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Athens: Around Charleston Lake (73km)

Outlet Rd near Charleston Lake
Trail information: 

From the town of Athens, with its annual agricultural heritage Steam Fair, building-side art murals and heritage buildings, head south on CR#5. Other than a short, steep downhill leaving town, the route is flat for the first few kilometres, crossing St. Lawrence Lowlands, until approaching the first granite ridge of the Frontenac Axis, over which CR#5 climbs and curves. There are several long, rolling hills all the way to CR#2 and into Mallorytown.

Traveling generally west from Mallorytown, the route traverses dairy farming land that's relatively flat except for a 5% grade up and over Quabbin Hill. On the rock cut on the north side of the road on Quabbin Hill, the rock formations are of interest. On top is Potsdam sandstone formed during the Paleozoic era, ca. 500 million years age, with traces of fossils, sitting on top of the Precambrian basement granitic structures dating back 1.8 to 2.5 billion years. The route later turns north onto CR#3 or Outlet Rd and runs past many geologically significant outcroppings on the way to Lyndhurst.

Crossing the bridge in the hamlet of Outlet, you're crossing the Outlet River at the southwestern tip of Charleston Lake. There's a camp store on the west side where you can stop for ice cream and refreshments.

There are a few places to stop in Lyndhurst for food/drink, making Lyndhurst a good alternative start/end trailhead. Of significance in Lyndhurst is the historic Lyndhurst Bridge, built in 1856-57 of local stone. It's the oldest stone bridge in Ontario. The stone is predominantly Potsdam sandstone with distinctive traces of fossils, yet there's a good peppering of split granite and gneiss fieldstones as well, reflecting the surrounding geology. From Lyndhurst, follow CR#33 northeast to Lower Oak Leaf Rd, turning right and following it's rollicking, rolling descents through stands of oak, birch and maple towards Charleston. A quick side trip will take you to the town of Charleston on the shores of Charleston Lake. The final stretch back to Athens traverses gently rolling farmland.

There are a few alternative routings available, as shown on the overview map in the PDF document.

  1. If starting in Lyndhurst or Mallorytown, and not wanting to go through Athens, it can be bypassed by turning right off CR#40 onto Wiltestown Rd which then takes you to a stop sign for CR#5 where you can turn right to continue on course.
  2. If starting in Lyndhurst or Athens and not wanting to go through Mallorytown, it can be bypassed by turning right off CR#5 after Caintown, onto the Junetown Rd. Follow Junetown Rd west to Junetown and then south to the stop sign at CR#4. Turning right here onto CR#4 puts you back on course towards Oulet Rd, having bypassed Mallorytown and the climb up and over Quabbin Hill.
  3. If starting and ending in Athens and not interested in the side trip to Charleston, from Lower Oak Leaf Rd, turn left onto Upper Oak Leaf Rd. This intersection is at the bottom of a hill, on a curve, and is easy to miss. Upper Oak Leaf Rd will take you through gently rolling farmland to a stop sign at CR#42. Turn right and follow CR#42 a short distance back to Athens.
Start Location: 

The visual map and cue sheet assume starting/ending in Athens, where there is ample parking, access to washrooms, and availability of food/water. Other good trailheads are Lyndhurst and Mallorytown.


Rolling hills with occasional grades up to 5% or 6% for short distances. Southern portion relatively flat.

Approximately 200m
Bike Suitability: 

The entire route is paved and suitable for hybrid or road bike.

Notes and Cautions: 

This route travels fair distances on CR#5 and CR#3, and shorter distances on CR#33. While all of these have generally sparse traffic most of the time, they have no paved shoulders and can be busy on weekends, especially in the summer. In particular, CR#3 (Outlet Rd), carries vacation traffic from Hwy 401 to the cottage district and Charleston Lake Provincial Park campground. This stretch of road has no paved shoulders and can be extremely busy with vacation traffic, including RVs and boat trailers, around weekends in the summer. Exercise caution. Also exercise caution at the railroad crossings on CR#5 near CR#2 and in Mallorytown. This is the CNR main line where trains are frequent and traveling at high speed.

This route circumnavigates Charleston Lake, providing an exploration of the Arch's unique geology and heritage.

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