Cataraqui – Rail Trail

Strathcona to Smith Falls
Posted on August 24, 2018 / 8479
Cataraqui – Rail Trail
Listing Types : Rail Trail
Location : Eastern Ontario
Note : EPIC Ride
Total Trail Km : 104
Double track % : 90
Road % : 10
Rate Skill Levels : Easy, Intermediate
Terrain : sandy spots, smooth soil, crushed gravel, can be muddy, bridges, flat sections, drains well, open field
Faclities : parking, food close by, lodging, trailhead map, good signage, trails maintained
Trail Fee : Free

Length – 104  km (one way)

90%  rail trail path double track
10%  road crossings, detours

Elevation – gradual elevation changes as expected (optional Opinicon Road loopback, big hills)

Terrain –  crushed stone, gravel,  tall grasses, puddles suitable for hybrid or mountain bike

Skill – easy to intermediate, some terrain is rough

Traffic – bicycles, hikers, horses, cross-country skiers, snowmobiles

Facilities – parking on street, a few out houses, small towns with services

Highlights – iron bridge, chaffey locks, rock cuts, lake views, marshes,

Trail Fee – free

Maps – maps main parking lots, sign posts every few km

Phone – none

Website – Cataraqui Trail,  Facebook page

Similar Trails – Algonquin, Seguin

Local Clubs – Kingston Velo Club

Access – many entry points on route

History – The Cataraqui rail line was built in many sections by numerous rail companies from 1880’s over a few decades then eventually consolidated in 1918 by Canadian National Railways. CN train service was discontinued by 1986 and the track removed three years later.

For more history visit the Smith Falls Railway Museum.

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The Cataraqui rail trail is a popular route for bicycle riders looking to get off busy roads and find solitude. Situated in cottage/farm country north of Kingston, this well maintained trail travels east to west. Starting from Strathcona it runs NE to Smith Falls 104 km away and most of it is part of the Trans Canada Trail system.

For most of the rail trail the ride is a mix of farm fields and forest. The west end has more towns to stop by. (East Camden, Yarker, Harrowsmith, Sydenham)

In the middle, the landscape changes to more a rocky, hilly variety as the Canadian Shield just dips down a bit from Perth Road onto Caffery’s Lock area.  Next, you are back into flat farm country and fewer towns to pass by (Portland) to finish in Smith Falls — the largest centre.

We rode the section considered the most scenic from Chaffey’s Lock to about Perth Road (16 km). Then we cycled back on the Opinicon Road to our van for another 18 km. At 33 km, the round trip was a wonderful loop I would recommend for any fit cyclist.

Starting a little west of Chaffey’s Lock on Opinicon Rd. we parked up the hill on Indian Lake Rd. where the rail trail runs. As most of the photos show, the trail runs west through forested rock cuts and high vistas over marsh and lakes. As with any rail trail, there are no hills but I felt a gradual climb.

An odd sight was an underground stream cut in the rock just before seeing the first farms… ya can’t miss it. This double track path had a little bit of flooding at the end before meeting up with Maple Leaf Rd. and the Opinicon Rd. to head back.  If there has been rain be aware you might get your shoes wet.

If you choose the paved road to return, expect a few steep but short hills. The ever-changing scenery on this quiet road is welcomed rather than returning the same way. Back at Chaffey’s Lock is a high iron train bridge (no photo, how did I miss that?)  over the river and good eats at the Opinicon Resort Hotel.

The K&P rail trail crosses at Harrowsmith which is another good location to make up a ride.

Cataraqui Rail Trail Access Points Map

Cataraqui Rail Trail Access Points Map


Open Street Maps

Cataraqui bike loop map

Cataraqui bike loop map

Total Score 3 REVIEWS
Fun Factor: Scenic: Trail Design: Technical: Workout:
  • August 27, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Completed this Saturday Aug 8th on my Fatbike. (18psi) Left from Smiths Falls side and completed in just under 6hrs. Doubled back to get picked up in Kingston. Was mostly well maintained, only a couple of km\'s that were not mowed. What a great day though. There are some long boring sections, but the payoff is the lakes and ponds through the middle. Spectacular. Great spot around the 60km point for a lunch break and a swim if you desire. So many rabbits in the morning and multiple sightings of Otter families. No Mosquito issues, but Deer Flies were abundant. Looking forward to giving it a go in the winter.

  • September 30, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Just completed this trail over two days with my 14 year old son. It was a fantastic experience with lots of wildlife viewing along the way - barred owl, lots of deer, garter snakes, two porcupine, frogs, herons etc. The trail was very obvious and navigation was easy. Gradient, being a rail trail, was easy for the main part, although the Opinicon Road Loop did have some steep hills. The trail was very quiet with only a few hikers and hardly any other cyclists - in fact we only passed one cyclist on the entire 102kms route. Great poutine at the Jim's Gourmet Fries in Sydenham. A few warnings though - 1) The gravel does make for hard work in places. We switched to the road occasionally when the going got really tough. I'd say the 102kms is equivalent to at least 150kms on asphalt, so if you're intending to do the entire route be aware of this. 2) There is no marker at the end of the trail which was very disappointing. We were hoping for a "crossing the finishing line" photo, but the trail just ends at a rough patch of woods near a house and paper factory. There is not even a Catariqui Trail sign. 3) Our overall impression of the trail was that it wasn't all that well used, especially the northern half, so make sure you have spare inner tubes and plenty of water as you're not likely to have someone come by to help if you run into trouble.

  • August 24, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Most of it well maintained and the terrain easy to ride on a hybrid bike. Good for a cross country cruise away from any traffic. A few marshy areas had "friendly " mosquitos.

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Fun Factor: Scenic: Trail Design: Technical: Workout: