Grand River Tours

Hike/Bike/Canoe Grand River Trails

The following are recommended 1-2 day trips.  These can be done as round trips, or park a second vehicle at the turn-around point.  The last trip can be done by canoe and bike.  Various companies, such as Canoeing the Grand, Grand River Rafting Company and Grand Experiences, provide guided kayak and canoe trips on the Grand River.

Grand Tributary Tour:  Conestogo River, Laurel Creek, Speed and Eramosa Rivers (115 km round trip)

Google Map and Instructions for Section 1:  St Jacobs Market to Cambridge (28 km one way)

Google Map and Instructions for Section 2:  Cambridge to Guelph (33 km one way)

Google Map and Instructions for Section 3:  Guelph to St Jacobs Market (56 km one way)

This is best done as a 2 day round trip.  The tour runs alongside several of the major tributaries of the Grand River.  Stay overnight at a hotel close to the route and arrange to park your car for an extra night.   (A good place to start or break overnight is the St Jacobs Market, with an adjacent Staybridge Hotel, Holiday Inn Express, Homewood Suites and Courtyard by Marriott.  Similarly, there are several hotels in downtown Guelph near the route, including the Western Hotel, Royal Inn, and Parkwood Hotel). 

The St Jacobs Farmers Market is open on Thursdays and Saturdays and is well worth a morning visit.  From here, the route follows the Great Trail on community trails past the University of Waterloo, crossing Laurel Creek in Uptown Waterloo.  In Kitchener the trail takes the Iron Horse rail trail and a multi-use trail to Doon, where it passes the Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Village.  The route then takes some quiet hilly roads through Doon past the Homer Watson House and Art Gallery.  This section crosses the 401 via a pedestrian bridge high over the busy highway and finishes just inside the borders of the City of Cambridge.

The second section begins by crossing the Grand River on a multi-use trail.  This connects with the Walter Bean Trail which goes along the river into the picturesque old city of Galt, Cambridge.  On this tour, the route takes Fountain St east to Riverside Park in Cambridge, where it meets the Speed River.  There is a short section on a busy road which leads into Preston, before turning into the park.  From here, the route follows the Mill Run Trail along the Speed River into Hespeler.  There are great views of the Speed River, one of the major tributaries of the Grand River, and of grand old industrial buildings, which are gradually being reclaimed for new uses.  As the route heads up Guelph Ave, it passes the Four Fathers Brewing Company, the perfect place for a quick break for craft beer and a light lunch.  The route takes quiet country roads to the outskirts of Guelph.  After a short section on a busy road, it follows a network of quiet streets and community trails to the Royal Recreation Trail.  Watch for blue herons fishing in the Speed River.  This section passes the Boathouse Tea Room as it crosses the Speed River.  Behind the tea room, a miniature covered bridge crosses the Speed River, offering views of the Eramosa River as it merges with the Speed River.  From here it is a short ride into downtown Guelph.

The final section begins on trails running beside the Speed River to Guelph’s Riverside Park.  After a short ride on a busy road, the route moves onto the Kissing Bridge Trailway, part of the Guelph to Goderich Trail.  This is a beautifully maintained rail trail through Mennonite farming country.  Keep an eye out for horse-drawn buggies and farmers working their fields with horse-drawn equipment.  In West Montrose, stop to admire the “Kissing Bridge”, Ontario’s last remaining covered bridge.  The rail trail passes through the small town of Elmira.  There is a small farmer’s market on Saturday mornings in the summer.  The route continues as far as the tiny village of Wallenstein (check out the old fashioned Wallenstein General Store), where it turns south, following the route of the Great Trail.  After a short ride on a busy road, it moves onto quiet gravel country roads and meets the Conestogo River.  The route follows alongside the river, passing a plain white Mennonite meeting house and cemetery, with its simple gravestones.  Three Bridges Road crosses the Conestogo River on a low bridge that is often closed in Spring when water levels are high.  The route takes the Mill Race Trail to the mill in St. Jacobs, a picturesque village full of shops.  If you have time, visit The Mennonite Story and find out more about the Mennonite settlers of Waterloo Region.  Finally, the trail follows the Conestogo River for a short time, turning onto a multi-use trail that leads back to the St. Jacobs Market.

