Discovering my backyard: Ontario

Ontario Adventures

Written by Monica Ng

A review of Ontario parks, conservation areas, forests, trails, falls and places that I have visited. More to come…but recently friends have been asking me where to go. Thought it would be better to post sooner than later. Happy and safe travels!

Because the places are not listed in alphabetical order in the body of the post, here is a list of the places that are reviewed in this post in alphabetical order (then if you have a keyboard you can do a CTRL F to find the place you want to read about). I put an “M” next to my favourites:

Awenda Provincial Park (M), Bass Lake Provincial Park, Beaver Creek trail, Blue Mountain (M), Bluffer’s Park (Scarborough Bluffs)(M), Bon Echo Provincial Park (M), Bond Lake, Bracebridge Falls, Bruce Peninsula National Park (M), Darlington Provincial Park, Earl Rowe Provincial Park, Emily Provincial Park, Ferris Provincial Park (M), Flowerpot Island (M), Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (M), Hilton Falls Conservation Area (M), Hockley Valley Nature Preserve, Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve, J. B. Tudhope Memorial Park, Jefferson Forest, Joker’s Hill, Killarney Provincial Park (M), Killbear Provincial Park (M), Limehouse Conservation Area (M), Milne Dam Conservation Park, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, Niagara Falls, Nokaiida Trail, Phyllis Rawlinson park, Point Pelee National Park (M), Ponoma Mills Park, Porritt Tract (York Regional Forest), Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Rattlesnake Conservation Area, Rattray Marsh Conservation Area (combined with Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario)(M), Richmond Green park, Rouge National Urban Park, Sandbanks Provincial Park (M), Scanlon Creek Conservation Area, Scout Tract -York Regional Forest, Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area, Sherman Falls, Sibbald Point Provincial Park, Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, Sugarbush Heritage Trail, Thornton Bales Conservation Area, Thousand Islands Provincial Park, Tom Taylor Trail, Toogood Pond, Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve (M), Uxbridge Rail Trail, Webster’s Falls/Spencer Gorge, Wilcox (Lake), Wilson’s Falls (M).

Beautiful Ontario

Canada is such a beautiful country with so much to offer in terms of the great outdoors. However, since I live in Ontario, I will explore my backyard in this post. I plan to expand this post as I check out new places, so check back frequently for more adventures. I will just add each new location to the top of this post.

I spend a lot of time deciding where to go by searching online for photos, comments and reviews posted by others – so now is my time to give back. I thought it would be helpful to indicate the location with the name of each place so you can quickly zone in on an area that you want to visit based on the location. The reality is that our lives are busy and some days we only have time for a local trip. I definitely spent a lot of time digging up my photos and putting together this post, but sharing my love of the outdoors and my adventures was my goal. It is also a great chance for me to scrapbook my adventures. I hope you will find time to check out some of these places. Keep me posted on your adventures!

Some background: when I do my research for place to go, my preference is an area with different landscape such as water, rock, falls, mountain, covered forest and challenging trails. Usually, I start by typing in “Ontario parks near me” and go from there. Last year, I committed myself to exploring as many provincial parks as I could. Unfortunately I started this a bit late in the season, but still managed to squeeze in about 11 parks before the end of October.

***Of course, now COVID-19 has affected the use of the parks – so check online before venturing out regarding any restrictions. Some parking lots are closed, and most of the facilities including washrooms are closed at this time***

General Notes / Tips / What to Expect before you go

1) I will not comment on the camping / trailer parking facilities, as I used the parks for day-use only. I confess that I don’t really enjoy camping. Glamping is A-OK with me!
2) I may not have hiked all the trails in a given location so can only comment on where I went.
3) Where I comment on equipment rental, I only indicate the equipment that I can remember them having.
4) I read that most of Ontario’s provincial parks allow for dogs (but they must be leashed). There are some areas (typically beaches) that do not allow dogs so it’s best to research ahead.
5) Where water is involved – if you have room in your vehicle, I highly recommend that you bring your own Personal Flotation Device (life jacket). If rentals are available, they are kinda slimy.
6) Where I refer to “admission cost”, often it’s just a parking fee.
7) I put an “M” next to my very favourite places.
8) “BYOK” – bring your own kayak (or whatever else equipment you like to use).
9) “Plumbing” – I generally mean outhouses.
10) Some places have very limited parking, so I would suggest starting out early to get a spot.
11) When I mention “covered forest”, I mean that you are shaded by the trees and not completely in the open.
12) In case you have kids, I made a note under my rating system if the place is “kid-friendly”. And by kid-friendly I mean not so many complaints.
13) Remember to respect the environment. Leave no trace behind. This means to take your garbage home with you.

My tip about an inflatable kayak

For those of you who are not hard-core kayakers, I highly recommend that you buy an inflatable kayak. I totally love mine. I only paid about $200 for it and bought through Amazon. Mine is a two-person Intex kayak which inflates and deflates really quickly and folds into a bag with handles. It is my second season using my kayak. The kayak is very stable and glides through the water with ease. It’s convenient to store during the winter months for those who love kayaking but don’t have space to store a full kayak or have car racks to transport them. I just pop my bag in my trunk (takes up half a trunk) and I am good to go! Another bonus – if there’s no area near your car to launch your kayak, you can just carry the bag closer to the beach area and then blow it up!

My rating system: 1 – 5 stars. 5 being the best!

*Porritt Tract – York Regional Forest (Stouffville)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
http://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/whit-stouffville-yrf-porritt-tract-pangman-springs-kennedy-rd/

Location: Located in Stouffville. About a 35-minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: The trail has some open areas, but mostly covered. There is a small creek running across the land, but basically dried out when I went. I was not very impressed, but a nice wooded trail if you live in the area. One of the locals warned about poison ivy along the trail.

