The Cambridge to Paris Rail trail follows the Grand River between the two cities of the same names. An enjoyable and popular bicycle ride that takes you along the east bank of the river for 18 km.
This abandoned rail line opened in 1994 repurposed as one of the first Rail trails in Ontario. You can start at either end or at the middle parking lot in the village of Glen Morris.
The trail winds through a quiet forest setting with rarely a sound of cars or any sign of homes or farms. The river moves quickly below and the shore can be visited a few times from the Cambridge end as the route climbs up along the side of the river bank. By the time it gets to the south end near Paris, you are riding way up far from the water’s edge.
There are not that many lookouts to view the river and sit on a bench as this old rail line moves inland a number of times. I saw two interesting landmarks, the stone ruins of the 1867 German Woolen mill/hotel, fenced off, hidden in the trees and the stone pillars of a metal truss rail bridge crossing the Grand River, long gone at Murray Lookout.
Beyond these few sights, it’s a pleasant easy ride through woodlots and clearings with not much else to see. With next to no road crossings, so this is a super safe route.
The finely crushed gravel path is firm after many years of use. I saw no puddles though sections had grass growing down the middle, turning it into a double track. It was evident that a maintenance crew had mowed the grass shoulders and cut the brush back.
An assortment of signage was posted on the trail, some so old and sun bleached they were just white placards. Not that you need signs, the right path is evident.
A very popular trail that has a long history of use by many cyclists, hikers and joggers. And was it ever busy last weekend, the parking lots were overflowing with cars. An odd but pleasant sight for Rail trail use; no worries, there is always plenty of space for everyone to ride.
Paris has some nice waterfront eateries to relax in this quaint old town and Cambridge a large city has a bike path to lead you north from this Rail trail. Once you cross Water St. South follow the path north for 10 minutes and you are in the centre of the town among the older buildings and waterfront.
Beyond the Paris trailhead parking lot, you can continue cycling by crossing hwy 51 heading farther south for about 2 km to Curtis Ave. Follow that road south for 400m connects you back onto the old rail line now called the SC Johnson Trail. This route continues on the rail bed for 11 more kilometres to Brantford with one deviation around an industrial park.
You can even cycle all the way to Hamilton from here on Rail trails. Make it an overnight bike trip adventure if you want.