3 Simple Ways to Eat Well

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BIO 


Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND

Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist and Hypnotherapist

Photo Credit: Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND

Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND has practiced naturopathic medicine and acupuncture for the last fifteen years and is available for Telemedicine (video conference or by phone) appointments in Ontario. She focuses on diet and exercise – the foundation of health, to help people reach their health goals. She became a Certified Coach with FASTer Way to Fat Loss®, to help people make lasting lifestyle changes with the program’s signature six-week new client experience.

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3 Simple Ways to Eat Well

Written by Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND

It may sound shocking, but fast food doesn’t have to be expensive or unhealthy.

As a mother of two children and a naturopathic doctor, I understand that life is busier than ever and people often don’t have time to take care of themselves. But that doesn’t mean that it’s hard to eat a balanced meal. Of course, you can sign up for some healthy meal guides or meal delivery kits, but they can get expensive. So what can you do? Whether you live alone or you are in charge of meal planning for a household, here are three simple tips to make healthy food fast.

When you eat balanced and healthy meals, you should notice better digestion, improved sleep, more energy, better skin, less pain and the list goes on. If you eat clean for a month, but don’t notice any improvement in your health, then you should seek help from a health practitioner or naturopathic doctor. You may have underlying nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalance or other conditions that need medical supervision.

Tip #1

Divide your plate.

1/2 leafy veggies

1/4 starchy veggies or grains

1/4 protein rich legumes and beans

Top with nuts, seeds and cold pressed oil. Eat fruit in between meals. With this strategy, there’s no need to weigh food or count calories. The proportion of food is what makes this a balanced meal.

Tip #2

Season your food.

Use herbs, spices, lemon and lime to season your food. You can also add coconut or soy aminos for extra flavour.

Tip #3

Eat a whole food diet and eat enough.

When you eat a colourful rainbow of food, you will get a variety of vitamins and minerals. These are called micronutrients. Usually, people crave sugary and fatty foods because they don’t get enough nutrients or calories. I’ve seen so many people who claim to eat healthy during the day and then can’t stop their cravings at night. When you fill up on nutrients, you will notice that you won’t crave the extra junk.

***

Note from Monica Ng (website creator): Dr. Cheng-Kai-On, ND is my naturopathic doctor. I got a lot of helpful information from her during my consults, so I reached out to her to write an article for my site.

It’s important to stay on top of your own health and find out the best ways to maintain your body and improve your health naturally. For myself, life is extremely busy and I spend a lot of time hiking and biking. I need lots of energy to keep going. Where possible, I use natural products and stay away from chemicals. I try to eat whole foods (i.e. food that is in its original form such as vegetables) vs. packaged/processed foods and avoid food containing ingredients that I can’t pronounce. Take some time to read food labels – you might be surprised at how many additives there are.

Since I’m vegan and there is a massive movement towards eating a plant-based diet (perhaps for health, environmental reasons and ending animal cruelty), I asked Dr. Cheng-Kai-On, ND, to write this article keeping a plant-based diet in mind.

Best hiking/walking trails in York Region

Ontario Adventures


Explored and written by Monica Ng

COVID-19 has really changed how we live and enjoy the outdoors. I have a blog titled “Discovering my backyard: Ontario” with reviews of all of my Ontario hikes (including these ones), but because there is currently a Stay at Home order in effect, I am forced to stay local for now. As such I decided to create a separate blog focusing on my local York Region gems. You don’t always have to go far away from home to explore. Beautiful local trails are everywhere – you just have to know where to find them. As you probably know, the landscape in York Region is pretty flat. However, there are a few places (such as the Jefferson Forest) where there is some elevation (think calf-burning). Below are some of my favourite trails so far. I’m always exploring, so check back often for more.

You’ll notice that there are a lot of snowy landscapes shown here. That’s because I have recently explored some of them (either the first time or re-visiting a place from the past).

I love taking photos of nature. I think of this post more like my personal photo gallery.

General note: I try to get an early start on the trails, because they can get very busy. Parking and crowds can be a problem.

Other notes: The formatting of the place headings seem to be wonky on small devices, as such I’ve abbreviated some of the names and included the full name below the location photos.

C.A. = Conservation Area
N.R. = Nature Reserve

There are many trails along the Rouge River, so where you see a Rouge River trail, I have indicated the location of the main trailhead.

Elder’s Mills N.R.

  • Elder's Mills Nature Reserve
  • Elder's Mills Nature Reserve

Elder’s Mills Nature Reserve. Located in Vaughan.
Highlights: Wetlands and Humber River.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Mixed paved, compact dirt/grass trail.

My comments: Another gem tucked into a residential area. There’s nothing like being surrounded by birdsong and beautiful wetlands. The short trail leads to a bridge spanning across the Humber River.

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Vellore Village

  • Vallore Woodlot
  • Eldred King Woodlands Tract
  • Vellore Village Woodlot 6

Vellore Village Woodlot #6. Located in Vaughan.

Highlights: Forest.
Parking: No parking was visible to me. Locals may be access trail from the residential streets, but otherwise have to park on a side street and walk about 10 minutes to one of the trailheads.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Compact dirt trail.

My comments: I saw a trailhead as I was driving home from Elder’s Mills Nature Reserve. Had to check it out. It’s a nice short trail – which is great for locals.

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German Mills

  • German Mills Creek
  • German Mills Creek

German Mills Settlers Park. Located in Markham.
www.markham.ca

Highlights: German Mills Creek.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking but very limited, then you have to walk a bit to trail.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: A nice local trail shared with cyclists beside the German Mills Creek. Both times that I went, it was overcast. I solved the mystery as I walked to the end of the trail (from John St). The other trailhead is at the dead end of Leslie St. and Steeles Ave. – I always wondered what was there as I saw bikers heading that way.

