Getting to Know the KATVA and HATVA Trails

Long on my bucket list of ATV trail systems to experience has sat the Kawartha Lakes ATV Association & Haliburton ATV Association. This year, I was finally able to check both off in one extravagant weekend of ATVing.

Early in the Spring, we start itching to plan a big ATV weekend for Canada Day Weekend. This year the stars aligned and, with the help of the President of the Kawartha Lakes ATV Association, Carolyn Richards, we were able to put KATVA and HATVA on the roster. HATVA’s Deep Woods Safari and KATVA’s Ride for Dad have been on my list of events to attend for a while, and while we were still not able to go to either of them this year, we were going to get our own private tour of these two great trail systems.

Day 1

On Thursday morning we loaded up our ATVs and the Honda Canada Fourtrax machine on loan to the Ontario Federation of All-Terrain Vehicles and hit the road.

This cottage was nestled in the woods right on Kawartha Lakes ATV Associations trail system, just a stone’s throw away from the Victoria Rail Trail.

Upon arriving at our cottage destination, we unloaded our gear and machines and were welcomed with a care package from KATVA waiting for us on the table in the cottage.  Along with some Kawartha Lakes ATV Association tumblers, key chains and other treasures were maps of both KATVA and HATVA’s trail systems and most importantly—trail passes.

We took a quick moment to compose ourselves after the long drive but we were anxious to get out on the trails immediately so we filled out our trail passes and familiarized ourselves with the map. One look at the map and we knew for certain, the first thing we needed to do was to tackle one of the red expert trails. 

We would need to traverse a few green easy trails and a blue intermediate trail to get to the expert trail, but we knew the expert trail was going to set the tone for our weekend to determine where we stacked up on the experience level for the area (for the new riders reading this, we do not recommend heading directly to the expert level trails until you have reached that level of riding experience).

All geared up, we headed through the trails right from the parking lot of our cozy cottage and traversed a few loops before popping out onto the Victoria Rail Trail. The trail serves as an integral multiuse pathway joining many of the trails in the area together and allowing ATVs access to local towns for food, fuel, and accommodation. 

Limbered up from a few loops, we headed directly to the closest expert trail to us, the 96! Not for the faint of heart, the 96 lived up to its expert rating. The 96 had tight narrow turns, off-canter riding, steep rocky inclines and of course—a bog. It was a tough go, but we felt we had set the bar high for the rest of the trip.

From the 96, we headed back to the Victoria Rail Trail, so we could follow it into Fenelon Falls to meet up with Carolyn Richards and some of the guides she had lined up to give us the grand tour over the course of the weekend. Along the VRT we met cyclists, ATVers, and walkers alike enjoying the multiuse trail.

The VRT was an easy level trail, as expected for a rail trail—flat, wide, and straight. However, it was a pleasant change of course from the challenging terrain we had just traversed on the expert trail—and it had beautiful views of the water.

Lunch on the Locks

We followed the well-signed route along the water into Fenelon Falls, across the locks and to That Place on Cameron. Parking alongside other ATVs already in the parking lot, we joined the KATVA crew on the patio for a gorgeous view of the marina, and a fantastic food to boot!

From the patio on That Place on Cameron

We laid plans for Friday morning to head out to the Haliburton ATV Association’s trails so we could check out Anson Mountain. The curfew on the VRT is 9pm, so we had to head back to our cottage so as not to disturb the cottage goers who back onto the VRT.

Day 2

Bright and early Friday morning, we met the KATVA guides on the VRT eager to get going. We headed away from Fenelon Falls along the rail trail through the village of Kinmount and beyond into Haliburton territory

Cloudy skies turned to rain as we left the rail-trail into the bush and came out in Minden, Ontario. In Minden, we stopped for a trail-side lunch (and for a few people, to get fuel and find a rain poncho) before heading into HATVA’s trail leading to Anson Mountain. Like the 96, the Anson Mountain trail fell into the expert level. Steep rock climbs, tricky water crossings.  Before long we crept along South Snake Lake and climbed to the lookout atop Anson Mountain. It was a good work-out for our arms, but well worth the trip!

We returned the way we went, sending our guides home out of the rain in Kinmount and continued on to explore the Austin Sawmill Heritage Project and all of the displays of the refurbished sawmill.

We were on such a roll that we headed out on a few more adventures of our own to round out the day—one of which involved the search for a bottle of Tobasco sauce to compliment the shepherd’s pie we had planned for dinner! Mission accomplished.

DAy 3

Saturday morning we met another group of guides at the Log Chateau Park near Fenelon Falls. This is a beautiful campsite and park located right on KATVA’s trail system. Log Chateau Park is a perfect place to stay and play if you are looking for accommodations while exploring what KATVA has to offer. 

From there we headed East into the famed 5-Points section of the KATVA trail system. What a beautiful area to explore! Primarily comprised of intermediate trails, we toured through this well-marked area and marvelled at the GPS co-ordinates on each sign marker and how they coordinated with the printed map. It made this section very easy to navigate. 

Midday we ended up at the picnic area on Picard Lake where we enjoyed a quick dip in the lake to cool off. We followed our guides right back to the Log Chateau Park confectionary so we could take part in the monster-sized Kawartha Dairy ice cream cones we had been told about all day.

The Log Chateau Park ice-cream legends did not exaggerate. Having a healthy appetite, I asked for a large, the young lady working the cash looked me up and down and said, “nope, you’ll have a small,” as she placed fifty cents back in my hand. I was visibly shocked, but she was 100% accurate—not sure how many grown men it would take to eat a large as a small was all I could humbly handle.

Day 4

Sunday was a blistering hot day. We met our guides in the village of Burnt River and headed to another section of the trail system referred to as “The Pinery.” The Pinery held what I would call more relaxed trails—wide and windy bush trails with all kinds of heritage hidden within. There are several signs along the trail marking points of interest, including the Boiler in the Bush, which is all that remains of the Gillett’s Sawmill. 

Carolyn also told us about Roch Thériault and a religious cult that used to live in the Pinery woods. It might have been a fairy tale to scare us tourists but I didn’t go wandering into the woods looking for the remnants of the house they had in there…

After a hot day on the trails, we rode into Fenelon Falls again to take in the tourist stops. We checked out the beach-side park and watched several boats go through the locks on the Trent-Severn Waterway, afterwards we may have accidentally timed it so that we went by the Log Chateau Park at ice-cream time again, but I’ll never tell.

Time to Go

By Monday morning we were starting to wear out all of our guides. We took a leisurely tour on our own to explore of few of the trails we hadn’t managed to touch tires to in the first 4 days before sadly heading back to the cottage to pack up and head out.

It was a one of our grandest adventures to date, with lots and lots of new trails explored. It was no 350 km in one day adventure like we’ve done in the past, but we put well over 400 km on and all of it on great trails. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out Kawartha Lakes ATV Association and Haliburton ATV Association yet, you need to make the trip and ride them for yourself. We look forward to getting back there again soon!

About Dave Baker

An avid outdoors enthusiast, Dave is active in hunting, fishing, trapping and ATVing. He has been involved with the Nation Valley ATV Club since its inception, and is a past president of the Ontario Federations of ATV Clubs.

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