LAST UPDATED JANUARY 15th, 2018
Fatbiking has seen some pretty explosive growth across the Ottawa-Gatineau region over the last few seasons. Assuming we are blessed with moderately low temperatures and fluffy abundant white stuff, we have 7 different Fatbike riding areas in and around Ottawa-Gatineau:
- The SJAM Ottawa River Parkway Trail
- Almonte Riverside Trail west of Ottawa
- South March Highlands in Kanata
- The 60-Series trail in south Gatineau Park
- The 70-Series trail in south Gatineau Park
- The Larose Forest Trails east of Ottawa
- Centre de plein air du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau
Our increasingly broad network is really starting to add up and looks like potentially 120km of multi-user, snowshoed, tire tracked and machine groomed goodness. The SJAM, Centre du Lac-Leamy and some of the Larose Forest trails will be machined groomed, and our other other trails remain human-groomed winter single track and feature a lot of great natural terrain. It can’t be overstated how fortunate we are to share trail access with an abundant and active snowshoe and winter trail running community. The foot and bike traffic combined create a truly unique experience.
One reason the past few seasons have been successful has been the great nature of the fatbike community of riders. Everyone has shown great respect to other trail users and embraced trail courtesy to foster good will and to be safe. The Gatineau Park Pilot Project was been successful, in part, because riders have largely been cautious, courteous and friendly with the other shared trail users. And although IMBA rules might say that the climbing rider has the right of way, it’s usually safer to let descending riders down any steep hills. With more rider sour on winter trails, it's important to just try to be nice to everyone.
Where to Ride:
1. SJAM - For an easy cruise, or if you're looking for something family oriented (several local shops have 24" kids fat bikes for rent), try the SJAM groomed river trail that runs from the War Museum to Westboro. You can start from the historic Mill Street Brew Pub (coincidence?) next to The War Museum, or hop on the trail at the Westboro end (park on a side street). The trail is flat and wide but can be windy. Fresh Air Experience often has a trailer set up renting bikes and skis on most weekends. There are sections of trail with lots of pedestrians so keep your heads up. SJAM is perfect for evening fitness rides.
2. Almonte Riverside Trail - The Mississippi Valley Trail is another good beginner and intermediate spot. A great ride along the Mississippi river and into the woods, the Almonte Trail Crew works hard to keep the trails open all year. The trail between Strathburn Street and James Naismith Way is great riding in both directions, with lots of parking available at James Naismith Way. Bennies Corners steps up the riding with a good intermediate route; park at end of Ramsay Concession 8 and follow the long looping trail to enjoy some great flow riding. After riding head into the village to enjoy the water and grab some chow. There area few different places to eat; the Barley Mow is especially welcoming to trail riders.
You can check conditions on the MVT - Mississippi Valley Trails Facebook group. The Almonte crew is working hard to update maps and routes with up-to-date info.
3. South March Highlands - Many riders will be familiar with the SMH trails in Kanata. Depending on conditions, there are often a few loops open with combinations of Beartree, Rockhopper, Porcupine, Dogsled, PWT, IMBA, and Bailout. Ridgetop and Outback get tracked as the season advances. Note that the full outback loop can be soft and difficult so be prepared with appropriate gear and beverages. When the temperature drops, the lakes freeze hard and if you have the nerve you can ride out on the ice; keep moving, don’t get too close to sticks and watch for beaver and muskrat air holes.
4. Gatineau Park 60-Series Trails - Located in the south end of Gatineau Park, the 60-Series trails get lots of snowshoe, foot, and Fatbike traffic. This set of trails is both challenging and super-fun. With bigger terrain and hills, winding single-track, and the odd open stream, you will be challenged. Most riders will park at P1 Asticou. (If it’s busy, drive past the trailhead hut and use the second parking lot) Most riders head out on 66, to 65 and maybe 64. (there is some hike-a-bike) There can be lots of traffic so be prepared to yield for safety. Trail passes are required; $45.00 for the season Fatbike pass or $8.00 a day.
5. Gatineau Park 70-Series trails (Wakefield) - So you’re looking for a bigger challenge? The 70-Series trails are for you. Starting either from P17 in Wakefield or P15 at Cross-Loop Road, the 70-71-72 trail offer open fields, steep climbs (and steep downs!), wicked-good forest singletrack, fire-pit rest stops, lake vistas (studs recommended on-ice), access to Healey cabin, and the notorious 71-Waterfall. Work yourself up to the ULTIMATE GATINEAU LOOP from P17 for an Epic day. (try to pick a sunny day) Trail passes are required; $45.00 for the season Fatbike pass or $8.00 a day.
Post ride hit up Pub 1870 in Wakefield for craft beers and chili dogs, or Pub Chelsea in Chelsea for Poutine of the Day. You could also head to Le Nordik Spa for food, drink and relaxation.
6. The Larose Forest Trails - Larose Forest has been open to fatbikes for a few seasons with some great riding. The expanding network is a combination of loops adding up to more than 16km and expanding all the time. The primary parking areas are about 25 minutes east of Ottawa. Use the button below for directions to the trailhead.
This is purpose built bike trail with nice flow, undulating sections along the creeks with some big downs and ups and nicely bermed corners all around. Keep your eyes peeled for some figure 8 loops and side lines that spice it up even more. Fun but not boring for all rider levels, especially on a fatbike. Look for more details on what is open and tracked on the Larose Forest and OMBA/AVMO Facebook groups. As you drive in you can park at the P7 Big Loop trailhead, or at P1 adjacent to the covered picnic area where you can access the smaller connected loops. If you're doing the FULL MONTY decide whether to do the upper loops or the big loop first, and use the road to head out to the respective trailhead. Watch for cars, skiers, snowshoers, runners, dog mushers and deer.
After riding you can head south into Embrum and hit up the local brew pubs; Brasserie Tuque de Broue Brewery, or Brasserie Étienne Brûlé Brewery. And don't forget to pick up a 12 pack of Bear Claws form the Village Bakery too.
Make sure you stay on the designated bike trails as there are a lot of users including XC Skiers, dog teams and snowmobiles that make use of Larose Forest in the winter. All trails are 2-way traffic unless signed 1-way. And there are rumours that for the upcoming 2018-2019 season the trails will be groomed! Hopefully the weather will cooperate. To show your support, the Larose Forest Managment Team ask you to join OMBA-AVMO. Your membership is your trail pass.
7. Centre de plein air du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau - The 2017-2918 season was the beginning of the City of Gatineau's Fatbike pilot project on the groomed Lac Leamy trails. This network loops Lac Leamy, runs into Champlain Park and extends north along the Gatineau River, connecting to the Relais plein air de Gatineau Park adjacent to trail 64 in the 60-Series. These routes combine groomed river paths to the fantastic Gatineau forest singletrack. And the Casino de Lac Leamy has an EPIC Sunday Brunch buffet. Several of our hardcore riders used the network for blow out 50km+ snow rides and for commuting all winter. No word yet on the upcoming season but hopefully we can expect more grooming and access to some of the XC trails.
Christian Lalonde, Mike McGuire, Philipp Wuthrich, Terry Field