Nestled in the heart of the Kawartha Highlands, Silent Lake Provincial Park, is a beautiful park that surrounds its namesake lake. The Park itself is not far from Bancroft, Ontario which is a hub for many of the campgrounds and cottagers in the area.
For many years, recreation in Provincial Parks was synonymous with canoeing or hiking in the summer months and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. More recently however, many Ontario Parks have ventured into the world of cycling. Some, such as Silent Lake, go so far as providing Mountain Bike specific trails (meaning no strange looks from other trail users as you ride along). Silent Lake still has all the traditional recreational pass times we have come to know from Provincial Parks but also boasts 3 loops (6, 12 and 19km) all dedicated to Mountain Biking. All of the trails are dual purpose being Cross Country ski trails in the winter and Mountain bike trails in the summer. As a result, the trails are primarily double track but due to what seems to be limited summer use, the actual tread resembles single track.
The main trailhead is located just beyond the park gates at the Day-Use beach. There is plenty of parking, as well as a washroom/change room facility.
Starting out from the main parking lot, the trail quickly forks between the hiking and biking specific trails. Shortly after the beginning of the trail, there is a road crossing before hitting a section of single track. The trail follows a hydro corridor as you climb towards a second road crossing approaching the Bonnie’s Pond Hiking Trail. The trailhead for Bonnie’s Pond, which also has a parking lot, is another great starting point for the 19km loop, especially if you are camping at the Park, as it is closer to the campgrounds. Here the trail turns into true double track, resembling a fire road. It is actually a great section of trail to ride with a bike trailer or younger riders as it is fairly flat and passes by two small ponds which could be great for exploring or wildlife viewing. Don’t be lulled into a sense of calm by this section – the trail is about to get a lot more interesting.
As the section of fire road ends, the trail takes a sharp left and turns back into what looks more like a proper mountain bike trail. While the width of the trail resembles double track, as mentioned previously, the actual tread suggests single track. Shortly after the split comes a sign, more likely for the skiers, that cautions about a twisty downhill section – take note. While it isn’t terribly ‘ twisty’ it is loads of fun with the natural features formed by rocks and roots. Keep your head up and fingers off the brakes, making sure to hit the small jumps and drops on the way down – you will not be disappointed.
Not long after, a kilometer to be precise, you will arrive at a warming hut (and outhouse) used by skiers in the winter. You will also find a sign that warns about the trail that follows. As the sign suggests, the trail is about to get a lot more difficult. From this point, the trail seems to gradually shrink down to true single track in many places – which is heavenly, as you pass through several beautiful sections of forest. You will often find yourself surrounded by towering maples and beech trees with waist high ferns along the trail – truly spectacular. The scenery should be stunning in the Fall.
Continuing along the trail, you will come to a section of boardwalk, as well as some fairly swampy sections of trail. Some of these sections, would likely be fairly muddy early in the year and certainly after heavy rains but in mid-summer all were easily passable and ride-able, though technical, for the most part. As these sections are fairly damp and in the middle of a forest, bugs can also be an issue, but in the heat of the summer, at a decent pace, they seemed nonexistent.
One of the best parts about the trail is how secluded you feel once you are on your way. You cannot help but feel that you are the only one in the woods. With this in mind, it is important to note that once you leave the trailhead, you are on your own – there are no bailouts, so make sure you are self-sufficient carrying anything you think you may need (e.g., water, food, tools, spares). Furthermore, be aware that the trails are not the buff single track that you may be used to, on your local trails. While the trails are generally clear of deadfall or blow downs you can expect to encounter frequent derailleur hungry sticks if you stray from the main tread – so keep your eyes open. The trail is marked with both professional metal signs doubled up with flagging tape in most locations. While easy to navigate, it never hurts to have a map as back up, just in case.
As the trail comes to an end, if you parked at the Day Use beach, take the opportunity to have a refreshing dip in the lake as the trail conveniently spits you out directly across from the beach. If you are camped at Silent Lake, which is highly recommended, head back to your site and kick back with a frosty beverage to toast a challenging ride on a rugged trail, through yet another gorgeous part of the province.
|Trail Length||6, 12 and 19 KM loops|
|Trail Level||Intermediate to advanced|
|Trail Type||Double and single track|
|Trail Map||Silent Lake trail map|
|Access fee||Cost - $14.00 per car/ Day Use Fee|
|GPS||Latitude : 44.92306, |
|Weather||Silent Lake Provincial Park|
|Name||Silent Lake Provincial Park|
|HOURS / SEASONS|
|Hours of Operation||8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays (excluding December 25 and January 1)|
|Season||Open year round|
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