September 28, 2020

Brantford to Port Dover Rail Trails

Biking from Brantford to Port Dover along the rail trails is a 100 kilometre return trip which is possible to do in one day. However, we split the trip over two days and turned back at Waterford both days. Unlike the Georgian Trail which had views of Georgian Bay and of the Blue Mountains, this trip is focused on agriculture. I also took Jun N’s advice to park at the Colborne Common Shopping Centre in Brantford for the first day.

Day 1 – Brantford to Waterford

Brantford is a trail hub with two additional rail heading trails towards Hamilton and Waterloo Region; both of which I bookmarked to do later. There are two separate trails you can take towards Port Dover; those being the Lake Erie & Northern (LE&N) and the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo (TH&B) which eventually meet up near Mt. Pleasant and Brant County Road 26 to become the LE&N trail. The trail next to the Veterans Memorial Parkway (and the shopping centre) we took towards Waterford lead us to the LE&N trail, while we took the TH&B trail on the way back.

Brantford's trail map (via City of Brantford)

For those who use road bikes or prefer paved trails, I recommend using the TH&B trail which is at the opposite corner of the shopping centre from the Colborne and Veterans Memorial intersection. That trail is continuously paved until you get to the Norfolk County boundary at Jenkins Road. The LE&N trail becomes gravel less than 500 metres past Rotary Park until it merges with the TH&B trail which is wide and smooth enough for a road bike to handle, but not as comfortable as the TH&B. Whichever route you take, you will enjoy lots of farmland scenery.

Gravel portion of the LE&N trail
Unfortunately, the trail quality worsens considerably once we crossed Jenkins into Norfolk County. While there were some paved sections near Waterford and Simcoe, the remainder was gravel with some parts appearing as if Norfolk County simply removed the rails and called it a trail with two narrow tracks. Was the County (or the municipalities) too cheap to pave the entire trail which Brant County was able to do no problem?

The trail is paved in Brant County (above) but gravel in Norfolk County (below)
There was a lack of wayfinding signage where the trail forked just north of Waterford.

The left trail takes you high onto the railway bridge while the right trail (which we took) takes you next to the lakes and leads into Waterford.

Waterford's railway bridge as seen from the trail leading into Waterford
The path to Waterford (a.k.a. Shadow Lake Trail) ends at an old railway station which has been converted into a quilt shop (a.k.a. Quilt Junction). Unfortunately, most of the town appeared to be closed on Tuesday when we were there, so we saved exploring the town for the next day.

Once back into Brantford, I noticed a couple of other cycling goodies. Shellard Lane has a multi-use path on the north side which goes all the way to Veterans Memorial Parkway.
Before leaving Brantford, we took D’Aubigny Trail to head towards downtown. Finding the trail from the shopping centre wasn’t easy to navigate, while that trail was very bumpy and had a portion closed off. The trail ends at Ballantyne Drive which is one way for driving, but with contraflow and conventional bike lanes. While we didn’t make it to Downtown Brantford this time around, I recommend skipping the D’Augibny Trail and just use Ballantyne to get there.
Ballantyne Drive is the best way to get from Colborne Common to Downtown Brantford

Day 2 – Port Dover to Waterford

Our second day brought us to Port Dover; home to Canada’s largest motorcycle rally that happens every Friday the 13th. Shops selling motorcycle or other Friday the 13th gear can easily be found, while the town itself has an American feel with a ribfest station and vintage fast food restaurant along Main Street. Parking can easily be found next to Powell Park downtown or at Silver Creek Park where the Lynn Valley Rail Trail begins.

The Lynn Valley Rail Trail is gravel from Port Dover to just south of Simcoe. There is one part at Lynn Valley Road where you are required to go on road, but it’s short and well marked. Overall, most of the trail from Brantford to Port Dover was decently marked.

Once in Simcoe, there is one busy crossing at Victoria Street next to the Community Care Access Centre which I wished had a pedestrian crossover signal to alert drivers. However, they were present at a couple of other places. Crossing Highway 3 is painless with the trail going under the highway, though people can choose to exit at the highway if needed. One issue with the crossing is it’s a steep climb back up.
Between Simcoe and Waterford, the poor trail quality is evident again with some parts having only two narrow tracks and a fallen tree not being cleared.

Approaching Waterford involves the trail forking again, but the signage is clear that you veer left to get to downtown. Why couldn't they do that for the other side?

Once in Waterford again, we took the time to explore the town since everything was open. If nothing else, I encourage you to stop at Ritzy Cakes & Eatery for one of their awesome cupcakes! We tried the triple chocolate and the Oreo which were probably the best cupcakes we had. We also stopped by the Waterford Antique Market before turning back and exploring Simcoe on the way to Port Dover. One place in Simcoe we stopped at was the Capitol Arts Market for their quality artwork.

Final Thoughts

While biking from Brantford to Port Dover was not so pleasant once we got to Norfolk County (Waterford, Simcoe, and Port Dover), Norfolk County does offer a good guide book with pull out map showing different bike trails and suggested routes, as well as places to eat and stay. The suggested routes cover a wide variety of things such as antiques and wineries. If only Norfolk County could pave the trail as was done in Brant County and Brantford, biking from Brantford to Port Dover can be another long distance trip worth adding to your bucket list.

No comments:

Post a comment