. And you might be able to string together a cycling circuit for when you visit your places of interest.

cyclist road

Why Buy, When Info is Free?

The internet is certainly an important research tool to get current (we hope) information on destination costs, operating hours, directions, and seasonal changes.  Some say, “Why buy a guide when you can get everything free on the web?” Sure, go ahead, if you have more time than money. 

Getting a head start with a guide literally gets you there sooner with less digging around to find loose ends. It depends on how you value your free time. The authors of these books have already done most of the homework for you. Flipping through a guide, scanning the maps and photos, will tell you swiftly what to bookmark.

It also answers your main question—Where are the top destinations I am interested in? — quicker.

Level of Detail

Some travel books are factual, mapping out routes and/or suggesting loops, while others just talk about interesting destinations. 

Or they are just an easy read with pretty pictures—an escape in the middle of winter for the armchair adventure cyclists who don’t intend ever to recreate the trip within the pages. These coffee- table books are full of the best, craziest, most far-flung cycling trips. Most have simple maps, if any, and offer impressions and clues, not detailed info, for those who might actually want to go there.

Other travel destination books guide you to varying degrees. Publishers set a certain level of detail and style in the way they present this information. It depends on what suits you and if they can answer all your questions. (Well, most of them, as no guidebook is complete.) 

A travel guide can get very specific, literally telling you the road to ride and how far before the next turn, describing and mapping every inch of the way in daily stages. This can be comforting to some, but perhaps excessive for others who like to wander and explore.

Store guide books

For certain travellers with grand expectations, these books never have enough. They want every minute detail laid out and made effortless, something only a bicycle touring company could take care of, at a price. And for some, this is a better worry-free way to trek, in style, than a cheap self-guided book.

Be sure you buy a suitable guide to meet your needs and that there is enough substance in the pages.


My travel books
My travel books

What to Look for in a Guide Book:

  • Do the maps have enough detail?
  • Are there concise directions to get there and do the circuit?
  • Are there enough photos? Does the book tell you what there is to see and suggest points of interest, lookouts, etc.?
  • Are the reviews and commentary descriptive enough to answer your questions?
  • Is there a helpful list of tips and suggestions – when to go, how to get there, what to bring, typical costs, recommended places to eat or stay at, bike rental and repair shops?
  • Are there enough references to other resources to follow up on (websites, phone numbers, other books)?


Guides come in many shapes and formats. Some strictly stay on the bookshelf; others are smaller and more portable; some have eBook formats for your tablet or phone. The benefits of a hardcopy book: it needs no electricity to run, it’s quick to flip through, and it’s easy to scribble notes in.

Some would think the information in a guidebook would get dated. And yes, some of it does – prices, operating times, and services change, but much of the content is evergreen. A road or trail seldom changes or disappears. Most tourist destinations remain or expand. A natural landform will always be there, a historic building (hopefully) as well. 

I have amassed over the decades an assorted collection of reference books to give me ideas as I dream and scheme about future outings. Years ago I first bought a used copy of the Canadian Book of the Road and then I found Back Roads and Getaway Places and then others. They all still have relevant, timeless info to sort through for my next road trip.

I have made a new Store page with some of my favourite recommended titles. Naturally, my own two books are there, along with other noteworthy travel guides for Ontario. I added some more distant locations for those of us with big dreams and a yearning to travel afar (especially after being stuck at home for so long).

Find your favourite titles and start making BIG plans. You can cover a lot of ground on two wheels.

Dan Roitner

June 12, 2021No comments
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Hey, this may be interesting for you: 30 Best Ontario Bicycle Trails!

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Lets get together and do a ride soon.