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Pefferlaw Tract

Located in Georgina
www.york.ca

Highlights: Forest, Pefferlaw River and Wetlands.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: 2.5 hours.
Challenging trail? Easy. Compact dirt trail.

My comments: This forest is one of the 22 public York Regional Forest Tracts. Most of the tracts that I’ve visited so far are massive forests without water. The wetlands and river made this hike special. I’ve mentioned before that “tracts” are multi-use trails, so expect to find some horse poop (as they decompose they look like lumps of yellow grass – don’t mistaken those for dried grass!). A large section of the trail is flanked with white cedars. You’ll also find a section with a lot of red pine. Another great place to spend time in nature.

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Brown Hill Tract

Located in East Gwillimbury
http://www.oakridgestrail.org

Highlights: Forest. A hemlock lovers paradise.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: 2 hours.
Challenging trail? Easy. Compact dirt trail.

My comments: This forest is one of the York Regional Forests. I feel that I’m part of this forest when I’m walking on the trails, because the paths aren’t wide. You can touch the trees without going off trail – a very enjoyable hike. This trail has a lot of unique bridge crossings and if you love hemlocks like me – this is the forest to visit. There were a lot of bikers when I went – so beware when you go.

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Rouge River Trail

Section of Rouge River located in Richmond Hill at Coco Avenue and Shirley Drive.

Highlights: Rouge River, bridge, storm water reserve, ducks.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: 30 minutes.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: I visit this trail very often. I’ve enjoyed watching the changes in the landscape as the seasons change. It’s not a long trail, but walking off the main trail (very short walk) toward the river is rewarding. The ducks like to hang out in the water near the massive tree. That area is also where you’ll find rushing water over a small man-made dam. The view from the storm water reserve is absolutely stunning most of the year, especially at sunrise. I highly recommend that you go catch the sunrise there.

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Rouge River Trail

Section of Rouge River located in Richmond Hill at Yorkland Street and Loyal Blue Crescent.

Highlights: Rouge River, forest, bridges, Newberry Wetlands Park and ducks.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking (I normally park on Loyal Blue Crescent and walk over to the trailhead which is just north of it).
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: 45 minutes.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: I only recently discovered this part of the Rouge River. It’s another of the many gems in Richmond Hill. The forest is beautiful along the trail. As you walk along the main trail, you’ll reach the wetlands (basically a few ponds). Ducks like to hang out there as well.

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Jefferson Forest

Located in Richmond Hill
www.oakridgestrail.org

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 very limited. As of December 2020 – parking is no longer allowed along Bridgewater Drive off Stouffville Road. Not sure if there is more parking in the area. May need to start the trail from Bayview Avenue north of 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.
Average time spent there: 30 minutes – 1 hour.
Challenging trail? Easy to moderate. Some calf-burning and breath-shortage sections.

My comments: I call this forest my second home, as I am there a lot. 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. 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. The non-bike paths are basically shared so watch out for bikers – they come fast and don’t ring their bells.

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Pomona Mills Park

Located in Markham
www.markham.ca

Highlights: East Don River, a couple of bridges, a tunnel (overpass) and meditation invitations posted along the trail (for example, a sign suggesting that you close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature).
Parking: Yes. A parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: 30-45 minutes.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trails? No. Very flat.

My comments: There is just something about walking next to the river and listening to the sounds of nature. The trail is designed with forest therapy in mind and if you follow the invitation at each sign, you’ll find that your heartbeat will slow down and you’ll notice the forest sounds more. I visit this trail often because it is just a 15 minute drive from my house. A great place for a quickie hike.

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Saigeon Trail

Located in Richmond Hill
www.richmondhill.ca

Highlights: Pond, forest, meadow, boardwalks, and unique wildflowers.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: 45 mins – 1 hour.
Challenging trail? No. Trail: paved. Great for biking.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this uncovered forest trail. I researched the trail before and wanted to go but shows online that the trail closes in the early evening (saw a sign there – it actually closes at 11:30 pm) so never made it. I took Winter pup to the huge open off-leash area right near the trail. The trail is tucked behind big-name stores in a residential area. The trail is quite long and the variety of colourful wildflowers is amazing. I have been to this trail several times.

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Mary Lake

Located in King City

Highlights: Mary Lake and forest.
Parking: Yes, but only along Keele Street.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Average time spent there: approx. 1 hour.
Challenging trails? Easy. Trail: Dirt.
Plumbing: No.

No My comments: There is no obvious trail to get to Mary Lake. I couldn’t find it the first time I went. The trail starts on the west side of Keele across from the Oak Ridges Trail. You basically go under a metal pipe (looks like a limbo stick) that shows private property and walk on the open field grass until you get to the shrine. To the left of the old heritage building with broken windows, there is a very small path going up a slope – take that and keep walking. The lake is located on private property owned by The Augustinians, but they have generously allowed the public to use the trail for hiking. Mary Lake is a Kettle Lake, basically formed after the glaciers melted. The trail doesn’t appear to be a loop, although I didn’t have a chance to keep walking. It’s a nice forest trail. Worth checking out if you are in the area.

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Joker’s Hill

  • jokers hill

Located in King City
https://ksr.utoronto.ca/hiking-trails/

Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? 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 Street- you have to watch carefully for a tiny sign across from the entrance. Blink and you will miss the parking lot. If you keep following the trail, there is another entrance to the forest – which is essentially the Thornton Bales Conservation Area (see below).

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Thornton Bales C.A.

