Tay Valley Traverse (91 km)
Location: Perth, Lanark County, Ontario
Distance: 90.6km (56.3 miles). However, given the overall narrowness of the loop, there are several opportunities to shorten the route.
Suggested Tire Width: 38mm. While most of the route can be ridden with much less, a couple of small sections of sandy/rocky rail trail and one or two dirt roads with marble-size gravel call for something a bit beefier.
Amenities: The town of Perth, near the route’s starting point at the Tay-Havelock trailhead, includes a number of restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, and two breweries. The village of Sharbot Lake, the route’s unofficial halfway point, has several convenience stores and restaurants, as well as access to a public beach.
Estimated gravel time: 90%
Parking: Public off-street parking can be found at the Tay-Havelock Rail Trail trailhead just west of Perth. Anyone looking to begin the route from Sharbot Lake will find ample on-street parking, as well as public off-street parking at the Sharbot Lake Beach, as well as the old train station park and boat launch.
This route traverses the width of the Tay Valley Township as it parallels the former section of the Ontario and Quebec (O&Q) Railway between Glen Tay and Tweed, abandoned in 1971. While the railway has now been replaced with a multi-use trail (a nice way to avoid riding on the busy Highway 7), the route does its best to skirt the trail in favour of the easy to navigate gravel between Perth and Sharbot Lake.
Starting from the Tay-Havelock Rail Trail trailhead west of Perth, proceed briefly on the gravel shoulder of Highway 7 (the outer edge is firm and rideable), before making a left onto Harper Rd. Anyone wishing to avoid the highway altogether has the option of following the overgrown trail east as it parallels the railway, but be warned that it soon peters out, forcing a bit of a hike-a-bike along the edge of the abandoned tracks.
Continuing on pavement for just over a kilometer, the route shifts from asphalt to firm and easy to navigate gravel as riders make a left onto the 5th Concession. For the next 12km, the route follows this almost pavement-like gravel through a mix of tree-lined and exposed farm roads, before eventually reaching Doran Rd.
Doran Rd. is the route’s early highlight as it transitions from wide gravel to tree-lined unmaintained, staying on this delightful section of single-lane dirt until Fagan Lake Rd. Shortly thereafter, the loop changes to pavement upon reaching Zealand Rd. Riders remain on asphalt for approximately 6km before returning to gravel via Bell Line Rd., following this section of dirt to the K&P trail, which takes riders to Sharbot Lake.
Sharbot Lake, the route’s unofficial halfway point, is a hub for recreational activity in the Frontenac region, including ATV riding and fishing. As such, it is home to several restaurants and stores, as well as a public beach, making for an ideal rest stop.
Riders exit Sharbot Lake via the Tay-Havelock trail, following this sometimes rough section of rail trail to Fall River Rd. Here, the route makes a right and continues on hilly gravel before eventually descending to Armstrong Line Rd. Riders follow this dirt road for approximately 8km before it turns to pavement just before reaching the Tay-Havelock trail, whereupon the route makes a right, continuing on this well-maintained section of trail for 4km until it reaches Old Brooke Rd.
Staying on gravel for the next 4km, the route soon makes a right onto Tamarac Rd., following this dirt road south to the northern shores of Christie Lake. Riders continue on the aptly named Christie Lake North Shore Rd., remaining on gravel for approximately 3km before transitioning to fresh asphalt (as of 2020), continuing on this smooth section of pavement to Elliot Rd.
The route then makes a left and returns to easy to navigate gravel as it follows several exposed farm roads to the Tay-Havelock trail. Here, riders parallel Highway 7 for approximately 4.5km back to the loop’s starting point.