The Full Frontenac XL (384km)
Location: Palmerston Conservation Area, County of Frontenac, Ontario
Distance: 384.2km (238.7 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 45mm or more
Amenities: General stores can be found in the villages of Godfrey and Arden. Meanwhile, the town of Sharbot Lake includes a grocery store, several general stores, restaurants, and a hotel/pub. Finally, the village of Calabogie, slightly off route, hosts several general stores, restaurants and a brewery. The route also passes by several public beaches, perfect for a mid-ride dip including Long Lake, Big Clear Lake, Sharbot Lake, Crow Lake, and Palmerston Lake.
Estimated Gravel Time: 85%
Parking: Several long-term parking options are available on this route. These include the lot found at the north end of Frontenac Provincial Park, the ATV parking lot in Sharbot Lake, the Palmerston Lake boat launch, and the ATV parking area south of Calabogie Lake.
Want more epic Frontenac County dirt? This gravel bike-friendly bikepacking loop extends the Full Frontenac by an additional 184km, incorporating various northern Frontenac routes including the Ranger Camp Ramble; the Tay Valley Traverse; the Tour de Dalhousie; the Lavant Mills Meander; the Hopetown Hoedown (Bronco Edition); and the North Frontenac Bikepacking Loop into a multi-day adventure.
This route can effectively be divided into two sections. The portion north of Highway 7 is the most difficult, with greater elevation gains and more technical dirt roads and doubletrack. At the same time, the northern section provides access to a number of Crown Land camping options, allowing for shorter days in the saddle. Meanwhile, the section south of Highway 7 follows mostly well-maintained dirt and foregoes steep climbs in favour of flowing gravel roads. Which is fortunate as bigger mile days will be required, as riders will be more dependent on the availability of public campgrounds, which can be few and far between. While the southern section of the loop can be ridden on 35mm tires, the suggested width for the northern section is 45mm.
Beginning from the boat launch at the Palmerston Conservation Area, head north via Arcol Rd., past a public beach, before transitioning to gravel and eventually an extended stretch of unmaintained forest access road, which continues all the way to Govan Lake. It should be noted that this section of the route between Redhorse Lake and Govan Lake provides access to several reservable Crown Land campsites maintained by North Frontenac Parklands, 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.
Just before reaching Govan Lake, riders are required to navigate a kilometre-long stretch of rough doubletrack in order to link up with the Barry Lake Trail. The Barry Lake Trail is a 17km stretch of forest access road and includes a significant amount of climbing before riders are rewarded with an epic descent all the way to the K&P trailhead. As the route approaches the rail trail, riders will be spoiled for choice in terms of available Crown Land campsites, including Belanger Lake, Battery Lake and Blithfield Long Lake. These sites are available at any time, no reservations required.
Upon reaching the rail trail, head right and follow a rough section of the K&P trail past a small campsite on the shores of Clyde Lake (caution ought to be exercised if camping here, as the site is clearly visible from the rail trail). After approximately 11km, riders enter the small hamlet of Flower Station, where the route makes a right, doubling back via Flower Station Rd., before eventually making a left onto Stoney Lonesome Rd., a rough section of doubletrack.
Eventually, after approximately 3km, the loop leaves the doubletrack behind in favour of some scenic (and hilly!) single-lane forest roads. This section of the route also provides access to at least two pretty campsites. The first, on the northern shores of Dobbie Lake, can be reached via a poorly maintained ATV track (and could use a fire ring). The second site on the southern shores of Lavant Long Lake is located on a small peninsula, taking full advantage of the breeze coming off the lake to keep the insects at bay.
Continue south on sandy forest access roads, past a small three-sided shelter, before reaching a second section of rough (and at times wet) doubletrack and following it for over 3km back to the K&P trail. Make a left and continue north on the rail trail to Clyde Forks Rd. Follow this gravel road east to two pretty Crown Land campsites. One on the northern shores of Joes Lake, and the second just off route on the southern end of Green Lake.
Upon reaching Joes Lake, proceed south, climbing steadily up Black Creek Rd. before eventually descending to South Lavant Rd. After a brief section of pavement, the loop returns to gravel and continues south on Umphersons Mill Rd. to Ranger Camp Rd. Follow this legendary section of unmaintained west, past several Crown Land campsites to Lavant Mill Rd. Here, make a left and head south for approximately 12km, past Dalhousie Lake to MacDonalds Corners Rd.