Located in King City
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/thornton-bales

Highlights: 99 steps, forest and lots of pretty moths flying around (mid-July).
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trail? Mostly no, but some elevation in certain areas.
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!

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Eldred King Woodlands

Full name: Eldred King Woodlands Tract
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/elder-king/

Located in Stouffville

Highlights: Forest, streams and pond.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy unless you want to climb up the hills on the side of the trails.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: What struck me most was the impressive scale of this forest and the variety of trees (including maple, red oak, red pine and beech trees). I didn’t have a chance to explore the entire tract or see any water, but this is by far the biggest local forest I’ve been to. The trails are wide and I believe they call the forest a “tract” because it’s multi-use (cross-country skiing, hiking, etc.). I know that the Scout Tract (York Regional Forest) allows for horses too (but that one has lots of horse dung). Overall a very nice walk in the forest.

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Rogers Reservoir C.A.

Located in East Gwillimbury
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/rogers-reservoir

Highlights: Holland River, forest and swing bridge.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: I once joined a Richmond Hill hiking club organized through the community centre. We went to this trail, but I wasn’t too impressed – as it’s very open (not a covered forest) and there are a lot of electrical cables that run above parts of the trail. Recently I decided to re-visit this conservation area because I drove past it on the way to the Dave Kerwin Trail. This time, I walked the trail on snowshoes. The winter landscape was definitely the highlight. If you follow the loop, you’ll get to a section where the trail meets up with the Nokaiidaa Trail boardwalk.

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Dave Kerwin Trail

Located in Newmarket
www.york.ca

Highlights: Holland River and forest.
Parking: Yes. Residential street, but no parking directly in front of the trailhead. Watch for the no parking signs.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: A hidden gem in a residential area. If you cut through the forest rather than take the main path, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a dense forest. The birch trees and red pines are absolutely stunning. The river was frozen and covered with snow when I went, but I’m sure it would bring the forest alive when it’s flowing.

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Zephyr Tract

Located in East Gwillimbury

Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes. Big parking lot, fits about 40 cars.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: First time at this tract. The winter landscape is especially gorgeous. A magical place worth checking out. The straight path took about 45 minutes one way on snowshoes including the time to take photos. The trail is not a loop. I didn’t get a chance to explore the second trail. I like the density of the forest along the trail.

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Discovering my backyard: Ontario

Ontario Adventures
map of provincial parks

***COVID-19 has affected the use of the parks – so check online before venturing out regarding any restrictions. Some parks are closed, and some of the facilities including washrooms are closed as well***



Click here to read my tips/recommendations

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from my adventures!

Explored and written by Monica Ng

What to know before you go.

My review of Ontario parks, conservation areas, forests, trails, falls and places that I have visited. More to come…

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 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!

For those of you with kids, I put “KID” next to the places that I believe are more kid-friendly. And my favourites are noted in bold on the list (and I added an “M” in the heading as well).

My current TOP 5!

Clockwise from left: Bruce Peninsula National Park, Killarney Provincial Park, Point Pelee National Park, Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park and McCrae Lake Nature Reserve

Southwestern (7)

Awenda Provincial Park (Simcoe County) – KID
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Earl Rowe Provincial Park (Alliston)
Flowerpot Island (Tobermory)
Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (Caledon)
Mono Cliffs Provincial Park (Mono)
Point Pelee National Park (Essex County) –KID

York Region (38)

Beaver Creek trail (Richmond Hill)
Bendor and Graves Tract (East Gwillimbury)
Bond Lake (Richmond Hill)
Boyd Conservation Park (Vaughan)
Brown Hill Tract (East Gwillimbury)
Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve (Newmarket)
Dave Kerwin Trail (Newmarket)
Elder’s Mills Nature Reserve (Vaughan)
Eldred King Woodlands Tract (Stouffville)
German Mills Settlers Park (Markham)
Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve (E.Gwillimbury)
Jefferson Forest (Richmond Hill)
Joker’s Hill (King City/Newmarket)
Milne Dam Conservation Park (Markham)
Moraine Park (Richmond Hill)
Nokaiida Trail (East Gwillimbury)
Oak Ridges Corridor (Richmond Hill)
Pefferlaw Tract (Georgina)
Phyllis Rawlinson park (Richmond Hill)
Pomona Mills Park (Markham)
Porritt Tract (York Regional Forest) (Stouffville)
Richmond Green Sports Centre and Park (Richmond Hill) –KID
Rogers Reservoir Conservation Area (East Gwillimbury)
Rouge National Urban Park (Markham)
Rouge River Trail at Coco/Shirley (Richmond Hill)
Rouge River Trail at Yorkland/Loyal Blue (Richmond Hill)
Scout Tract -York Regional Forest (Stouffville)
Saigeon Trail (Richmond Hill)
Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area (Aurora)
Sugarbush Heritage Trail (Vaughan)
Thornton Bales Conservation Area (King City)
Tom Taylor Trail (Newmarket)
Toogood Pond (Markham)
Vellore Village Woodlot 6 (Vaughan)
Wilcox (Lake)(Richmond Hill) – KID
Whitchurch/Stouffville Conservation Area (Stouffville)
Zephyr Tract (East Gwillimbury)

Simcoe Region

J. B. Tudhope Memorial Park (Orillia) – KID

Grey County

Blue Mountain
Hogg’s Falls
Old Baldy Conservation Area

Lake Simcoe

Scanlon Creek Conservation Area (Bradford)

King City (3)

Happy Valley Tract
Mary Lake
King City Trail

Elora

Elora Gorge (Grand River Conservation Authority)

-105-

Durham Region (4)

