Location: Griffith, Greater Madawaska, Ontario
Estimated Gravel Time: 95%
Full Route Map:
Distance: 68.5m (42.6 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 38mm or greater
Amenities: Several Crown Land campsite options; the village of Griffith has a general store, LCBO, diner, pub and public toilet facilities available.
Parking: Several options including ATV parking at the entrance of Two Islands Lake Road off of Highway 41; ATV parking at the entrance of Doorley Creek Rd off of Highway 41; and the rest stop on Hyland Creek Road in the village of Griffith (no overnight parking).
This loop is based primarily on the Griffith Highlands ATV loop developed by the Renfrew County ATV Club, but it has been tweaked slightly to avoid any overgrown or waterlogged section, making it accessible to gravel bikes with 38mm tires or wider. Most of the route consists of single lane forest access roads with little to no traffic. It can be ridden in a single day, or as a mellow bikepacking trip over the course of two days. The suggested starting point for this ride is the entrance of Two Island Lake Rd off of Ontario Highway 41, where there is (overnight) ATVer parking available.
From there, ride counterclockwise to get most of the route’s significant climbs out of the way right at the beginning.
For anyone interested in a mellow overnighter, the first crown land campsite (with a thunder box!) can be found on the shores of Two Islands Lake, after a short decent off route on an ATV trail (bring a pump filter for the shallow lake). After that, riders have a couple more climbs to contend with before gradually descending approximately 7km to the next Crown Land campsite on Little Green Lake (slightly off route, no facilities).
From there, riders continue all the way to the Madawaska River, descending for the most part, with the exception of a slight detour on some sandy and hilly doubletrack over the course of a couple of kilometers before reaching the river. Once you reach the Madawaska, make a left onto Hyland Creek Rd (two lane gravel road) and enter Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park. There is a first-come-first-served campsite here, which gets full on weekends. However, at the shores of the Madawaska, there is an opportunity to follow a faint trail east to a lovely and secluded campsite. As it is only accessible by foot or my boat, it is more likely to be available.
Upon exiting the park, riders reach the village of Griffith, the approximate halfway point of the loop. The village includes various facilities (breakfast/lunch restaurant, pub, general store, and a rest area with parking and toilet facilities). Upon exiting Griffith on Church Street, head south onto Flying Club Road, along the shores of the Madawaska for a couple of kilometers. Here, the elevation kicks up again as riders away from the river and eventually turn off of Flying Club Road to Handford Lane.
The opportunities to camp on the southern half of the loop are not as ample as the previous section. However, there is a large and pretty site on the south-eastern shores of Poplar Lake just off the main route. Otherwise, the route continues past some small clear-cuts, gravel operations, and punchy ups and downs before hitting Doorley Creek Rd and descending, for the most part, to Highway 41. A short 1km stretch on pavement (no paved shoulder) leads riders back to the start.