During the Civic Holiday long weekend, I spent two days cycling around Peterborough and two of the rail trails that radiate out of it. Peterborough is one of my favourite places to cycle; it is my third time there on two wheels.
On Sunday July 31, I started by taking the GO Lakeshore East Train, then transferring to the 88 Peterborough GO bus. Every GO bus is equipped with a rack that can accommodate two bicycles, and all non-peak GO trains can take two or four bicycles per coach (there are special bike coaches as well on the Niagara summer weekend service). After getting off the bus in Downtown Peterborough, and getting coffee at one of that city’s many downtown cafes, I biked out to Hastings, on the Lang-Hastings Trail, returning via (mostly) the same route, a 40 kilometre one-way trip.
I stayed overnight in Downtown Peterborough and biked to Uxbridge via Lindsay the following day (more on that in a subsequent post), making a diversion via Trent University. That one-way trip was almost 100 kilometres in length. At Uxbridge, I had dinner and took a GO bus back to Toronto.
Late last year, the City of Peterborough removed the disused railway spur (once part of an important CN railway line) under Highway 7/115 and paved the old railbed, creating a new link to the Lang-Hastings rail trail. The Lang-Hastings trail, upgraded and dedicated in 2012, was part of CN’s Campbellford Subdivision. The Campbellford Sub, which winded its way from Lindsay to Belleville until it was abandoned in the 1980s, was once a major grain shipment route. Passenger trains ran from Toronto through Lindsay and Peterborough to Belleville until 1962.
Beyond the Peterborough city limits, the trail is unpaved, but the crush stone surface is in very good condition. The old rail bed winds its way around the drumlin hills that dominate the landscape east of Peterborough, making for a flat and sometimes scenic ride.
Passing through the drumlins of Peterborough County
At Hastings, the trail abruptly ends at an old railway swing bridge across the Trent River. The bridge itself is re-decked and has railings, but this is only passable during the winter months for winter hikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers. From May through October, the bridge is left open for Trent-Severn Waterway traffic. The remaining route into Hastings itself must be completed on town streets, though traffic is light and generally friendly to cyclists. Beyond Hastings, the Trans-Canada trail continues to follow the old railway alignment through Campbellford and Stirling; it is possible to continue to just north of Belleville almost entirely by rail trail.
Rail trails are flat, they’re quiet, and they’re safe. I found the Lang-Hastings trail used well enough on a Sunday that that despite its rural setting, it wasn’t terribly isolated. Rail trails have few of the aggravations that city cyclists face: blocked bike routes, speeding and aggressive motorists, road warriors with attitude. Just some mosquitoes and horse flies.
I returned to Peterborough via the same trail, stopping at the Peterborough Lift Lock before heading to dinner Downtown. The next day, August 1, I rode from Peterborough to Uxbridge on another pair of rail trails, stopping at Trent University. I’ll post about that second day soon.