9 of Ontario’s best mountain biking trails

Mountain biking Photo by GROGL/Shutterstock

While B.C. and Alberta may put the “mountain” in mountain biking, Ontario still manages to acquit itself well when it comes to mountain bike (MTB) trails. The Niagara Escarpment definitely helps, and there are lots of other spots in the province where you can get a ride in and not feel like you were just spinning your wheels. Here are just a few of our favourites.

3 Stage, Collingwood

Rating: Advanced

Forty kilometres of mostly single track trails in the Pretty River Valley Provincial Park, 3 Stage (known as 3 Stages on some websites) is ideal for the experienced rider who wants a fast, technical ride with some great downhill runs. According to reviewers, a GPS unit (or a local who knows the trails) is a must, as there isn’t much signage and it’s easy to get lost. If you want more serious downhill action, head into Collingwood and check out the hills at Blue Mountain. They offer lessons and equipment rentals, so if you’re not a regular downhiller, no worries—this is a great place to try it out without making an expensive commitment.

Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area, Prince Edward County

Rating: Intermediate-Advanced

As one website put it, the trails at Macaulay Mountain run from “easy to insane”—and while there are easier sections, most of the densely packed trails are best suited to intermediate and advanced riders. The layout is evidence that the Bloomfield Cycling Club—which maintains the trails—enjoys twists, turns, steep climbs, and descents and a whole lot of challenge. It’s not a huge area—the trails are packed into about 20 kilometres—but it’s worth the trip. If you get sick of biking (as if), check out Birdhouse City to see more than 100 birdhouses, many replicas of famous buildings.

Buckwallow, Bracebridge

Rating: Intermediate-Advanced

Go a little further north, and you leave the Niagara Escarpment for the Canadian Shield—which means you get to bike on bald rock, which is a fun challenge. Reviewers call the tracks “super flowy,” and with meticulously maintained trails and clear difficulty ratings, bikers of most abilities can find something challenging and fun. If you’re in Bracebridge and you’re a little more experienced, check out Porcupine Ridge/Santa’s Village, some of the most technically challenging mountain bike trails in Ontario. Advanced and expert riders get a challenge, along with some fantastic views of Lake Muskoka.

Don Valley, Toronto

Rating: Intermediate-Advanced

If you live in Toronto, you don’t have to go far for fun MTB trails. Stretching from the brickworks in the south to Thornhill Park in the north, the trails in the Don Valley incorporate interesting climbs and descents. Don’t be fooled—just because the trails are in the city doesn’t make them easy. Large parts of the trail are off camber (where the outside edge of the trailbed is lower than the inside) which requires more skill to navigate—but bikers who get tired of the trails can pop onto the paved bike paths for a little relaxation.

Hydrocut, Kitchener-Waterloo

Rating: Intermediate

This one-direction single track trail consistently shows up on lists of “best bike trails in Ontario”. Maintained by a dedicated army of volunteers from the Waterloo Cycling Club’s trails committee, the Hydrocut is largely the vision of trail designer Igor Dragoslavic, who maintains a blog dedicated to the park. You’ll find fast-flowing trails with a wide range of difficulties—and while there’s nothing really crazy, it’s still a ton of fun.

Hardwood Ski and Bike, Oro-Medonte

Rating: Beginner to Advanced

There are a ton of options for all riders at Hardwood, from rank beginner to expert (they held the 2015 Pan Am mountain biking events there). The trails are nicely laid out and well signed, allowing you to flow from one to the other easily without stopping to re-orient yourself. If you’re just getting into mountain biking, Hardwood also offers adult lessons and bike rentals, giving you a chance to try out your chops without having to shell out for a bike.

Kelso, Milton

Rating: Beginner-Advanced

Kelso, perched on the Escarpment, offers a range of trails, including fast-flowing single track, downhills, and fun technical challenges. The park gets top marks for clear trail markings. If you’re in the area and want to test your skills a little further, head over to Hilton Falls for 18 kilometres of tight turns and “rock gardens”—it won’t be the fastest ride ever, but if you like getting over obstacles, you’ll have a good time.

Boler Mountain, London

Rating: Beginner-Intermediate

Boler Mountain has the biggest climb in southwest Ontario, along with some great technical trails and short, fast descents. There are easier loops around the more difficult sections, so there’s lots to do for many different levels. Plus, they have a deck where you can sit and drink beer when you’re done. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Durham Forest, Uxbridge

Rating: Beginner

There are more than 100 kilometres of trails at Durham Forest (plus it’s super close to both Glen Major Forest and Walkers Woods) so you could mountain bike for days and not get bored. Have a GPS, because the trails aren’t always well marked and, well, there are lot of them. Durham Forest is considered a good place to introduce someone to mountain biking because many of the trails are fun, but not too technical. The scenery is also great—an added bonus if you interrupt your ride for a picnic.

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