An Autumn Ride on the Cataraqui Trail


Mountain Bike on the Cataraqui Trail

Originally published October 3, 2021.

While growing up in Newburgh I spent a lot of time on the Cataraqui Trail, long before it was known by such a name.

My parent’s property backed onto the old rail line that cut through the village. The tracks were still there back in the 80’s, but I don’t recall ever seeing a train moving in either direction.

My brother and I and other neighbourhood kids used to play and bike up and down the old tracks all the time, jumping into ditches, getting wet and dirty in the process. Long story short, we enjoyed every minute of it.

Since those ancient times, a lot has changed on what’s now known as the Cataraqui Trail. The old tracks and railway ties have long since been replaced by fine gravel perfect for hiking, mountain biking and a variety of other uses. Managed by the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, the trail stretches from Strathcona all the way to Smiths Falls.

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It had been a long time since I had been out on the trail, so I recently took advantage of a nice autumn morning to re-acquaint myself with area. I loaded my bike in the truck and headed to Camden East with the goal of riding to Yarker and back, saving my trip down memory lane for another time. The total length of my ride will be just over 13km, doable (I hope) given my mid-40’s non-peak athletic form.

After a brief stop at McCormick’s Country Store for some trail snacks I parked in the lot at the County Road 4/Heritage Drive intersection. Informative trail head maps and other signs are installed at this location, and the path itself is in excellent shape. I could immediately tell that this was going to be a smooth ride.

1. Entrance Signage.jpg

Not 200 metres into my trip I had to stop to take photos of the treeline. The fall colours were out in full force as they lined the farmer’s fields that run alongside the trail.

3a. Coloured Leaves SQUARE.jpg

I was very impressed by how actively used the trail was early on a weekday morning. There were multiple walkers, runners and riders. There was also evidence that horses use the trail as well (don’t worry, I won’t show you the photo evidence).

Walkers, Runners, Riders.jpg

During various points along the way the maple trees on either side of the trail are quite dense, creating a colourful tunnel overhead.

5aaa. Trail with Leaves.jpg

As I approached the 3km mark Curl Road intersects the trail and you can see the Napanee River to the south. Last fall I launched my kayak from here and paddled a beautiful stretch of river.

11. Curl Road.jpg

As I continued I noticed that the hard and soft maples had given way to countless cedars trees. It was like the trail was reading my mind as I came across some signage that explained the Eastern White Cedars and their importance to the local landscape.

13. CedarS AND Sign SQUARE.jpg

As I approached Yarker the L&A Ridge Runners Snowmobile Clubhouse came into view. That group works hard to keep the trails in our region in tip-top shape. In the winter the Cataraqui Trail connects riders with thousands of kilometres of snowmobile trails throughout Ontario.

14. Ridge Runner Clubhouse.jpg

When I arrived in Yarker I was excited to take in the view of the river off the old rail bridge. I was not disappointed. The leaves were brightly lit and was the highlight of my ride.

17. View from Yarker Bridge.jpg

After a brief break that included a visit to The Lucky Dollar for a well-earned treat, I made my way back to Camden East. I highly recommend this stretch of the trail and can’t wait to re-acquaint myself with the the Strathcona-Camden East portion that takes me (literally) past my old back yard.


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