Gravel roads have a beauty all their own. Choosing a less-trafficked route lets cyclists enjoy the sights and sounds of the countryside with little or no intrusion from cars, making for a more contemplative ride. Perhaps the only downside is the difficulty of finding routes close to town, but fortunately that’s an area where the Kawarthas Northumberland region excels.
Whether you’re departing from Peterborough, Cobourg, Lindsay, or one of the smaller nearby communities, peaceful and secluded rides are never far away. Here are some suggestions to get you started exploring.
Peterborough & the Kawarthas
Photo credit: Justin Ross/Wildrock Outfitters
The Peterborough cycling community has a huge asset in Wild Rock Outfitters, the local outdoor store. In addition to supplying bikes and gear, Wild Rock staffers are a font of knowledge when it comes to routes. Co-owner Kieran Andrews is a Shimano Gravel Alliance Ambassador, meaning he has tested a huge range of surfaces and gear. You can find gravel, mixed surface, personal favourites, and other riding recommendations here.
You might consider the Wild Rock-recommended Introduction to the Charms of Peterborough Gravel for your first foray. Departing from Peterborough, this 69km route will take you through flat or gently rolling agricultural landscapes and through the small town of Warsaw. Try it and see why Wild Rock thinks “the gravel roads between Peterborough and Warsaw are some of the quietest roads anywhere.”
If you’d like to take an almost entirely car-free ride, consider the Lang-Hastings Trail. This section of the Great Trail leads through closely wooded forest and open expanses of farmland, then follows the Trent River for a stretch. Depart from Peterborough and you can fuel up in Hastings, a small town famous for its excellent fishing. Grab and ice cream and check out Pisces Pete, the 12’ stainless steel walleye statue in Hastings Pisces Park. Just be aware this is an 33km ride one way, so be prepared for a longer day on the trails or plan for a pickup instead.
Photo Credit: Parks Canada
Ride from Peterborough to Hastings and you’ll have passed into Northumberland County. This part of the region features rolling hills between the scenic south shore of Rice Lake and the sandy beaches of Lake Ontario. If the Great Trail ride above sounds appealing, the route continues from Hastings to Hoard’s Station just outside Campbellford. Both Hastings and Campbellford are Trent-Severn Trail Towns, small communities along the Trent-Severn Waterway. Many offer special attractions and amenities that can round out your ride.
While the Great Trail is scenic and level, cyclists looking for a challenge may be drawn to the routes of the Reggie Ramble Gravel Grinder. In a county known for drumlins, these loops will test your endurance as you navigate the ups and downs of the hills around Warkworth.
If the tricky climbs and twisty descents of Reggie Ramble’s gravel seem intense, consider the mixed-surface alternatives of Northumberland’s signed cycling routes. Rides like the Rice Lake Ramble will afford you a taste of the back roads while giving you a smooth and paved ride on the home stretch to Cobourg.
Kawartha Lakes’ answer to the car-free rides above is the Victoria Rail Trail. This former rail bed intersects with the Great Trail as it heads north. Departing from either Lindsay or Ken Reid Conservation Area will bring you over a beautiful marsh boardwalk and through 22km of natural highlights before you arrive in Fenelon Falls. Also a Trent-Severn Trail Town, this funky small town community offers a beach, Lock 34 of the Trent-Severn Waterway, and numerous attractions to the visitor. Cyclists looking for more of a challenge can continue their trip north to Kinmount.
If you’re looking for a few more ups and downs, try the Four Villages Tour. This trail offers four access points in the northern half of Kawartha Lakes, all of which lead down lush and little-traffic backroads. For a longer ride, you can join this ride with the Carden Ramble. This section will take you past the Carden Alvar Provincial Park and Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. As the name suggests, at Carden Alvar you’ll be treated to a globally rare ecosystem home to a wide variety of uncommon bird and plant species.
Of course, with so many back roads throughout Kawarthas Northumberland, these suggestions are only a starting point. Just be sure to bring appropriate supplies and a bike that can handle gravel, and you’ll be set. Note that while most are roads and trails usually hard packed, be prepared to alter your route if you hit a recently graded stretch that makes cycling difficult.