Written by: Jody Wilson
On this exciting two-day adventure, you can experience 160km of rail trail, and indulge on Simcoe County’s vibrant local food scene. Think off-road, flat, easy cycling trail. Now think food, beer, breezy waterfront views, and quaint towns and villages. This is what to expect when bikepacking (yes, new word – we love it) the Simcoe County Loop Trail.
The Loop trail is made up of a series of rail and waterfront trails stitched together forming a 165km loop around the central/northern portion of Simcoe County. Two thirds of the loop is also associated with the Trans Canada Trail, which joins together over 150 communities in Ontario through a collection of multi-use trails. Pretty cool, eh?
Although suggested as a two day itinerary, if you’re an avid cyclist, you may want to complete it in one! Either way, we hope you have the greatest time.
It’s best to start in the City of Barrie and ride the loop in a clockwise fashion, although it can be done in any direction. We suggest stopping in Midland overnight, making the first day a whopping 80km, but day two with more scenery to take in and more shopping and eating to do. A seriously good combination.
Cycle north to Elmvale along the North Simcoe Rail Trail. Be sure to check out the Elmvale Bakery upon arrival. Their Bavarian donuts are definitely something to write home about, but so is everything else they make. Blueberry strudel, meat pies, Chelsea buns, and sweet squares galore! On your way out of Elmvale through Heritage Park, you’re in for another treat. This time, zero calories. That’s right, Elmvale, and aptly named Springwater Township, is well known for having some of the cleanest water in the world. There is a cute little spring to fill your water on the east side of County Road 27 under a red clad structure. You won’t miss it!
The Tiny Trail continues through Wyevale’s mature forests and fields eventually heading towards Penetanguishene. As you near this Georgian Bay shoreline town, the trail turns to pavement and the fun begins as you fly over eleven bridges that cross the Copeland Creek. Our favourite section of the entire trail for sure!
Eventually you find yourself cycling through a graffitied steel tunnel under Bridge Road and onto the Penetanguishene Champlain Rotary Waterfront Trail. The trail meanders along the waterfront which includes some pretty amazing historic features as well as stunning views of the harbour. But just wait, if you keep riding up to Discovery Harbour, you will not only get to see the tall ships, but you can dine at Captain Robert’s Table, and experience locally infused, seasonal ingredients with ever changing menus – seriously, it’s like a dream come true, in your mouth.
The Mid-Pen link trail is a paved section that runs between the two communities of Midland and Penetanguishene. It starts with a great downhill section that continues around numerous corners, simulating the feeling of riding a roller coaster. This is where you’ll be thrilled you chose to ride the loop clockwise (and if you didn’t; well, we’re sorry!). Your first day of riding then comes to an end as you approach Midland Harbour.
King Street runs directly away from the harbour where you will find several restaurants and coffee shops to suit all tastes. For the best java in town, Grounded Coffee Co. is located right across from the main harbour. They roast their coffee beans on-site and have tons of outdoor seating. For dinner, you must try Explorer’s Café, a hidden-gem (quite literally) off of King Street, with menu items inspired by the chef’s travels around the world. We suggest staying the night at the Quality Inn and enjoying a swim, sauna, and hot tub before hitting the sheets. Plus, you can bring your precious bicycle into your room with you. Score!
Be sure to start day two off right with a smoothie and a tasty espresso from Grounded Coffee, and a little treat from The Georgian Bakery, downtown Midland. Check out the murals (which make for great photo-ops) and some of the one-of-a-kind shops like Simply Country, Saturday Afternoons, Pebble Tree, and Cabin Boy to name a few. As you leave Midland, get your camera out and ready as you ride along the waterfront and encounter some of the most beautiful panoramic views of the harbour.
Follow the paved trail to Waubaushene, and you’ll find a neat little place called Everything Maple & More. This is the perfect gift shop market if you’re looking to bring back a locally made souvenir, like a bottle of maple syrup, maple barbeque sauce, or a maple salad dressing. Just an idea! In Coldwater, you must stop for lunch at the Em’s Cafe, where you can find grilled sandwiches and gourmet treats. You might need some fuel on your second, and longer, day on the saddle (hope you have some gel shorts on!). Another must-see, must-visit stop is Orillia’s Mariposa Market. There’s a mind-blowing assortment of lunch and dessert options in the middle of Orillia’s downtown core.
The ride from Orillia to Barrie is the perfect mix of easy, flat and downhill sections. You may want to detour ever-so slightly and visit the newest brewery in Simcoe County: Quayle’s Brewery. This farm fresh craft brewery has the best safe-distancing patio and amazing views of their hops. Once you hit Barrie, the sparkling sun shimmers off the water and breezy bursts of wind will make you feel so alive. Now, hurry up and plan your trip! See you all soon.