LAKE TO LAKE OVERNIGHTER
Mapped by MICHAEL NYBY
Easily accessible via public transit from Toronto, this overnight loop is a great way for bikepackers in the GTA to get away for the weekend. Utilizing the extensive trail networks through the York and Durham regions, the course winds its way through 240 kilometres of Ontario countryside. You'll ride a variety of hiking trail, horse trail, rail trail, mountain bike singletrack, and a variety of back roads. Each day is technically challenging with a number of steep off-road sections, so two-inch tires or bigger are recommended.
Claremont Nature Centre - Just north of Pickering, this protected area includes an windy rolling abandoned road. Wild lilacs abound in this section and can be remarkably fragrant in the spring.
Durham Forest - Between Durham Main Tract, Walker Woods, Glen Major, and the Brock Tract, there are over 100 kilometres of beautiful, flowy singletrack in this area. One can follow the designated route through the woods or explore the dozens of side trails Durham has to offer.
Sibbald Point Provincial Park: Your campground on the shores of Lake Simcoe offers potable water and hot showers. Cool down with a dunk in the lake. The cold Simcoe water can be invigorating.
Brown Hill Tract - Often referred to as "Ravenshoe" by the mountain bike community, this optional trail area includes a good variety of trails, from fast windy singletrack on loamy soil to rocky technical line-picking puzzles. The designated route covers a little of both, but feel free to go exploring. The area is not very large and well-mapped on TrailForks.
Seaton Hiking Trail - The route finishes off with this long, technically demanding trail that runs alongside Duffins Creek back into Pickering. There are a few flights of stairs you'll have to carry your bike up, and at least one hike-a-bike climb, but you will be rewarded with great views and brilliant descents.
The route starts at the Pickering GO Station, so riders can easily take transit from Toronto to the start of the course. Day one frontloads all of the technical trail sections, as you'll link up the Duffins Trail, Greenwood Conservation Area, Claremont Nature Centre, and Durham Forest with just a few kilometres of road in between. We recommend an early start so you can make it to the lunch stop at the halfway point in Uxbridge at a reasonable time. The second half of the day consists of about 30 kilometres of continuous rail trail and 25 km on a mix of gravel and paved country roads as you make your way to Sibbald Point.
The campsites at Sibbald Point offer decent privacy and plenty of shade. There are a number of potable water stations throughout the park, and each camp area has a washroom facility with hot showers. There's a lovely beach if you care to go for a dip.
Day two starts with a leisurely spin along the shores of Lake Simcoe followed by a rip through some of Sutton's ATV trails. These trails turn into a literal swamp if it's been wet, so we only recommend riding through this section if you're going in the late summer. About 10 kms into the Zephyr-Sutton Rail Trail, riders have the option of taking a right on Ravenshoe Road to explore the trails of the Brown Hill Tract, or continue straight down the Rail Trail to its terminus just north of the lunch stop in Mount Albert. After lunch, the route links up a number of tracts in the York Regional Forest system. Trails through here range from smooth crushed-gravel dualtrack to sandy horse trails to rutted out technical mountain-bike oriented singletrack. There are plenty of optional loops to explore, but save your energy because you'll still have to tackle some tough climbs through the meadows around Musselman Lake and the route ends with a rip down the challenging but extremely rewarding Seaton Hiking Trail.
Trains from Pickering GO back into Toronto run every half hour so you might even make it home for dinner.