Top Five Motorcycle Roads in Ontario's Highlands

A rider's guide to an undiscovered motorcycle playground

story by Mike Jacobs, Photograph by Mike Jacobs, Created Mar. 04, 2013
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Six hours from Detroit, five hours from Toronto, three hours from Montreal and a mere 45 minutes from Ottawa are the borders of one of the best riding areas in Canada – maybe even North America.

This may seem like over-inflated marketing speak, but I’ve ridden these roads, and I can say first hand, they are not only amongst the best I’ve ridden, they are at the top rung in a province already blessed with some pretty great riding.

Ontario, Canada is a motorcyclist’s paradise – it spans ¼ of the width of an already massive country, and has more paved surfaces that any other province in the country. Many of these roads are either incredibly scenic, or have the twists, turns, ups and downs that can put a smile on even the most seasoned rider’s face.

Curves on Peterson Road in Ontario

Ontario’s Highlands region stretches from Haliburton in the west to the Ottawa River and the borders of Quebec in the east. It reaches Algonquin Park in the north, and stops at Highway 7 in the south.

Without further ado, here are my picks for the top five roads in this winding bit of backcountry, all personally appraised to be free of gravel, potholes, frostheaves, tar strips and to be overflowing with long sweeping turns, stomach dropping twists, and plenty of in-betweens. Let’s see how many you can cross off the list this summer.

5. The Glorious Elephant Lake and Peterson Road

Motorcycle Riding on Elephant Lake

The historic Peterson Road starts in Maynooth. The long sweeping tree-lined curves meet the sparkling blue waves of Baptiste Lake and continue under the name Elephant Lake Road for another 15km to the small town of Harcourt. Any rider worth his salt will stop at the South Algonquin Cookhouse in nearby Wilberforce for a bite – you’ll find dozens of bikes lined up outside on any given weekend in riding season.

4. Dyno Road aka Regional Road 48

Dyno Road Twisties

Regional Road 48, also known as Dyno Road is short. Really short. 5km short. But it’s 5km of tight little twisties akin to the Tail of the Dragon that weaves and bobs through a sun-dappled green canopy overhead, ending right at Silent Lake Provincial Park.

3. Opeongo Line, Opeongo Road, Foymount Road, Highway 512, Highways 66 and 64

The constant change of name is due to the road’s inability to pick a direction. Constant direction changes are a big feature here. Start in Barry’s Bay, head east and follow the order of the names laid out above.

You will get lost. There is no way around that. But every paved surface in every direction from here is magnificent. Case in point – last year I pulled over and asked a local where I could find the church on the top of the hill with the stone fence that snaked its way down the open mountainside.

His reply - “Which one?”

If you need to fill up on delicious authentic Polish Food, the Wilno Tavern offers a smorgasbord of traditional (yet uniquely local) Polish fare. Because Wilno was so culturally isolated for most of its history, and the Polish settlers all arrived from one area of Poland, the dialect and food of the Wilno area are quite distinctive.

And delicious. For $17.95, I stuffed my face with gigantic cheese, potato and bacon-filled pierogies with all the fixings, cabbage rolls, pickled whitefish, meatballs, sausages and fried onions, braised red cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy, salads, and even homemade lemon meringue and rhubarb pies.

Wait, this is an article about motorcycle roads.

2. Highway 35 from Moore Falls to Dwight

Beautiful Highway 35 in Ontario

This is the gateway to Algonquin Provincial Park, one of Ontario’s most beloved natural playgrounds. A mind-bender of cottage-country scenery with some deep and long sweepers, Highway 35 is the kind of country road we wish every engineer at the Ministry of Transportation designed.

The two things I love most about this road are the sweeping corners that route through big rock cuts, and the deep valleys that seem to want to dip right into the lakes that dot this area. That and it brings me to the gateway to Algonquin and a quick dip and ice cream at Lake of Two Rivers.

A worthy side trip is McKeck’s in Haliburton – I had the Enforcer Burger. I don’t think I needed to eat again for a month after that.

1. Calabogie Road aka Centenial Lake Road aka Black Donald Lake Road

Calabogie Ontario Motorcycling

OK, so naming conventions aren’t a strong suit in this neck of the woods. But this is, without a doubt, an absolutely legendary road. Any decent rider in Ontario knows this road and will speak of it with either childish glee or venerated respect. This is 100km (62 miles) of rootin’ tootin’ rockin’ rollin’ country backroad with zero regard for efficiency. Try to find a straight line.

Add in the recent resurfacing and the ultra-comfy Calabogie Peaks Resort, and you’ve got the makings of a devilishly good time.

That’s my top five, but there are literally dozens more in this motorcycle paradise. Cobble the roads together into a week-long tour, or pick and few and make a weekend out of it.

Ontario’s Highlands have recently opened their hearts to the motorcycling community and you’ll notice that they go out of their way to make us riders feel right at home. Even if you get lost, it doesn’t really matter. Whichever road you take, you’re sure to end with a smile on your face.

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