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Durham’s Trails: A Path For Everyone

Duffin’s Creek, Pickering / Ajax Waterfront Trail. Photo Credit: Great Lakes Waterfront Trail / Goh Iromoto. 

Part of the Greater Toronto Area and close to many large urban areas in Southern Ontario, Durham Region is an easy to access ride destination for cyclists looking for scenic and safe trails away from busy roads. Stretching from the shores of Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, the diversity of terrain in Durham is exceptional, from the paved waterfront trails in Pickering through to Bowmanville, to the smooth rail trails of Uxbridge, to the extensive mountain bike trails of the Durham’s conservation forests along and the rolling Oak Ridges Moraine. While perfect for day rides, the trails also have great connectivity as part of cross-regional trail systems like the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and the Trans Canada Trail. And with excellent regional transit access, Durham is an ideal destination for a car-free adventure, cycling trails through beautiful nature.

Durham Waterfront Trail

The Waterfront Trail crosses Durham Region using mostly trails and some on-road connections alongside Lake Ontario, from Pickering and through to Bowmanville and beyond. Part of the 3,600km Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, Durham’s portion of the trail is one of the provinces most scenic and protected.

“The entire waterfront trail [in Durham] is nice with views of Lake Ontario and lots of birdsong. The nicest and most accessible parts are the 26km from Lakefront Park West in Oshawa to the Pickering Nautical Village.” – Mary, cyclist from Oshawa

Durham Waterfront Trail. Photo Credit: Jim Boate

The Waterfront Trail interactive map is a great ride planning resource where you can find parking locations, train station locations, points of interest, public washrooms, and useful trail information. Take your pick of accessible parking locations along the waterfront or take the train and begin your ride at Rouge Hill (in Scarborough), Pickering or Whitby GO Train Stations for the closest entry points on to the trail. Follow directional signs from GO Stations to trail. Bikes are allowed on all non-peak GO Trains.

If traveling west to east, some of the first inspiring sights you’ll see are at Petticoat Creek Conservation Park, with a gorgeous bridge over the Petticoat Creek and views of Lake Ontario and the Rouge River. Continuing on you’ll pass through protected coastal dune ecosystems before coming to the quaint Pickering Nautical Village on Frenchman’s Bay, an interesting new-urbanist community with a marina and small business area including bakeries, ice cream and a few restaurants. Check out bicycle friendly businesses  PORT Restaurant, and OpenStudio Art Cafe for a slice of Durham waterfront life.

Pickering Nautical Village. Photo Credit: City of Pickering.

In addition to all the great swimming and beach options, bluffs and viewpoints along the way, there are many other worthy stops, including at Port Whitby, with the free, contemporary Station Gallery just off the trail and a brewery nearby. Other highlights include Thickson’s Woods with the last remaining stand of old-growth white pines on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Or visit the Oshawa Museum, located in a historic house on the Oshawa Harbour and Lakeview Park. Tired after a day of cycling? Why not rest your head at a waterfront campsite at Darlington Provincial Park. From the Pickering Nautical Village to Oshawa’s Lakefront Park West is 26km one-way. And from Petticoat Conservation Area to Darlington Provincial Park is 45km one-way. Or for a shorter, family-friendly 10km return journey, cycle the scenic and fully protected Ajax Waterfront Trail from Duffin’s Creek to the Ajax Waterfront Beach and back.

Durham Trans Canada Trail

Rail trails are perfect for a relaxed day ride with the family or jaunt with friends. One of the most popular options in Durham is the Trans Canada Trail section heading northeast out of Uxbridge towards Lindsay and the Kawartha Lakes Region. This section of the Trans Canada Trail is made up of the John McCutcheon Way & Trestle Bridge Trail and the Beaver River Wetland Trail, which passes through one of the most significant wetlands in the Lake Simcoe watershed.

Uxbridge to Lindsay Trans Canada Trail / Beaver River Wetland Trail – Ontario by Bike Ride 2022

A flat and wide stone-dust rail trail, spot an abundance of wildlife, including great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, muskrats and beavers. The section of the trail through Durham from Uxbridge to Manilla (eastern edge of Durham) is about 26km one-way, so an out-and-back ride from Uxbridge makes a great distance for a day ride. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can follow the Trans Canada Trail all the way from Lake Ontario to Uxbridge on a mix of off-road trails and on-road connections. Or continue east to Lindsay and Peterborough and beyond on similar unpaved rail trails.

