Log Driver's Waltz

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.)

  • Small historical towns
  • Lanark Highlands
  • North Frontenac Parklands
  • Hydro dams
  • Mont Ste. Marie
  • Gatineau Park
  • Ottawa Valley
  • Parliament Building
  • Rail trail
  • Remote sections: The section between Sharbot Lake and Calabogie is very remote and does not offer much in the way of resupply. Best to stock up on food and snacks ahead of time. After leaving the PPJ at around the 400km mark, the next 50km are quite tough and will take you much longer than expected. You should make sure to re-supply ahead of time for this part of the route.
  • Gatineau Park: The Gatineau Park is one of the highlights of this route. However, it won’t go as fast as you may expect, so take you time and enjoy it.
  • Sun Protection: The summer sun in the highlands can be very strong. May sure to properly protect yourself with sunscreen, arm sleeves, and something to cover your neck.
  • Bugs: Mosquitos are an ever-present reality in Ontario and Quebec. The months of May and June will be the worst, so prepare accordingly and get a mosquito net for your head and carry lots of insect repellant.
  • Autumn bikepacking: If bikepacking in the autumn, be sure to wear reflective colours so hunters can see you and have a bell on your bike so bears can hear you.
Having raced and set an FKT on the Log Driver’s Waltz, I can provide some good information regarding bike selection.
  • Mountain Bike: For more comfort on the LDW, I recommend using a bike that can take tires in the 2″ or larger range. This is typically a mountain bike, but can also be a gravel bike with very large tire clearances.
  • Gravel Bike: If using a gravel bike, I recommend using the largest tires your bike can accommodate. I set my FKT on 45mm tires and the current FKT was done on 38mm tires. However, this will beat up your body pretty good. If riding the loop at a more leisurely pace, it can be done on a gravel bike relatively comfortably by giving yourself lots of time to recover each day.
  • 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. I also recommend you have a wide range of gear selection. My setup made it extremely difficult to tackle some of the climbs.

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.

  • The route starts with you right in the old town centre of Almonte and the first thing you do is cross the beautiful Mississippi River. Heading out of town you take an unmaintained service road which will really get you in good spirits for what is to come.
  • Heading into the Lanark Highlands, you will be crushing lots of gravel and getting some good elevation into your legs as you slowly make your way to higher elevations. A lot of this section is a blur, as I was pretty exhausted by this point and it was the middle of the night.
  • As you get closer to Sharbot Lake you the route takes you through the Bathurst and Kingston Line, challenging, rocky sections of the route that are probably much more fun when you aren’t 36 hours without sleeping.
  • Sharbot Lake to Calabogie is a tough section without much resupply. You don’t spend much time on the K&P trail before leaving it for some cottage country exploration. Leaving Dalhousie Lake you will do so much climbing you will begin to curse the route creators. Reaching Robertson Lake you’ll be starting to wonder how you can possibly still be going uphill.
  • The climb up Arcol Road goes on and on and on. When you eventually get to the top, that’s when the roughest and most challenging 20km of trails you will experience start. At least that was my experience. I was running low on water, and had hardly eaten all day …. due to poor planning.
  • Re-fuel in Calabogie and enjoy the fast gravel and trails all the way to the Chenaux Dam, where you will cross into Quebec. Nice gravel roads then take you all the way to Shawville, where you will then get on the PPJ rail trail for 30km.
  • Leaving the rail trail, you will take some challenging unmaintained gravel roads as you make your way towards Ladysmith and then Danford Lake. These roads are rough and will challenge you physically.
  • Danford Lake has a small general store where you can resupply before hitting the road. 15km later you will reach Venosta and the Veloroute des Draveurs, a rail trail that will take you all the way to Gracefield, the furthest north you will go on the route.
  • Leaving Gracefield, you ride some nice gravel roads and pavement all the way to Mont Ste. Marie. Reaching Lac-du-Brochet, you will have a really tough climb after the road turns right. It’s a 1km long climb that is between 13-16% incline. Making your way to the Paugan Dam, the highest and largest dam on the Gatineau River, you will have one more big climb. After the dam you will ride back country roads, criss-crossing the Gatineau River, ending with the old wooden bridge taking you into Wakefield.
  • Leaving Wakefield you are about the enter the Gatineau Park, riding a myriad of single and doubletrack all the way to the Ottawa River where you will cross back into Ontario, passing near the Parliament and cruising along the Rideau Canada before leaving the city and making your way along city paths and trails until you get onto the old rail trail in Bells Corners which will take you all the way to Carleton Place.
  • Putting Carleton Place behind you, you are a stone’s throw from where it all started, and thus the end of your journey.

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.

  • Campgrounds: Check the POI’s for camping locations and use your diligence to look over the maps beforehand.
  • Cabins/Glamping: Gatineau Park has several locations where you can rent beds in a cabin, yurt, etc. They book out early in the season, so it is recommended to book early.
  • Wild camping: When wild camping, do your best to leave no trace. Find a quiet spot near a lake, in a field, etc. if wild camping in Ontario, Canadian residents are allowed to use Crown Land for camping, so be sure to look at maps and identify good locations. Quebec is not like Ontario, and maps do not indicate what is Crown Land. My suggestion is that if you are wild camping in Quebec, it is best to be stealthy.
  • Fresh water everywhere: This part of Ontario and Quebec is synonymous with the word water. The region is quite literally covered in lakes and rivers. These are all great locations to fill up water bottles. Be sure to always use a water filter or purification tablets to avoid getting sick. There are also water taps near the areas with camping where you can fill up. Remember. You can always stop at someone’s house in an emergency situation and ask them to fill your bottles.
  • Spring water: There are spring water taps in both Wakefield and Gracefield that run 24/7. Both springs are within 5 min of the route.
  • Restaurants/Cafes/Bars: The majority of the route takes you through small idyllic town where it is easy to get a nice meal to recharge the body. You can also get snacks from corner stores (depanneurs in French) and gas stations. Be sure to look closely at the map before riding the route as there are some sections (which I referred to in the Top Tips tab) where resupply will not be possible.

Average Physical Difficulty – 6

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.

Average Technical Difficulty 5

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.

This route was created by:

Eric Betteridge and Jen Adams of The Log Driver's Waltz

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