Coming out of Kingston is the K&P Rail Trail, as it did over a century ago, winding its way northward into the Ontario hinterland. At approximately 180 km, it is the longest RT in the province.
This established recreational trail passes through many villages and abandoned train stops on its way through Harrowsmith at the 30 km marker, Sharbot Lake at 75 km, and Calabogie at 159 km, ending after 180 km in Renfrew.
The southern half to Clarendon Station, the 90 km mark, has been nicely resurfaced for gravel bikes. Beyond this, expect a rougher ride where you have to pick your line to avoid a spill and rattling your molars.
I finally had a chance to ride the K&P for a few days this summer with my cycling mate Bernie. It was thoroughly enjoyable, with few bugs, if not a bit too HOT and humid.
Starting in downtown Kingston, we picked up what little was left of this railway at Bay St. & Wellington St. It soon became a convoluted patchwork of RT paths and boring road bypasses.
Basically, leaving Kingston is messy and it would be best for you to pick up the trail at the edge of town, on the west end of Dalton Ave or off Sydenham Rd. From here, the bicycling is pleasant, as it should be—and on the actual old train route.
Once you’ve gone through the tunnel, under the 401, and up and around the railbed switchback, you’re into farm country. Overgrown bushes and trees obscure many of the views. There are a few interesting rock cuts as this path makes its way to Harrowsmith, which was a good point to end our first day.
We both thought the second day was a better ride. North of Harrowsmith, the scenery changes frequently from field to forest to wetlands and back. We crossed a few bridges, but none seemed original or large. We encountered homes and hamlets, likely built because of the train traffic, that now seemed a little lost as cottages in these quiet, trainless surroundings.
As can happen, the path at times became part of the county road. Short detours got us around. Generally, directional signs worked well, but there were a few occasions where we had to sort out the way.
For me, the highlights of the entire rail trail were the geological features we encountered, from sedimentary layered limestone rock cuts in the south to granite railbed cuts blasted away in the northern Canadian Shield. These made the route none too straight, which is fine by me.
I think if any Rail Trail could support cyclo tourism with a string of diners, cafes and places to stay, it would be the K&P. I saw a few convenience stores, and there are some places to lodge on the way. Our host at the Rockhill B&B in Sharbot Lake, an RT cycling advocate, was working on it.
ATVs are permitted above Verona, but were never a worry. We would usually stop, let them slowly pass and carry on
Other Rail Trails intersect the K&P to give bikepacking route options for longer treks. The Cataraqui RT comes through at Harrowsmith, and Sharbot Lake connects with the Tay Havelock RT. In Renfrew, you can continue back down the newly resurfaced Ottawa Valley RT to make a mega loop. All of these options are best enjoyed on a heftier MTB rig.
The K&P – Kingston & Pembroke Railway (or affectionately known as the “Kick & Push”) is a mature, popular Rail Trail with the potential to be similar to established, well-supported RT routes elsewhere like the Quebec Le P’tit Train du Nord. (If we come, they will build it.)
Though sadly there are no long bike paths to cycle on in Kingston, find time to play the tourist. Walk among the old stone buildings downtown. There is a steam locomotive on display by the waterfront and plenty else to keep you happy.