Fall is definitely here, but that doesn’t mean you have to put your bikes into storage just yet. In fact, with the cooler temperatures, beautiful fall foliage and lack of bugs, autumn may be one of the best times to plan a family bike ride or cycling trip. If you need a little inspiration, be sure to check out CAA’s Cycling Routes page for some suggestions, like their new family friendly bike trail in Algonquin Park.
When I was a kid, my family spent many summer weekends camping and hiking, and one of our favourite places to do that was always Algonquin Park. With over 7600 square kilometres, there is so much to see and do in Algonquin Park, including canoeing, hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing and biking. As an adult, visiting Algonquin never fails to bring back happy memories and impress me with its natural beauty.
Although we’ve taken our kids hiking in Algonquin Park on many occasions, we have never gone biking there as a family. My husband has ridden a couple of the trails, but I was never comfortable taking the kids on those trails. This is largely due to the type of bike our son rides, but also due to my lack of technical mountain biking skills and aversion to crashing – I’m definitely a “beginner” level mountain biker.
Our son has autism, and like many kids with autism, learning to ride a two wheel bicycle proved to be a very challenging endeavour for him. We purchased a three wheel adult size bike for him instead of a traditional bike, and it’s given him the ability to ride around with us without worrying about him losing his balance and crashing. Unfortunately, it’s not conducive to riding on many mountain biking trails, which often involve steep hills or sharp corners.
When I heard that CAA had added a new family-friendly Algonquin Park cycling trail to their Bike Assist App, I knew we had to try it.
The Old Railway Bike Trail is described as a scenic trail that:
“follows the abandoned bed of the historic Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway that ran between 1896 and 1959. One of Algonquin’s easiest cycling trails, suitable for families with children.”
The trail is 11 km long, starting at the Lake of Two Rivers Store on Hwy 60 in Algonquin Park, about 30 km east of the west entrance of the park. Its surface is level and hard packed, which makes it ideal for families and mountain bike beginners.
Our Fall Road Trip to Algonquin Park
Originally my husband and I were planning to take both kids up to Algonquin Park to check out the Old Railway Trail and the fall colour. But due to some other family commitments we had to postpone our planned trip to Algonquin, which meant that our family road trip became a mother-son road trip instead.
I was a bit apprehensive making the trip alone with my son, as my husband is always the person responsible for making sure we don’t get lost on the trails and doing any bike maintenance or repairs. However, I knew I would have access to CAA’s services for cyclists at every step of the way, and this helped relieve my worries.
With CAA’s Bike Assist App, I had access to an interactive map of the entire Old Railway Bike Trail on my phone that showed me exactly where we were along the route at any given time. This is extremely helpful if you are worried about getting lost or wondering how much further you have to go to get back to your car. CAA members also have the option of sharing their route with family or friends that also have the app, which means that my husband could have used the app to pinpoint our location, if necessary.
You can also set an ETA alert on the Bike Assist App that will send an emergency message to your contact should you fail to check in at the end of your ride.
Also, if anything had gone wrong (such as getting a flat tire), I could have accessed the bike repair tutorials on the app to get step-by-step directions on how to fix the problem. My husband is usually my bike repair guy, so this gave me a bit of peace of mind that I wouldn’t be left stranded if I forgot how to fix a flat tire.
The fall colour of the trees in Algonquin Park did not disappoint, although the weather sure did – it poured rain on us during most of our bike ride! Unfortunately, this meant we didn’t complete the whole trail, nor did I get as many pictures of the trail as I was hoping to, for fear of getting my camera wet.
Nevertheless, we found the trail to be exactly as described – hard packed and quite flat, and my son had no trouble at all navigating it on his three wheel bike, even in the rain. It was a very scenic route, and we both enjoyed our ride, despite getting soaked.
I can’t wait to go back again with the family to ride the whole trail – preferably on a day when there’s no rain in the forecast!
Disclosure: I’m a CAA Ambassador and I received compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
About Kathy Sima
Kathy is a blogger and freelance writer and mom of two teens who gave up her career as a financial advisor when her son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. When it comes to parenting, Kathy truly believes there is strength in numbers and knows that sharing stories and strategies with other parents has helped keep her sane (so far!)