Lakefront West Park (Oshawa)
Lynde Shores Conservation Area (Whitby)
McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve (Oshawa)
Seaton Trail (Pickering)
Uxbridge Rail Trail
Thickson’s Point (Whitby)

Peel

Rattray Marsh Conservation Area (combined with
Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario)

Muskoka (5)

Big Chute (Muskoka)
Bracebridge Falls (Bracebridge)
Hardy Lake Provincial Park (Muskoka)
Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail (Muskoka)
McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve
Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve (Muskoka)
Wilson’s Falls (Bracebridge)

*Lakefront West Park (Oshawa)*

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes and have gone 4-5 times already.
Time I spent there: 2 hours

Highlights: Lake Ontario, bluffs and rocky shore.
Parking: Yes, parking lot. They close off most of the lot during the winter.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No, but there’s an ice skating rink in the area.
Challenging trail? No, but shore can be icy in the winter.

My comments: Sigh. You cannot pull me away from this place.

A short approx. 30 minute drive from Toronto. This section of Lake Ontario is one of my favourites so far. It satisfies my need for catching the stunning colours of sunrise from the lake and a beautiful walk along the rocky shores. The waterfront trail is long and you can walk for hours. I walked along the trail from Oshawa to Whitby in about an hour, but the trail is extensive and you can keep walking.

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*McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve (Oshawa)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe because of proximity.
Time I spent there: 1.5 hours

mclaughlin bay

Highlights: McLaughlin Bay section where it meets Lake Ontario and wildlife.
Parking: Yes, parking lot (Darlington Provincial Park)
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No.

My comments: The bay appears to be part of Darlington Provincial Park. I didn’t realize it until I recognized the area. Love it when that happens. Sometimes I walk sections of a new trail, and get to a part that I’ve been. I parked on the street at a waterfront trail head (can’t remember exactly where) and followed the trail until I entered Darlington Provincial Park. I took a small trail along the bay and enjoyed watching a variety of birds relaxing on rocks. The most stunning part is where the bay meets Lake Ontario. As you can see from my photos, it was overcast, but the beach was all mine. I saw a couple of deer watching me along the trail.

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*Hogg’s Falls (Grey County)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? No.
Time I spent there: 1 hour
https://www.visitgrey.ca/business/hoggs-falls

Highlights: Hogg’s Falls.
Parking: Yes, small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No.

My comments: I had some trouble finding the parking lot – apparently something I’m famous for! I parked along the shoulder of the road just to have a quick walk. The forest surrounding the falls wasn’t particularly interesting. The highlight, being able to climb down a small section (with a rope to grab onto) to get to the base of the falls. Falls are small though so overall disappointing.

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*Big Chute (Muskoka)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
Time I spent there: 1 hour
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/the-big-chute/

big chute falls

Highlights: Big Chute, hydraulic turbine system, Trent-Severn Waterway, Big Chute Marine Railway.
Parking: Yes, parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No. Paved paths.

My comments: While the Big Chute is impressive, you can’t really access the areas around it (I wasn’t able to find any trails) because the falls were used to generate electricity for Ontario Hydro. Based on what I read, a new power station was built, grandfathering this turbine system. And directly next to the falls, you’ll find the Big Chute Marine Railway which allows boats to be transported from one side of a hill to the other on a railway to allow boats to continue their journey along the Trent-Severn Waterway. The railway is Parks Canada “Trent-Severn National Historic Site”. While this place wasn’t worth my four hour drive, it would be lots of fun for locals.

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*Hardy Lake Provincial Park (Muskoka)* (M)

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: 2.5 hours
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/hardylake

hardy lake

Highlights: Forest, island, boardwalks, Muskoka rocks.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot with limited parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No. Compact dirt trails.

My comments: This park has one of the most beautiful forests that I’ve been to. You get a real sense of peace and tranquility in the density of the forest – except when the people start crowding the trail. It is a very busy park, so make sure you get an early start. Generally, my goal is to hit the trails by no later than 8am. I love walking on the huge sheets of rock – characteristic of the Georgian Bay.

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*Old Baldy Conservation Area (Grey County)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
Time I spent there: 2 hours
https://www.visitgrey.ca/business/old-baldy-conservation-area

old baldy

Highlights: Lookout view.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No, but some elevation.

My comments: Make sure you access the trail from the main parking area. I took the route that Google maps provided and ended up on a narrow dirt road (I’ll call it a road, but it’s almost like a trail). It had obviously rained a lot before I went, so there were numerous VERY deep mud puddles – making it highly risky for my car to get trapped in the mud. I refused to turn back, so I ended up parking to the side of the road and going by foot. You can catch the Bruce Trail from this area. The trail is approximately 8 km return (not a loop) plus a side trail. The trail itself wasn’t very rewarding, but the view from the top is spectacular.

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*Albion and Buttermilk Falls (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
Time I spent there: 2.5 hours
https://tourismhamilton.com/albion-falls

albion falls

Highlights: Two waterfalls on one trail – Albion and Buttermilk.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lots at two or three sections.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No. Compact dirt trails.

My comments: You can no longer access the trail to the base of the falls – bummer! I was told by a local that because people were doing reckless things, the trail to the base was closed off. However, you can still access and enjoy the creek. You will find a couple of side trails and the Bruce Trail at this area. It’s interesting to see two completely different types of falls in the same general area. Albion Falls are considered cascade falls and Buttermilk Falls are terraced ribbon falls. When I went the water volume was low, so Buttermilk didn’t have much water flowing (see last picture on slide).

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*Borer’s Falls (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
Time I spent there: 3 hours
https://tourismhamilton.com/borers-falls

borers falls

Highlights: Borer’s Falls.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot at the gardens.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Parking machine.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy.

