Mill Run – Park / Rail Trail

Hespeler to Preston
Posted on October 8, 2021 / 1288
Mill Run – Park / Rail Trail
Listing Types : Park Trail / Rail Trail
Location : Western Ontario
Note : NEW Review
Total Trail Km : 13
Park Path % : 40
Road % : 5
Rate Skill Levels : Intermediate
Terrain : smooth soil, paved, crushed gravel, can be muddy, bridges, flat sections, gentle hills, open field
Faclities : parking, food close by, toilet, outhouse, drinking water, trailhead map, trails maintained, shelter
Trail Fee : Free

Length – 13 km (one way)

40% park path
55% double track
5% road crossings, detours

Elevation – Mainly very flat along water’s edge, a few short climbs 

Terrain – Dirt/limestone screening base, muddy patches, some paved sections,  large bridges, boardwalks

Skill – Intermediate 

Maps – Map boards, trail markers are old and sparse 

Traffic – Typical path users, no motorized traffic

Facilities – Parking lots, toilets, benches, picnic tables, rain shelter and food at either end  – not much in the middle

Highlights – Relatively shady route, 3 dams, falls, bridges, old stone buildings

Trail Fee – Free

Phone – 519 623 1340

Website – City of Cambridge

Similar Trails – GreenwaySpeed River,  Etobicoke Creek

Local Clubs – Waterloo Cycling Club

Access – Reach Cambridge from Highway 401, which passes through the area. Park at any of these spots: 

  • In Hespeler: public parking lot on Sheffield St.
  • Along the way: on Beaverdale Rd. 
  • In Preston: Russ St., Riverside Park, or at Hamilton St. & Bishop St. South.
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Cycle 13 km of wooded Park paths north of Cambridge for a tranquil cruise into history. Following the shores of the Speed River, the 9 km Mill Run Trail goes from the old settlements of Hespeler to Preston

As well, to make this ride more appealing, I tacked on an extra 4 km. This is the continuation of the bike path, now being called the McMullen Linear Trail. 

In Western Ontario, you can find many short fragments of trail along the Speed and Grand rivers. The well-established Mill Run is longer and offers varied scenery and terrain the way I like it, not mundane spinning.

This bicycle route has plenty of shade as it cuts through cedar groves and hardwood stands. A flat route as it stays in sight of the water, it crosses the Speed River a few times on large pedestrian bridges and once on a narrow road bridge at Beaverdale Rd. Little traffic should make this a quick, safe bypass.

The path is mainly a dirt or crushed limestone base with a few paved sections.  Some low-lying areas probably get flooded in the spring, as the water appeared to me at times level with the path. 

Signage is old and spotty to follow, and maintenance to trim brush and fill in puddles would be nice, but I am not really complaining. It’s a lovely outing on a gently flowing river. 

Maybe they got the “speed” out of the river when they put in the three dams. The water powered grist mills and textile and furniture enterprises over a century ago. Plaques at these points inform how industrious settlers were, even back then.

At Riverside Park in Preston, you can end your two-wheeled jaunt or cross the King St. E. bridge and take Chopin Dr. briefly to reach the McMullen Linear Trail entrance. This trail is more of an open parkland experience as it meets the forks of the Grand River ending at Hamilton and Bishop St. S.

Considering these points, I rate this trail at a slightly more challenging Intermediate level.

Starting from either Hespeler or Preston villages works out well if you wish to lunch at the other end or when you get back. Many of the old towns’ buildings and features are still there, if you fancy wandering. And I saw ice cream vendors and a craft brewery, so that’s covered.  ;^)

Highway 401 cuts through this area, making it easy to get to. When cycling, you will briefly hear it cut the silence before you see it, as you approach the highway underpass.

In Hespeler, some of you may not go east beyond the dam to the end at Apple Dr., but I encourage you to at least ride to the rail crossing. There are some beautiful views off the earthen dikes of the marshy pond.

Speaking of tracks, the Mill Run was the original 1885 railbed for steam and electric trains. (So they sayI saw no evidence left of those days.)

I was there in the middle of a hot July day and the bugs were few, but I suspect they may be an issue in spring. This is definitely a worthwhile destination in the fall when the autumn colours are out.


This new ride review is not yet published in my book. But 65 other great destinations are with better maps, elevation graphs and parking locations. Available as an eBook or paperback.

Park Trail Map

Mill Run bicycle trail map

Mill Run bicycle trail map

Total Score 1 REVIEW
Fun Factor: Scenic: Trail Design: Technical: Workout:
  • October 8, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    A quiet country cruise on an old rail trail was a pleasant surprise to find just outside of the city. Signs are not all there but you can find your way in no time. Some muddy parts require maneuvering around them. Many opportunities to stop and watch the river drift by. Visit old Hespeler.

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