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Cycle and Hike: Ontario’s Best Rail Trails
Experience an explosion of autumn colour in Southern Ontario this fall on foot or two-wheels. With their expansive lengths and wide, even-grades decommissioned railway lines converted to trails are perfect for cyclists and hikers of all ages and abilities. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city they offer a combination of challenging and tranquil escapes. Wander through forest and field or speed through gently rolling hills and valley. Three top recommended Ontario rail trails suitable for both families and the long-distance rider are: the Caledon Trailway, the Hamilton to Brantford Rail-Trail and the Elora Cataract Trailway.
The Caledon Trailway
Featured by the Ontario Trails Council (www.ontariotrails.on.ca) and Hike Ontario (www.hikeontario.com) the Caledon Trailway is 35 km long with trailheads at Terra Cotta and Highway 9, just north of Palgrave. Maps are also available on the town of Caledon’s website (www.town.caledon.on.ca), at local businesses in Caledon and at the town office.
The peaceful, scenic, packed gravel trail follows the route of the Hamilton and Northern Railway, built in the 1870s. Access and parking are available in Terra Cotta, Cheltenham, Inglewood, Caledon East and Palgrave.
The trail is bordered by farm fields and woodlots over rolling countryside. It crosses a deep valley of the Humber River west of Palgrave, the Credit River in Inglewood, and smaller creeks at other locations.
The Hamilton to Brantford Rail–Trail
Drawing both cyclists and hikers and considered one of the best trails in southern Ontario for its long, stone dust trail and scenic views the Hamilton to Brantford Rail-Trail is 32 km in length. Built on the abandoned railbed of the former Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway, this entirely off-road trail is made up of two connecting trails, the West Hamilton – Jerseyville Trail maintained by Hamilton Region Conservation Authority and the Jerseyville – Brantford trail maintained by the Grand River Conservation Authority. View a map on-line at: www.grandriver.ca. The West Hamilton – Jerseyville trailhead and parking area starts on the west side of Hamilton, near McMaster University at the corner of Main St. and Ewen Rd. The trail passes through Dundas Valley Conservation Area and travels through Jerseyville to Brantford. The Brantford end of the trail crosses under Highway 403 into Brantford, and connects with Brantford’s Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway through the city.
The Brantford Jaycee’s trailhead and parking area is located on the eastern edge of Brantford, just south of Mohawk Lake on Mohawk Road. The Glaves trail in turn connects with the SC Johnson Trail from Brantford to Paris which then connects with the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail.
For those seeking serious distance, links to Paris and Cambridge extend the trail to 80 km.
The Elora-Catarct Trailway
See Lake Belwood and the picturesque Grand River Valley on the Elora–Cataract Trailway a 47 km trail linking the Credit Valley Watershed to the Grand River Watershed and communities along the way. The Elora Cataract Trailway was originally the route of the Credit Valley Railway constructed in 1879. The Trailway is three meters wide with a stone screened surface which is great for walking with strollers, wheelchairs or cycling.
Trailheads are in Elora on Gerrie Road and in Cataract on Cataract Road at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. Parking lot locations are in Fergus, Belwood, Erin, Orton and Hillsburgh. View a map at: www.trailway.org.
The Elora Cataract Trailway is owned by the Credit Valley and Grand River ConservationAuthorities and is managed by them in cooperation with the Elora Cataract Trailway Association. The trail passes through a glaciated landscape with forest and through farm fields.
Charleen Wyman, BA Journalism and Communications is an outdoor fitness enthusiast and publisher of Healthy Directions magazine.