Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ontario's Hiking Trails

As you have read in my last post I am proposing a hiking trail along Wilmot Creek in the town of Clarington, On. For those of you who still like the old names, Clarington consists of Newcastle, Bowmanville, Courtice, Orono and numerous other small hamlets. In doing some research on trail development I was somewhat impressed by the number of hiking trails currently present, or in development in Ontario. It made me proud of those countless individuals who have given of their time and energy to build, and maintain these trails so that all of us can use them. I also felt thankful to all of those private landowners who were receptive to the vision of hiking trails and allow them to cross their lands.
This post is basically a rundown on some of the trails that are available to us Ontario hikers.
I will start with the best known, and the first, lengthy hiking trail developed in Ontario, the Bruce Trail. As I stated in the last post I was a child when the Bruce Trail was under development, as a Centennial project, and my father was one of the people recruited to bring the trail to fruition. The Bruce Trail was the brainchild of a man by the name of Ray Lowes, a metallurgist by trade, for Dofasco in Hamilton. On his free time he wandered the Niagara escarpment, hiking the trails that were present. He envisioned a trail stretching the length of the escarpment in Ontario, from Queenston Heights on the Niagara River, to Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. In the beginning most of it was private land. With the trail project the escarpment was spotlighted and its signifigance became became recognized. The escarpment is now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and there have been many land acquisitions by various bodies so that much of it is permanently protected. The website for the Bruce Trail has all kinds of info for you to peruse.
The next trail I will talk about is the Ganaraska Trail. This trail runs from Port Hope on Lake Ontario, to north of Lake Simcoe and then west to Georgian Bay. A side trail links with the Bruce trail near Collingwood.
Sticking in the same geographic area a relatively new trail is the Oak Ridges Trail, which, surprisingly, follows the Oak Ridges Moraine from Rice Lake to Newmarket, just north of Toronto.
In Eastern Ontario the Rideau Trail runs from Kingston to Ottawa through Smith Falls and Perth.
In the Lake Superior region the Voyageur Trail runs Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay along some of the ruggedest terrain in Canada. Some of this trail is still undeveloped but there is over 500 km of hiking available!
In south central Ontario the Grand Valley Trail Asociation has developed a trail that runs along the Grand River from Rock Point, on Lake Erie, to the town of Alton, near Orangeville.

These are just the larger hiking trails in Ontario. There are numerous smaller trails that may take a few minutes to a few hours or even a few days to complete. for info on some of them check out Hike Ontario and the Ontario Trails Council.
For those of of us who love the outdoors, the beauty of these trails is that they are always open, in all seasons, in all weather and in most cases they are free to use. If you are into hiking at all you may want to buy a membership in the local association for the trail near you, and a guidebook is never a bad investment.
When you are out hiking on these trails take a moment to think about the men and women who have, and continue, to work hard to provide these trails for all of us. Respect the land and the users code. Say thanks to the many private landowners who unselfishly allow the trails to cross their properties.

Hiking is one activity that almost everyone can enjoy at some level. So take your sons and daughters for a hike. Maybe not today but someday they will thank you in some way for introducing them to the joy of the outdoors. If you have the chance, take someone who has never hiked before on a trail nearby. Once, someone probably did that for you.

To end his post, TAKE A HIKE, EH!

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