Lanark Highlands Bikepacking Route (243km)
Updated: Jul 26
Location: Lanark, Frontenac and Renfrew Counties, Ontario
Distance: 242.8km (150.9 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 40mm or wider
Amenities: The starting point in Carleton Place, as well as the nearby town of Almonte, provide access to a number of grocery and convenience stores, restaurants and breweries. The village of Calabogie (slightly off route) includes several restaurants, a large general store and a brewery. The Hopetown General Store offers a light breakfast and lunch. Finally, the village of Lanark includes a couple of small restaurants, as well as a general store.
Estimated gravel time: 90%
Parking: There are several parking options available throughout the route. The best is located just outside downtown Carleton Place off the Trans-Canada Trail on Cavanagh Rd. The municipal parking lot off Allan Street in Carleton Place provides access to free multi-day parking with a permit available from city hall. A large parking area can be found near the village of Calabogie, just west of the K&P Trail at the end of Tatty Hill Rd (Barrett Chute Dam). Finally, the Palmerston Conservation Area provides access to parking at the boat launch. Otherwise riders can choose to cycle to the start of the route directly from Ottawa via the Ottawa Area Gravel Growler.
The Township of Lanark Highlands, just 60km west of the city of Ottawa, is quintessential Canadian Shield country, home to rolling hills, hundreds of lakes, and vast impregnable forests. Initially settled by Anishinaabe peoples, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland arrived in the early- to mid-1800s, lured by the promise of 100 acres of free farmland. Of course, as was often the case, settlement was impeded by the muddy, rocky terrain and steep slopes, hindering all but the most hardscrabble forms of agriculture, while preventing easy travel. Soon, however, the first rough trails evolved into well-worn tracks, before eventually transitioning into the dirt and paved roads that crisscross the township today.
This two- to three-day bikepacking loop explores the abundant gravel, unmaintained and forest access roads that make up the Lanark Highlands, while linking together a number of accessible Crown Land campsites. The route itself is tailored towards gravel bikes, with several hydroline cuts and ATV trails to keep riders on their toes.
Section One: Carleton Place to Darling Long Lake (59km)
Starting from Carleton Place, this section of the route proceeds north to the village of Almonte via the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail. After approximately 11km, upon arriving in Almonte, the route leaves the rail trail behind and follows various farm gravel roads to Bellamy Rd. Anyone looking for an alternative (and rowdier) option can instead choose to follow Concession Rd 9 South, which leads to a series of ATV trails and hydroline cuts, before making its way back to Bellamy Rd.
Soon Bellamy Rd. transitions from gravel to pavement, eventually winding its way to Snye Rd. After looping around Lowney Lake, riders eventually reach California Rd., a legendary section of unmaintained. After just over 6km, the route then proceeds right onto perhaps the most technically challenging section of the route, a series of hydroline access tracks and ATV trails that eventually lead riders to a beautiful Crown Land campsite on the south-western shores of Darling Long Lake.
Section Two: Darling Long Lake to the Barrett Chute Dam (38 km)
From Darling Long Lake, the route proceeds south-west towards Route 511. After this brief section of pavement, riders make a right onto Campbells Rd., following this section of unmaintained all the way to the campsite on the shores of Joe’s Lake. While a suitable rest stop, riders looking to stay overnight are advised to backtrack slightly to Green Lake where two large pretty campsites can be found on the lake’s southern shore.
From Joe’s Lake, continue on gravel to the hamlet of Flower Station. Here, follow the K&P rail trail north to the Barrett Chute Dam. The village of Calabogie can be found further north, approximately 11km off the route. Otherwise, several Crown Land campsites can be found on route, just west of the dam.
Section Three: Barrett Chute Dam to Ranger Camp Road (71km)
From the Barrett Chute Dam, the route proceeds south-west, following the Barry Lake Trail, a hilly (and steep) forest access road to Govan Lake. After approximately 17km, riders will have to navigate a kilometre-long portion of rough doubletrack in order to link up with Arcol Rd., an extended stretch of unmaintained gravel. It should also be noted that the section between Govan Lake and Redhorse Lake provides access to several Crown Land campsites which must be reserved in advance via the North Frontenac Parklands website, the only exceptions being a poorly maintained site on the southern end of Otter Lake, as well as a small site on the shores of Mair Lake next to Arcol Rd.
After another 17km, the route reaches the Palmerston Conservation Area. Here, the loop makes a left, following Canonto Rd. (a quiet stretch of asphalt) before eventually returning to single-lane gravel via Folger Rd. Shortly thereafter, riders reach the K&P rail trail, briefly following the trail south for approximately 3.5km to South Lavant Rd., the route’s last significant stretch of pavement. After a hilly 6.2km, riders reach the hamlet of Lavant. Here, the loop follows Lavant Mills Rd. south, transitioning back to unmaintained gravel south of Airport Rd. before eventually making a left onto Ranger Camp Rd., which provides access to several potential campsites on the shores of Upper Park Lake and Bowers Lake.
Section Four: Ranger Camp Road to Carleton Place (75km)
From the bridge across the southern shore of Upper Park Lake, continue on Ranger Camp Rd., following a series of unmaintained dirt roads and open stretches of gravel for just over 20km to the Hopetown General Store, which offers a light breakfast and lunch. From here, the route heads south east on pavement for 2km, before returning to gravel via Dobbie Rd. Following a stretch of rugged (and at times wet) unmaintained, riders eventually reach the village of Lanark, the route’s final resupply point. From here, the loop continues north-east for approximately 40km, remaining on a mix of dirt farm roads and tree-lined gravel all the way back to the route’s start in Carleton Place.