The Great Trail (aka the Trans Canada Trail or the TCT) traverses Waterloo Region from north to south. It follows a series of rail trails from the Kissing Bridge Trailway (see previous post) to the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail, strung together by on-road sections.
From Wallenstein, the TCT has a short section on a main road, and then continues on quiet country roads. It passes tidy farms and a simple Mennonite meeting house before reaching the Conestogo River, one of the main tributaries of the Grand River.
After crossing the river, the TCT turns onto the Millrace Trail, which runs to the old mill in St. Jacobs, where we stopped for coffee.
From St. Jacobs the trail follows the Conestogo River along the Health Valley multi-use trail to a trail which parallels the highway to the St. Jacobs Market. The Tuesday market was in full swing. One vendor was using an old John Deere tractor engine to make old-fashioned ice cream.
From the market, the TCT follows a series of multi-use trails through Waterloo, past the University of Waterloo, through Waterloo Park and onto the Iron Horse Trail into Kitchener. These trails form a very popular commuter route through the two cities.
Unfortunately, at the end of the Iron Horse Trail, there is a gap and the TCT goes along Courtland Ave. This road has four narrow lanes which are very busy with impatient traffic alongside the new LRT tracks, with no cycling lanes or shoulder. There are plans to re-route the Trans Canada Trail onto a new multi-use trail through nearby parks. In the meantime, we took our own detour along Carwood Avenue, across a pedestrian bridge over Highway 7, and along Vanier Dr, avoiding all but the last 400 m of Courtland Ave.
From Courtland Ave, the trail turns onto bike lanes on Manitou Dr and then onto a multi-use trail which follows Schneider Creek (a minor Grand River tributary) into Homer Watson Park and then alongside the river.
The trail is at times very steep, especially behind the waste water treatment plant, where it is more like a mountain bike trail. Although we had to walk our bicycles a few times, we enjoyed the woods and frequent glimpses of the Grand River. We were surprised to see a deer behind the fence at the treatment plant–which seemed to understand that we were no threat to it on the other side of the fence.
After reaching Conestoga College, the trail crosses the 401 over a pedestrian bridge and follows the Grand Trunk/Walter Bean Trail through Blair to Cambridge. (See our previous post.) Here there are frequent views of the river.
In Cambridge we detoured onto the brand new pedestrian bridge, which offers great views of the city’s historic core.
Once across the Grand River in downtown Cambridge, the Trans Canada Trail takes to the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail. This beautifully maintained rail trail travels along the banks of the Grand River, through dense woods. In Paris, the TCT connects with the S. C. Johnson Trail to Brantford, and on to the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail. An adventure for another day!