*Bluffer’s Park/Beach (Scarborough Bluffs)* -M

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/parks-gardens-beaches/scarborough-bluffs/

Location: Located in Scarborough. About a 30-minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Bluffs, Lake Ontario, beach, rocks, sunrise and the marina.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Parking meter. On weekends, it is free between 6 am-9 am. Gate to beach section opens at 6 am according to someone I spoke to, but the marina area is open earlier.
Plumbing: Yes, near the beach.

My comments: I have lived in Toronto for almost twenty years and never went to the Bluffs. I heard of them, but sadly that’s all. Made a spontaneous decision to go there to experience the sunrise. Got there by 5:45 am. Sky was getting bright already. Sunrise time on this day: 6:15 am. Watching the sunrise from the horizon was absolutely incredible. The sun was a huge dark bright pink half-circle emerging, becoming a full-circle then floating into the purple-kissed sky like a hot air balloon. The crappy part – there were two ladies who kept on talking, creating stress for me. For me, being in nature is a quiet reflective experience. The whole area was pretty noisy. Near the bluffs, there was a large group of people camping out playing psychedelic music at full blast and smoking weed. People are not allowed to climb the bluffs because they are unstable. Upon close inspection of the bluffs, it looks like the edge of the cliffs are composed of dried up mud and not rock at all. No wonder the bluffs are collapsing…

The beach area was cleaned up nicely by a tractor filtering the sand. The water looks clean. To add to the noise, a group of people were getting kayaking lessons with a loud instructor.

People continue to disrespect nature by dumping their garbage all over the place. Honestly, those people do not deserve to enjoy nature because they ruin it for everyone else. Other than noise pollution and garbage, the park is beautiful. The highlight was the sunrise for sure!

*Toogood Pond (Markham)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.markham.ca/wps/portal/home/recreation/parks-trails/parks/unionville-parks

Location: Located in Markham (Unionville). About a 30-minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Pond, marsh, creeks, birds and bridges.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Didn’t see any facilities near the pond, but there are local businesses on Main Street where you can use the washroom.

My comments: I can definitely see the reason for the high demand for real estate around Main Street, Unionville. Main Street is a beautiful and whimsical place lined with unique shops and forest trails. I walked the trail around Toogood Pond (basically at Carlton and Main Street) and along Bruce’s Creek (across the street from the pond). There were a few people fishing around the pond. The pond was picture-perfect with blue skies (with some clouds) reflected in the water. A great area for locals to get some fresh air and exercise, then pop by the gorgeous Starbucks location for a drink!

*Scanlon Creek Conservation Area (Bradford)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/pages/scanlon-creek.aspx

Location: Located in Bradford West Gwillimbury. About an hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, marsh, birds, creek.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes.

My comments: Unfortunately didn’t get a chance to explore the whole area, but it is an expansive forest with some steep sections (those I like!). Nice place for a leisurely hike. The trails are well-maintained and beautiful. Apparently the park is great for bird-lovers. During my short visit, I saw one bird species that I never saw before. Looks like a good place for a picnic and there is an area with children’s activities. Saw a sign that there are lynx in the forest. There is a short marsh boardwalk. I didn’t get a chance to check out the creek. I think this is a great place to go if you live in the area.

*Killarney Provincial Park (Killarney)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes!
http://www.ontarioparks.com/park/killarney

Above photos are of “The Crack”. Photos below were taken at the Chikanishing Trail (Georgian Bay section of Killarney)

Location: Located in Killarney. About 4 hour 15 minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: “The Crack”, rock formations and the Georgian Bay.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes. Certain areas.

My comments: I question myself – what took me so long to go there?!

Honestly, Killarney is the PERFECT place for the body, mind and soul. As I have mentioned before, I have a weakness for mountains, water and rocks. This place has it all. I especially love walking on and climbing rocks (not to be confused with rock climbing since I am scared of heights!). There’s something amazing about physically exhausting yourself while surrounded by such incredible beauty. My body wanted to sleep after I returned home, but my brain was wanting more. Even as I write this I am still standing at the top of The Crack.

The Crack is a 6km trail. Ontario Park’s website notes that the trail is difficult and takes about 4 hours (return). I took 1 hour and 15 minutes one way with some photos along with way. I spent about 1.5 hours on the top enjoying the gorgeous view (bring your sunscreen). The first kilometre of this trail is just shaded forest. I recommend that you walk quickly through this part because the rest is way more exciting! After the forest, the trail starts to get really interesting with white quartzite rock and more elevation. Then you get to the base of The Crack. You have to climb boulders to be able to walk between the crack and further climb up to the top of The Crack. Although I saw a few children and dogs, I wouldn’t recommend that you bring them. You need to use your hands to safely climb up the rocks up to The Crack. I saw people carrying their 30lb dogs up – yikes! It is quite a climb, so I can understand why Ontario Parks recommends that you do not try to reach the top unless you are in good shape and start early.

If you plan to go, wake up early. I got there by 9am. At that time there were just three cars in the parking lot. By about noon there were tons of people at the top. In my opinion, the outdoors is not as enjoyable with so many people around. A cute little red squirrel came right up to me at the top. I guess he/she smelled my cashew nuts topped with coconut. I don’t recommend feeding wildlife.

There are several trails at the park, but I didn’t have time to check them all out. I did take the Chikanishing Trail for unbelievable views of the Georgian Bay. It’s an incredible 3 kilometre trail along massive red rock formations. It took me about 45 minutes to walk most of it. I would imagine that the rock might be slippery if wet. You definitely need some physical agility for some parts of the trail. From the overlooking rock, you can see the current sweeping the edges of the Georgian Bay. Blue water, red rocks and leaning trees growing out rock – breathtaking. I fell in love with the Georgian Bay after visiting Killbear Provincial Park. The Georgian Bay at Killarney is even more expansive. I can totally see what inspired the art of the Group of Seven. Maybe it’s time to start sketching again…

The next question: how soon can I go back?

p.s. thanks J!

