This is a series of hikes that makes use of the following trails.
Grand Trunk Trail, Cambridge (PDF),
Riverside Trail, Blair (rare Charitable Research Reserve),
Walter Bean Grand River Trail,
RIM Park trails,
Health Valley Trail, Woolwich,
Avon Trail and
Trans Canada Trail.
End-to-End Hike Series
I led this seven-hike series in 2013 where a small group walked from downtown Cambridge, Ontario (Galt) to St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, Waterloo covering about 65 km. We walked the Walter Bean Grand River Trail from its south end to its north end. The average hike was about 9.2 km. The first part of Hike 1 is not the Walter Bean Grand River Trail and none of Hike 7 is the Walter Bean Grand River Trail.
The primary pathway was the Walter Bean Grand River Trail (WBGRT). The construction of the WBGRT began in 1999 and continues. You are encouraged to read about its history on the WBGRT homepage and the Trail Construction web page. The pace of these walks was moderate (~ 3 km/h). The path is primarily a 3 m wide crushed stone-dust trail with some sidewalk and in a few cases a narrower and rougher footpath. Some of the WBGRT coincides with the older Grand Valley Trail. Hiking boots or quality (supportive) athletic shoes and drinking water are required (no sandals). Note that these were linear hikes (not loops) requiring each participant to take part in a car shuttle.
Google Map of GPS Track
Hike Series Details
Hike 1 of 7 - 10 km >> Cambridge to Doon Valley Golf Course
Start location: Mill Race Park, Water Street North, Cambridge across from Food Basics (43.362220, -80.315530).
Finish location: Walter Bean parking area at Doon Valley Golf Course, 500 Doon Valley Dr, Kitchener (43.393867,-80.397164). Using the Grand Trunk Trail you can walk from downtown Galt northward to the Walter Bean Trailhead. At approximately 43.376700, -80.340530 you have the option of continuing straight along the Grand Trunk Trail/Walter Bean Trail or veering right (east) for about 70 m and out near the cliff overlooking the river. Here you can turn left and follow the rare Riverside Trail for about 2 km until you are back at the rail trail. This route is shown in the data you can download or in the map above (green line) and is the more scenic route on the "rare" property. This scenic route provides some views of outcroppings of the escarpment that is usually buried under glacial deposits (moraines) in the north end of Waterloo Region. Once you reach the wide Grand Trunk Trail at about 43.381570, -80.353790 turn right (west). You will end up passing through Shingle Bridge (Blair), across a round-about, across Hwy 401 on the pedestrian bridge to the golf course where you left some cars.
Hike 2 of 7 - 8.5 km >> Doon Valley Golf Course to Schneider Park, Freeport
Start location: Walter Bean parking area at Doon Valley Golf Course, 500 Doon Valley Dr, Kitchener (43.393867,-80.397164).
Finish location: Walter Bean parking area at Schneider Park/Freeport, 3607 King St E, Kitchener (43.423214,-80.411163). This segment is entirely Walter Bean Trail. Shortly after leaving the golf course the trail passes along a corridor of the old Grand Trunk Railway, descends to the flood plane, crosses the relatively new pedestrian bridge. On the other side is a very interesting display that outlines how First Nations people lived along the Grand River. Eventually the trail ascends and at the top there is a side trail to the right that takes you over to a restoration display of the The Schoerg Homestead (barn) (43.400328, -80.414393 | Street View). Once finished head over to the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower National Historic Site at Kuntz Park (43.400220, -80.416306). Near the tower you will also find the Doon Pioneer Tower Cemetery CC#5016. From the tower to the Hwy 8 bridge you may find the trail rough at times or even flooded. The trail is quite close to the river in numerous places and often receives significant erosion. The City of Kitchener is aware of this problem and is attempting to find a solution.
Hike 3 of 7 - 9 km >> Schneider Park, Freeport to Otterbein Rd Parking Lot
Start location: Walter Bean parking area at Schneider Park/Freeport, 3607 King St E, Kitchener (43.423214,-80.411163).
Finish location: The M.R. Good Family Trailway parking lot of the Walter Bean Grand River Trail system (43.460290, -80.420170) at the south east end where Otterbein Road bends 90°. [Parts of Otterbein Road in this area may have been known a few years ago as parts of Forwell Road and the Ebydale Drive road allowance.] To access this parking lot by car drive to the dead-end of Ottawa Street North (east) and follow this Google Maps directions. Unlike the first two hikes this one starts off on an unofficial footpath used by local citizens; it is not part of the Walter Bean Grand River Trail. Approximately the first 1.6 km is a somewhat rough footpath, may be wet sometimes and is not blazed (marked). Making use of the GPS data may be an asset. It is on a flood plane between the river and relatively new housing off to the left (Chandros Drive). If you click this Google Maps link (43.424949, -80.403874), you will see some of the unofficial trails between Schneider Park, Freeport (43.422635, -80.410601) and the Chicopee-Vale Trail (43.431837, -80.408176). As you proceed the GPS track follows the Walter Bean Trail or the Grand Valley Trail (white blazes like along the Bruce Trail) or sometimes the Walter Bean Trail coincides with the Grand Valley Trail. That is, sometimes the GPS track shows the route closer to the river in more wooded area whereas the Walter Bean Trail may be a bit further away from the river on higher ground. This segment will take you under the new Grand River bridge (43.446477,-80.39573) at the end of Fairway Rd. The new Grand River bridge is about 0.5 km north east of where Woolner Trail (formerly Zeller Drive) ends at the river. At approximately 43.456420, -80.412900 you have the option of remaining on the Walter Bean Trail (red line on map) or following the Grand Valley Trail (green line on map and white blazes on the trail). The Grand Valley Trail takes you through the Natchez Hills ESPA 24 wooded area.
