8.8 km hiking on Section 1 and 2 of the Speed River Trail
Click here for a map of trails along the Speed River
The Speed River is one of the main tributaries of the Grand River. It flows from its source near Orton through Guelph, where it is joined by another major tributary, the Eramosa. It enters the Grand River in Cambridge. The Guelph Hiking Trail Club maintains the Speed River Trail, a hiking trail which runs from Guelph to Cambridge along the banks of the river. The club publishes a guide book with instructions and maps of their trails, which is very helpful and can be purchased on their website. The club also supports the Radial Line Trail, some sections of which follow the Eramosa River. There are also a number of municipal trails associated with the rivers.
Today we decided to hike the first 2 of 3 sections of the Speed River Trail, which is marked by orange blazes on the main trail and blue blazes on side trails. The trail starts at the Guelph Humane Society. After passing behind the Guelph Water Treatment Plant, the trail wandered through a meadow. Anemones, normally a spring flower, were still in bloom.
We crossed a rickety bridge and entered a mature woodlot. Fortunately a gentle breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay.
The well-marked and well-used trail ends at a small parking lot at Niska Road. It then re-enters the wood. This section of the trail is less maintained and there were a lot of dead branches on the trail, making it difficult to find at times. We had to clamber over a dead tree at one point. The trail is supposed to run through a hedgerow along the edge of the road but it was very overgrown, so at this point we walked along Niska Road to Whitelaw Road.
Beware of mosquitoes, stinging nettles, swamps . . . and hunters!
The second section of the Speed River Trail takes a closed road allowance through an old gravel pit to a woodlot. This section is closed from September 1 to January 20 during hunting season. Initially the trail followed an old logging road but it soon headed into thick brush. Fortunately someone had hiked the trail recently and we were able to follow the trampled vegetation when we lost sight of the orange blazes. Spring was very wet this year and the marshy ground was still saturated. In places makeshift bridges made of logs and old planks crossed tiny streams, but at times we sank into the mud. The trail follows the edge of the river offering excellent views, but with the warm weather, the mosquitoes were out in full force so we didn’t linger. At one point, we lost the trail amidst the thicket of fallen branches and had to retrace our steps.
Finally, the trail emerged along the edge of some fields and the wind swept the bugs away. Milkweed plants were growing along the edge of the field and we spotted some monarch butterflies and some well-fed monarch caterpillars.
According to the guidebook, the third and final section of the Speed River Trail is extremely swampy. Perhaps we will leave this section until next spring, when we will wear our waterproof boots and hike it before the mosquitoes emerge!