*Milne Dam Conservation Park (Markham)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably because it’s close to home.
https://www.markham.ca/wps/portal/home/recreation/parks-trails/Milne-Dam-Conservation-Park/06-milne-park

Location: Located in Markham. About 30 minutes drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Rouge River, bridges, geese, Great Blue Herons, pretty moths flying around (mid-July).
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.

My comments: A great place to walk around, bike and have a picnic. I love bridges so I enjoyed the 600 metre trail to the dam with a few bridges. You can tell the city spent a lot of money constructing the beautiful bridges across the Rouge River. The park is home to many different bird species. I saw a Great Blue Heron, ducks, geese and I believe a Killdeer – in less than 20 minutes at the park.

Here’s a great site I found showing photos of the birds that have been seen at the park: https://www.waxwingeco.com/birding-hotspot.php?id=L1760089

*Thornton Bales Conservation Area (King City)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably because it’s a 20 minute drive for me.
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/thornton-bales

Location: Located in King City. About 50 minutes drive from Toronto.
Highlights: “99 steps”, forest and lots of pretty moths flying around (mid-July).
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: I always thought this forest was part of Joker’s Hill. The first time I got “disoriented” at Joker’s Hill, I found the stairs. This time around I began my hike at the stairs. Forest is covered and nice. I just love inhaling the fresh forest air. Some elevated parts – which make for great calf-burning exercise. There are a few very sloped areas so you have to be careful – especially people wearing regular footwear. I think I was huffing and puffing the very first time I climbed the 99 steps, but since I’ve been hiking a lot – it’s not a problem anymore. It’s amazing the benefits of regular exercise. Get out there and move!

*J. B. Tudhope Memorial Park (Orillia)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe if I happen to be in the area.
Kid-friendly.
https://www.orillia.ca/modules/facilities/Detail.aspx?CategoryIds=&FacilityTypeIds=&Keywords=&Page=4&CloseMap=false&Scroll=true&id=33733888-55d5-4396-b36e-7388a26f0e0a#

Location: Located in Orillia. About a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake Couchiching and beach.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Equipment: No.
Plumbing: Yes.

My comments: I tried to go to McCrae Provincial Park but they were full to capacity for day-use. Then tried Mara Provincial Park just minutes away from McCrae PP, no luck either. Staff at McCrae suggested the public beaches in the area – so tried J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park. There is a lot to do at the park – they have a splash pad area, a beach, open space for BBQs and of course Lake Couchiching for swimming and kayaking, etc. Beach has coarse sand and is pretty clean. For non-vegans, there is a hot dog and an ice cream trailer on-site for buying snacks.

*Ferris Provincial Park (Campbellford)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
http://www.ontarioparks.com/park/ferris

Location: Located in Campbellford. About a 2 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Suspension bridge, falls, Trent River.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Equipment: I saw some kayaks but not sure if they are rentals or belong to campers. I highly recommend an inflatable kayak (see my note above under tips section).
Plumbing: I didn’t notice any.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails: Only hiked one part (which was easy) – so not sure. The Drumlin Trail is apparently more challenging.

My comments: I really enjoyed myself. Spent about four hours at the park. At the falls section, you could walk out onto the massive sheets of rock (but not sure if you are really supposed to). On top of the rock you can see a very thin flow of water at certain parts (see two bottom left photos). When standing on the rock, I didn’t realize that it was part of the falls until seeing the actual falls from a distance from a trail. The suspension bridge was cool. But I have so say that the best part of this trip was kayaking on the river underneath the bridge and right next to the falls. The falls were way more incredible experiencing them by kayak. There is a boat launching area where you can launch your kayak. Couldn’t have been so close to the falls without my kayak. Don’t leave home without one 🙂

*Rattray Marsh Conversation Area -combined with Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario (Port Credit)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Kid-friendly.
https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/rattray-marsh-conservation-area/

Rattray Marsh Conservation Area photos pictured above. And pictured below – photos from the Waterfront Trail leading to the marsh conservation area.

Location: Located in Port Credit. About a 30-minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Beach, Lake Ontario, rock formations along the shore, marsh boardwalk.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails: Easy. The Waterfront Trail is paved and there is an extensive wooden marsh boardwalk.

My comments: I haven’t been to a nice beach lately, nor one that has gorgeous rock formations along the shore, so this was a treat! It was like a two-in-one adventure – a lake and marsh in one trip. You can bring your own equipment (kayak, etc.) – problem is that you have to carry it from wherever you parked. There are several small beach sections along the Waterfront Trail. Sand is not too coarse and beach areas are pretty clean (except for a used tampon I found – yuck!). From the shore, you get a great view of the CN Tower across Lake Ontario (pictured above – the second photo from the left). Just watch out for bikes on the trail as the Waterfront Trail is a shared path. Luckily no bikes are allowed in the Conservation Area – I assume because it has a narrow boardwalk. The whole area around the Waterfront Trail is for hanging out and chilling (picnics, playgrounds, etc.). You just follow the signs along the waterfront trail which leads to the Rattray Marsh Conservation Area. You have to walk about fifteen minutes from the parking area to get to it. It’s quite interesting to see Lake Ontario then the marsh area right near the lake. Also, there is an off-leash dog park right near the entrance of the park. My only recommendation is to go early. There is not a lot of parking for the number of people who go there. I was lucky to get the second to last spot when arriving at 10:30 in the morning. Felt good to soak in some sun by the water.

*Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve (Muskoka)* – M

Rating: 5.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/hiking-trails/torrance-barrens/

torrance barrrens dark sky preserve

Location: Located in Muskoka. About a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Bedrock formations, wetland, beautiful sunset, fireflies and starry sky.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: No. Easy, but trails are not well marked.
Camping: Apparently there is no designated camping, but you can set up a tent.