3 Breweries, a Market and the Grand River (25 or 39 km round trip)

Google Map and Instructions for 30 Km Round Trip excluding Grand River side trip

Google Map and Instructions for 39 km Round Trip including Grand River side trip

Park your car in the picturesque village of St. Jacobs behind Block 3 Brewing.  Go for a walk in the village and visit some of the unique shops and museums, especially the Mennonite Story and Maple Syrup Museum.  After 11 am, enjoy beer tasting at the brewery, before setting out on your ride.

Ride along the banks of the Conestogo River to the St. Jacobs Market.  On Thursdays and Saturdays enjoy visiting the market and buy lunch from one of many vendors.

From the Market, ride to Innocente Brewing Company for some more craft beer tasting.

For a shorter trip, then follow the 30 km round trip instructions to the WaterLoop Trail and Waterloo Towne Square.   Otherwise continue along Labrador Drive to the Walter Bean Trail.  This multi-use trail follows the Grand River behind Grey Silo Golf Course.  Look out for herons, osprey (and even sometimes bald eagles) and turtles.  Continue to Lexington Road and then join the WaterLoop Trail to Abe Erb.

Finish at Abe Erb for dinner, washed down with local craft beer.

The tour can finish here if you have left a second vehicle at Waterloo Towne Square.  Otherwise follow the TransCanada Trail back to St. Jacobs.

Alternatively, now the LRT is running, you can take your bicycle on the LRT to Northfield Station and ride back to St. Jacobs via the market.

St Jacobs Farmers Market

Grand Valley Trail and Elora Cataract Trailway via Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (32 km round trip)

Google map and instructions for 30 km Round Trip

Park near Main St and Nicholas St in Alton, Caledon.

Before starting this cycling trip, take a short, steep hike from Nicholas St to the top of the Pinnacle, the end point of the Grand Valley Trail for views of the surrounding countryside.

Then ride along Main St following signs for the Grand Valley Trail.  This hiking trail follows the roads to 8th line, at which point the trail disappears along an unopened rail allowance.  For this tour, turn left along 8th line and ride to the Elora Cataract Trailway, a multi-use trail between Elora and Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.

Pack a picnic lunch and spend time enjoying the park.  Make sure to view the falls!  Here the Grand River Trails system meets the Bruce Trail.

To return, follow the map and ride along Main St back to Alton.  Finish the day with dinner at The Millcroft Inn and Spa, Rays 3rd Generation Bistro and Bakery, or another local restaurant.

Elora Cataract Trailway

Canoeing the Grand:  Cambridge to Glen Morris to Paris

Google Map and Instructions Cambridge to Glen Morris  Approximately 2-2.5 hrs canoeing, 9 km return on Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail

Google Map and Instructions: Glen Morris to Paris Approximately 2-2.5 hrs canoeing, 11 km return on Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail

This trip can be done as one long day, especially if water flows are high, or 2 short days.  For a different view of the river, if you park bicycles at the end point, you can ride to your starting point along a multi-use trail that follows the river.  Consult the Grand River Conservation Authority for river flows and important safety information.

In Cambridge,  park at the head of the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail on Water St S.  There is an access point for canoes and kayaks.

Watch out for wildlife and an old stone mill on the L bank of the river.

There is another access point in the tiny village of Glen Morris at Forbes St,  if you wish to shorten your trip.

In Paris, pull out at the landing dock on the left bank just above Penman’s Dam.

Stop in the beautiful little town of Paris (Ontario, not the other one!) for lunch or dinner, before riding your bike back to your starting point.