My comments: I was bored on the trail (not much to see), but falls are always nice. I went when the water volume was low, so falls are not as impressive. Nice that you can stand at the top of the falls though. Saw my first bull frog.

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*Stouffville/Whitchurch Conservation Area*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
Time I spent there: 1.5 hours
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/enjoytheoutdoors/conservationareas/whitchurch

stouffville forest

Highlights: Forest. Pond?
Parking: Yes. Parking Lot.
Admission/parking cost: Not sure. There are indications that you have to pay, but no parking machines for payment.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy.

My comments: It’s nice to walk in a forest, but there wasn’t much special about this one. I saw maple trees, red pine, white cedar, spruce and lots of trilliums. The trilliums all over the forest floor was probably the highlight of this trail.

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*Gould Lake Conservation Area (North Frontenac)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably if I was in the area.
Time I spent there: 5.5 hours
Approx. 2h45m from Toronto
https://cataraquiconservation.ca/pages/gould-lake

Gould Lake

Highlights: Gould Lake, Blue Lake, Cronk Lake and historical Mica Mine.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: The area’s website and the signs on-site indicate that there is a parking fee, but when I went the gatehouse was closed and there were no parking meters nor any pay online through an APP option. The staff replied to an email saying that access to the park was free. This could change at any time, so be prepared to pay.
Plumbing: Looks like there were portable toilets near the beach/picnic area.
Challenging trail? Medium to difficult. Trails are not paved. Rooty dirt trails with elevation in some areas. The Rideau trail is the least travelled as evidenced by the overgrowth of plants/weeds.

My comments: There is a trail map fixed to the barn (I posted it here in the slides), which unfortunately I didn’t see it until the very end of my trip! Other than that there are a few signs along the trails showing where you are. There are mulitple trails making up 20km – which is one of the reasons I picked this conservation area to visit. I tend to stay away from mentions of short trails because it’s not worth my travel time. You’ll walk on Canadian Shield rocks along part of the trail. If you like dragonflys – there were tons of them. If you like black flies and mosquitoes – there is no shortage of them. My only recommendation – use bug spray or wear a bug jacket. The real highlight of the trip were the Mica Mines (take the Mica Loop which can be accessed through the unmarked and almost hidden Rideau Trail to the left of the beach/barn). According to the area’s website, the area was mined for mica (a mineral with a glazed finish) for about 30 years and the mines were closed in 1912. You can hike towards Ottawa by taking the Rideau Trail. I should have researched my trip more before heading out – could have brought my inflatable kayak.

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*Tommy Thompson Park (Toronto)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: about 2.5 hours including biking onto Cherry St. My second visit, I spent about 4.5 hours there.
www.tommythompsonpark.ca

Tommy Thompson Park

Highlights: Lake Ontario, view of the downtown Toronto’s skyline (including the CN Tower) from across the lake, wetlands, lighthouse and cormorant nesting area.
Parking: Yes. Parking Lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: Yes. Portable toilets.
Challenging trail? Easy. Flat paved trail.
Restrictions: No dogs allowed on trail.

My comments: Great trail for biking and walking along Lake Ontario. At the tip of the trail, you’ll find an old whimsical lighthouse. I believe the main trail is about 10 km return. From a distance you can hear very loud bird sounds. I had to get closer to track down the source of the noise. At the end of one of the many short trails into a wooded area, there’s an incredible nesting area with Cormorant’s circulating all over and others sitting in their nests – a surreal experience. If you look around you will probably see geese, swans and white/great egrets. Bird watchers paradise. According to the park’s website, over 300 species of birds have been sighted.

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*German Mills Settlers Park (Markham)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: 45 minutes.

german mills

Highlights: German Mills Creek.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking but very limited, then you have to walk a bit to trail.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: A nice local trail shared with cyclists beside the German Mills Creek. Both times that I went, it was overcast. I solved the mystery as I walked to the end of the trail (from John St). The other trailhead is at the dead end of Leslie St. and Steeles Ave. – I always wondered what was there as I saw bikers heading that way.

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*Vellore Village Woodlot 6 (Vaughan)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? No, but it’s a good spot for locals to get a touch of nature.
Time I spent there: 20 minutes.

Vallore Woodlot

Highlights: Forest.
Parking: No parking was visible to me. Locals may be access trail from the residential streets, but otherwise have to park on a side street and walk about 10 minutes to one of the trailheads.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Compact dirt trail.

My comments: I saw a trailhead as I was driving home from Elder’s Mills Nature Reserve. Had to check it out. It’s a nice short trail – which is great for locals.

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*Elder’s Mills Nature Reserve (Vaughan)* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: about 1 hour

elders mill

Highlights: Wetlands and Humber River.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Mixed paved, compact dirt/grass trail.

My comments: Another gem tucked into a residential area. There’s nothing like being surrounded by birdsong and beautiful wetlands. The short trail leads to a bridge spanning across the Humber River.

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*Pefferlaw Tract (Georgina)* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: about 2.5 hours
www.york.ca

Pefferlaw Tract

Highlights: Forest, Pefferlaw River and Wetlands.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Compact dirt trail.

My comments: This forest is one of the 22 public York Regional Forest Tracts. Most of the tracts that I’ve visited so far are massive forests without water. The wetlands and river made this hike special. I’ve mentioned before that “tracts” are multi-use trails, so expect to find some horse poop (as they decompose they look like lumps of yellow grass – don’t mistaken those for dried grass!). A large section of the trail is flanked with white cedars. You’ll also find a section with a lot of red pine. Another great place to spend time in nature.