My comments: I definitely understand why there were flocks of people. The night sky is breathtaking and incredible. I dreamed of a star-filled sky since I went to Point Pelee in 2017 (and saw the star-filled sky) and planned to visit this preserve since then. Lucky I finally got around to it. I went to the preserve around 6pm so was able to secure a good parking spot – otherwise you just have to park along the street. I was told by the hotel staff (where I stayed) that the city doesn’t not ticket people who park along the street, but I did see some OPP monitoring the crowds. The trails are nice – part of the Canadian Shield. Lots of dried up vegetation on the rocks. What’s not nice are the deer flies (at least I was told by a local that they are deer flies). Man! They were driving me nuts buzzing around my ears. I had to wrap my sweater around my head like a bonnet to protect my head. Buzzzzzz….

Deet does not repel these deer flies and apparently they bite. It’s funny (and of course good) because around 7pm they suddenly disappeared. Maybe they start to focus on wildlife at that hour lol. Then bonus – mosquitos start to swarm after the deer flies are gone. The sunset was stunning. What is the MOST amazing thing that I have ever seen – a real life firefly. When it got dark, I saw these little specks of red/orange light that lit up then disappeared – like a light show. I felt as though I was in a fantasy dream. On the day I went, the sky got really dark around 11pm and you could see the whole sky full of stars around 11:30pm. Even if you don’t spend the night there, I highly recommend bringing and setting up a tent. It’s a great place just to chill and staying clear of pesky mosquitos while you wait for pure darkness. It would be even better to set up your tent away from the main area (probably on the other side of the wetland) to reduce light pollution from the other visitors. The only issue with setting up farther is that you have to walk farther to get out of the area – in complete darkness. There are lots of people with their lights on, so that part sucked. That’s called light pollution. And like I read in many reviews on Google, people play loud music and talk really loud – so true relaxation is not possible in the main area. I was told that the area is bear country, so be warned. Other than snacks and food, what I suggest that you bring with you: flashlight, tent, sleeping bag to sit on inside tent and if you have a portable chair – bring it.

Food for thought: Ontario should designate one day a year where every single light goes off and we can all enjoy the galaxy of stars from home without driving anywhere. Earth Day is not enough.

*Wilson’s Falls (Bracebridge)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely yes.
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/hiking-trails/wilsons-falls/

Location: Located in Bracebridge near the Bracebridge Falls. About a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Waterfalls, river and rock formations.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Only hiked part of the trail, which was easy. But there is a sign at the trailhead showing hiking level is DIFFICULT – totally almost 5,000 steps. And this trail is part of “The Great Trail” (Trans Canada Trail).

My comments: Such an incredible place. I am huge on rocks, water and covered forest, so for me this is a must-go place. The falls are just a short five minute walk from the parking lot and there is a lovely covered forest trail to the other side of the river, but unfortunately I only hiked a small portion of the trail. Generally speaking, my absolute favourite thing to do is walk on rocks. The magnitude of the rocks is truly something to experience. Walking across huge pieces of rock at Wilson’s Falls reminds me of being at Peggy’s Cove – but on a much smaller scale. BTW – Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia is a must go (photos do not justify the magnitude of the rocks). I saw people bathing in the calmer areas near the falls and people kayaking on the other side of the river (pictured on the top right photo in the section behind the rock). If you want to bathe in the river, be careful because the rocks are slippery. I enjoyed really relaxing, sitting on the rock and putting my feet in the water, letting the current gush around them.

*Bracebridge Falls (Bracebridge)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/waterfalls/

Location: Located in Bracebridge. About a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Waterfalls, rock formations and train track across river.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Not really any trails.

My comments: The rock formations are really nice and the gush of water from the dam is incredible. The falls are not situated in a very natural environment so less enjoyable – buildings all around and a man-made dam. It’s just a different place to check out. If you happen to be in Bracebridge, you should stop by. I am fascinated by train tracks spanning across rivers – as such I did enjoy that part of it.

*Emily Provincial Park (Omemee)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/emily

Location: Located in Omemee. About 1.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake, fishing for those who enjoy it and praying mantis.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Equipment: Canoes and paddle boards.
Challenging trails: Didn’t notice any trails.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: I love lakes and beaches but the beaches at Emily have coarse sand are not very clean (even the water itself). I wasn’t very tempted to go into the water. Plus motorboats are allowed in the lake, so 1) they make huge currents while passing and 2) definitely some safety issues when they are passing close to people in canoes. Having motorboats around added stress to normally relaxing canoe rides. But I did try padde boarding for the first time. I was happy to see a praying mantis (picture above centre) because I haven’t seen one since I was young. The park offers free fishing rod rentals and plastic bait. You can buy fresh worms from the park store. Of course you will never catch me fishing. Subliminal message: go vegan!

*Richmond Green Park (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes. The park has a bit of everything and its local for me.
Kid-friendly.
https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/things-to-do/Richmond-Green-Sports-Centre-and-Park.aspx

Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Man-made waterfall, pond, gazebo, beautiful landscaping/flower gardens, skating trail, geese and herons.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes, but only in skate trail area/Sports centre.
Challenging trails: Paved walking area – wouldn’t really call it a trail.

My comments: This is a really nice place. The section near the waterfall is a local hotspot for wedding photography. The park is really well maintained and landscaped. Lots of events take place at this park including fireworks, Canada Day festivities/concerts (Ria Mae performed on stage there for a free concert in 2019 on Canada Day). There is a splash pad and a couple of playgrounds (can’t say the sandy playgrounds are very nice though). The park has an amazing concrete paved trail for rollerblading, biking and ice skating (in the winter). Just remember to bring your own protective gear (helmets, pads, etc.) – I see so many people not wearing helmets. Our brains are like jelly. Put on some gear too! Accidents can happen. I saw one skateboarder with skin scraped off the whole length of one leg. She was seriously suffering.

