**Possible temporary reroutes are noted further down.
There are TWO route files you should have downloaded for the BT 700. It is advised that you have some practice using your navigation devices before heading out on the BT 700 especially if you haven’t navigated trails or backcountry roads before. GPS navigation is a must. It would be very hard to follow the BT 700 with an old-school paper map. The route can be updated or modified at any time so it's best to review the route in advance for trip planning but download these files shortly before your ride so you have the most up-to-date ride file.
1) This is a bare-bones file for navigation because devices like Garmins and Wahoos do not handle large files well and will not show Points of Interest.
If downloading a .gpx file do not click on Reduce to 500 Points. This will result if poor navigation.
You can also use this file to navigate with on your mobile phone using the Ride with GPS app. But offline navigation is only available for those with a paid membership. It's best to have the file with the Points of Interest on your phone.
Some GPS navigation devices, including the Garmin eTrex, have a track-point limit to the .gpx files they can store. For this reason breaking up the route file into smaller segments might be necessary.
Riders have reported having some major device issues when trying to record one continuous ride during and ITT. Particularly with Wahoo devices. It is strongly recommended that you stop and save your ride occasionally and then use a program like this to combine the files post ride if you want to upload one big ride to programs like Strava.
2) This is a larger file that includes numerous Points Of Interest (POIs) and can be used for planning your trip: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31253908
(See this route image below.) This route file should be downloaded using the free Ride with GPS mobile app https://ridewithgps.com/help/mobile/. To download, click on the route link while using your mobile device and it should pop up in the app, then click download. All the Points of Interest including locations for food stores, bike shops, hotels and camping areas will remain visible. Tap on a POI and the additional information will be displayed such as the opening hours for food outlets. Zoom in on a particular area of the route as some POI’s overlap and many of them are not visible when zoomed out.
NOTE: During COVID, operating hours of services listed on the Points of Interest might not be accurate.
NOTE: Offline navigation is only available to subscribers of Ride with GPS. When downloading the file for Offline navigation, it can take a long time. On the app, under the Offline Tab in your Library, you should see a NAVIGATE symbol.
When navigating with the mobile Ride with GPS app, it’s best not to rely solely on the voice prompts as sometimes they can steer you in the wrong direction. The line on the map remains the best navigation tool.
If running the Ride with GPS mobile app as you ride you can enable Live Logging so friends and family can follow your journey in live time. This is available for Basic and Premium members. If you are using Live Logging let me know as I'd love to follow along.
Route Note: At the 507km mark of the route you will enter the Castle Glen area. There is a sign saying No Trespassing but the public is allowed to use this trail system and you can enter. It's posted for liability reasons.
There are two trail sections on the BT 700 that can be considered optional. These are the Carrick Trails at the 97 kilometre mark of the route and the Loree Trails at the 497 kilometre mark of the route. These are marked in Blue on the route files.
Segments at a Glance
St. Jacob’s to Southampton (200km): The route commences in the village of St. Jacob’s, the heart of Ontario’s Mennonite country, and travels through rural areas featuring open farmland and close-tied communities towards the beach at Lake Huron. The terrain is mostly gravel roads with a couple of sections of unmaintained stuff, singletrack and rail trail of variable roughness to spice things up. This is the flattest section of the route, allowing riders to cover mileage more quickly. However, a dreaded headwind can slow your progress on this section.
Southampton to Thornbury (186km): Leaving the lakeside town of Southampton, it’s here where your undulating ride begins as you pass through Saugeen First Nations land. Wending east it’s a combination of smooth or bumpy gravel roads, disorderly non-serviced roads and forest trail as you ride through the little visited Georgian Bluffs and then onto the Bayview Escarpment. Plenty of viewpoints to be enjoyed. Well-maintained community trail takes you between Meaford and the sections terminus Thornbury.
Thornbury to Mono Mills (241km): Time to get swallowed into the belly of the BT 700. A beast of a climb takes you out of Thornbury where riders will then strike through the fetching Beaver Valley making use of an abundance of gravel and dirt roads and some rougher ‘no exit’ paths. One of the routes most white knuckled downhills brings riders into the charming village of Kimberly where praise-worthy butter tarts await. The route then strikes back north - there are dirt roads everywhere in this region but some may come away scared by the punchy climbs. Hardly a well-kept secret, the Blue Mountains still offers up gritty riding and big views. If you have the legs for it, hop into the Loree forest trail system for some fat-tire fun. Now we head back south for a section of the route that involves plenty of tough climbs on rougher (albeit beautiful) little used unmaintained roads and forest track. The punchy hills are a proving ground even for the most adept bikepackers. The unpaved bounty of Grey county and Dufferin county has earned a thumbs up from gravel geeks. Forest riding abounds in three provincial parks, with the glide through Mono Park being one of the prettiest sections of the trip. Overall, this is by far the most rugged and hilliest section of the BT route. So plan your time accordingly.
Mono Mills to St. Jacob’s (132km): For the most part, the final section of the BT 700 seesaws cyclists between trail and gravel roads. From the crossroads town of Mono Mills, the route enters the longest section of singletrack through the Glen Haffy Conservation area and Oak Ridges. These are generally not technical sections but can slow down the riding pace and be a bit tricky to navigate especially if riding at night and/or sleep deprived. There are also areas that can be overgrown in the summer so caution is needed and should be followed by a tick check. But the path is predominately downhill. What fallows some doubletrack fun in Palgrave forest is smooth, well-maintained rail trail as riders head west towards the finish line. But just when you thought the fun is over a final challenge awaits in form of heart-pumping vertical and tricky Bruce Trail into Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. A long stretch of flat, smooth rail trail brings riders to touristy Elora, home the mighty Elora gorge. From here, it’s a mix of pavement and gravel for the return to St. Jacob’s, a heavenly welcome at the end of a butter tart pilgrimage.
BT 700 Lite
Not ready or able to commit to the full BT 700 route? Here is the diet version that makes use of a detour from Flesherton towards Mono. This removes some of the more challenging terrain in the Blue Mountain/Creemore area. You’ll still get a rewarding bikepacking experience with this scaled down version of 660km and 4000+m of climbing.
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31293942 (BT 700 Lite with Points of Interest to be used on the Ride with GPS mobile app)
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31293957 (BT 700 Lite without Points of Interest for navigating with devices like Garmin and Wahoo)
If you enjoyed your time on the BT 700 or GNR bikepacking routes consider making a donation to help with future route development.