Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles is aptly named, as you blaze down rail trail for hundreds of kilometres. With very little overall elevation gain, and a ton of time spent on rail trails, this route will take you through the Lanark Highlands, Ottawa Valley, Gatineau Park and Outaouais regions. This route will take you on heritage railway beds that have been converted for multi-purpose use, into the centre of Ottawa, and through the Gatineau Park, a 360 sq. km Provincial Park, just steps from the nation’s capital.

  • Rail trail: Lots and lots of rail trail. K&P trail, Cataraqui rail trail, Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail (OVRT), Trans-Canada Trail, and PPJ rail trail.
  • Gatineau Park: This route will take you up to the highest lookouts in the Gatineau Park on some awesome paved roads. Heading down to Meech Lake Rd past Camp Fortune Ski Resort, you will have an amazing epic descent. From there it’s a mix of single-track and double-track until you reach Sainte-Cécille de Masham.
  • Ottawa: Ride through downtown Ottawa as you make your way to the river to cross into Quebec and the Gatineau Park.
  • Rail trail is notorious on the legs, as you never have much time to rest.
  • The K&P can be pretty rough in sections. Watch for ATVs
  • Resupply in Calabogie before continuing south, or in Sharbot Lake if heading north.
  • Carry lots of water if riding in July/August. It gets extremely humid and hot on the trail.
  • The paved road climbs in the Gatineau Park will challenge your legs, but lead to amazing views.
  • Trail 36 that goes along Meech Lake is pretty rough, especially on a gravel bike, but it’s just about the only really challenging piece of trail.
  • Mountain Bike: For mountain bikes, anything over 2.5-inch tires will be overkill and full-suspension is not required. A mountain/gravel hybrid like a Salsa Cutthroat/Fargo would also be a great choice for this route.
  • Gravel Bike: If using a gravel/cross bike with 700 wheels, you’ll find the route easier to navigate with fatter tires, say a width of 38mm or larger. You should also have some experience riding trails with this type of bike, or you may find yourself walking more than you like. Aside from trail 36, the majority of this route can easily be done on a gravel bike.
  • Setup: Run tubeless if possible. You can use bikepacking style bags or old-fashioned panniers. A lighter set-up allows of easier riding, especially in the hillier sections.
  • Hotels: Pretty much all the towns along the way have accommodation that can be had.
  • Campgrounds: Reid’s Lake Campground, Calabogie Lakeside Camping, Riverbend Park, Lac Phillippe
  • Glamping: Gatineau Park has many huts and yurts that can be rented. Be sure to rent early in the year as they do book up pretty quickly.
  • Wild camping: There are a few places along the route for crown land camping. Gatineau Park also has tons of places where you could disappear for a night. Practice leave no trace!
  • Fresh water everywhere: Ontario has an abundance of lakes, rivers and streams so there should be no issue finding a water source to filter or purify. On top of that, Ontarians are extremely friendly and a knock on a door will go a long ways to getting you sorted out. The camp areas in the Gatineau Park have water spigots where you can fill up.
  • Restaurants/Cafes/Bars: The majority of the route has ample access to quality food options. However, the 100km section from Calabogie to Sharbot Lake is pretty sparse and lacks food options, as well as the time spent in Gatineau park.

Average Physical Difficulty – 3

Blazing Saddles is a route that follows a series of old rail trails that have been covered over for public use, both in Ontario and Quebec. Each of these have a different level of quality, ranging from difficulty level 1 to difficulty 4. It never really gets overly difficult, except for the need to continuously pedal and almost never being able to coast. The Gatineau Park has lots of climbing, but the majority of it is on paved road, which will definitely help you. There is also a section of trail in the park that is challenging if on anything less than a mountain bike, and will tire your shoulders and back.

Average Technical Difficulty – 3

Aside from a bit of climbing near Calabogie ski resort and the paved climbing in the Gatineau Park, the majority of the route follows relatively flat rail trail with little technical difficulty. Some parts of the trail permit ATV access and thus result in a trail that is more chewed up, but for the most part the trail is quite enjoyable to ride. Only one section of single-track (Trail 34) requires some technical skills, but those bits are short and could be walked if you are not comfortable. The remainder is mostly double-track.

This route was created by:

Tiago Varella-Cid

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