Great Southwest

This route connects the flatlands of Chatham-Kent and Lambton, the rolling hills of Oxford and Perth with many of Elgin and Middlesex’s best roads. Although the mapped route starts in Ingersoll it could be started in St Thomas, St Marys or any of the other smaller towns and villages that dot the route.  Although the route takes you to from Lake Huron to the Erie shore many of the real gems can be found in the quiet valley roads of the Thames, Ausable and Sydenham Rivers or the creeks along the Erie Shore.

  • Great lakes: This route will take you to both Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
  • Quiet valley roads: You will see many amazing sights along the quiet valley roads of the Thames, Ausable, and Sydenham Rivers.
  • Flat riding: This route is relatively flat, not taking the rider onto the escarpment or into the Canadian Shield.
  • Winter: The route can be ridden at any time of the year. Frozen gravel roads are generally passable even in January and February in this area.  
  • Spring: Spring tends to see gravel roads re-graded so late summer to mid-fall is probably the best time to enjoy the route.

Bike Choice:

This route can be handled by basically any gravel-bike.  A mountain-bike or even gravel tires over 45mm wide will feel like overkill outside about 10km (Sandytown Line and Somers Road) south of Tillsonburg.

  • The Route starts northwards through the headwaters of the Thames River in the rolling hills of northern Oxford County and into the quarry town of St Mary’s. The way into town crosses the converted rail bridge with panoramic views of the Thames Valley and the historic heart of St Mary’s.
  • The route continues across northern Middlesex County in the same vein with rolling farmland as it passes through the small river valleys of the Lake Huron basin down to the lake at Port Franks.
  • From here the route heads due south across open farmland until the Sydenham River Valley around Alvinston. The Sydenham River Valley provides some of the most spectacular and yet quiet roads in Southwestern Ontario.
  • Through Dresden and Wallaceburg to Lake St Clair at Mitchell’s Bay and back to Chatham through the polder-esque flatlands of Chatham-Kent the route meets Lake Erie for the first time at Port Glasgow.
  • The next 140km loops though the Thames Valley, and is best attempted fully loaded as any stop besides Wardsville constitutes a detour.  Wallacetown is a good place to get a chocolate milk and a muffin as the route returns to more populated roads on the way to Port Stanley and then to the elevated bridge in St Thomas.
  • Heading east the route takes in more of the lovely Elgin creeks and the lakeside villages of Port Bruce and Port Burwell both home to Provincial parks and ice cream stops.
  • North towards Tillsonburg the route the very accurately named Sandytown line on the way to the rail trail through town and out to Otterville.  The Park in Otterville, straight past the general store and over the bridge, is the perfect spot for a shady stop.
  • The final legs winds its way through Southern Oxford County farmland with rolling hills dotted by woodlots. If you time it right (not on Sunday) there are mennonite baked goods in the last 50km before Ingersoll. This might seem a long description but there are many more gems that you’ll just have to ride to see
  • Campgrounds: Check the POI’s for camping locations and use your diligence to look over the maps beforehand.
  • Lodging: Southern Ontario is full of towns and cities where one could find accommodation
  • Wild camping: When wild camping, do your best to leave no trace. Find a quiet spot near a lake, in a field, etc. You can use Crown land maps to identify suitable locations.
  • Fresh water: Southern Ontario does not have nearly as many lakes and rivers as further north, so there will definitely be stretches of trail where it may be hard to re-fill. Luckily, the route regularly passes by the rivers Grand and Nith, so there are definite opportunities to top up your bottles. Be sure to always use a water filter or purification tablets. It’s also best policy to make sure you use flowing water, as it is less likely to grown bacteria that will make you sick. You can also access fresh water at campsites, police stations, fire stations and most cemeteries.
  • Food: There is no shortage of places to stock up on food or to fill your belly. This route passes through or near many cities and town, allowing for easy access to resources.
This route was created by:

Leif Maitland of the London Centennial Wheelers Touring

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This route was created by:

Chris Panasky, host of the Bikepack Adventures Podcast.



This route was created by:

Matthew Kadey, curator of Bikepacking Ontario.

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