*Six Mile Lake Provincial Park (Muskoka)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/sixmilelake

Location: Located in Muskoka off the 400N.
Highlights: Lake, a tiny glimpse of Georgian Bay rock formations and dragonflies.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Equipment: Kayaks, peddle boat, canoes and paddleboards.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails: Didn’t go as there weren’t any obvious trails.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: There are trails according to the park’s website, but not too obvious where they are. Beaches are fairly clean, but have some goose poop. Too many houses along the lake and motor boats are allowed, so you don’t really feel like you are in the great outdoors. One plus: it’s convenient to park near the lake and carry inflatable kayak. It’s worth it to drive the extra hour to Killbear Provincial Park.

*Beaver Creek Trail (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.

Location: Located in Richmond Hill. One trail entrance is right on Major Mackenzie Drive East, between Boake Trail and Spadina Road.
Highlights: Beaver Creek and small bridge (picture above right) over the creek.
Parking: No. Residential street parking, or there is a section of the trail on Boake Trail where there is parking for a park.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: No. Paved trail.

My comments: Nothing special about forest, but it’s nice to be near the creek. Good trail for local residents – for walking and biking.

*Limehouse Conservation Area (Limehouse)* – M

Rating: 5.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/limehouse-conservation-area/

Location: Located in Limehouse. About 1 hour from Toronto. 
Highlights: “Hole in the Wall” section, rapids and old historic ruin area.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Easy but definitely more challenging around the rocks. Caution should be taken near them.

My comments: I love this place. Being part of the Niagara Escarpment has the benefits of the incredible rock formations. In the historical area (circa 1850s), you will find a couple of huge kilns and a storage building that was once used for storing explosives and gunpowder.

*Uxbridge Rail Trail (Uxbridge)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
Can’t find a specific website for this.

Location: Located in Uxbridge. About 1 hour from Toronto. 
Highlights: Heritage train trestle and birch trees.
Parking: No. You have to find residential street parking in areas without any “no parking” signs. The trail starts on Main Street right off a sidewalk.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: Because the trail begins on Main Street, there is no parking close by. You have to drive down a big street and park on the side streets. Tresle bridge is super-short or maybe I didn’t walk far enough to see the tresle (from the picture on the top left, bridge looks really long). Disappointing since I drove an hour to get there. Super-tall and skinny birch trees are beautiful. On second thought I might have to go again to confirm about the trestle!

*Nokaiida Trail (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
http://www.eastgwillimbury.ca/About_Us/Public_Notices/Projects/New_Parks_and_Trails/Nokiidaa_Trail_Upgrades.htm

Location: Located in East Gwillimbury. About 45min drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Holland River.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: Bridge across Holland River is nice. Trails are open and boring. But is a nice trail for locals to go for a quick walk.

*Phyllis Rawlison (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 1.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/things-to-do/Phyllis-Rawlinson-Park.aspx

Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Off leash dog area.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Not that I am aware.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: I went to this park twice – once just to check it out because it’s not far from my house, and once when I found out they have an off leash dog area. The hiking area is too open for my liking and not particularly nice. Maybe I am just too spoiled 🙂 Looks like people like to picnic at this park.

*Presqu’ile Provincial Park (Northumberland County)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/presquile

Location: Located in Northumberland. About a 1h 45min hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Lighthouse, marsh boardwalk and unique horse-like trees.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails: Easy.

My comments: Not very exciting trails, but the trees are really cool. Walk on boardwalk is nice. Lighthouse is a nice feature but the walk to it is just that.

*Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area (Aurora)*

Rating: 1.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/sheppards-bush

Location: Located in Aurora. About a 45 minute drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.

My comments: Nothing special about the forest – just a place to walk. If I recall correctly, they have some weird outdoor exercise equipment along the trail.

*Blue Mountain (Collingwood)*

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Kid-friendly
https://www.bluemountain.ca/

Location: Collingwood. About a 2 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Mountain and village.
Parking: Yes, but limited (if you stay at hotel you can have parking added to your stay).
Admission/parking cost: I believe so if you are parking in the general parking lot.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Yes, especially when you go straight up and down. Mountain for winter skiing.
Equipment: Yes. Peddle boats.

My comments: I stayed at the resort to maximize R + R (rest and relaxation) time. It was worth the stay because you can hang out in the beautiful village. Hotels are booked up fast at Blue Mountain – book ahead. The mountain is very steep, but you get a good workout if you can make it up without falling backward. There is a gondola as well that you can pay to take up to the top of the mountain, but that would be too easy!

*Bass Lake Provincial Park (Orillia)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/basslake

Location: Orillia. About 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Lake.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? No. Pretty flat trail.
Equipment: No. BYOK (bring your own kayak)
Camping: Yes.

My comments: The parking area is close enough to carry my inflatable kayak to the water. Nice kayak ride. Water and beach area is clean. Was cold when I went so getting wet was uncomfortable. Looks like a nice place for a picnic. I saw a motor boat launch area as well. Forest not very exciting.

*Jefferson Forest (Richmond Hill)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/jefferson-forest-bridgewater-dr/

Location: Bayview Avenue and Stouffville Road in Richmond Hill. 
Highlights: Majestic covered forest, trilliums, special trails and ramps for mountain biking, and unique happy faces carved onto the ends of fallen tree trunks to be found throughout the forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited. Parking is mainly on Bridgewater Drive off Stouffville Road.
Admission/parking cost: No, but you may get a $30-$40 ticket if you park in the wrong spot. Beware – there is NO parking allowed on the parking pads directly in front of the two trailheads, despite not having any “no parking” signs.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Some calf burning and breath-shortage sections.

My comments: I call this forest my second home, as I am there almost every day. I cannot get enough of the smell of the deep forest and the areas with more challenging terrain. I love the calf-burning sensation of ripping through the numerous trails in the forest. This forest is dense and covered. While the biking trails are more narrow, it’s not always easy to tell a foot trail from a bike trail. Just watch out for bikers – they come fast and don’t ring their bells.

