The Log Driver’s Waltz is an 800-kilometer bikepacking loop consisting of about 75 percent unpaved riding surfaces that follows a mix of rural tree-lined gravel roads, rustic unmaintained roads, sections of rail trail, riverside roads, single lane paths and forested trails in the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais regions of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.
The route showcases the world class off-pavement riding that is a hallmark of the Lanark Highlands, home to rocky outcrops, split rail fences, maple sugar shacks and woodlots. In the North Frontenac Highlands riders will ride through towering white and red pines which once dominated the entire Ottawa Valley. It was the cutting and floating of these tree species down the tributaries of the Ottawa River, the “log drives” and the men that worked them that gave the route its name. In this rugged section of the route, climbs and descents tend to be short and steep so low gears are a must.
Descending from the highlands and into the Ottawa Valley proper the route showcases the prosperous mixed farming on both shores of the Ottawa River. Here riders will experience a mixture of more gentle hills, flat, winding, and straight country roads. It is not long before the climbing away from the Ottawa River and into Pontiac and La Peche begins as the route swings east. Meeting the Gatineau River valley, it then turns north on the appropriately named rail trail, Véloroute des Draveurs (“log drivers’ bike route”) and crosses the Gatineau at Gracefield, the northernmost town on the route. The climbing continues off and on the southbound leg and the route soon passes over the two highest points which are tied in elevation but not degree of difficulty. Several more crossings of the river later riders do a final climb away from the river and enter the Gatineau Park. The trails of the 361-square kilometre Gatineau Park, an area dominated by green hills, lakes and vistas from the Eardley escarpment are a unique experience due in part to the absence of motorized traffic of any sort. The terrain here is varied and there are some demanding uphills, including a section of hike-a-bike, and exhilarating double track downhills.
Popping out of the park at the Ottawa River across from Parliament Hill the vista is truly spectacular. As the nation’s capital Ottawa boasts a wide array of cultural and historic sites and opportunities for bikepackers to explore. Restaurants, accommodation, coffee shops and brewpubs abound so consider an overnight or a “zero” to take full advantage. Following the Rideau Canal and passing through the Experimental Farm the route avoids roads by utilizing some of the impressive network of multiple use pathways that please both visitors and locals alike.
Touching the Ottawa River once again at Britannia the LDW follows an abandoned tramway and railbed before cutting through the National Capital Commission Greenbelt on a series of gravel and dirt paths. From the outskirts of Ottawa to Carleton Place riders follow a relaxing portion of the Trans Canada Trail. Just after Carleton Place riders will experience their final taste of gravel and unmaintained roads and the famous “Old Perth Road” before the final descent into Almonte and the finish of their ride.
(From www.logdriverswaltz.ca . Used with permission.)
Eric Betteridge and Jen Adams of The Log Driver's Waltz
I rode this route starting in Venosta rather than in Almonte. I will write my notes in the order they would appear on the official route, so that they are organized in the manner most people will ride the route.
This route goes through some of the best parts of the Ottawa Valley, Lanark Highlands, North Frontenac Parklands, Outaouais region of Quebec and the Gatineau Park. Passing through many small towns there are ample opportunities to find a hotel for the night.
The Log Driver’s Waltz, although 800km long, is for the most part a route with roads that can be considered a difficulty of 5-6. Although some of the more difficult parts of the route are quite rugged and will have a greater toll on your body, the majority of it is rolling terrain, such as back country roads and rail trail. However, I have given it a difficulty of 5, as some of the singletrack in the Gatineau Park is quite challenging, as well as some of the gravel road climbs. There are definite sections of the route that fit into the 7-8 difficulty category, most of which are decommissioned roads and unmaintained roads, such as the Bathurst and Kingston Line, the 4×4 “roads” heading into Calabogie and the rough roads heading up towards Danford Lake.
The Log Driver’s Walts is a long bikepacking route that does not have so much technical riding sections that someone newer to bikepacking should not take on the challenge. The majority of the route is on gravel roads with occasional obstacles and steep sections. There are some wonderful sections of 1-2 rail trail and canal path to give you a chance to relax and enjoy the moment. There are also quite a few sections of rougher road and trail that is loose, rocky and steep, but the route is predominantly manageable roads that occasionally throw something tough at you.
Adrian Grant of www.ridegravel.ca