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*Brown Hill Tract (East Gwillimbury)* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: about 2.5 hours
www.york.ca

brown cc

Highlights: Forest. A hemlock lovers paradise.
Parking: Yes. Small parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Compact dirt trail.

My comments: This forest is one of the York Regional Forests. I feel that I’m part of this forest when I’m walking on the trails, because the paths aren’t wide. You can touch the trees without going off trail – a very enjoyable hike. This trail has a lot of unique bridge crossings and if you love hemlocks like me – this is the forest to visit. There were a lot of bikers when I went – so beware when you go.

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*Rockway Conservation Area (St. Catharines)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: about 3 1/2 hours.
https://npca.ca/parks/rockway

rockway conservation area

Highlights: Waterfalls, bridge at the upper falls, Niagara Escarpment, Bruce Trail (Niagara section).
Parking: According to the website, limited parking can be found off 9th Avenue on “escarpment tablelands”. I never found that parking area, but parked in the community centre parking lot (but shouldn’t have because it’s private property).
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No, but probably at the community centre if it’s open.
Challenging trail? Dirt trail and rocky terrain. Some areas have some elevation. The area around the upper falls is rocky and slippery when wet.

My comments: A beautiful way to spend a morning. A real body, mind and soul experience climbing up and down escarpment rock. I was told by a local that from one area of the Bruce Trail, you can see the downtown Toronto on a clear day. A section of the Bruce Trail runs through privately owned land (right next to a shooting range!) but the land owner generously allows hikers to access the trail. The upper falls are stunning – and you can get pretty close to them without getting soaked.

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*Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail (Muskoka)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: about 2 hours
https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/hiking-trails/huckleberry-rock-lookout-trail/

huckleberry rock lookout

Highlights: Set foot on the oldest rocks in the world. Leaning white pines. View of Muskoka Lakes.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No.

My comments: A beautiful place with a spectacular view of the Muskoka Lakes. Walking on the massive sheets of rock is amazing. For the amount of elevation of the lookout, the trail leading to it is surprisingly not steep. There are A LOT of benches.

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*Bendor and Graves Tract (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably not.
Time I spent there: about 2 hours
http://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/bendor-and-graves-tract-kennedy-road/

Bendor and Graves Tract

Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes. Dead-end parking area.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No. Compact dirt trails, some wood chips.

My comments: I like the forest tracts because they are massive. It looked (and smelled) like a lot of trees were recently cut down. The trails are not marked and there are trails all over the place – so it’s easy to get lost. I recommend that you bring a compass just in case. Love the old red pine trees stretching high into the sky.

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*Glen Eagles Vista (Toronto)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
Time I spent there: about 1 hour
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/rouge/activ/randonnee-hiking/gleneagles

Glen Eagles Vista Trail

Highlights: Vista view. Rouge River.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? No. Unless you go down into the valley.

My comments: This trail is part of the Rouge Urban National Park – Canada’s newest National Park protecting what’s left of nature within the city. There are many trails that form part of the park and can be found in Toronto and Markham. This particular section is near the Toronto Zoo.

The lookout view is beautiful, but the trail is super-short and not very scenic. I was disappointed and bored. I thought there was a body of water in the distance, but turns out they are bluffs. Stubborn as I am when searching for trails, I decided to go straight down into the valley on snowshoes. As I was going down, I debated myself – was I going to roll all the way down in the snow? But determination can go a long way…I went down at an angle and made it safely. Then I headed back to the top, took off my snowshoes and walked closer to the bluffs (they are on the other side of a sloped road at the bridge) to chill near the Rouge River. Walking along the road made me feel like a hitchhiker. It was a bit creepy to have a van slow down next to me. But this extra part of the adventure made it exciting!

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*Rouge Urban National Park (Toronto)* @ Morningside

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
Time I spent there: 1 hour
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/rouge

Rouge Urban National Park Vista Trail

Highlights: View of the vista.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot, but I believe it belongs to the Toronto Zoo. Not sure if park visitors are allowed to park there.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, but I didn’t see any parking machines.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? I did the Vista Trail. Not challenging, except a section where you may lose your breath a bit. Dirt trail.

My comments: The trail is very open, which I generally do not enjoy, but the Vista Trail has a nice view looking into the valley. This particular trail is part loop and part dead-end. I didn’t have a chance to explore the other trails because I had already done the Glen Eagles Vista Trail which is about a 2 minute drive from this section of the Rouge Urban National Park.

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*Niagara Glen Nature Reserve (Niagara Falls)* (M)

Rating: 5.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes, how soon?
Time I spent there: 6 hours
https://www.niagaraparks.com/visit/nature-garden/niagara-glen/

niagara glen

Highlights: Niagara River, escarpment, bouldering, fishing, beautiful trails, whirlpool, stairway and view from the top.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Parking machine. Pay hourly rates or seasonal rate (I believe seasonal rate is an option, but I didn’t look carefully). I paid $15.00 for about 6 hours. I believe that there is a QR scan code option for payment as well.
Plumbing: Yes.
Challenging trail? There are some dirt trails that are easy walking. Whirlpool Trail and part of the River Trail are more challenging with rock (small and large) covered surface. Expect to climb up some rocks.

My comments: The rocks! The river! The blue-green water! The blue sky! The floating melted ice! The white seagulls circling above the river and geese chilling in the water! The climb around and between massive boulders and strategically placed rock stairs! Say no more, I’m out of exclamation marks…I left my heart behind in that magical place. I stupidly paid for 4 hours figuring I’d be done by then. By the time I got to the whirlpool area I figured that I had to turn around and pay for more parking so that I could explore the other part of the Cliffside Trail. Thus the climb up the 72 step stairway twice. At the whirlpool area, I even got to inhale some free weed blowing in the air. If I do say so – a “highly” recommended place.

