Going Back to Cali (72km)
Updated: Oct 14
Location: Clayton, Lanark and Renfrew Counties, Ontario
Distance: 72.2km (44.8 miles), with the option of reducing the overall length to approximately 55km (34.2 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 35mm or wider
Amenities: The starting point in the hamlet of Clayton includes access to a General Store. Otherwise there are no other amenities on route.
Estimated gravel time: 75%
This 72.2km loop (with a 55km option) offers riders one of the easiest ways to access the legendary California Rd., one of the Ottawa area’s premier sections of unmaintained.
Starting clockwise from Clayton, the route exits the hamlet south-east via Tatlock Rd. However, those looking to shorten the route by approximately 20km or so are encouraged to head west on Tatlock Rd. to Darling Rd. While the optional route from Clayton to Darling Rd is fully paved and can see some high-speed traffic, it is typically not all that busy.
Those continuing on the 72.2km version of the route will follow Tatlock Rd south, eventually making a right onto Bowland Rd. and a brief stretch of gravel. Shortly thereafter, the route returns to pavement as it makes a right onto Wolfe Grove Rd., staying on the wide paved shoulder for just over 3.5km, before eventually returning to gravel via Rosetta Rd.
Riders continue on gravel to 8th Concession B., where riders will have a choice. Make a right here and continue on maintained gravel to Wolf Grove Rd. which rejoins the main route at Darling Rd. Or continue on Rosetta Rd. to a saucy bit of unmaintained that features several more advanced technical sections as it heads north to Darling Rd.
More than just a way to access California Rd., Darling Rd. is a special section of the route in its own right, as it includes a wonderful mix of twisty tree-lined dirt and exposed farmland. But be sure to pack your climbing legs, as this portion of the loop includes a mix of extended ascents and steep, punchy hills.
Continuing on Darling Rd. for approximately 16km, riders eventually reach the route’s namesake, California Rd. By choosing to ride the route clockwise, riders will be treated to a rollercoaster descent for the next seven kilometres, definitely the best way to ride this renowned stretch of unmaintained dirt. In the meantime, pay attention to the various ATV trails and hydro line cuts that dot this section of the route, as they provide access to several potential campsites.
Eventually the fun must end as riders return to pavement via Snye Rd., followed by a right onto Peneshula Rd., as the route continues north-east on hilly asphalt for approximately 3km. Eventually, riders make a right on Bellamy Rd., returning to gravel for an extended period.
The road then transitions back to car-free pavement, before returning to dirt upon reaching Concession 6 and Sugar Bush Rd. Shortly thereafter, the route makes a right onto Bellamy Mills Rd., following this tree-lined gem for just over 7km all the way back to the starting point in Clayton.