“Beautiful adventure, riding hard packed trails starting out in forests and farmland then cycling over flat bridges through wetlands.  I like long stretches of trail off the road. An easy ride that can be done safely on your own or a friend or a group, and there is always a reward.  Not far from the trail is ice cream or craft beer – on a hot summer day a perfect ending.” – Donna Marie, cyclist from Paris, ON

After the ride, make a stop at bicycle friendly Second Wedge Brewing Company, a number of great bicycle friendly restaurants, or at a cafe in town. Trailside Bed & Breakfast makes an excellent home base for exploring all of the great trails in this scenic part of Durham.

Mountain Biking in Durham’s Conservation Forests

Durham’s conservation forests might just be the GTA’s best mountain bike destination. The trails and various forests in the area south of Uxbridge (nicknamed the ‘Trail Capital of Canada’) are so extensive (totalling 240km) and well connected that you can ride for hours (or over multiple days) and not cross the same section twice.

Durham Forest. Photo Credit: Durham Mountain Bike Association.

From the Durham Forest to the Dagmar North Trails to Walker Woods and Glen Major Forest, there is something for everyone: smooth and wide doubletrack great for more relaxed and family trail rides, plus expert-level mountain biking with steep elevation, rock gardens, hair-pin turns and a variety of built trail features. And to top it all off, the views on top of the Oak Ridges Moraine are some of the best in the region.

“It’s a great network of biking trails for all levels of riders. The trails are always very well maintained by volunteers and are always in great condition as well in winter for fat biking. The forests are beautiful and there are numerous viewing points especially in Glen Major forest.” Izabela, mountain biker from Toronto

“I truly enjoy the trail diversity within Durham Forest. There is a great mix of fast & flow trails with technical features mixed in. If I feel like a casual ride to enjoy the forest scenery, or to push myself with distance, ascent and technical features, there are multiple options available within the forest. Definitely worth the drive from Toronto to experience a phenomenal mountain biking trail system!” – Jay, mountain biker from Toronto

Photo Credit: Trail Hub

While all the main trail heads in the area have parking, Trail Hub might be the best place to base your Durham mountain bike adventure. In 2021, Trail Hub was born on the site of the former Skyloft ski hill, and is now a community hub for bikers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts with a beautiful wooden post-and-beam chalet, restaurant, bar and often live music. Located just south of Uxbridge on one of the highest hills in the GTA, Trail Hub provides direct access to Durham’s extensive trail network, connecting to the Durham Forest and Dagmar, Walker Woods and Glen Major Forest in the East Duffins Headwaters.

“Trail connectively is a unique area feature that has now matured to a point where you can start your ride in comfort at Trail Hub…stop for lunch in Uxbridge, or enjoy a cider (Slabtown Cider Co.) or craft brewery (Second Wedge Brewing Co.) and then circle back for “Après-bike” with friends at Trail Hub, where there is often music, always great food, bonfires and amazing views.”  – Sheila, local cyclist and member of Friends of Forest & Trails in Uxbridge Area

Start Planning your Durham Trail Adventure

Whether you’re looking for paved waterfront trails, scenic rail trails through forests and wetlands, or dynamic and challenging mountain bike trails, Durham Region truly has a trail for every type of rider. Start planning you Durham trail adventure at the links below.

  • Cycling – Durham Tourism – Find information on cycling routes and trails and mountain biking destinations in Durham. Plus tourism information for things to do and see, places to eat and where to stay during your visit to Durham.
  • Great Lakes Waterfront Trail – Explore the Waterfront Trail interactive map to discover Durham’s waterfront including Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa and Bowmanville and find train stations, parking locations, washroom facilities, points of interest and more.
  • Trans Canada Trail – Explore the Trans Canada Trail interactive map to discover the various trails and on-road connections making up the TCT route through Durham.
  • Durham Mountain Bike Association – Find information on all the great mountain biking trails in Durham plus info on trail etiquette and management.
  • Ontario By Bike – Durham Region – Great Places to Cycle Page – Find routes, trail information, maps, and bicycle friendly businesses in the region.


Sponsored Content Partner: Durham Tourism / Durham Region

Published On: June 28, 2023Categories: News

About the Author: Ontario By Bike