Griffith Highlands Loop - Extended Edition (100km)
Updated: Feb 8
Location: Griffith, Greater Madawaska, Ontario
Estimated Gravel Time: 90%
Full Route Map:
Full Distance: 100km (62.1 miles)
Alternate Route (68.5km): The original Griffith Highlands Loop serves as a wonderful introduction to bikepacking for anyone new to the sport. A link to the description of the original version can be found HERE.
Suggested Tire Width: A minimum of 2.0 inches is recommended for tackling the ATV trails to the south of Quadville. Otherwise, the route can be ridden on 38mm tires or greater.
Amenities: The route includes several Crown Land campsite options. The hamlet of Quadville at the north-western tip of the loop has a general store (including an LCBO) as well as a seasonal burger and chip stand (cash only, open Friday to Sunday). The village of Griffith, approximately 25km from the end of the loop, has a general store, LCBO, diner, pub (open Thursday to Sunday) 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 at the end of Holmstead Rd. west of Griffith on the Madawaska River.
Full Route Description
This 30km extension of the Griffith Highlands Loop makes for a true weekend adventure and consists mainly of Crown Land accessed via single lane forest roads with little to no traffic. While it can be ridden in a single day, it’s best savoured as a mellow bikepacking trip over the course of two days.
Starting from the ATV parking lot on Two Island Lake Rd off Ontario Highway 41, ride counterclockwise to get a significant chunk of the route’s climbing out of the way right at the beginning.
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 via an ATV trail (bring a pump-style filter for the shallow and silty lake). After that, riders have a couple more climbs to contend with before gradually descending approximately 7km, and making a right on an unnamed forest access road.
Here, there are several Crown Land campsite options. The first can be found further south east of Two Islands Lake Rd. on the southern shores of Little Green Lake. This large site includes a thunder box but, as it is readily accessible, be prepared for this site to be taken. Several far more private sites can be found on the eastern shores of Canoe Lake. Access is via a rough and at times slightly overgrown ATV trail (which requires a knee-deep water crossing). While both are relatively undeveloped, this ensures that riders will most likely have these sites to themselves.
Those continuing west on the unnamed forest access road will eventually reach Second Kargus Lake. Here, two Crown Land sites are available. The first, on the lake’s north-eastern shore, is extremely large and easily accessible, meaning it is it typically occupied. However, there is a second much smaller campsite on the north-western shore, which can only be accessed via a rough ATV track, virtually guaranteeing its availability.
From Second Kargus Lake, continue north via Kargus Rd., before eventually reaching Quadville Rd. Here, make a left as the loop continues on pavement for approximately 5km to the hamlet of Quadville. Anyone travelling light will want to take advantage of the burger/chip stand and the general store/LCBO before continuing south on Addington Rd. to Cameron Lake Rd.
Cameron Lake Rd. provides access to the ATV trails south of Quadville. While not too technical, anyone on skinnier tires and are not supremely confident in their bike handling skills are advised to continue instead on Addington Rd. to Hyland Creek Rd., which eventually rejoins the route on the northern shores of the Madawaska River.
Those continue on Cameron Lake Rd. will reach the intersection with the ATV trail after approximately 2km. These trails wind their way south and east to the northern shores of Kennellys Lake, where at least two Crown Land sites can be found.
After the lake, the trail veers back south towards the Madawaska River, eventually exiting on Holmstead Rd. Here, several lovely campsites can be found – however, as these are both canoe- and vehicle-accessible, bank on them being full on weekends.
From the Holmstead Rd. parking lot, head east following the Madaswaska River along a series of easy to navigate gravel roads for approximately 23km all the way to the village of Griffith. It should be noted that the route to Griffith includes several ATV trails that branch off the main route and head south towards to the Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park, and the possibility of several campsites. However, be sure to double-check for any No Trespassing signs before heading off-route. Overwise, there is an extremely large campsite on the western shores of Green Lake – even if it happens to be occupied, one shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot.
The village of Griffith includes various facilities (breakfast/lunch restaurant, pub, general store/LCBO, 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 head away from the river, eventually turning off of Flying Club Rd 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.