The Log Driver’s Waltz is an 800 kilometre bikepacking loop consisting of about 75 percent unpaved riding surfaces that follows a mix of rural tree-lined gravel roads, rustic unmaintained roads, sections of rail trail, riverside roads, single lane paths and forested trails in the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais regions of eastern Ontario and western Quebec. Parts of the Log Driver’s Waltz are remote and cell service is not guaranteed. This will be surprising to some given that part of the route also follows the historic Rideau Canal through the downtown of Ottawa, Canada’s National Capital.
The route showcases the world class off-pavement riding that is a hallmark of the Lanark Highlands, home to rocky outcrops, split rail fences, maple sugar shacks and woodlots. In the North Frontenac Highlands riders will ride through towering white and red pines which once dominated the entire Ottawa Valley. It was the cutting and floating of these tree species down the tributaries of the Ottawa River, the “log drives” and the men that worked them that gave the route its name. In this rugged section of the route, climbs and descents tend to be short and steep so low gears are a must.
“I thought 8 days for the LDW would be quite leisurely. It turns out soggy roads are quite draining physically and mentally. Still, we had a great time overall. We're already thinking about returning to some of the areas that we rode through and doing some more exploring.”
Laetitia Tam, Grand Depart, 8 days
Descending from the highlands and into the Ottawa Valley proper the route showcases the prosperous mixed farming on both shores of the Kichi Sibi (Ottawa River). Here riders will experience a mixture of more gentle hills, flat, winding, and straight country roads. It is not long before the climbing away from the Ottawa River and into Pontiac and La Peche begins as the route swings east. Meeting the Tenàgàdino Zìbì (Gatineau River) valley it then turns north on the appropriately named rail trail, Véloroute des Draveurs (“log drivers’ bike route”) and crosses the Tenàgàdino Zìbì at Gracefield, the northernmost town on the route. The climbing continues off and on on the southbound leg and the route soon passes over the two highest points which are tied in elevation but not degree of difficulty. Several more crossings of the river later riders do a final climb away from the river and enter the Gatineau Park. The trails of the 361-square kilometre Gatineau Park, an area dominated by green hills, lakes and vistas from the Eardley escarpment are a unique experience due in part to the absence of motorized traffic of any sort. The terrain here is varied and there are some demanding uphills, including a section of hike-a-bike, and exhilarating double track downhills.
Popping out of the park at the Kichi Sibi (Ottawa River) across from Parliament Hill the vista is truly spectacular. As the nation’s capital Ottawa boasts a wide array of cultural and historic sites and opportunities for bikepackers to explore. Restaurants, accommodation, coffee shops and brewpubs abound so consider an overnight or a “zero” to take full advantage. Following the Rideau Canal and passing through the Experimental Farm the route avoids roads by utilizing some of the impressive network of multiple use pathways that please both visitors and locals alike.
Touching the Ottawa River once again at Britannia the LDW follows an abandoned tramway and railbed before cutting through the National Capital Commission Greenbelt on a series of gravel and dirt paths. From the outskirts of Ottawa to Carleton Place riders follow a relaxing portion of the Trans Canada Trail. Just after Carleton Place riders will experience their final taste of gravel and unmaintained roads and the famous “Old Perth Road” before the final descent into Almonte and the finish of their ride.
It must be stressed that the route is entirely unsupported and unsanctioned with no insurance provided. All riders are responsible for their own well-being on the route and ride at their own risk. The route developers assume no responsibility. There is no guarantee of route conditions at any given time. You are entirely responsible for your own safety and decisions that are made including accommodation, necessary detours and being aware that hunting and logging (along with the presence of logging transport) can occur in certain locations at various times of year. If you are not comfortable riding a section of the route take any necessary alternatives or dismount and walk. Planning and due diligence is imperative as is riding within your means.
Come prepared for an adventure and don’t underestimate how long the total route will take to ride. Some more challenging sections will surely slow down the pace. As a rough estimate, it will probably take most riders 5 to 7 days to complete the route. Some gunning for a speedy Individual Time Trial (ITT) will spend fewer days on the route while others moving along at a casual touring pace may enjoy more than a week on the LDW. Whatever your time goal, please know your cycling abilities and prepare yourself, bike and kit accordingly.
