Rideau Trail: Opinicon Loop

Running through the juniper tunnel

It’s very rare that a week goes by that we don’t go to Frontenac Provincial Park for at least one run. While Frontenac is a wonderful place to run, it is usually our default and we sometimes overlook many of the other great trails in the area.

One such trail that we haven’t run in a while is the Opinicon section of the Rideau Trail (see maps 5 & 6). Sara and I found it hard to believe that it’s been a couple of years since we’ve run there. In the past, we’ve just run it as a loop off of Opinicon Road, but we wanted to get in a little longer run this time, so drove the extra distance up to Massassauga Road and ran the out and back to get to the loop.

From the Massassauga Road trailhead to the Cataraqui Trail, the Rideau Trail is quite technical and rolling. My favourite part of this trail includes a fun section that weaves through junipers that are as high as your head. We kept expecting to surprise a coyote or other wildlife as we went around each corner.

Just before reaching the Cataraqui Trail, we passed a small private cabin in the woods, situated on a tiny pond/lake. Talk about paradise. The only way to get into the cabin is by foot. We noticed that the owners had mountain biked in on the Cataraqui Trail, before hiking into the cabin.

Once on the Cataraqui Trail, it’s just a short 1 km jaunt on the rail trail before turning off onto more single track. The actual Opinicon Loop of the Rideau Trail has some spectacular views. The trail continues to be quite technical in places, and even has a leanto where you can stop and rest, or I suppose could camp for the night. We looked at the log book in the leanto and noticed that there had only been a handful of people who had signed the book since October. While, this didn’t indicate that there had been much traffic on the trails, we were surprised that the trails were in very good shape and well maintained.

The trail also connects with a substantial trail network that is owned by the Skycroft Campground. Many of the Skycroft Trails intersect with the Rideau Trail, so you need to pay close attention to make sure that you are following the Rideau Trail markers to stay on route.

Another highlight of the trail was a massive gully that we came out of. This featured a long climb up a stream/riverbed/waterfall that had been damned up by beavers. Looking up from the bottom to the pond above left you feeling rather insignificant, while being in awe of the beaver’s handiwork.

Finally, upon getting back to the Cataraqui Trail, we had about a 7km section of more rail trail. While rail trail can get pretty old, pretty quick, this section is some of the most beautiful that you will see (see Cataraqui Trail article in Canadian Running Magazine). Cliffs to the north, and lakes/ponds to the south. We actually welcomed the flat, non-technical trail during this section to give our eyes a break from focusing on the trails for so long.

Once off the Cataraqui Trail, we were back on the technical trails again to return to the Massassauga Road trailhead. This was the only duplicate section of our run, but going in this direction it looked totally different, especially with the extra climbing involved.

This run took us just over 4 hours, but we took our time on the route. It could certainly be done quicker, but with how technical the trail was in places, you wouldn’t be able to go too fast.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures, but this gives you an idea about the trails.

Training Update:
Since I last updated, I’ve begun to get some decent training in again and feeling stronger. My volume has slowly increased up to almost 15 hours of running over each of the past few weeks. I’ve also been adding some tempo runs to the mix, with a little more focus on the hills. This is all with the goal of running the Bear Mountain 50 miler next month in New York. Bear Mountain should be a fun race. The trails look rugged, technical and feature some good hills. It will be nice for Sara and I to get back into a race again. It’s certainly not a big goal race at this point, but will be fun to just get back into a race and play.


  1. That was a very fun run.

  2. It was, let’s not wait another couple of years. Looking forward to going back.

  3. The Rideau Trail sounds awesome, although I hope gnawing on bark in place of a gel doesn’t appear in any of my training notes!

  4. slowrunner says:

    that looks beautiful! road trip !!

  5. Sections of the Rideau Trail are beautiful. The bottom 100km north of Kingston is probably some of the nicest though. The Ottawa end has a lot of pavement and is pretty uninspiring.

    Ha…epic bonk = tree bark looking good.

  6. I really really need to get to know that park. Really enjoying Gould now after having avoided it for years. Even if I begin with some hiking I WILL get in there this year. Thanks to you and Sara for inspiring me to push boundaries into places I’d never considered before. And Dora if you do ever take that road trip then please count me in:-)

  7. Gould is great in places. Frontenac is amazing. Opinicon is really beautiful too and a nice change. Only problem is that it takes a bit longer to get there. You’re so lucky that you live so close to Gould and Frontenac!

  8. This sounds like a great place I have not had the pleasure of discovering Your words and photos make me want to explore this place you would love to run Stanley park It is something you really really have to do. B

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