In a province known for its lakes, there are very few lake views. Some sections have sketchy road quality. There isn’t a gas station, restaurant, hotel or any reasonable place to stop on it. Yet the Calabogie Road, known also as Black Donald, Centennial Lake or Highway 508, might just be the best riding road in Ontario.
But why, you ask? When you stack it up against Highway 141 with its ever-tightening sweepers, big beautiful Muskoka lakes and great road surface quality, or the majestic Highway 129 in Algoma Country, with the Missisagi River running on one side, and towering cliffs on the other, how does the Calabogie steal top honour?
The Calabogie has something we like to call “flow”—and this might be what happens when a road is not designed by the Ministry of Transportation, but when it is the product of a century of human, animal and vehicle traffic having beaten a path through the forest in a way that…well…just felt right.
To get the full breadth and scope of this road, you’d start in the west, in a small town called Griffith, Ontario. Turn off Highway 41 (recently paved and a helluva lot of fun too) onto County Road 71 or Matawachan Road—this is the official start of what we classify the Calabogie road.
You’ll get going on the twisty stuff in about 2-3 km, and the road turns into County Road 65, or Centennial Lake Road—although you won’t know it. All these name changes mean nothing in the space of the mighty flow. And then you’ll come to the only hard turn on the road when it turns into Highway 508, aka Calabogie Road, which snakes across the rest of Ontario all the way to the TransCanada, mere miles from the Quebec border.
The routes in the Highlands make this road worth riding too—you should absolutely take one of the routes that contain the Calabogie road—but for those who just want to know “Why is this the number one road in Ontario?” the answer is found by riding the road.
The best I can do to describe it, is to reflect on a feeling I had not shortly after getting my first bike—an underpowered and heavy beast that revealed to me what would become my go-to definition of why I ride; it makes you feel like you're flying—like you’re on a roller coaster you can point in any direction you want.
That’s the flow of the Calabogie Road—the ups, downs, side to sides are all arranged in that perfect balance that you can’t escape from what is going on in the immediate moment—something we could all do with a bit more in life.
So imagine yourself strapping in as you turn off from Griffith, and for the next hour (or less) flying your own roller coaster.
That is why Calabogie is #1.