Book It on the Trail
Southwestern Ontario’s Bruce County offers five diverse mountain biking networks for riders of all abilities
It’s one of those frosty, windy autumn days that makes it hard to gauge how many layers you’ll need for a ride. My husband and I roll into the parking lot of the Carrick Tract trails, one of five areas designated for mountain biking in Ontario’s Bruce County on Lake Huron. Located near Mildmay, Carrick is at the southern end of the region, about a two-hour drive northwest from Toronto, and features about 7 km of singletrack. Our guide, trails technician Chris Sanderson, is all set to lead us through four out of the five networks with trails manager Andrew Beumer. Each trail network features well-planned singletrack. You simply choose the area that matches your mood.
Bruce County is a mecca for summer vacationers with its western border on the shores of the Great Lake, which means lots of sandy beaches and summer accommodations. The famed 890-km Bruce Trail, which starts in the Niagara region, reaches up into the Bruce Peninsula and ends in Tobermory. Beumer, who works for the county through mtb the Bruce, has been working on establishing the area as a mountain biking destination since 2001. After a chilly picnic lunch discussing what we can expect, Sanderson hops on his singlespeed and leads us into the forest. Carrick happens to be Beumer’s favourite network because it’s dry all year except in the winter. “The aggregate-and-soil mixture allows for great drainage,” he explains. “My favourite trail at the Carrick is My First Time because it has great flow and you can pick up some serious speed.” The route is the first machine-groomed trail that the county started working on in 2012. Machines have greatly helped the area’s small team, allowing trail builders to carve out berms and other features, as well as to perform grade reversals to help direct water and buff up the trails. And Beumer’s right: My First Time does indeed have great flow.
After we’ve done the Carrick trails justice, we hop in the car and head to the Brant Tract trails. If you visit in the summer, you’ll definitely want to bring your bug spray. Luckily, the mosquitoes are long gone. This 700-acre parcel of land is where the inaugural trails were developed. In fact, 15 to 18 km of trail were hand-built during one year. The trails here are clay-based and fairly similar to Carrick, but with more roots to contend with.
Things get pretty tight and technical as we ride through Devil’s Elbow followed by The Shocker. There are plenty of scenic valleys and steep gullies.