Ganaraska Region Conservation Area (aka “Big G”, “The Ganny”) is likely Ontario’s largest bike trail area with 60+ kilometres to explore. A huge, multi-use trail system covers a wooded, northward-sloping incline with large, rolling hills.
If you want to ride forever, deep into the woods, this is the place to be! Cross-country distance cyclists will love it.
The main paths are wide access roads, some straight, taking you over large hills with gentle inclines, as well as long descents with some sandy stretches that slow you down. There are a few technical challenges, but nothing too nasty. For MTBs, this is a fast ride if you want it to be.
Or, if you are out for a Park style ride through the forest, feel free to meander along. There is plenty of space to do it! Wider tires are preferred with the soft ground.
Plenty of fun MTB loops can be found, but are spread over some distance. They flow well if the sand does not bog riders down. Here and there are some twisty, gnarly sections to keep it interesting.
The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) lists Ganaraska as one of the top rides in North America, and you will find 3 trails they designed at 15 km, 30 km, and 60+ km. Indeed, it is an epic ride by Ontario standards, but nothing compared to the insanity of British Columbia MTB runs.
The main access roads, used for cross-country skiing, have colour-coded signage. As for the smaller MTB loops that cut in and out of these paths, not so much. You can get rather lost as this forest is extensive, with few distinguishing features.
The gatehouse hands out maps when you pay, so be sure to take one or use GPS if you wish to venture far. Cell coverage is spotty, but GPS seems fine.
Ganaraska Forest is divided into three sections: bike riding in the centre part, with motorized ATV, and dirt bikes in the west. (You may want to explore that area, too!)
There are endless, fun berms and jumps cut by the motocross crowd, but these areas can be very sandy and tiring using only leg power.
Be careful of vehicles, and since hunting is allowed in April, May, and November, wear bright colours. The east side has horse riding and even more trails … which I have not yet ridden.
Watch for raspberry bushes and poison ivy by mid-summer. They can close in on the trail, making it a challenge not to get winged.
I should add, that as far as MTB trail fees in Ontario go, at $12 Ganaraska is a tad pricey for what there are by way of services, so you may want to stay a while….
For beginner mountain bikers, this is a safe spot to ride and to not worry about getting wounded or having to walk the steep hill climbs all day.
Book the whole day off and make your way out; there is plenty to like and trails to ride for all!