Springtime in Paris (81km)
Route Author: Ed Daugavietis
Location: Cambridge, Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario
Distance: 81.2km (50.5 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 32mm
Amenities: The route’s official starting point in the city of Cambridge is home to a variety of grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants and convenience stores. Meanwhile, the pretty village of Paris also includes a number of quaint shops, restaurants, and pubs.
Estimated Gravel Time: 80%
Parking: The route’s official starting point is the Dickson Centre in the city of Cambridge. Alternatively, parking can also be found at Lion’s Park, located in the village of Paris at the opposite end of the loop. Parking can also be found in the village of Glen Morris, at the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail trailhead.
This loop serves as a prime introduction to the gravel roads, quiet country pavement, and rail trails that ring the Grand River between Cambridge and Paris, Ontario. The route is highlighted by the scenic Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail, which follows the banks of the Grand River for the loop’s final 20km.
Starting from the Dickson Centre parking lot in Cambridge, head south along Landsdowne Rd. before eventually exiting the city via West River Rd. After paralleling the Grand River for 6.5km, make a right onto Beke Rd., following a stretch of quiet asphalt for another 4.5km to Spragues Rd. Continue west here to the Sudden Tract Forest.
Turn into the parking lot and follow one of several wide paths into the tract, which eventually converge to a doubletrack trail through the forest back to Beke Rd. Various side trails are rideable too, if you're feeling a bit adventurous.
Shortly after exiting the forest, the loop veers south onto Shouldice Sideroad and the route’s first stretch of extended gravel. After 5km of dirt, riders return briefly to pavement before transitioning back to exposed farmland gravel via West River Rd.
For the next 19.3km, the route meanders westward, remaining almost entirely on country dirt roads before eventually reaching Blenheim Rd. Here the loop returns briefly to pavement and heads south, transitioning back to gravel after Oxford Road 29, and crossing the Nith River via the picturesque Silver Bridge.
Continue south along Blenheim Rd. before eventually heading east via Township Road 4, remaining on gravel for the next 3.2km to the hamlet of Canning. Following a left on Township Road 9, the route stays on pavement for the next 6km to the town of Paris.
While not quite the City of Lights, riders should definitely take the time to explore the “Prettiest Little Town in Canada”, especially Grand River Street North, the town’s main drag and home to various restaurants, pubs, and artisanal shops. Meanwhile, the William Street bridge over the Grand River offers lovely views of Penham’s Dam and the buildings that border the shores of the river.
Exit Paris via the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail and remain on this hard-pack dirt trail for the next 20km, making sure to stop at one of several view points along the Grand River, including the Murray Overlook and German’s Woolen Mill, as the route winds its way north back to the start, re-crossing the river on Cambridge's Grand River Pedestrian Bridge.