Bikepacking Algonquin Park
Bikepacking Algonquin Park: Corridor Confession
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven through Algonquin Provincial Park using the Highway 60 corridor. Coming from Simcoe County, the park offers a scenic route when travelling to parts of Eastern Ontario when a canoe or hiking trip isn’t on the agenda. There’s always a good chance of seeing some wildlife, but as my good friend Sebastien Brule will attest to, the park offers so much more to see from the saddle of a mountain bike.
The concept for the trip was pretty straightforward. Execute a self-supported mountain bike trip into Algonquin Provincial Park, linking together the Minnesing Bike Trail and the Old Railway Bike Trail, starting and finishing at Algonquin Outfitters in downtown Huntsville.
The Highway 60 Corridor
It didn’t take long for Huntsville to disappear behind us, and the wide, smooth Highway 60 corridor to open up ahead. The shoulder of the highway is paved wide enough to ride comfortably and then past that is a wide gravel section. Riding mountain bikes gave us the comfort of knowing we had a lot of road to work with. Luckily for us, we rode mid-week so traffic was not an issue, highly recommended for cyclists looking to ride our route.
During our ride into Canisbay Lake, I began thinking about how the corridor becomes so much more than just a passage into or through the park when you’re on a bike. Checking out interesting areas along the road becomes a simple and rewarding task, we were hearing and seeing things that you simply wouldn’t experience from the comfort of a vehicle. A gate-to-gate bike trail, appropriate for all skills levels, would truly allow cyclists to appreciate this route.
The Minnesing Bike Trail
After filling up our hydration bladders and various bottles with water from the Canisbay Lake Campground permit office (there is tap of potable water behind the ice machines), we headed west on the dirt road which eventually shot us out at the Minnesing Bike / Ski Trail! With maps available, and no other cars or signs of other users in sight, we headed North towards Polly’s Pitch and Polly Lake. The park doesn’t mention it, but cyclists are welcome to use the backcountry canoe campsites that align with portages along the bike trails. This means campsites at both Polly Lake and Linda Lake are fair game for the adventurous rider!
We only really stopped to take photos during the smooth and enjoyable sections of the trail. We were both surprised that the majority of the trail leading up to Polly Lake was rough and riddled with fist-sized rocks, making it more of a challenge than we expected. With the right bike and/or skill level the trail is definitely enjoyable, but without one of those key items, I’m not sure it would be any fun at all. Long story short, this trail needs some thorough lovin’.
The Old Railway Trail
The next day’s mission was to tackle the 16km (one way) Old Railway Trail that joins Rock Lake Campground to Cache Lake. The trail is an actual abandoned rail trail, so we sort of assumed we could find it from the Cache Lake Access Point, and that maybe it just was not maintained. We were right, for about a kilometer or so, until the trail disappeared into the depths of the lake. This led to a black fly riddled bushwhack through the forest back towards highway 60 before continuing to Mew Lake Campground.
“I’d like to think the highway is right up that hill” was said a few more times than we would have liked.
The Old Railway Trail was a welcomed change of pace, as it is flat and hard packed, and perfect for any kind of rider. We rode the trail from Mew Lake Campground to Whitefish Lake, where there was a great little beach to rest our legs before making the return journey towards Cache Lake. There are some options to do a bit of sightseeing closer to Cache Lake, but no real great option to leave the trail past Mew Lake. Word from the wise, stick to the bike trails and save yourself a lot of hiking!
Oxtongue Lake & Limberlost Forest
Although camping in the backcountry along the Minnesing Bike Trail was truly unique, we welcomed the opportunity to stay in one of Algonquin Outfitter’s tent cabins on Oxtongue Lake with open arms. Literally within steps of the water and a nice breeze to keep the bugs at bay, it was the perfect location to set us up for our final day of major exploration.
We ventured off route on our final morning, heading away from Oxtongue Lake using Blue Spruce Resort’s hiking / ski trails. Skirting alongside Oxtongue Lake before merging onto the D101B Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) trail that took us all the way up to Limberlost Road, providing us access to Limberslost Forest and Wildlife Reserve and a route back to Highway 60. This portion of the snowmobile trail is part of a much larger Round Algonquin Park (RAP) Trail, which snowmobilers use in the winter.
Our 205km bike trip allowed us to experience Algonquin Park in a completely new way. It was great to get off the paved highway and into the scenic bike trails available to us, and our exploratory approach opened up our eyes to the possibility of amazing overnight bikepacking opportunities in Algonquin Park. Get out there and use the bike trails, because more interest = more trails!
- Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve
- Algonquin Outfitters Oxtongue Lake
- Minnesing Bike Trail
- Old Railway Bike Trail
- Day #1: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/9509131
- Day #2: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/9509129
- Day #3: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/9509126
Previous articles by Miles Arbour
Bio: After graduating from Trent University with a Business Degree, Miles enrolled in Algonquin College’s Outdoor Adventure program. He is always looking for ways to merge his love for outdoor activities with business and marketing… when he isn’t biking of course!