*Sandbanks Provincial Park (Prince Edward County)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 100% yes.
Kid-friendly
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/sandbanks

Location: Prince Edward County. About 2.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Incredible stretch of natural beach with fine sand (Outlet Beach), sand dunes and Outlet River for canoeing/kayaking.
Parking: Yes, but parking lot gets full very quickly in the summer.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, fee varies, but I paid about $22.
Rental equipment: Canoes and kayaks.
Food: Yes, there is a restaurant serving hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken strips, etc. Vegans, bring your own food as usual.
Plumbing: Yes, with flushing toilets and sinks.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: I love Sandbanks even though I don’t spend much time burning in the sun because of the depleting ozone layer. There are a few beach areas, but I highly recommend the main beach (Outlet Beach) where the sand and water are clean. The sand dunes (basically a sand covered hill) are cool and can be found at a different section (you have to drive to it), but the beach there is sketchy (mostly more algae and little fish swimming all over).

*Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area(Milton)*

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=rattlesnake-point

Location: Located in Milton. About 45 minutes drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Lookout sections at the top and massive rock formations.
Parking: Yes, but parking lot gets full very quickly.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with the park.
Plumbing: Can’t recall but don’t think so.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate, some parts more challenging.

My comments: I was talking to a friend about my love of hiking. I told him I wanted to see rocks (like the Georgian Bay rocks) without driving too far. He recommended Rattlesnake Point to me. Rattlesnake Point is part of the Niagara Escarpment.  You can hike, rock climb and discover many beautiful trails, including the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. The view from the lookout point(s) are amazing.

*Awenda Provincial Park (Tiny Township)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/awenda

Location: Located in Tiny Township. About 2 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Majestic trees, Kettle Lake, beach areas.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: Canoes (but be warned – only campers can rent them).
Plumbing: Outhouses. No sinks.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy. Very flat.

My comments: The park itself seems a bit disorganized.  It took some time to figure out where everything was. For example, you can canoe on Kettle Lake and there are canoes right at the lakeside, but you have to drive to the other end of the park to rent the canoes.  And although the website shows that you can rent a canoe, it does not specify that you must have reserved a campsite in order to rent them. Of course, I drove about 2 hours from Toronto so was very disappointed that canoes were available but not allowed to rent them. B.Y.O.K. – bring your own kayak (or canoe or paddle board)! For canoeing, there is parking right next to Kettle Lake, so it’s convenient to carrying your equipment to the lake.

Aside from this, there is just something special about this park. I went three times since I discovered it. It could be the density of the looming beech tree forest, the serenity of Kettle Lake, or the four beach areas along the  Georgian Bay (one is designated for pet use – yet the rest of the park on the way to that beach is not designated for pets – let me know if you figure this out!). Note, this part of the Georgian Bay does not have the amazing rock formations that other parks like Killbear Provincial Park have). The trail to the beach areas are quite long – making it less kid-friendly.

*Point Pelee National Park (Essex County)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
Kid-friendly
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/pelee

Location: Located in Essex County near Windsor. About a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto. 
Highlights: Marsh, marsh boardwalk, the “Tip” (the southern-most tip of Canada (Lake Erie) where Canada shares a border with USA, bird watching and for kids – a exciting ride on the shuttle bus to the tip. And best of all, if you are lucky, you can see the zillion stars in the dark sky.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: Canoes and kayaks.
Plumbing: Outhouses. No sinks.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Don’t know. I didn’t have a chance to hike, but the land seems pretty flat in the area.

My comments: I have visited Point Pelee twice already. Point Pelee is featured under P in my book, My Great Canadian Adventures. I dream of the night stars still. It was really cool standing at the tip of the southern most part of Canada, looking into Lake Erie. The tip can be accessed by taking a shuttle bus from a parking area, then hike a couple of kilometres to the tip. You can also hike to the tip from the main parking – I believe it’s a distance of 3.5 km one way. The tide is extremely strong at the tip and you cannot safely go into the water.  There are many stories of tragic deaths arising from people ignoring the “DANGER!” sign and being pulled under the tide. 

My favourite hotel to stay at is the Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Centre located on the same street as the park and just a five minute drive to the park. It is a great hotel for families with young children because there is an indoor water park and a central indoor area for playing table tennis, basketball and has a playground for kids. The beauty of the location of the hotel is that you can drive out near the park (without entering the park) to admire the starry sky. This is a consideration because the park is only open until midnight on certain dates, otherwise I believe they close the gates at 10pm.

There are not a lot of restaurants near the hotel (but there’s a Pizza Hut and another restaurant called Freddy’s). Note about Freddy’s – they claim to have vegan options – but by the time you ask what’s in each component of the dish (for example a falafel wrap), you are reduced to having falafel with carrot sticks because the wrap contains egg etc. Needless to say I like to bring some easy to make food and my portable electric cooktop. The hotel has a restaurant inside, but it closes early. The resto serves breakfast too.

*Hilton Falls Conservation Area (Campbellville)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely yes.
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=hilton-falls

Location: Located in Campbellville. About 45 minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls, part of Niagara Escarpment.
Parking: Yes, but limited. When I went there was a lot full sign at the entrance and only one car could go in after one came out.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Some calf-burning sections but mostly flat.

My comments: The first thing that struck me was the expanse of the entire area. There are a lot of open areas for walking and hiking. The trails are mostly flat and not very challenging. The forest area near the falls along the river is quite spectacular, but I couldn’t safely take the trail due to the icy conditions the day I went.

*Killbear Provincial Park (Parry Sound)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/killbear

Location: Located in Parry Sound. About a 3 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: The Georgian Bay and famous leaning trees painted by the Group of Seven.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: No.
Plumbing: Outhouse with flushing toilet and water pump sink.
Hiking: Yes.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate – depends which section.

My comments: I am in love with Killbear Provincial Park. The Georgian Bay rock formations are absolutely perfect and incredible. There are some beautiful trails as well. My photo doesn’t do justice to the vastness of the rocks. I bring my inflatable kayak. There is a parking area near a small beach where you can carry your equipment to. The drive itself to the park from Toronto is a worthwhile. Around Muskoka there are really majestic bedrock along the highway and inukshuks placed on top of the rocks along the way. Fun for kids to count how many inukshuks they can find.

