By the numbers
Total Distance: 418km
Total Ascent: 5350m
All the details
Starting at the Chelsea Pub in Old Chelsea, you begin your journey by warming-up the legs on the rail trail towards Wakefield. When you reach Farm Point you will leave the rail trail and make your way into the Gatineau Parc for the first time on the ride. Following some nice fast rolling double-track (trail 72) you will ride north until you reach the Trans-Canadian Trail (TCT) at which point you will cut under the highway and make your way into Wakefield, passing the historic Wakefield Mill. Riding through town, this is the perfect place to stop for a nice cup of coffee, some pastries and stock up on food, as you won’t have much variety for resupply points until you reach Mont Ste. Marie. Crossing the Gatineau River on the old wooden bridge … can you say perfect photo op? … you will continue north along the river before turning inland to check out the beautiful countryside while on the way to Farrelton. Crossing the river again, you wind your way through some 30km of cottage country gravel roads before reaching Low, where you will be treated with a nice “little” climb up to the Paugan Dam so that you can cross the Gatineau River once again.
After crossing the dam, you get your first major climb of the day as you make your way up to Denholm. Heading north, you have a few more big climbs before reaching Mont Ste Marie, where you will take a slight detour onto some of the bike trails around the ski resort. If you are unsure about the area, feel free to stay on the main road and skip the single-track sections. The Mont Ste. Marie section starts with you riding around Lac Fournier. These are mostly fast trails that have a nice flow. There are some switch backs and you want to make sure to slow down to a speed that you are comfortable with. This is great practice for the more challenging trails that will come up later. If these are too difficult for you and you don’t feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to not go up Chemin du Radar and to instead leave the ski resort and head toward Lac Ste. The second part of the ski resort takes you up a long gruelling climb along Chemin du Radar until you reach Stout trail. Turning right, you climb 375m before branching off onto Porter, which has some nice flow and short punchy climbs. At the end of Porter you take Lug Tread and Growler to get back to the bottom. This section of trail is not overly difficult but does require a high level of bike handling skills, particularly when loaded down with gear. There are many switchbacks, so take your time and enjoy it. After leaving Mont Ste. Marie, you continue north along the Gatineau River until reaching the northern most point of the route: Gracefield. This is the best place to stock up on supplies as resupply points are sometimes quite few and far in between. Leaving Gracefield, you ride the Veloroute des Draveurs for approximately 30km before leaving the fast and flat rail trail for some forestry roads which will take you through the Plains of Kazabazua and then onto more gravel. Some of the trails here are quite sandy, so be prepared for some hike-a-bike if you aren’t using 2.2″ or bigger tires.
While riding some of the trails around Kazabazua will will hit the half-way mark of the route. Even after all those soul-crushing hills in the Denholm/Mont Ste. Marie area, you will have only just completed 50% of the climbing, so be aware that after all the upcoming gravel roads with their small punchy climbs, you still have to conquer the final 75 km of the Gatineau Park. At kilometre 217 you reach the village of Danford Lake where there is a small store you can get some supplies. Time to crush some gravel and make your way West to Otter Lake and then on to Ladysmith while riding through some phenomenal unserviced gravel roads, completely tree-lined with fantastic climbs and descents. Be aware that the route doesn’t go directly into Ladysmith, so if you need supplies, you will have a 1km detour to go into town. After reaching Lac des Loups, you enter the Gatineau Park while following a service road. You need to be careful as the bridge is out of order and you will need to descend and ford the creek. When I rode the loop, the water was only just past my ankles. I chose to take my socks and shoes off to keep everything dry. Depending how hot it is that day, you may opt to just keep the footwear on. If you are riding this in autumn, the water can get quite cold.
The last 90km of the Grand-O will physically challenge you with roughly 1150m of elevation gain, a ton of single and double track, rock-gardens, massive climbs and epic descents. Reaching the Chelsea Pub at the end of the 418km you will have earned one (or more) of their micro-brews and a good meal.
Congratulations. You can add the Grand-O to your ever growing list of accomplishment
There is a large parking lot at the Gatineau Park Welcome Centre, which offers free parking.