The Tomifobia Nature Trail / Sentier Nature Tomifobia is a 19-kilometer path built on a railroad bed that connects Ayer’s Cliff, Quebec to Stanstead and Beebe, Quebec, which are just over the border from another trail in Vermont. The use in French of the word “Sentier” instead of the more usual “Piste” is indicative of the woodlands nature of the trail. It is composed of hard-packed dirt and pea gravel and is therefore not recommended during the spring thaw and after heavy rain. Some stretches have loose gravel with sharp edges, so I would recommend puncture-resistant tires and perhaps not using a road bike (even though I saw some). My hybrid did fine.
The trail is mainly flat, but rises slightly as you head south particularly as you near Stanstead. I would recommend that you start in Ayer’s Cliff and ride south. Ayer’s Cliff has a big parking lot behind the tourist office where Rue Main (Rte. 141) from the south bears left and Rue Tyler goes straight. There are also a grocery store and a bike rental/repair place (819 838-5240) next to the trail.
I rode only the first 12.5 miles, according to my GPS unit. It is simply fantastic. You go by swamps, fields, and forests and are in almost constant contact with the Tomifobia River, although there is no easy access to the water. You have the feeling that you are completely isolated as the trail is crossed only four or five times by a public road. There is no danger of being stranded because it is well used, and everyone speaks English. Snowmobiles are banned, so it would be excellent for cross-country skiing.
I think the trail is more suited to a nature lover than a speed/distance rider. I would recommend that if you are short of time or stamina, you stop just short of ten miles at the shady spot next to the rock cliff over the river. There are log steps to get you off the trail and closer to the water, but be very careful of the pine straw ground; it could be slippery. You will have seen everything there is to see by that point. Better yet, ride only four or five miles and stop often to observe the beauty and the wildlife. Bring binoculars. This ride is worth an overnight stay in the area; try Magog, which has its own great bike path.
Scooper47’s top tips: 1) The trail continues for 1.16 miles north from the parking lot in Ayer’s Cliff. There is nothing to see; don’t bother.
2) If you are in Ayer’s Cliff at a meal time, I also recommend Chez Maurice across Rue Tyler. An authentic diner with good food at very reasonable prices, it is a rare find in a tourist town. Portions are big so wait until after your ride, if possible. (See my review on this site.)
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