Bikepacking from Kingston to Ottawa?

23 Mar 2016
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Cycling on the Cataraqui Trail

A question we often get is “can you ride a bike on the Rideau Trail?” We’re a hiking association so we aren’t going to pretend to be cycling experts but since we get the question so often, we will attempt to answer it in detail! Hopefully all the cyclists (and there are many among our members!) find this info useful in getting you prepared to do an epic bicycle tour.

The short answer is yes and no.

Why no? Cycling is permitted on sections of the trail but as a continuous route from Kingston to Ottawa, the Rideau Trail is not suitable for bicycles. Reasons include carefully negotiated agreements with many public and private landowners, public safety and trail conservation. Truth be told, destructive cyclists (and we know they’re a minority) have already forced Rideau Trail reroutes off private property. However, portions of it do permit bicycles. For example, sections along public roads, the Trans-Canada Trail, the Cataraqui Trail, the K&P Trail and the Ottawa River Pathway are suitable areas.

Having said that, many bike routes between Kingston and Ottawa are about 200km long and make for a fun and challenging one, two, or multi-day trip. If you’re spending the night, we suggest camping at a Kilmarnock Lockstation on the Rideau Canal just outside Smiths Falls. Most Rideau Canal lockstations offer camping to cyclists at affordable prices. Plus you can tell your friends that you spent the night at a UNESCO World Heritage Site! For more ideas on where to sleep, check out our page about overnight accomodations. Also, if you’ve ridden your bike from Kingston to Ottawa, we’d love to know what route you took! Let us know in the comments!

A proposed route from Kingston to Smiths Falls

If you want a trail route from Kingston to Smiths Falls, we suggest the K&P Trail from Kingston to the Cataraqui Trail between Harrowsmith and Sydenham. From there, take the Cataraqui Trail to Smiths Falls. These are easy and scenic rail trails that share a bit of a path with the Rideau Trail. Sydenham and Smiths Falls have grocery stores where you can resupply on food & water.

From Smiths Falls to Ottawa…the tricky part for trail riders

The tricky part is finding a suitable off-road trail-route between Smiths Falls & Ottawa. There are a few options but it’s a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure situation where roads are unavoidable. Here are a few options:

Marlborough Forest Route (knobby tires suggested!): Follow Highway 43 from Smiths Falls to Merrickville & County Road 23 (which the Rideau Trail uses), past Nicholsons Lockstation towards Burritts Rapids. From there, head north through the rough and oft-flooded fire roads through the Marlborough Forest to Kettles Road. Next, head north up Munster Road, Lucas Lane and Jinkinson Road to connect with the Trans-Canada Trail. Once you reach Kanata and Bells Corners, there are several roads and trails that will connect you with the Ottawa River Pathway!

Kemptville-Osgoode Route: Another option is to follow Highway 43 from Smiths Falls to Merrickville & County Road 23 (which the Rideau Trail uses), past Nicholsons Lockstation towards Burritts Rapids. From there, head down to Kemptville and back up to Osgoode where you will connect with the Osgoode Link Pathway, which travels all the way to the Ottawa Airport. Next, take Albion Road to reach the Sawmill Creek Pathway which leads you to Hogs Back Road where you can follow the Rideau Canal Pathway all the way downtown!

Carleton Place-TC Trail Route: Finally, the Trans-Canada Trail travels 31km from Carleton Place all the way to Bells Corners. The tricky part is the 26km stretch on Highway 15 between Smiths Falls and Carleton Place. On the TC Trail, once you reach Kanata and Bells Corners, there are several roads and trails that will connect you with the Ottawa River Pathway!

Want more? One of our members wrote a blog post last year about a similar bike trip. Check it out at xovelo.com. For road riders, the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour offers several route options as well as a popular annual ride. The Rideau Heritage Route Tourism association also offers a few options.

Have you biked from Kingston to Ottawa? What route did you take? Let us know in the comments!

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