*Darlington Provincial Park (Courtice)*

Rating: 2.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes, but only for Lake Ontario.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/darlington

Location: Located in Courtice. About a 45 minute drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake Ontario.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park regarding cost.
Equipment rental: No.
Plumbing: No.
Camping: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy, very flat.

My comments: Being next to Lake Ontario is amazing, especially in the fall when the current is high. I didn’t really enjoy the hike along the trails because the terrain is flat and not the nicest forest. Some of the trees near the water are mutated – maybe from the nuclear waste?

*Pomona Mills Park (Markham)* – M

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes, definitely.
http://www.thornhillwardone.com/pomona.shtml

Location: Located in Markham.
Highlights: East Don River, a couple of bridges, a tunnel (overpass) and meditation offerings posted along the trail (for example, a sign suggesting that you close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature).
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy, very flat.

My comments: There is just something about walking next to a river and listening to the sounds. I visited this trail many times because it is just a 15 minute drive from my house. A great place for a quickie hike.

*Earl Rowe Provincial Park (Alliston)*

Rating: 0 stars
Would I go again? Never.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/earlrowe

Location: Located in Alliston near Tangers Outlet in Cookstown. About 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Lots of geese if you like geese and frogs.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Equipment rental: Canoes, but you may need to book them ahead of time.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy, very flat.

My comments: Avoid this park. Honestly, I can’t understand why this is a provincial park. I went there thinking it would be nice to go for a canoe ride. But then I saw the water. The lake looks nice from afar, but the water is slimy and murky with thick gooey things around the beach area. You cannot pay me to put my feet in the water. From what I heard, it was not possible to control the water quality at this park. The Ontario Parks website indicates that there is a beach, but the beach has coarse sand and full of goose droppings. Be warned: there are tons of geese all over. Sadly, the frogs I saw were squashed on the trails 🙁

*Bon Echo Provincial Park (Cloyne)* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? Definitely.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/bonecho

Location: Located in Cloyne. About a 3 hour drive from Toronto (towards Montreal).
Highlights: Mazinaw Lake, Indigenous pictographs on rocks.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Equipment rental: Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and paddle boards.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Easy, trails are pretty flat.

My comments: Canoeing in the big lake was very exciting because of the currents. The photo (above centre) does no justice for the rock formations in real life. Next to the rock, you feel completely insignificant. There is something special about this park.

*Sugarbush Heritage Trail (Vaughan)*

Rating: 1 star
Would I go again? No.
vaughan.ca/services/recreation/GreatWalks/Pages/Sugarbush-Walk.aspx

Location: Located in Vaughan.
Highlights: Trail is central to local residents, yellow trilliums.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Very flat.

My comments: The forest is very thin as you can see from the centre photo above. Good place for locals to go for a quick walk.

*Tom Taylor Trail (Newmarket)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe if I move to Newmarket and looking for a local trail.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/newmarket-noliidaa-trail-mulock-dr-st-johns-sdrd-cane-pkwy/

Location: Located in Newmarket.
Highlights: Holland River, wooden sculptures in certain spots along the trail.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is paved.

My comments: The trail is long if you are going for a stroll, but I don’t like walking on pavement and open areas. Great trail for locals though.

*Sherman Falls and section of Bruce Trail (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://tourismhamilton.com/sherman-falls

Location: Located in Hamilton. About 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls on privately owned property and section of the Bruce Trail just minutes away from falls.
Parking: Not right at the falls (some people parked on the street), but there is a small parking lot near the Bruce Trail. Limited parking.
Admission/parking cost: Ticket machine -$5 parking.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: Falls are beautiful. They are on private property, but the owners generously allow visitors onto the property to enjoy the falls. The Bruce Trail is just a short walk away from the falls. The trail is very wide but the first stretch is rather boring (flat and open).

*Rouge National Urban Park (Markham section)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/rouge/visit/se-rendre-get-there/markham

Location: One section is located in Markham.
Highlights: Rouge River, wishing well.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: Not a very exciting trail. The area is too open. They have a sign indicating presence of coyotes – so beware!

*Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (Caledon)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/forksofthecredit

Location: Located in Caledon. About a 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls, Credit River, train track across river, Kettle Lake and a pond, covered forest section closer to the falls.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Ticket machine (rates based on time selected). I believe I paid $8 for 3 hours.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Most parts are flat, but there is a challenging part on the closer to the falls.

My comments: I went to this park three times already. Most of the park is open area, except the forest area closer to the falls. I quite like that section as it is steep and fun to go down (going up is good exercise) and the forest is covered. There is not much indication as to the distance from the parking area to the falls, so it felt like a long walk the first time I went (note about this – not very “kid-friendly”). On my first visit I took the trail toward Credit River. From there you will get to a bridge overlooking the river and see the train tracks. Due to heavy rain on my first visit, and trying to find a faster way back to the car, I stumbled upon Forks of the Credit Inn on Cataract Road. It’s a beautiful Inn if you ever get a chance to head that way – stay a night.

*Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/hollandlandingprairie

Location: Located in East Gwillimbury.
Highlights: One section of the forest (pictured top left) is magical with the glow of the sun. The trees were planted so they form a perfect converging path.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: I went in February when there was still snow on the ground. The snow was perfect that day making the hike enjoyable and the forest looked beautiful. What I found out of place in the park was that the open area near the parking with hydro transmission towers. For obvious reasons I didn’t like that. The magical path made it worth the visit.

*Scout Tract – York Regional Forest (Stouffville)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably.
www.york.ca

Location: Located in Stouffville.
Highlights: Pond, forest.
Parking: Along McCowan Road.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Trail is pretty flat.

