When trek7k sent me this assignment I instantly went into a panic. Not that it was difficult to come up with the top five in Ontario – it’s just that Ontario is so big (a bit more than double the size of Texas)! For that reason I’ll focus on the trails in southern Ontario. There’s actually a ton of variety around here: everything from downhill parks to fast, flowing XC trails and almost everything in between. Because Ontario’s riding season really starts around the second week in April to about mid-November I’m also including an indoor venue.
5. Joyride 150
Joyride 150 is an indoor bike park that saves me from going nuts over the winter months. Located just northeast of Toronto in Markham, Joyride is the Canadian version of Ray’s with its own unique twist. Joyride has just about everything you could want – other than a real forest and that wonderful outdoor smell. With 80,000 sq ft of riding space you have a bit of everything.
There’s a dedicated XC loop which is decent enough to keep you in shape and along the loop you have rock gardens, wooden skinnies, and other obstacles to keep you interested. If you’re into learning a skill, there is a progression of skinnies that constantly evolve to keep even the best of riders on their toes. Heck there is even a gas pipe that you can ride (been there done it!). If you’re wanting to learn how to jump, Joyride really has you covered with three progressive jump lines, a foam pit, and when you really have it going on, a very well built vert park.
4. Blue Mountain
Not being blessed with the massive mountains of the west coast (think BC), there are just a few choices that require less than 4 hours of driving from Southern Ontario. Blue Mountain is one of those trails. At about a 2 hour trek north from Toronto, Blue is one of the largest downhill slopes around. With 13 trails serviced by a high speed lift ($35 lift tickets), the trail system is big enough to get a full day’s worth of riding in. Runs like O-Chute, Shot Glass, and Squeeker make for some fun runs. The tight and twisty trails screaming down heavily rooted and rocky terrain are a blast. Some of the runs are literally point and shoot because you really can’t stop along the way.
Blue has everything you need if you want to try out DH mountain biking without committing to a bike. Since Blue is a ski center in the winter, the central lodge has everything you need to rent. Typical run times are about 4- 6 minutes long and have enough variety to make for some fun, challenging days in the saddle.
3. Three Stages
Right next to Blue Mountain there is a large trail network called Three Stages. With about 80km of of very flowy trails this is a great place for riders of all abilities. Once you get to know the network you can easily plan a shortish type ride or something with a bit more bite to it. Part of the trail network involves a 700ft climb which is somewhat of a quad burner as it snakes along a dozen or so switchbacks.
For those of you with a GPS, bring it – you’re gonna need it. In the forest during the summer months the place can be disorienting and it’s easy to ride in circles if you don’t know where you’re going. I personally love the challenge and the terrain. The trails are clear and well-defined and the ground always seems to be slightly moist – just enough to keep the dust down and traction up. One switchback section in particular is a great spot for taking epic photos as well. Hopefully this year I remember to keep the camera in the bag. Cost to ride: free!
2. Buckwallow Cycling Center
At about 280km from Toronto, Buckwallow Cycling center ($10) is a super place to ride. Talk about manicured, this place has its trails cleaned and pruned so that the mountain biker can truly enjoy him or herself. Buckwallow is also one of the stops on the O-Cup. The network features 17 trails linking to a larger hoop which makes for some interesting encounters!
Buckwallow is also one of the most picturesque spots in Ontario. For one thing you’re riding on the Canadian Shield which is really ancient metaphoric rock (4.5 billion years) that’s exposed in large areas with thin layers of soil and trees on top in spots. The rock offers really awesome riding and incredible grip; using medium- to lower-sized knobby tires is perfect here for a fast rolling ride. Buckwallow has all the trails clearly marked for an idiot-proof system that easily identifies the difficulty as well as length of each singletrack trail. This place is a must visit if you’re up here. Right next door there’s a KOA which is highly recommended as a place to set up your tent and spend the night.
1. The DON
In the greater Toronto area the Don Valley (the DON) is the spot to go to. Three words sum this place up: convenient, ever-changing, and variety. Yep, over the past few years the DON has been undergoing constant improvements with proper drainage, armored corners, and improved flow on trail sections. Plus the number of trails in the network seems to be constantly expanding.
The Don has a bit of everything for everyone. If you want to hit the dirt jumps, there is a rather large and excellent pump track that a group of riders has gone and built. If you’re into technical climbs, there are a few of those. Speaking of which, there is a single climb called Quads (basically a very steep climb with a few switchbacks). If you’re into skinnies and wooded features they have those too. Just recently a new trail was built and I gotta say it really changes things up. This yet unnamed trail looks like it had a bunch of influence from IMBA, with triple bumps whenever things get rough to slow people down (or wake them up!). With a trail length of about 3km of twisty, tight singletrack riddled with bunches of switchback climbs and descents, this one is a lot of run.
The DON is also the only place in the GTA where you can find rabbits, squirrels, ground hogs, fox, raccoons, and deer. Ohh yeah that’s right – white tail deer. Just a few weeks back I ran into one. Again! Pretty awesome.
Well I have to say Ontario is a great place to ride with new trails popping up all the time. If you’re close by, grab you gear and your bike and head on over!