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Ontario Mountain Bike Trails – Silent Lake Provincial Park

August 28, 2014
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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.

Silent_Lake_MTB-6

As the sign suggests – just for bikes!

 

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.

Silent_Lake_Map

Silent Lake Trail Map

 

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.

Silent_Lake_MTB-1

Next: one the most fun sections of trail – worth the climb back up to hit it again.

 

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.

Silent_Lake_MTB-2

Warming hut at Kilometer 6 and an outhouse, should nature call, while out in nature.

 

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.

Silent_Lake_MTB-5

Section of the boardwalk that spanned a small creek.

 

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.

Silent_Lake_MTB-4

 

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 STATS
Trail Length6, 12 and 19 KM loops
Trail LevelIntermediate to advanced
Trail TypeDouble and single track
Trail MapSilent Lake trail map
Access feeCost - $14.00 per car/ Day Use Fee
LOCATION
Closest TownBancroft
GPSLatitude : 44.92306,
Longitude: -78.07121
WeatherSilent Lake Provincial Park
MAP
CONTACT INFO
NameSilent Lake Provincial Park
Phone(613) 339-2807
Emailn/a
Websitehttp://www.ontarioparks.com/park/silentlake
HOURS / SEASONS
Hours of Operation8:00 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)
SeasonOpen year round

 

Riding Feels Good has compiled this information and ensured its accuracy to the best our ability at the time of posting (see date at top). We recommend contacting the facilities directly prior to a ride to ensure it is up to date. We will do our best to update it as regularly as possible but rely on users like you to monitor it and provide corrections and any additional information.

If you have something you would like to add or see a correction that needs to be made, please contact us.

If you have ridden here, please share your experience with a comment bellow.

Happy trails.

Jeremy was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. He cut his teeth learning to ride the trails on the ‘Hamilton Mountain’ as well as the Dundas Valley, later honing his ‘skills’ riding in the Waterdown area. While his true passion is riding dirt single track, reality, family and work, have introduced him to road riding, albeit on a cyclocross bike – just in case there is any dirt around! When not on two wheels Jeremy enjoys skiing, brewing beer and wilderness camping. He currently lives in Toronto with his wife and kids.

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9 Comments

  1. Glad to see they are taking cycling into account. I was at Silent Lake at least 15 years ago and I don’t recall any of this.

  2. Having trails for either hiking or riding is always a big factor in my choosing a camping spot and this review puts Silent Lake at the top of the list. Well done @fietser!

  3. Nice one. +1 for the pic of the outhouse.

  4. Awesome! and pretty close to the cottage… might have to make a trip soon. Only thing is I wish there were a few shots of the actual trail not just the boardwalk… would like to see whats there before driving there!

  5. If you have a cottage in the area and are familiar with the terrain I would say it looks very similar to what an OFSC trail (but not a wide) in the summer. If you have specific questions about the terrain/ trail I can try and answer them. I am actually heading up there again this weekend but given the forecast I might bring a boat rather than a bike! I was really looking forward to riding the trail again – we’ll see.

  6. I rode here maybe 4 or so years ago, and remember a long mushy slog on a fire road, with the coolest parts near the end (going counter clockwise), but they were covered by hikers and inconsistent. Sounds like it’s improved!

  7. Quick update:

    Got a chance to get back up to Silent Lake and ride this past weekend – we were actually there two weeks ago as well but riding was not in the cards. Rode both the 19km Blue trail and the 13km Yellow trail (which I hadn’t previously ridden). Firstly, I can’t express how amazing it is that these trails are MTB only and part of a Provincial Park, kudos to those who made it happen.

    A few minor changes I noticed to the trails while riding. One very welcomed improvement was the addition of NEW singletrack, and I mean very new loamy goodness, in and around the Bonnie’s Pond hiking trail. The new section was put in to alleviate riders from having to complete a short road section before rejoining the trail along a relatively blind corner, on the road that is to say. It was a very welcome addition to the trail to say the least.

    On a not so glamorous note, there is a section just beyond sharp left hand turn off the fireroad described in the initial trail report that was recently purchased (privately) that has been logged. As part of the transaction/ sale the trail was allowed to stay, even though it runs through private property and not the Park’s land. However, the flip side is that since it is privately owned the owner was free to harvest trees from the property. Needless to say the scene is not exactly one of forest bliss, BUT more importantly, the trail still exist and the forest already seems to be regenerating itself. The interesting part, for me, was that once you hit the Park Boundary again it is like someone dropped a curtain as you are instantly cast back into the woods, quite a juxtaposition to say the least.

    With the new section of trail that had been put in I was curious if there was a local group maintaining the trails so I asked at the Gatehouse, they said no. It seems that all the work is being done by Parks personal – again, huge thanks to them. However, I can’t help but wonder how much better, and they are already great, these trails could be if adopted by a local group. After all, Silent Lake is only an hour drive from Peterborough which, by GTA standards, is not far especially when we are talking about trails designated as mountain bike only. Seems like a great opportunity in the making.

    In any event, I will definitely be back again next year, you can count on that.

  8. Has anyone been up here lately? Worth the venture. I’m 1.2hrs away from here and Hardwood. I like the idea of going somewhere new, but if the riding is pretty tame, I’d rather just go back to my old stomping ground and ride all the race courses.

    Thanks!

  9. Hey @zirca while I haven’t been since last summer we have two camping trips planned for Silent Lake again this Summer and I will definitely be bringing my bike. It may be worth a call directly to the park. Another suggestion may be to call Wild Rock Outfitters in Peterborough (I am sure there are other shops etc.) but I have used them in the past and they have been helpful. Pretty sure there are some PTBO guys on the site here that may be able to chime in too. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

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