Tours in Lanark County range from easy to hard and over terrain that varies from flat and open in the Mississippi Valley, to hilly and forested in the Calabogie Highlands. Limestone alvars, Canadian shield, sugar bush (Lanark County is the maple syrup capital of Ontario), pine forests, wildlife, and many lakes, rivers, and streams characterize the region.
Traffic in Lanark County is still mostly light on the backroads despite our proximity to Ottawa. Road surfaces range from pristine new asphalt to hard-packed gravel (much better than many paved roads in some provinces), to rugged double-track. You can ride long routes competely on paved roads, but you have many more interesting options if you’re willing to ride the occasional few kilometres of gravel. For experienced riders, road surfaces are generally good enough here that your butt and hands won’t be screaming after 120 kms of road vibration.
Lanark County–which includes Almonte, Carleton Place, Perth, Lanark, Pakenham, and Arnprior–is also a good place to drive to begin a remote bike ride. Some of the prettiest routes here wind through the Calabogie Highlands which emerge about 50km west of Ottawa. For instance, consider the White Lake/Calabogie loop (120 km) which starts and ends in Almonte and passes through Lanark. The route starts flat, follows the Madawaska River for a while (on new asphalt!), and throws in some rolling hills through beautiful forests. You’ll need to take plenty of food and water–especially on Sundays–since there are few towns along the way. This route is good for a group training or site-seeing ride.
Arnprior and Lanark are also good starting points for remote rides. From Arnprior you can follow the Ottawa River north along secondary roads. Or you can head up into the Calabogie Highlands. From Lanark you can ride out to Perth or the Ompah/Plevna area. Usually traffic’s rare on many of these backroads, but the region is beautiful and full of history. Some of the roads are the original pioneer routes from when this area was opened to European settlers. You can find ruins of pioneer mills, farms, and even ghost towns. Bring bike tools, spares, and adequate food and water because there are few stores. But if you have a problem you can easily hitch a ride to a nearby town from one of the friendly locals.
A network of bed and breakfasts is growing in Lanark County. Some offer exceptionally good value in beautiful historic homes where you’ll be pampered by your hosts. There is also camping in Carleton Place and Pakenham (among other places). Contact the ABC for more information.
Tour here on your classic road bike, your touring bike, or your tandem. If you’re riding a mountain bike, you’ll find it much easier if you tour on slick tires.