My comments: I went twice. It’s a nice big covered forest with a long trails, but unfortunately the trail is shared with horses (if you catch my drift!).

*Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Reserve (Mono)*

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Probably.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/hockleyvalley

Location: Located in Mono. About a 1h 15min drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest. Look-out to open field.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.

My comments: There are no “unique” trees in this forest and the trees are spaced apart (not great for emergency washroom break lol). Nonetheless, the forest is beautiful and huge, and the trails are well-marked. I was amazed to see the widespread growth of ferns – which makes the forest seem almost like a tropical forest.

*Lake Wilcox (Oakridges)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes. It’s close to home.
Kid-friendly
https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/things-to-do/Lake-Wilcox-Park.aspx

Location: Located in Oakridges.
Highlights: Lake, playground and splash pad.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes, but I don’t think that the washrooms are always open.
Challenging trails? No. Easy. Just a paved trail around the lake.

My comments: In addition to the lake, there is a really nice outdoor playground for children and a Splash Pad area. People go there for BBQs as well. Park is always really busy so hard to find parking. I believe you can launch your own canoe near the canoe club that operates near the lake. Just north of the main parking area, there is a separate gravel parking lot closer to the canoe club. This is a really great place for kids.

* Joker’s Hill (King City)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://ksr.utoronto.ca/

Location: Located at Mulock Road and Bathurst in King City. About 1 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.

My comments: This forest is owned by the University of Toronto for scientific research. It used to be my go-to (before I discovered Jefferson Forest) because I like the covered forest. One parking area is off of Bathurst – you have to watch carefully for a tiny sign across from the entrance. Blink and you will miss it. There is another entrance to the forest, but I have never been to it. Just stumbled upon it once when I got lost.

*Bond Lake (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/jefferson-forest-oak-ridges-community-centre/

Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Forest and lake.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.

My comments: The forest area near Bond Lake is nice, but other than that -nothing special.

*Bruce Peninsula National Park* – M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 150% yes.
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/bruce

Location: Located on part of the Niagara Escarpment on the Bruce Peninsula. About 3.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Peninsula, rock formations and the Grotto.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? Moderate. The section near the water is covered in rocks so caution is needed.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: I fell in love with Bruce Peninsula three years ago when I visited for the first time. The stunning shades and tones of blue water are breathtaking and inspired my whole writing career. After I visited Bruce Peninsula and Point Pelee, my brain was on fire and I wrote my first children’s book, My Great Canadian Adventures. There is nothing more exciting that balancing oneself on the rocks underfoot to get closer to the water. I stayed in a Yurt (for the first time ever) at Cypress Hill.

*Fathom Five National Marine Park – Flowerpot Island* -M

Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? 100% yes, but would be 150% if it didn’t involve a boat ride!
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive

Location: Located in Tobermory. About 3h 45min drive from Toronto. The town/village is located just a short drive away from Bruce Peninsula.
Highlights: Flowerpot Island, boat ride across the Georgian Bay.
Parking: Yes, in the town – but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Not that I recall, but I paid for the cruise from the town to Flowerpot Island.
Plumbing: You have to work to locate the washroom in the town/village. There is an outhouse on the island.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.
Camping: No.

My comments: Access to Flowerpot Island is by water only. From Tobermory, you need to book a cruise and take a boat ride across the Georgian Bay. It’s absolutely incredible how many bodies of the water we have in Canada. For those who are motion sick like me, take your meds before getting on the boat. I was ill and desperately looking for a bucket on the boat. The hike on the island was not that exciting, but it was really cool to see the dolemite rock formations shaped like flowerpots.

*Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls)*

Rating: 3.5 – 4 stars
Would I go again? Not anytime soon.
https://niagarafalls.ca/

Location: Located in Niagara Falls. About 2.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Falls, tulips in the springtime, city life.
Parking: Yes, in the town – but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, parking fee if you park in a parking lot (about $20 last time I parked near the falls).
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trails? Not applicable.
Camping: No. Hotel life, yes!

My comments: I think that I have been to Niagara Falls too many times in my life to find it exciting. But last time I booked a spot on the Maid of the Mist (the boat pictured top right) which takes you right near the falls. The force of the water from the falls is incredible and in my opinion, worth the wait time and money. You will get wet! If you are staying in a hotel, there is a public transport (bus) that takes you down to the falls. Maybe I am being too tough – I am sure the falls are spectacular if it’s your first time there. It’s very beautiful when they light up the falls area at night.

*Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls Conservation Area (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://conservationhamilton.ca/spencer-gorgewebsters-falls/

Location: Located in Hamilton.
Highlights: Falls and rock formations.
Parking: Yes, but very limited.
Admission/parking cost: I can’t remember there being a parking fee, but there was an entry fee per person to Webster’s Falls.
Plumbing: Not that I can recall.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.

My comments: The falls are beautiful but the finding parking in the area is stressful. But when the main lots are full, there is an area where you could park and pay to take a schoolbus (if I recall correctly) to the falls area.

*Mono Cliffs Provincial Park(Mono)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/monocliffs

Location: Located in Mono.
Highlights: Rock formations.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Not that I can recall.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate.

*Thousand Islands National Park*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/1000

Location: Located in Mallorytown. About a 3 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: The islands.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: I didn’t notice any.
Equipment rental: I don’t think so. Bring your own.
Challenging trails? No. Easy.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: Nothing really notable or interesting about the section that I went to. If fact, I completely forgot that I hiked a trail there!

*Sibbald Point Provincial Park (Sutton West)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/sibbaldpoint

Location: Located in Sutton West. On Lake Simcoe.
Highlights: The point.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Plumbing: Yes.
Equipment rental: I don’t think so. Bring your own.
Challenging trails? Didn’t get a chance to check out trails.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: Looks like a nice place to have a picnic. The currents were rough when I went late fall. Couldn’t really kayak. Saw some windsurfers though. The point is really cool. Some rocks are slippery so be careful when walking. Coarse sand beach.

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