Riding the Old Railways Bike Trail
What better way to spend a couple of days than to explore Algonquin Provincial Park by bicycle! Until recently, I had spent many days adventuring at Algonquin by canoe, kayak, or on foot, but never by bicycle. Now I can add mountain biking, fat biking, and tandem biking to the list!
On our first day at Algonquin, my friend Rebecca and I stopped at the Algonquin Outfitters (AO) Lake of Two Rivers store to rent 2 mountain bikes. You can rent bikes for as short as an hour, or as long as multiple days. The AO employee helped us to figure out which bikes would be best for us based on:
- where we planned to ride (mountain bike trail versus campground roads or along the Old Railway Bike Trail);
- what kind of seat we preferred (a typical bike seat or a softer padded one);
- whether we had any mobility issues (there is a bike that you can ride without having to lift your leg up over the crossbar);
- whether we needed bikes for just adults or children too, and for any children, whether they would be riding their own bike, riding a trail-a-bike or being pulled along in a Chariot carrier;
- our previous biking experience;
- whether we were up for the challenge of riding a tandem bike.
Once we chose our mountain bikes, the AO employee adjusted the seats to the right height, and then provided a few safety tips, such as not braking too hard since the hydraulic brakes are super sensitive and he didn’t want us to go over the handlebars. We had our own helmets, but if we didn’t, we could have used AO ones. We headed for the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail at the south end of the park near the Kingscote access point, and had fun biking while swatting mosquitos away.
But the real fun (and scenic) riding came the next day when we tried out the fat bikes and tandem bike! This was our very first time on a fat bike. I was under the impression that fat bikes were big, heavy, hard to manoeuvre and tiring. Not true! The Specialized Salsa that I rode was light, comfortable, and no different than any other bike to ride. However, it’s a superstar on sand, loose gravel, mud and snow. After a quick seat adjustment, we were ready to go!
The AO employee provided us with Algonquin’s map of the Old Railway Bike Trail, which can be accessed from the Lake of Two Rivers store. The map is really useful, showing kilometre markings, toilets, and access to the various campgrounds. We rode about 1 ½ kilometres from the store on a path through the forest that was easy to ride. It was also mostly sheltered from the sun, except for the part of the path that goes through the old Mew Lake airfield. There were lots of pretty flowers in this field! We reached the Old Railway Bike Trail, which goes all the way from Cache Lake in the East to Rock Lake in the West, a distance of 16 kilometres. We chose to ride East, and made it all the way to Cache Lake. There were some very pretty spots along the way, including fast moving water and nice little places to stop for a picnic lunch or a snack. There were an incredible number of dragonflies around us as we rode, bouncing off our noses and lips! We even spotted a painted turtle and a garter snake. There were many holes dug on the sides of the gravel trail where turtles had laid their eggs. We had a snack at the dam and headed back to the store, where we would continue our biking adventures! 15 kilometres down, many to go.
After lunch, we had a super yummy ice cream cone at the Lake of Two Rivers store – mine was salty caramel and so delicious! Then we exchanged our fat bikes for a tandem bike, which required a bit of instruction from the AO employee (and seat height adjustments). We were told how important it would be to communicate with one another, since the person in the front steers, shifts gears, and brakes, but both people pedal in tandem. We did a couple of loops of the parking lot away from live traffic (there is a coned off area where you can try out the bikes), and even though we were wobbly, we were ready to set off once again for the Old Railway Bike Trail.
This time, we headed West toward Rock Lake. Since AO has a challenge for those who rent the tandem bike, we had to try to meet it – to ride all the way to Rock Lake and back, a distance of about 25 kilometres! It didn’t take too long for us to become pros on the bike! We took turns riding in front, and learned to tell each other when we were going to brake, stop pedalling, etc. Once again there were some pretty spots on the trail, but I found the way to Cache Lake more scenic. And before we knew it, we were at Rock Lake! We rode as far as we could, to the trailhead for the Booth’s Rock Trail. We took a picture (for proof!), then turned around and headed back to the store.
While riding the Old Railway Bike Trail, we came across quite a few other cyclists, some with children (including one little boy with training wheels on his bike). Other people were walking the trail. We didn’t see any other fat bikes or tandem bikes. Sadly, we didn’t see any moose or bears either!
In any case, we really enjoyed our time biking at Algonquin Park, and we will definitely do it again. I can’t wait to try fat biking the trail in the winter!
Tips for biking the Old Railway Bike Trail:
- Wear a helmet!! Helmets save lives.
- Wear comfortable clothes, with layers in case you get too warm or too cool.
- Wear or bring bug spray.
- Wear sunblock.
- Bring sufficient water, either in a water bottle (bikes from AO have cages to hold bottles) or in something like a Camelbak.
- Bring lunch or a snack.
- Bring a camera!
- Carry a first aid kit.
- Don’t forget your map.
- Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Algonquin’s plentiful wildlife.
Other Useful Links
- Algonquin Park Old Railway Bike Trail
- Cyclying in Algonquin Park
- Old Railway Bike Trail Map
- Other Biking Maps
- Algonquin Outfitters Bike Rentals
- Algonquin Outfitters Lake of Two Rivers Store