Updated: Jul 5, 2020
Location: Renfrew, Renfrew County, Ontario
Distance: 88.9km (55.4 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 35mm minimum. Greater suggested when tackling Toms Road early in the season
Amenities: The starting point in the town of Renfrew includes a number of restaurants, pubs, grocery and convenience stores. There are no other amenities on route.
Estimated Gravel Time: 70%
Parking: The official starting point is the Renfrew Park-and-Ride on O’Brien Rd. This parking lot also provides easy access to the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail system, as well as several grocery and convenience stores. Otherwise, there is abundant on-street parking throughout the town centre.
While the route’s namesake is a righteous stretch of gravel, paradise can truly be found along Toms and Mhusk Roads, a 13km stretch of hilly single-lane dirt that receives ongoing winter maintenance, perfect for early-season dirt (and mud) riding.
Starting from the Renfrew Park-and-Ride, follow the multi-use pathway on O’Brien Rd. south-west before turning left onto Gillan Rd., followed by a right onto Barnet Blvd. Continue briefly on a series of multi-use pathways before making a left onto Burnstown Rd., then a quick right onto a series of side streets before exiting Renfrew via Pucker St., which eventually transitions to Swamp Rd and the route’s first extended stretch of gravel. Here, riders will begin to notice a number of 19th century log cabins which dot the southern end of the route.
Eventually riders return to Pucker St. and the route’s longest stretch of pavement. While this 12km section of treelined asphalt sees little traffic, those wishing to maximize their gravel riding time have the option of turning left onto Inglis Rd after approximately 2.5km, then turning right onto Grant and Ashdad Roads, which parallel the original route while avoiding the bulk of the pavement.
Pucker St. ends at Whelan Rd. Here, riders turn right, staying on pavement for another 2km, before turning left onto English Rd. and continuing on dirt for 10km before reaching Highway 132. Here, the route turns left, before making a quick right 500m later and beginning an extended climb up Toms Rd. Both Toms Rd and Mhusk Rd are the route’s highlights, consisting of 13km of single lane tree-lined gravel, with several punchy ascents mixed in. Anyone looking to shorten the route by 10km or so, while increasing the rowdiness quotient, can avoid Mhusk Rd altogether and instead turn right onto Sammon Rd, a 5km stretch of unmaintained.
For those riders staying on route, continue along Mhusk Rd. to Stone Rd., returning to pavement for just over 2km, before turning right onto McNultry Rd. and another delightful stretch of gravel, before turning left onto Lynch Rd. and eventually transitioning back to pavement for 3.5km.
Upon reaching the Grace United Church, turn left and return to gravel on Foy Rd., then back to pavement again as riders cross the Bonnechere River. A very brief jaunt on Highway 60 bring riders back to a mix of gravel and pavement via Northcote Rink Rd, before riders reach the route’s namesake, Garden of Eden Rd. which parallels Highway 17 for an extended period.
As the route continues south-east towards Renfrew, riders have the choice of returning to the start via the Rail Trail or heading to downtown Renfrew, the latter allowing for the option of stopping at one of several local restaurants or pubs for a post-ride bite.