Thorton Cookstown – Rail Trail

4585 15th Line, Cookstown
Posted on August 28, 2020
Thorton Cookstown – Rail Trail
Listing Types : Rail Trail
Location : Central Ontario
Note : NEW Review
Total Trail Km : 19
Double track % : 95
Road % : 5
Rate Skill Levels : Easy
Terrain : crushed gravel, bridges, flat rock, drains well, open field
Faclities : parking, food close by, toilet, outhouse, drinking water, trailhead map, good signage, trails maintained
Trail Fee : Free

Length –  19 km (one way)

95% rail trail path
5% road crossings, detours

Elevation – Flat, actually it slopes up north 80 m

Terrain – Crushed stone, bridges, road crossing

Skill – Easy

Maps – Map boards, trail posts signage

Traffic – Bicycles, hikers, horses, snowmobiles, X-country skiers

Facilities – Parking lots, outhouse, benches on trail, amenities in Cookstown and Thorton 

Highlights – Many bridges, scenic views, towns of Thorton and Cookstown

Trail Fee – Free

Phone – 705 435 3900

Website – New Tecumseth, Simcoe County

Similar Trails –  Caledon, Sutton – Zephyr, North Simcoe

Local Clubs – Toronto Bicycling Network – TBN

Access – Parking  in

  • Cookstown on Innisfil 4585  5th line sideroad
  • north of Cookstown on hwy 27 behind the Antique Market.
  • Essa 5th sideroad
  • Thorton hwy 27 and Innisfil Beach Rd.
  • Hwy 53 north of hwy 21

History – Originally the Beeton Sub Branch Line was built in the 1870s by the Hamilton and North Western Railway to bring produce and lumber to market. Over the years this line was acquitted by Grand Truck Railway and then the CNR in 1920.

The last passenger train to run was in 1960 and then by 1986 the last freight train ended the hundred odd years of rail use. The township bought the land from CNR in 1996.

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Winding it’s way up towards Barrie, the Thornton – Cookstown Train Trail is another section of rail line repurposed for some fine leisure cycling. This 19 km segment of the line was once part of a much longer route from Hamilton to Collingwood and beyond.

My friend and I started the ride at a parking lot on the edge of Cookstown. I was uncertain how far south the path could go so we rode north to Thornton first. The trail seemed already well known and used by many hikers, joggers and cyclists, this was my first time.  

I could see why, it was well maintained, scenic and an easy route to follow. The trail base is your typical fine crushed stone all the way. There are a  few road crossing, some quite others need attention to oncoming traffic. A gravel or hybrid road bike can manage this terrain nicely, though watch for the loose grit at times.

We crossed the Cookstown Creek many times, I think I counted eight trestle bridges, all in good shape. (Two are being rebuilt next year.) All nice spots to stop and perhaps take a picture. The landscape changes frequently from treed sections to open fields. Most of the route is not shaded, so the lack of trees gives way to expansive views of crop fields, pastureland and marshy areas.

As we headed back south past our start point at 15th Line we continued for four more kilometres then it suddenly ends at a green gate, as if they ran out of money. lol 

So here the path does a sharp left taking you onto a country road at the end of a farmer’s field. We had just done 30 km, it was hot and time for lunch so we didn’t venture onto this detour to take us 10 km to Beeton. 

Inbetween Beeton and Tottenham track still exist to carry tourists on vintage train rides at the South Simcoe Railway.  Further along, this old rail line turns back into another cycling route, the very popular Caledon Rail Trail.

On the north end, the rail trail goes 3 km beyond Thorton curving east to end at the highway where the casino is. 

While doing my primary research on this bike path I could see that this trail might one day go further on in both directions. From aerial photos, could it one day go right into Barrie? Maybe to the waterfront, that would be great! I am unsure about the current status, but read there are plans to extend the trail to 26 km in time. I’m guessing the other direction towards Beeton.

Those who like to stop on route for a coffee and a muffin will appreciate that both towns on the way have opportunities to indulge.

This bike ride is about 60 km north of Toronto and can be reached quickly being just west of Hwy 400. Afterwards, there are plenty of places to find lunch on a patio and play the tourist travelling around to the local towns.

Thorton Cookstown rail trail map

Thorton Cookstown rail trail map

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