Below is a trail map in case you want to take a look before you go.

trail map Niagara Glen
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*Lynde Shores Conservation Area (Whitby)* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again: Yes.
Time I spent there: 3 hours

lynde shores

Highlights: Wildlife, Lake Ontario, Cranberry Marsh and wetlands.
Parking: Yes. Parking lot with limited parking.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. I paid $6.00 for a day.
Plumbing: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: Wildlife galore in a relatively small area. I saw white-tailed deer, wild turkey, blue jays, black-capped chickadees, a downy woodpecker, nuthatch, cardinal and chipping sparrow. Did I mention I saw deer?! The first time I saw deer (aside from the zoo) was at Awenda Provincial Park. Two babies were feeding off their mother on the road side. This time, I saw about fifteen deer. It’s so magical seeing them in their natural habitat. I took the forest trail instead of the main paved trail and saw some deer running into the meadow. It was a bit scary because I wasn’t too close to them, but with the ice and snow crunching underneath my feet, they saw/heard me. A few of them started to charge in my direction. Of course that was my cue to very quickly duck back into the forest! Take caution near wildlife. They are not predictable. I was walking along the main trail and saw three wild turkeys. They are beautiful and huge birds. A reminder why I don’t eat turkey!

The birds however, aren’t afraid of people because people feed them. I got some up-close photos of a gorgeous downy woodpecker because he was busy eating a peanut. There are posted signs warning people not to feed the wildlife (but they say it’s ok to feed seeds to the song birds), which is generally a good rule as it disturbs the natural order of things (as per their sign says feeding them can “lead to human injury, animal overpopulation and disease”). People don’t understand the consequences and still feed junk to the wildlife.

There is a lot of variety of landscape at this conservation area, including forest, wetlands and Lake Ontario.

The conservation area is currently under construction at Hall Road to construct a larger parking lot and add wetlands.

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*Rouge River Trail at Coco Avenue & Shirley Drive (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again: Yes.
Time I spent there: 20-30 minutes

Rouge River Trail

Highlights: Rouge River, bridge, storm water reserve, ducks.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: I visit this trail very often. I’ve enjoyed watching the changes in the landscape as the seasons change. It’s not a long trail, but walking off the main trail (very short walk) toward the river is rewarding. The ducks like to hang out in the water near the massive tree. That area is also where you’ll find rushing water over a small man-made dam. The view from the storm water reserve is absolutely stunning most of the year, especially at sunrise. I highly recommend that you go catch the sunrise there.

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*Rouge River Trail at Yorkland Street & Loyal Blue Crescent (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again: Yes.
Time I spent there: 30-45 minutes

Part of Rouge River Trail

Highlights: Rouge River, forest, bridges, Newberry Wetlands Park and ducks.
Parking: Yes. Residential street parking (I normally park on Loyal Blue Crescent and walk over to the trailhead which is just north of it).
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trail? Easy. Paved trail.

My comments: I only recently discovered this part of the Rouge River. It’s another of the many gems in Richmond Hill. The forest is beautiful along the trail. As you walk along the main trail, you’ll reach the wetlands (basically a few ponds). Ducks like to hang out there as well.

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*Rogers Reservoir Conservation Area (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
Time I spent there: approx. 1.5 hours
https://www.lsrca.on.ca/rogers-reservoir

rogers

Location: East Gwillimbury
Highlights: Holland River, forest and swing bridge.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: I once joined a Richmond Hill hiking club organized through the community centre. We went to this trail, but I wasn’t too impressed – as it’s very open (not a covered forest) and there are a lot of electrical cables that run above parts of the trail. Recently I decided to re-visit this conservation area because I drove past it on the way to the Dave Kerwin Trail. This time, I walked the trail on snowshoes. The winter landscape was definitely the highlight. If you follow the loop, you’ll get to a section where the trail meets up with the Nokaiida Trail boardwalk.

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*Dave Kerwin Trail (Newmarket)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: approx. 1 hour.
www.york.ca

Dave Kerwin Trail

Location: Newmarket.
Highlights: Holland River and forest.
Parking: Yes. Residential street, but no parking directly in front of the trailhead. Watch for the no parking signs.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: A hidden gem in a residential area. If you cut through the forest rather than take the main path, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a dense forest. The birch trees and red cedars are absolutely stunning. The river was frozen and covered with snow when I went, but I’m sure it would bring the forest alive when it’s flowing.

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*Zephyr Tract (East Gwillimbury)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: approx. 2 hours
www.york.ca

Zephyr Tract

Location: East Gwillimbury.
Highlights: Forest.
Parking: Yes. Big parking lot, fits about 40 cars.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: First time at this tract. The winter landscape is especially gorgeous. A magical place worth checking out. The straight path took about 45 minutes one way on snowshoes including the time to take photos. The trail is not a loop. I didn’t get a chance to explore the second trail. I like the density of the forest.

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*Eldred King Woodlands Tract (Stouffville)* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Time I spent there: approx. 2 hours.
http://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/elder-king/

eldred king

Location: Stouffville. Approximately 30 minutes from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, streams and pond.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy unless you want to climb up the hills on the side of the trails.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: What struck me most was the impressive scale of this forest and the variety of trees (including maple, red oak, red pine and beech trees). I didn’t have a chance to explore the entire tract or see any water, but this is by far the biggest local forest I’ve been to. The trails are wide and I believe they call the forest a “tract” because it’s multi-use (cross-country skiing, hiking, etc.). I know that the Scout Tract (York Regional Forest) allows for horses (that one has lots of horse dung). Overall a very nice walk in the forest.