You'll also notice that the route is not designed to go from one point to the next as quickly as possible. That is on purpose as our goal is to take riders through the most interesting terrain and scenery possible which means some wandering occurs so you can discover all the regions greatest hits.
Though the official start of the route is in Almonte, there are many other starting points in towns and cities that the route passes through such as Ottawa, Carleton Place, Sharbot Lake, Renfrew, Shawville, Gracefield and Wakefield. Free multi-day parking is available at the Almonte Civitan Community Centre (the centre takes no responsibility for cars left overnight).
The combination of distance, lack of paved riding, segments of chunky riding surfaces in several places, and elevation gain make this a fairly adventurous route. Elevation gain is 7267 metres according to RWGPS but the actual amount of climbing, based on data from many riders is closer to 9500 metres. Most climbs are short but they can be punchy and remember, “what comes up, must come down”. Climbs that stand out for us are: Tatty Hill (km 255.4), L’Alpe de Tubman (km 407.5) , Mont Ste. Marie (km 535.6), Trans Outaouais (km 543), Paugan Rd (km 568), and McCloskey’s (km 672). Intermediate and advanced bikepackers will not be disappointed by the level of challenge on the LDW. More novice bikepackers should plan the route out in attainable stages and make any necessary route adjustments - all the while remembering that a positive attitude is often just as important as fitness in getting to the finish line.
“I may have gone into the LDW expecting it to be easy…it was definitely harder than I had expected." Kyle Roberts, Melbourne, Australia: 3 days, 2 hours (Individual Time Trial 2021)
For the most part, there are sufficient resupply opportunities available along the LDW in the form of larger supermarkets, convenience/depanneur stores, cafes and bakeries. But make note that in a couple of cases riders will need to make sure they are packing sufficient water and food. Most notably between Sharbot Lake and Calabogie and between Lac Ste-Marie and Low. Certain stretches may warrant carrying at least 3 water bottles. A water filter or purification tablets are a must. The master route file can help you plan accordingly.
It's also worth noting that cell reception can be spotty in places so don't expect constant service. For some riders, the use of a Spot or InReach tracking device will offer comfort in letting others know of positioning on the route and allow for another option for contacting emergency services.
"The LDW has many POI’s, re-supplies and general info provided. The LDW is very accessible as a touring route."
Kyle Roberts, Melbourne, Australia: 3 days, 2 hours (Individual Time Trial 2021)
Where you rest for a night can run the gamut of crown land campsites, commercial campgrounds, hotels, B&Bs, and with Warmshowers hosts. The master route file lists numerous accommodation options. When sleeping on crown land or stealth camping be respectful and leave no trace. Due to increased usage during the Covid-19 Pandemic it is strongly advised to book the North Frontenac Parkland crown land campsites as well as those in Gatineau park (especially on weekends) in advance. This link provides some useful information about using crown land including how to obtain a camping permit if not a Canadian resident. And this link can help you identify crown land areas.
Plants to Avoid
If you are wild camping or even just stepping off the trail to explore, familiarize yourself with Giant Hogweed, Poison Ivy and Wild Parsnip which are all now common along parts of the route.
While we believe the route as plotted offers the ultimate LDW bikepacking experience, not every rider is able to commit to the full trip length or comfortable riding the full length of some of the more remote sections where services are limited. You'll notice that there are several spots on the route where it is possible to take a necessary detour to shorten the distance. Some of these are marked with a Control Point Point of Interest on the master route file. All riders are responsible for understanding what their routing options are.
This is a very important decision when it comes to tackling the LDW. As a true multi-surface bike trip, there are handful of testy unmaintained road and forest trail sections in which certain bike set-ups are better suited to handle. A hard-tail mountain bike with tires in the 2.0”-2.25” range is a great choice. A mountain bike like a Panorama Cycles Taiga EXP would be an excellent choice for this route. Certainly, the route can also be tackled on a gravel style bike, but ideally it would be outfitted 29-inch or 650b wheels and fatter rubber. Rougher sections of the route will be more demanding with this set-up. But, in the end, the best bike for any route is often the one you already have and are comfortable riding.
