A&R Rail Loop (54km)
Location: Arnprior, Renfrew County, Ontario
Estimated Gravel Time: 99%
Distance: 53.7km (33.4 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 38mm
Amenities: Both Arnprior and Renfrew, located at either end of the loop, host a number of cafes, restaurants and shops. Several beaches also dot the shores of the Ottawa River along the northern edge of the loop.
Parking: Several parking options are available. For those starting from Arnprior, ample on-street parking is available along Alicia Street. Otherwise, off-street parking can be found at Dochart Park, just to the west of town. Starting from the western end of the loop? Off-street parking in Renfrew can be located at the Park ’n Ride north-east of town. Finally, looking for a post-ride swim? Start from the Red Pine Bay Park and Boat Launch on the shores of the Ottawa River.
Originally part of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the recently announced Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT) is envisioned as a 296km long multi-use trail that will eventually connect the towns of Smith Falls and Mattawa. Remaining almost exclusively on rail trails, the Arnprior and Renfrew (A&R) Rail Loop provides an opportunity to ride a portion of the recently completely Algonquin Trail, a pretty subsection of the OVRT along the shores of the Ottawa River.
Starting from the town of Arnprior, it is recommended that the loop be ridden clockwise via the McNab/Breaeside Recreational Trail. Doing so will ensure that the smoothest and most scenic portion of the route is enjoyed last, via a leisurely descent along the Algonquin Trail from Renfew to the Ottawa River. It should be noted that while not particularly rough, the McNab/Breaeside Recreational Trail is not nearly as manicured as the Algonquin Trail, and has yet to be fully converted to stone dust (as of May 2022). Hence the recommended 38mm minimum tire width.
After ascending slightly for 25km, enter the town of Renfrew via the Renfrew Millennium Trail. As this is the loop’s approximate halfway point, it’s the perfect spot for a quick rest, while also providing the opportunity to pick up a packed lunch to enjoy later on the shores of the Ottawa River.
Exit Renfrew by following the Algonquin Trail from Hall Ave. This portion is the loop’s unquestioned highlight, as riders descend gradually along this wide, smooth and winding trail for just over 15km to the Ottawa River. Bonus? As the prevailing wind will most certainly be at your back, these kilometres will simply fly by.
Upon reaching the river, head east and follow the southern banks for another 5km to the quaint Sandy Point Lighthouse. From here, continue east along the trail for a few more kilometres, while keeping your eyes peeled for one of several hidden beaches located slightly off-trail. Otherwise, the Braeside Public Beach can be accessed just 4km from the end of the loop.