BY HATTIE KLOTZ
This article was originally published in the Summer print edition of
From the moment the spring mud dries up until the first snow flies, mountain bike enthusiasts can ride more than 25 kilometres of trails at Mont Ste. Marie. A one-hour drive from Ottawa, Mont Ste. Marie offers an ever-expanding network, from gently undulating to thrillingly steep. In short, it’s a great opportunity to get up close and personal with nature on your bike.
Trail development is an ongoing endeavour by a dedicated group of bikers and local homeowners, so there’s always something new to experience. The folks behind Velo MSM estimate that about 2,000 people enjoyed the trails last summer season. (And several hundred more did so during the winter, setting out on their fat bikes in masks and mittens.) Mont Ste. Marie is now on the radars of local riders, so the days when you might have been alone on the trails are over. But there’s safety in numbers, and local enthusiasts are aiming to make this place the next mountain bike mecca.
The second annual Mountain Fest is planned for July 17 to 19 this year. In its inaugural year, the nascent festival attracted over 500 participants, keen to see what Mont Ste. Marie has to offer. The answer was plenty of dirt, lots of sweat, and mountains of fun.
You can pitch a tent close to the ski lodge (and during Mountain Fest, there will even be access to hot showers). If you’re looking for a little more comfort, plenty of rentals in off-season ski accommodations are available through Linda Faith at The Beggar’s Bench antique and gift shop in Lac Ste. Marie.
After a day spent toiling up — and screaming down — mountains on your bike, you will be more than a little hungry. Just a few minutes down the road from the bike trails is a traditional pub, Le Pub McVey’s. With stick-to-your-ribs burgers and plentiful chicken wings, you won’t have that empty feeling long.
For anyone not looking to risk their life (or at least their dental work) on a mountain bike, there are plenty of great places to hike near Mont Ste. Marie. Those bike trails work well for walkers too! When you’ve worked up a good sweat walking or jogging the bike trails, there’s a gorgeous lake at the bottom of the Cheval Blanc ski hill. Lac Fournier offers a sandy beach and peaceful swimming. Kids can spend hours catching frogs and snakes in the shallow water by the beach. And of course, the 18-hole golf course at Golf Mont Ste-Marie is just five minutes away by car.