- Trail is 72 kilometres in length
- Flat rail trail
- Fast, easy riding for 90% of the path, almost 29 kilometres of pavement
I love a hearty breakfast. After convincing two friends to bikepack this rail trail, we parked in Lowe, Québec and had a filling omelette with crispy home fries at Chez Barb’s restaurant which is next door to the parking lot and trailhead for the Veloroute.
The trail resembles a narrow-overgrown logging road at the start. Three of us – Robyn, Linda and I set off pedalling towards Farley which is south of Maniwaki, Quebec and the official end of the trail. But this start was rough with sandy gravel and overgrown. Once the kilometres started to roll by and we pedalled past the old train structure near Venosta, the trail is better carved into the landscape.
Within a few kilometres, we arrived at a noticeably sandy area that is known as the Valley of the Cranberries, where local cranberries are cultivated in nearby marshlands. Visually, the stunted trees and greenery growing out of the sand gave it a beachy kind of feel.
It is a treat, once you arrive in the community of Gracefield, to find that the path is newly paved, and it leisurely winds through Blue Sea Lake before continuing up to the town of Messines. Gracefield is a good stopping point for a snack or refreshment with several options to choose from. Hot and humid weather dictated that we stop and enjoy a quick cold drink at one of the restos along the main street.
This next section, almost 29 kilometres, was recently paved and busy with oodles of walkers and cyclists enjoying the new blacktop, travelling from one community to the other. You could see it was appreciated and would become a popular way to move between the towns along the way.
With a large (but closed) viewing platform perched over Blue Sea Lake, there are breezy views of the immense shoreline, cottages and boats zooming along as we rode beside the Lake. We rolled on, the sun shining, heating us up. Laughing about the swim we planned to have once at Lac Grenon kept us focused on arriving at the campground. We stopped for a rest break at Lac Castor, which has a viewing deck and an outhouse. From there, it was smooth riding up past the town of Blue Sea and on to Messines. Messines is the end of the paved section and has a small store where we stopped for refreshments for our campfire that night.
We camped at Centre Plein Air Lac Grenon which is a small lake, quiet and mainly populated with RVs that were parked for the season just beside the rail trail. We decided to cycle the last few kilometres to the end of the trail and then return to the campground for a swim and supper. Farley is considered the end of the trail, though a rough path continues, it looked quite gnarly, and we decided that would be to explore another day.
Swimming in the lukewarm water, jumping off the dock like kids and enjoying a cold beer made a good day, perfect. We rehydrated a tomato bean sauce with pasta and sprinkled parmesan on top for dinner. Chocolate, as usual, topped it off…. there is always room for some chocolate in our packs.
Swapping stories around the campfire and an early night in the tent made for a sound sleep. The next day dawned hot and humid again, so we quickly ate a breakfast of bars and cycled back along the rail trail to our car.
Things to consider:
- Several communities along the trail offer services and there are numerous covered rest stops and outhouses along the way
- A useful map on a tourism website: http://tourismevalleedelagatineau.com/images/documents/veloroute_carte_2014.pdf