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.