This 206 km route starts just west of Ottawa, in Almonte, and makes a big clockwise loop into Lanark Highlands, passing through Blakeney, Clayton, Hopetown, Lavant, Lavant Station, Calabogie, and White Lake. It encircles 1026 square kilometers of rugged terrain on roads that vary from twisty pavement and gravel, to roller-coaster fire roads and rocky bush trails. The rough dirt sections are near the start and middle of the route. At the end of the route, when you're more likely to be tired, you're mostly on good paved or gravel roads. Options abound to add more technical challenge along the way. Count on about 4-5 hours to do the basic route; way-finding will slow you down. Robertson Lake on South Lavant Road is a good place to stop for a picnic, swim or washroom break.
You can ride this on pretty much any DS bike and 50/50 tire. My current setup is a WR250R with Heidenau Scouts front and rear. Although knobbies would be preferable in the dirt and mud, you'll appreciate not having them for the longer stretches of gravel and pavement. I've tried to mix up the riding to keep things interesting! Bigger bikes (>650cc) and bikes with cast wheels may struggle a bit in the short muddy and rocky sections, but if you take it easy and don't mind getting a little dirty, you should get through everything without a hitch.
1. You need to be self-sufficient for repairs. While it's rare that I don't see people along the route (even in the bush sections), if you break down and can't fix it yourself, it could be a while before someone picks you up. You may face a long walk or the need to camp out. I bring essentials like a light tarp, food, headlamp, spare tubes, tire repair tools, saw, fire starter, rope, and an extra wool shirt. Cell phone coverage seems to be pretty good along the route, but don't count on it.
2. The back (western-most) section runs through Crown land which appears to require a road permit for access. Finding trail passes at local retailers is a total crap shoot. Every year I ask around at ATV dealers, hook-and-bullet stores, etc.--and all I get is baffled looks or stories of disorganization at the trail associations. Your best bet is to order a permit from TheTrail.ca. An annual pass costs $150 and is the best deal among the options. While fees are no fun, as a trail builder myself I know the volunteer effort and cost that goes into obtaining and maintaining trail access, so I don't grumble about paying to enjoy this remarkable bounty of riding goodness. Nevertheless, in several years of trail riding I've never once been asked to show my pass.
Finding your way
Download the GPX here and follow it closely. There are many confusing intersections and side trails. One tricky area in particular is the first bush track section (about 4.5 km long) off the 6th concession from Middleville to Bow Lake Road. Don't be fooled by taking a side trail that seems better traveled. The correct route looks sketchy in a few places but is actually fine to ride. The details below should help.
Middleville to Bow Lake Road
From the Middleville Museum (well worth a visit if you have time), continue down the 6th concession until it turns into a dirt track.
At the first big intersection (note the yellow sign), keep left:
After following a good track for a while, you come to the second main intersection.
Again, keep left (the less-travelled trail):
At the third main intersection (note the yellow sign), take the rough-looking trail leading straight ahead:
This next section of trail presents exposed rock sections and sand. It's also quite pretty, passing through pine stands and some roller-coaster sections. Eventually you reach the fourth main intersection, a sandy turn. Go right:
From here stay on the main, obvious trail which is well travelled but rough in several places. Watch for fallen branches and other debris. There's one main mud hole which, depending on recent rain, could be full of water. It's not very deep (less than hub depth) and if you keep some speed and paddle with your feet you'll get through just fine. Shortly after the mud hole you'll pass through some steep loose sections and a few more puddles, then pop out onto Bow Lake Road (gravel). This bush section is the muddiest of the entire route.
Most of the side trails along here end at lakes or the Clyde River, so if you take a wrong turn, it becomes obvious pretty soon.
There are many options to cut the route short and head back to civilization. In particular, Wolf Grove Rd through Middleville, Highway 511, Burnstown Rd, and White Lake Road are main exits. All of these are great rides by themselves. One of the hidden riding gems is County Rd. 16 (Lavant Rd) from Hopetown out through Lavant Station.
While I've made a reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy of this ride information, it's only a suggested route and I cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions, changes in route conditions that may affect your ride, or consequences of using this information. Plan accordingly, ride with a buddy, and use common sense.