After a short spell on tarmac, the route returns to gravel via 12th Concession Rd. and heads south, remaining on dirt for the next 17km to Zealand Rd. Anyone looking to shorten the route by approximately half are advised to continue on Zealand Rd. to Sharbot Lake, which allows riders to rejoin the main route via the K&P trail. Otherwise stay on a mix of dirt and pavement to the hamlet of Maberly. Here, cross Highway 7 (head west on Highway 7 to access Silver Lake Provincial Park) to Armstrong Line Rd. and continue south-west to Cross Rd.
Descend for 7km on Cross Rd., past a serviceable Crown Land campsite, to the northern shores of Crow Lake, where the route returns briefly to tarmac until it reaches Anderson Road North. Follow this stretch of dirt for 8km, past the Meisel Woods Conservation Area, to Bradshaw Rd. where the loop transitions back to pavement as it continues south on Bobs Lake Rd., a sublime stretch of twisty tree-lined asphalt, dotted with several small lakes, to Green Bay Rd.
Continue east, then north as the gravel roads pass by several bays and inlets that make up the southern portion of Bobs Lake, to Burridge Rd. Here, the route joins McNeil Rd., a 3km stretch of glorious unmaintained doubletrack to Lee Rd. The loop then returns to well maintained gravel as it heads south to Westport Rd. Make a right here, followed by a quick left and continue south on Canoe Lake Rd., paralleling the eastern shores of Canoe Lake for approximately 8km to Devils Lake Rd.
Shortly thereafter, the route reaches James Wilson Rd. and, with its glorious mix of rollercoaster gravel, lakeside views and technical unmaintained, is definitely one of the loop’s highlights. After approximately 9km, exit James Wilson Rd. via Bunker Hill Rd., remaining on a mix of gravel and pavement before reaching the K&P trail. Follow this well maintained trail south for 6km, passing through the hamlet of Godfrey to the village of Picadilly.
From Picadilly head north via Oak Flats Rd. on a mix of gravel and asphalt for the next 18km to the village of Bellrock. Exit the village by heading north on Levesque Rd., remaining on exposed country gravel for the next 12km to Church Rd. and the hamlet of Chippewa. After approximately 6km of pavement, the route transitions back to gravel just after a set of railroad tracks and continues on what is undoubtedly one of the loop’s most scenic sections as the route ascends gently for approximately 11km, passing multiple lakeside views, to Fifth Lake Rd. Follow this quiet stretch of pavement for 2km to McLean Rd, whereupon the loop remains on a series of unpaved roads for 20km to Long Lake Rd.
Continue ascending on dirt as the route passes close to the shores of Long Lake (providing access to a lovely large public beach/boat launch, complete with picnic tables and restroom facilities) to Frontenac Rd. Turn left here and follow this section of the historic Frontenac Rd. for 10km, past the O’Reilly Lake Family Campground, to the Frontenac Road Historical Marker. Upon reaching the marker, make a left and head west on Ferguson Rd., an extended stretch of not quite asphalt, not quite gravel (graphalt?) to Clark Rd. Here, riders continue on well-maintained dirt to the village of Arden (home to small general store and chip stand). As an alternative to Ferguson Rd., riders have the option to head west on the rail trail that crosses Frontenac Rd. just prior to the historical marker. The trail rejoins the main route in Arden.
Exit Arden via Price Rd. and follow this dirt road north-east for 6km, hugging the northern shores of Big Clear Lake and passing a small public beach (with a privy). Upon reaching Mountain Grove Rd. proceed north to Highway 7. Following a brief ride on the gravel shoulder, leave the highway behind and make a left onto Swamp Rd. to Bell Line Rd. It should be noted that in early spring, Swamp Rd. lives up to its name and can see some severe flooding. Unfortunately, the only option for anyone not prepared for a bit of wet hike-a-bike is to continue on Highway 7 to Bell Line Rd. Bell Line Rd. continues on dirt for another 13km, past Townline Rd. (head south here to access Sharbot Lake Provincial Park) to the K&P trail.
To access the services of Sharbot Lake, continue south on the K&P trail for just over 5km. Otherwise head north on the trail for just over 10km to Robertsville Rd. Note that as of August 2021, the landowner has blocked access to the trail - please follow the suggested detours on the route map. After briefly returning to pavement, the route continues on the trail for the next 14km to Folger Rd. Exit the trail here and head west on gravel before eventually reaching Canonto Rd., remaining on this pleasant stretch of asphalt back to the start at Palmerston Lake.