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Trails in a COVID-19 Universe

Spring is here and the urge to get out on the trails gets stronger every day.  Fresh air and exercise are important to physical and mental health and well-being.  To keep everyone safe, we cannot travel away from home. So now is a good time for people to explore their own neighbourhood while keeping a safe distance from everyone else. On one of the first warm sunny days of the spring, we took the opportunity to ride our bikes from our home in Waterloo, to explore some of the potential cycling routes between Waterloo and the West Montrose Kissing Bridge. The Walter Bean Trail, a cycling route from Cambridge to Waterloo, using mainly multi-use trails near the Grand River, currently ends at the corner of Country Squire Road and Grand River Dr, just north of RIM park. Woolwich Township is planning to complete the Walter Bean Trail by creating a hiking trail through Woolwich Township, using the Grand Valley Trail. However, a cycling route is also needed. Country Squire Road is a quiet road that leads to Glasgow St South, crossing the Conestogo River over an old iron one-lane bridge which leads directly to the heart of the village of Conestogo.

From here, we could go east or west along busy Sawmill Road.  The route west requires a long ride on Northfield Dr E, which is a fast, busy road.  We chose to turn R onto Sawmill Road towards Katherine St, which is not as heavily used as Northfield.  There are narrow bike lanes along most of Sawmill Rd, except one section where the road narrows.  After crossing the Grand River, we were relieved to turn L onto Golf Course Rd.  Even here we could not entirely escape evidence of the COVID emergency, with a “Temp Closed … Stay Safe” sign outside the golf course. 

From Golf Course Rd, we rode along quiet country Hunsberger Rd, to Katherine St.  It has a narrow paved shoulder, which adds to cycling comfort.   We proceeded along Katherine St to the tiny village of Winterbourne, stopping to admire the deconsecrated old Chalmers Presbyterian Church at the corner of Peel St.

I had planned to take the route that minimized cycling on busy highways. I had scoped it out using Google Maps and Street View, taking the Peel St bridge over to the other side of the Grand River, proceeding via Crooks Tract Road and then crossing the river again over the Buggy Lane bridge.  Here we discovered that you cannot always rely on Google Maps.  The Peel St bridge has been completely closed to all traffic, even pedestrians and cyclists, due to safety concerns.  We later discovered that the last section of Crooks Tract Road and Buggy Lane is private property, blocked by a large “No Trespassing” sign.

We reluctantly turned around and headed back to Katherine St and rode further up to Letson Dr, keeping a watchful eye on the passing trucks.  This quiet gravel road led directly to our destination, the West Montrose Kissing Bridge, the only remaining covered bridge in Ontario, and the oldest in Canada.

Our ride had answered the question of which is the best cycling route from the Walter Bean Trail in Waterloo to West Montrose, having eliminated two of three possible options!  And we had enjoyed the fresh country air of Woolwich Township while getting some essential sunshine and exercise.

Where the Speed Meets the Grand River

13 km cycling on Cambridge Trails

Click here for a map of trails along the Speed River

Our mission:  to explore trails along the Speed River, a major tributary of the Grand River.  Using the City of Cambridge’s Trail Map, we were able to find a series of multi-use trails that lead through Cambridge from the end of the Speed River Trail to the confluence of the Speed River with the Grand, with only a few short on-road gaps.

After a sweltering heat wave, the sky was blue, the air was a little cooler and there was a slight breeze–the perfect day for a bike ride.  We started at the end of the Speed River Trail (which starts in Guelph) on Blackbridge Rd where it passes over a historical bridge over the Speed.  A group of kayakers were paddling on the placid river and a fisherman was trying his luck under the bridge.


We cycled up Blackbridge Rd to a small subdivision in Hespeler.  Using GPS and the trails map we were able to find the start of a community trail that leads to the Hespeler Millpond and a view of the spires of the historical village of Hespeler.  Here, a large sign with a map marks the start of the Mill Run Trail, which is a well-maintained multi-use trail that runs along the banks of the river.  Many people were out enjoying Sunday morning,  walking their dogs, jogging or biking along the trail.

The trail continues through some woods with numerous viewpoints of the river and the industrial heritage of Hespeler.  We saw two herons intently fishing.

At Beaverdale Rd, someone had kindly put up a handmade sign, showing the way across the river to the next section of trail.  The trail passes under Highway 401, with the traffic thundering overhead, oblivious of the river and the trail beneath.

Finally we reached Riverside Park, which was busy with family barbecues and children running excitedly around the splash pad.

After a short ride along King St, which is very busy, we connected with the Bob McMullen Linear Trail.  This trail runs beside the river, which here seems in no hurry to meet its larger sibling.  There is a plan to eventually build a pedestrian bridge over the Speed River, which would connect these trails to the Great Trail, which runs through rare Charitable Research Reserve on the opposite side of the Grand River.  Finally we reached a great viewpoint overlooking a broad flood plain at the meeting point of the Speed River and the Grand River.


First Annual Grand Watershed Trails Family Day

Join us at Brant Park for the First Annual Grand Watershed Trails Network Family Day on Sunday, September 15, 2019.  Participants will canoe/kayak/raft from Paris to Brant Park.  The event will finish with a barbecue lunch.

8785 View of Grand River

Participants will meet at the Outfitters’ Launch at Brant Park at 9 am to sign in. Grand Experiences will transport everyone to the starting point in Paris and provide canoes, kayaks and rafts, as well as life jackets. Grand Experiences will also transport canoes and kayaks for participants who choose to bring their own boat. Everyone will paddle back to Brant Park (about 2 1/2 hours) for a celebratory barbecue lunch (included).

Participants may use their own canoe or kayak if they prefer.

The cost is $60 per participant age 13 and up, including lunch.

Children age 4-12 are free, with up to 2 children in a canoe with two adults. Participants under the age of 19 will require a waiver signed by a parent/guardian.

The event will go ahead rain or shine.

To register go to Eventbrite: Grand Watershed Trails Family Day