While my departmental colleagues played golf yesterday at the Caledon Golf Club, in Inglewood Ontario, I decided to be the odd man out, and bike the Caledon Trail. I tried to get some others to give it a go, but in the end it was a solitary outing. Still, I had 4 hours of very pleasant meandering.
The trail is 34 km long from Terra Cotta in the southwest to Highway 9 near Palgrave in the north east, and is a level and well maintained gravel path on a former rail bed. It is well marked on local tourist maps, and there is a good description on this website
by BF member Ken Brown, which is where I researched my plans. I have marked my route on this gmap-pedometer.com page
If you check the above link, you will see that the trail actually runs mostly north-south, but since the grid of roads in that part of Ontario is slanted 45 degrees off the main compass points, the trail appears to run more east-west. The "eastern" 2/3 of the trail is considered part of the developing Trans Canada Trail
I picked up the trail near the golf course at Old Baseline Road near Inglewood. That is the least convenient road crossing, as the road is well below the trail level, the original railway bridge is gone, and there are steep, but fortunately paved, ramps down to the road on both sides. Heading into Inglewood I checked out the excellent Caledon Hills Cycling Store, then continued on northeast. A little out of town I was "this close" to a great blue heron that took off at my approach.
Within a few kilometers of Inglewood in both directions, the trail is very well maintained. Farther northwest, beyond the town of Caledon East it was a little rough for my skinnier tires, but not bad. It would probably be fine for a mountain bike, but I was on a folder with a 1.5" front tire at 70 psi and a 1.35" rear tire at 80 psi, and on some parts of the trail the sections of sharp gravel or soft sand were slightly annoying. As explained by Ken Brown in the first link above, after highway 9 it becomes the "New Tecumseth trail" and it is still rougher.
It took me 90 minutes to ride from Inglewood to Highway 9, and 90 minutes back - about 25 km each way. As a rail trail there are no steep grades, no roots, and no ways to get lost. Then it took about 20 minutes each way to ride to the other end. There are portable "biffies" at a couple of locations at Inglewood and farther northeast. No free water along the way, but a few small towns where you could buy a drink. Here and there are sheltered pavilions marking the Trans Canada Trail. Most road crossings are quiet two lane country roads with little traffic. The worst crossing, the busy Highway 10, has a bridge. Unfortunately the bridge approaches are very steep, with loose gravel, and tight gates to get through at the bottom, so take it easy riding down from the bridge there. There are a few small bridges over creeks, and they have that problem you sometimes see, of a very sharp front edge as you ride onto the bridge surface, that could hurt your tire if it is thin or underinflated.
The trail would be great for families, with a couple of warnings. There are lots of road crossings, usually a km or two apart, so as Ken Brown points out, don't let the small kids ride too far ahead, and a few sections where the swamp comes right up to the edge, so you could get mucky if you veer off the trail. Also, there is one stretch (next to the Albion Hills Conservation area, just south of Palgrave), where the berm crosses a very deep ravine, and you could tumble violently down a severely steep slope of maybe 40 feet if you rode off the edge. Mind you, the flat top of the roadbed is plenty wide, so no danger of falling off if you stay in the tracks.
I would say the best section for a family would be to park at Inglewood and head northeast across the Hwy 10 bridge. You can go about 5 km before having to cross a road at grade. There's a porta-potty at the trail entrance, and the bike store is across the street. I believe they have rental bikes. You would be nowhere near the steep embankment I mentioned. If it's a blisteringly hot, sunny day, the section southwest of Inglewood to Terra Cotta has more groves of trees with completely overhanging branches for shade. Just take care crossing Old Baseline Road, and there are some busier road crossings farther down as well. There is a sign marking a sidepath to the golf course, where the restaurant is open to the public.
Hopefully some day they will extend the trail all the way south to the Georgetown GO Train station