Tour de Thurso (69km)
Location: Thurso, Papineau Regional County, Quebec
Estimated Gravel Time: 75%
Distance: 69.4km (43.1 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 38mm
Amenities: Thurso, the route’s official starting point, includes a general store and a grocery store. Meanwhile, the town of Plaisance on the eastern edge of the loop, hosts a couple of takeaway restaurants and a small convenience store.
Parking: Off-street parking can be found at the Parc national de Plaisance, secteur Thurso - however, a fee may be required. Inquire at the park office located on site. Otherwise, on-street parking can be found throughout Thurso itself. Those starting from Plaisance, off-street parking is available at Parc Rolland-Pillon. Finally, those living in eastern Ontario can easily access the loop using the Rockland-Thurso Ferry ($8 per vehicle; $2 per bicycle, cash only).
This route tours the varied landscapes that make up this pretty section of the eastern Outaouais, as it meanders from the shores of the Ottawa River to the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains.
Beginning from Thurso, exit town by heading west on rue Victoria. While traffic can move at a good clip, as this road is part of Quebec’s Route Verte, riders will be able to take advantage of the wide and well-maintained paved shoulder. After making a right onto 4e Rang, the route transitions to gravel shortly after crossing the bridge over the Blanche River.
Remain on dirt 8.3km, past the croix de la montée Berndt, as the loop heads north to the Autoroute de l’Outaouais. After crossing under the highway, the route continues on a mix of gravel and pavement to Chemin Burke. Here, the loop parallels the Dirty Mayo gravel route as it leaves the Ottawa Valley farmland behind in favour of treelined dirt.
Continue west on Chemin Burke for just over 6km, returning to exposed country gravel just before reaching Mtée Dambremont. Shortly thereafter, the loop heads north via Mtée Binette. This section is one of the route’s highlights as riders skirt the forested foothills of the Laurentian Mountains for 8km to Route 317.
Head north and follow Route 317 briefly along the paved shoulder, before making a right and returning to gravel as the loop parallels the southern shores of the Saint-Sixte River for just over 5km, eventually crossing the river before reaching the intersection with Mtée Ivall. Here, head south and remain on dirt for another 6.5km, eventually transitioning to asphalt before crossing back over the Autoroute de l’Outaouais.
From here, proceed east on pavement, eventually crossing the scenic Petite-Nation River rapids (for anyone interested in viewing the waterfalls south of the main route, a $7 cover charge applies). Following a steep climb away from the river, the loop then heads south, descending on asphalt all the way to the town of Plaisance.
At this point, riders will have a choice. Either continue west on pavement via the Route Verte (Route 148 East) back to Thurso. Otherwise stay on the main route and follow the dirt trail system through the Parc nationale de Plaisance. As a $9 charge to enter the park applies (note the electronic kiosk on the route map), grab a packed lunch in town and be sure to fully explore this scenic riverfront trail system, before returning to the start of the loop.