Copeland Forest is a BIG ride in many ways: large in size, enormous hills and over 60 km of trails for you to explore.
It’s a seemingly endless MTB ride that winds up and down slopes and across benched hillsides via twisty switchbacks and long, speedy downhill descents.
What you will find hidden within this extensive network are log hops, ladder bridges and jumps. There are also rock gardens, but otherwise, this area has a few stones on the loops. The trails are smooth clay; some are covered in leaves and they are certainly slippery when wet. Other spots have plenty of sand to slow you down.
Oh, I didn’t mention the other BIG thing here: the marshlands to the west, which take up more than half of this property. Trails skirting the perimeter are at risk of being swampy and buggy. This low-lying flat area slopes up numerous valleys to the east end of Copeland, turning into some sizable hills.
At about 120 metres (395 ft.), the elevation here is one of the highest verticals at any MTB ride area in Ontario (excluding ski hills). Expect long climbs that will test your cardio and employ those blessed granny gears.
Ah! But with every painful grind up there is the sweet payoff down. Seldom do MTB riders in this province have such long descents to enjoy—so often, they are over far too soon. You can glide down a few of them for over a kilometre, so savour these ones, kids. And for the fearless DH junkies out there, there are a few black-diamond runs for your fix.
Enough with talk of hilly climbs. If you come in from the north side parking lot (best choice), across the train tracks, you’ll find a series of easier loops, not flat, but not lung-busters either. There’s lots of great riding through the trees on winding track over bridges, through water and muddy patches, too.
Coming in from the Horseshoe Nordic Centre car lot, past the golf course, is another easy start…the monstrous hills are to your left.
If you enter by the road on 5 Line North, you can hit the popular, difficult and fast DH descents locals call 5th Dimension and Ridge Run.
All this is under a mixed forest canopy with few landmarks to guide you—and to make it even more mysterious/confusing, there is NO signage. With your focus on the tricky tracks and the greenery whizzing by, you’d better keep your sense of direction and should likely refer to a map app (not like we did in the old days, when we had to wander for days to find our way out, LOL).
In the winter, depending on the snow cover, there is some fine Fatbiking to be found. Horseshoe Resort runs a Nordic centre that rents Fatbikes. (They also offer summertime DH MTB riding on their ski hill.)
And need I say, in autumn, on a sunny day, the fall colours are ablaze.
Barrie, located 25 minutes south of Copeland Forest, is likely the best après stop for refuelling after your day ride.
Overall, Copeland is a giant exhilarating maze that will make you sweat and keep you wanting more. Likely heading home happy no sooner than when your endurance level bonks out.
Edit Note: This is one of the new reviews for the soon to be published MTB Trail Guide.
A few photos were taken by James Malvern