It should be noted that this is a very hilly bikepacking route. It’s recommended to use gearing that is capable of riding up plenty of inclines. A traditional gravel road crankset (say 46/36) is not ideal for most riders especially if you are carrying gear. Remember, bags, a tent, a change of clothes and food weigh things down. Lower gearing such as having a 32 or smaller front chain ring upfront combined with an 11-42 (or 10-50/52) cassette will give you more ability to spin up the climbs. Really, no gear ratio is too low.
Here is some additional information from bikepacking.com about gear selection for your bike including what some of the top guns bring along.
The main riding season for the LDW is between mid-May and mid-October (the trails are not open to bikes in Gatineau Park before May 15th or after November 15th. There is a bypass from Wakefield if you are into pushing the shoulder season!). Just keep in mind that bug season is in full swing between May and early August so take the necessary precautions like bringing a good supply of bug repellent. During wet springs some sections will be particularly muddy and prone to having some deep puddles. Fall colours can offer particularly spectacular riding. Hunting season begins early November in the Ontario portion of the route so we advise that riders do not attempt this area of the route after the end of October. Hunting season begins in early October in some areas of Quebec where the route goes through. Since the route is on public roads, rail trail and non-hunting trails in Gatineau this should not greatly impact riders. However, if planning on venturing off the main route (i.e. looking for "wild" camping spots) it's advised to wear bright clothing and make lots of noise when moving around.
If planning on camping in the backcountry or want to take advantage of natural water sources during a ride it is a good idea to bring along a water filter and/or purification tablets. This is especially helpful for the stretch between Sharbot Lake and Calabogie where services are very limited.
Of course, if camping you'll need bring the necessary gear including tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. Nights in the spring and fall can be chilly so pack what you need to keep warm.
If riding during bug season, a lightweight bug jacket can be helpful when off the bike for an evening to help keep your sanity.
If backcountry camping it's a good idea to bring along some rope/cord to hang food off the ground to keep it out of the mouths of hungry critters. Do not keep food in your tent or bike bags overnight. Squirrels and raccoons can do a lot of damage to your gear. Hang your food out of the reach of these small animals and bears. This resource from Algonquin Park is useful.
Log Driver's Waltz Sample Packing List- Copy and modify to suit your needs.
The route makes use of shared pathways in some municipalities. Please be courteous to other users and respect speed limits and other signage. Remember you are an ambassador for the entire cycling community. If you are gunning for a fast time recognize that shared pathways are not the place to make up minutes.
One of the unique features of the route is that it takes place in both the provinces of Ontario and Quebec so everyone you encounter will speak either French, English or both languages. You will likely find people along the route easy to talk to and willing to help you out, especially if you make the effort to communicate with them in their first language, no matter how small your vocabulary is. It is a great way to make a good first impression and, in turn, increase your language proficiency.
Spread the Word
As you ride around the LDW route it would be great if you could mention to local businesses and residents that you are taking part in it. This is a way to make more people aware of this cycling route which will hopefully generate income for small scale local businesses and improve services available to future riders.
Share your ride on Instagram or Facebook and tag @thelogdriverswaltz.
If you are aware of any land/business owners looking to get involved such as providing tenting space or water for riders please do let us know.
For many the satisfaction of riding some or all of the route will be sufficient. If you would like to share your ride and potentially encourage others to explore the Log Driver's Waltz please see the instructions on the "Log Drivers Awards" pages.
Environment Canada (Ottawa) https://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/on-118_metric_e.html
Air Quality in Ottawa (Environment Canada) https://weather.gc.ca/airquality/pages/onaq-008_e.html
Air Quality in Ottawa (Government of Ontario) www.airqualityontario.com/aqhi/today.php?sites=51001
Questions, Thoughts, Comments:
We have a Facebook Discussion Group for people interested sharing information and asking questions about the LDW or bikepacking in general. Please join and help grow the community!
Log Driver's Waltz Bikepacking: Tips, planning, training, gear and advice
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