Hike 4 of 7 - 9.5 km >> Otterbein Road to Riverbend Drive
Start location: The M.R. Good Family Trailway parking lot of the Walter Bean Grand River Trail system (43.460290, -80.420170) at the south east end where Otterbein Road bends 90°.
Finish location: The Economical Insurance Trailway parking lot on (43.472492,-80.474141) on Riverbend Dr, Kitchener about 0.4 km north of the KW Humane Society. This walk takes you through the Kolb Greenway, Kolb Park, Stanley Park Optimist Natural Area and Bingemans. The trail between Bingemans and the finish at Riverbend Drive is a very nice wooded area.
Hike 5 of 7 - 10.5 km >> Riverbend Drive to RIM Park
Start location: The Economical Insurance Trailway parking lot on (43.472492,-80.474141) on Riverbend Dr, Kitchener about 0.4 km north of the KW Humane Society.
Finish location: The Musagetes Trailway parking lot at RIM Park, Waterloo (43.517370, -80.494190). This parking lot is on the right just before Grey Silo Golf Course parking lot. This hike takes you through Bridgeport, Kiwanis Park & the west side of the Snyder's Flats oxbow. This part of the Walter Bean Grand River Trail involves some road walking, some of it on sidewalks.
Hike 6 of 7 - 7 km >> RIM Park to Grand River Drive and Back (Linear Loop)
Start location: The Musagetes Trailway parking lot at RIM Park, Waterloo (43.517370, -80.494190).
Finish location: The Musagetes Trailway parking lot at RIM Park, Waterloo (43.517370, -80.494190).
Currently (early 2015) the Walter Bean Trail dead ends at the south end of Grand River Drive, Waterloo 43.523024, -80.476232. Note that no parking is allowed on Grand River Drive or in its immediate area. To complete the Walter Bean Trail one walks from the parking lot out to Grand River Drive (~ 3.5 km), turns around and walks back. The trail is well groomed and close to both the river and the Grey Silo Golf Course. The first portion of the trail is across from the north side of Snyder's Flats where the Grand Valley Trail exists. Directions: On University Ave E. at RIM Park/Manulife Financial Sportsplex, take Park St. eastward, go straight and past Millennium Blvd, continue across the old Woolwich St. & approach the Grey Silo Golf Course.
Hike 7 of 7 - 10 km >> RIM Park to St. Jacobs Farmers' Market
Start location: The Musagetes Trailway parking lot at RIM Park, Waterloo (43.517370, -80.494190).
Finish location:The back (east) parking lot (43.509472,-80.553046) of the St. Jacobs Outlet mall just off Farmers Market Road (entrance 43.509499,-80.552182) and across from the St. Jacobs Farmers Market. This last walk in the series is not part of the Walter Bean Grand River Trail system. It follows community trails from the parking lot, crosses University Ave East near the RIM Park Sportsplex, and continues around some RIM Park playing fields and rejoins University Ave East. It follows a sidewalk along University Ave East through a round-about and crosses Northfield Drive at a traffic light. After crossing Northfield Drive, it follows the shoulder of University Ave for about 0.5 km. Here you turn right (north), cross University Ave East and start along the blazed Health Valley Trail (HVT) that is quite picturesque and takes you along parts of the Conestogo River and Martin Creek. At this point the Health Valley Trail is also part of the Avon Trail. Shortly after you pass under the Hwy 85 bridge (43.529974, -80.544659) you turn left leaving the HVT and you continue along the Avon Trail/Trans Canada Trail to market. If you wanted to do so, instead of turning left at 43.529974, -80.544659 you could stay on the HVT and walk about 1.2 km to the village of St. Jacobs instead of St. Jacobs Farmers' Market. This portion of the route is shown on the interactive Google Map above and is available as part of the GPS data download.
Connection to the Avon Trail, Thames Valley Trail and Elgin Trail
If you chose to do this series of walks from Galt to St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, you would have hopped on the Avon Trail during part of Hike 7. You could buy an Avon Trail guidebook (includes maps) and continue on the Avon Trail from St. Jacobs Farmers' Market for about another 90 km and end up at the southern end of the Avon Trail in St. Marys, Ontario. In St. Marys you could join the Thames Valley Trail and walk another 100 km via London to the Elgin Trail in Delaware.