The Motherlode

A epic challenge route designed for intermediate to advanced gravel riders. A variety of terrain ranging from gravel roads to gnarly unmaintained roads, single track and quiet country roads.

This is an adventure route that requires appropriate fitness, preparation and skill.
Total actual elevation is closer to 4000m rather than the lower value estimated by RWGPS.
Pack appropriate food, electrolytes, clothing layers, an extra pair of socks, 1 front & 2 back lights, a small power pack, tire patch, spare tube, levers, quick link, mini first aid and a paper shop towel ( More on that later), and possibly a tiny bathing suit etc. Expect lot’s of climbs and come prepared for a challenge.

The route is R rated for “Rad” but it’s about having fun along the way.

  • Unmaintained roads
  • Singletrack
  • Quiet country roads
  • Mono Cliffs
  • Doubletrack
  • Castle Glen ruins
  • Blue Mountains
  • 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 40mm 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.
  • Other Bikes: There have been riders who have also completed large portions of the route on big plus size tire set-ups, but in many cases this is overkill.
  • 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.
  • The route starts in Mono Centre and passes through Mono Cliffs and works Northbound. The upper path is a bit technical so you’ll have an idea of what to expect later on. There’s a fantastic vista at the top of the road around 25km but it is easily missed as it’s just a short hike off the route so I recommend reviewing the route before riding. There’s a slight detour to a natural spring before Terra Nova and then a steady but long gravel climb up 2nd Line East, gaining a touch less than 200m of elevation.
  • It’s a brave new world after Terra Nova as you’ll venture onto a wide double track that can be a bit soft from ATVs and rivulets that drain across the trail. Nothing extreme and usually easier to ride along the edges but there’s a pleasant surprise towards the end, that’s worth the shenanigans.
  • Onwards and you’ll go past across Devils Glen after a technical climb, but then there’s a fun bit of single track. Do NOT take the black diamond hiking trail and to the right.  It’s been ridden and unless you want to ride a steep muddy decent with numerous risky hairpin turns take my word for it. The route was established with thorough exploration and a lot of time went into exploring better connections. Follow the RWGPS route and it’ll take you up and out towards Singhampton at 66km which is an opportune stop to refuel or get a second breakfast.
  • Heading northbound the route passes past Pretty River Provincial Park before turning left and going up The Blue Mountain Clearview Townline which will indicate no exit. Round the corner to the top and if you’re with your friends who ever gets to the top first will have a wicked photo op with Georgian Bay as a backdrop. Keep on going down and there’s a fun water crossing! Go barefoot! It’s not too deep and there are little rivulets on the other side to rinse off, and that paper shop towel will be nice to wipe everything down. Don’t try and ride across unless it’s the heat of Summer and the levels are really low. Just in case, the route will guide you via a side detour along a noticeable side trail for those who don’t like water but I encourage riders to embrace this as an adventure and cross the water.
  • There’s some technical climbing before a kinky but fast gravel descent. A short stint on Grey Road 19 will take you to Castle Glen. There are clear ‘No Trespassing’ signs, but locals hike there freely with the understanding that the signs are there to protect the landowners from liability. The path will bring you to a lake and a Castle Ruin. Depending on your timeline and the weather this would be a great spot for a swim, but if you don’t go here, there’ll be another opportunity farther down. The double track leading out of Castle Glen is a gorgeous Beech Forest, and part of the reason for routing through there.
  • You’re almost at the northern most point, where you’ll be sharing terrain with the BT700 route as you reach the top of Blue Mountain. Grab a selfie on one of the Muskoka Chairs and look for the rocky trail that rides on a dolmite ridge trail parallel to the road. A bit farther and it’s time to start your return south.
  • An asphalt road on 6th line will swoop through a valley and by continuing on to what looks to be a driveway you’ll come to an open field and a trail. This connects you to a short section of the Bruce Trail. Please be respectful and walk this short section, both to respect Bruce Trail regulations that discourage cycling but also because there are some steep twisty sections. You’ll climb back out and it’s a short jaunt to lunch at the Ravena Country Store at 112km. Their sandwiches are fantastic and you’ll have burnt a few thousand calories by now. I highly recommend the elixirs watered down if you want something refreshing!
  • After lunch, the route mellows a bit with easier rolling terrain that will bring you past the cliffs at Metcalf Rock.
    Further along at 130km you’ll be at the top of the escarpment at Old Baldy.  The descent of 7B is notoriously steep and somewhat loose with some sharp turns thrown in. Check your speed! This is one of those places you’ll want at least 40C tires, as well as on many of the technical climbs/descents. At the bottom there’s a nice view but there’s also a potential swimming hole in the river just before climbing out.
  • 7A, or the Talisman climb is arguably the hardest climb of the day, gaining about 200m but steeper than 2nd Line or Bluemountain Clearview Townline. If there’s one KOM that would be worth taking this is it! At the top, you’ll get to spin along a road to recover and then head down into the Beaver Valley which brings you to Flesherton. I highly recommend the Bicycle Cafe.  Another great sandwich spot but a good staging point in any case.
  • Heading East, there are gentler gravel roads where a 2X drivetrain is advantageous, especially if you are blessed with the predominant tail wind. The route will pass the Walker Duntroon Quarry, the source for much of the local gravel you’ve been riding on before turning south towards Glen Huron. There are BTs and drinks at Giffen’s Country Market, but it’s not too far to Creemore where you’ll have a grocery store, and possibly the bakery depending on your arrival time.
  • Out of Creemore, you’ll be climbing gravel for a solid stretch, but what goes up is thrilling to descend. That’ll take you to County Road 21 that brings you back towards Terra Nova. Another sweet as descent, and then a classic climb up Prince of Wales. There are two burger joints if you want to get dinner at the top of the hill, but otherwise it’s just 15km to the finish.
  • The route could be longer, or harder, but that is reaching past the point of what’s doable by some in a day and delving into full on BT700 territory.
  • The area is easily accessible to the GTA, and could be divided into more than a single days ride by camping along route.
  • Routing past quality food stops is deliberate to facilitate refuelling, support local stores and recognizing that some folks may wish to break the route into shorter loops. If you choose to break the route into shorter loops then may I suggest keeping the route direction.
  • I’d like to thank Wayne Burnknopf who introduced me to Mono and beyond including many of the gems which inspired me to create this route. I’d also like to thank Matt Kadey or BT 700 Bikepacking for graciously hosting this route along with others that have created outstanding opportunities for bike packing & epic rides.

  • Bon Adventure!
  • 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. 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 various towns along the way, allowing for easy access to resources.
This route was created by:

Thiago Varella-Cid.

You may also like these other routes.

Almonte Gravel Express


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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