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.
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
Durham Forest – OBT 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
Turkey Point – OBT 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.
Agreement Forest – OBT review – Halton area, ~5 loops = 16.5 km, volunteer grooming
Highlands Nordic – OST review – Collingwood area, ~ 10 km new trails, share snowshoe tracks mainly, Fee, Rentals
Georgian – OBT review – Parry Sound, ~ 15 km share Nordic tracks, Fee
Hiawatha – OBT review – Sault Ste. Marie, snowshoe paths, Nordic tracks, Fee
Larose Forest – OBT 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
Mansfield – OST review (bike review coming)- west of Barrie – +10 km?, Fee
Dufferin Forest – OBT review – beside Mansfield ~34 km, not too hilly, volunteer grooming
Hydro Cut – OBT review – Waterloo – ~ 25 km, volunteer grooming
Guelph Lake – OBT review – Guelph – 6 km?, volunteer grooming
Oro Network – OBT 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.
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
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