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*Terra Cotta Conservation Area (Halton Hills)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
Time I spent there: approx. 2.0 hours.
https://ontarioconservationareas.ca/component/mtree/conservation-authorities/credit-valley/terra-cotta-conservation-area

Terra Cotta Conservation Area

Location: Halton Hills. Approximately 1 hour from Toronto.
Highlights: Wetlands, valley, terra cotta clay lined creek and forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy and moderate.
Plumbing: Yes.

My comments: When I went, the compacted snow on the trails made things very slippery. Crampons would have been a plus that time! There are several trails (of different lengths) to explore – but during the winter months two trails are reserved for cross-country skiing (including one around a lake). I took one of the short loop trails and it was through a re-forestation section (pictured top left) and I tried my best to climb up a slippery slope (second photo from the left) to check out the view on the Escarpment trail. I hung onto trees on my way up and was highly disappointed that there was no view. While it was nice to be outdoors, there was nothing special about this area. I left disappointed and ready to hike somewhere else.

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*Short Hills Provincial Park (Dunnville)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe, because of Swayze Falls.
Time I spent there: approx. 3 hours.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/shorthills

shorts hill

Location: Located in Dunnville. Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes from Toronto.
Highlights: Swayze Falls, Twelve Mile Creek and forest.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No. This is not an operational Provincial Park.
Challenging trails? Challenging in some sections toward the falls.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: The trail was a bit challenging when I went because it was extremely muddy. It was hard to walk along the trail. I was lucky that it snowed a bit because it helped to solidify the mud and give some grip. I clung onto trees to make sure I didn’t land in the mud. The trail was pretty open (not forested), which I don’t enjoy as much. The openness reminds me a bit of Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. The highlight of this trip was definitely Swayze Falls.

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*Thickson’s Point (Whitby)* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes, I’ve been there 3 times since I discovered it.
Time I spent there: approx. 2 hours.
There’s no specific website for this area, but a one minute walk from the waterfront trail, is Thickson’s Woods.
http://www.thicksonswoods.com/

Thickson's Point Whitby
Shoreline at Thickson’s Point Whitby

Location: Located in Whitby. Approximately 30 minutes from Toronto.
Highlights: Lake Ontario, beach and cliffs.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: The trail along the cliff can be dangerous as it’s eroding, but there’s a wide paved walkway that runs close to the lake as well – which is great for walking and biking. From what I can tell, it looks like an extensive trail. I love water. What I love even more than water is sunrise and sunset by the water. This trail is particularly beautiful when it is covered with snow. Part of the beach is covered in rocks, so be prepared to test your balance! There’s a section that even has a mini waterfall with water flowing into Lake Ontario. Walking along the beach is always relaxing. You’ll find geese, seagulls and swans chilling in the lake.

Just a minute walk from the Waterfront Trail is Thickson’s Woods, a privately owned land. The land owners graciously allow everyone to enjoy a beautiful piece of nature within an industrial zone. They ask that people do not post photos or location. The woods are famous for their owls. I was not lucky enough to see one, but I did see chickadees and cardinals. If you are interested in helping to protect the land – you can make a donation or buy a gift certificate for someone, checkout their website www.thicksonswoods.com.

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*Beamer Memorial Conservation Area* (M)

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes. I’ll be back!
https://npca.ca/parks/beamer-memorial

beamer memorial ca

Location: Located in Grimsby. Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, Niagara Escarpment, view of the town from above, Forty-Mile Creek, Beamer Falls and moss-covered rocks.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Moderate. Lots of exposed roots and slopes along the trail.
Plumbing: Yes, near the parking lot, but may be closed at this time.

My comments: I truly enjoyed this hike. When I went, due to the muddy conditions with extensive roots lining the trail, it was harder to navigate. Having a good pair of hiking boots is important. The trek along the Bruce Trail next to Forty-Mile Creek is unbelievable. It reminded me of my visit to Oxtongue-Ragged Falls Provincial Park – but on a smaller scale. I was so excited to stand on the rocks in the center of the creek and have the water gushing around me. Access to Beamer Falls is from the side trail. You have to walk up onto Ridge Street (I believe it’s called that) and cross the small bridge, then take the short trail that leads down to the falls. I stood right on the rock next to the falls – which is always an exhilarating feeling.

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*Ball’s Falls Conservation Area* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://npca.ca/parks/balls-falls

Ball's Falls Conservation Area

Location: Located in Lincoln. Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, Twenty Mile Creek, Upper and Lower Ball’s Falls, and moss-covered rocks.
Parking: Yes at the Conservation Area entrance parking lot. You can also access the trail on one of the streets in the area (can’t remember the name) – there is parking there but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Lots of exposed roots along the trail.
Plumbing: Not along the trail, but saw online that they have washrooms at the Conservation Area.

My comments: I originally thought that I had to access the trail at the gated Conservation Area, but they were closed at the time I got there. I refused to leave, so I scoped out the area and found a small parking lot right at one of the trailheads. As usual, I recommend getting an early start to secure parking and have more peace without the crowds. I typically aim to arrive at my destinations by 8/8:30am. There was nothing too special about the trail, but the creek and falls are extraordinary – making the trip worthwhile.

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*Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://ontarionature.org/programs/nature-reserves/altberg-wildlife-sanctuary/

Location: Located in Kawartha Lakes.
Highlights: Forest, creek and wetlands.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: A relaxing wintery hike through a normally covered forest – open now because there are no leaves left on the trees. I spent a couple of hours exploring this forest. My favourite part was watching and listening to the rushing waters of Corben Creek. I met not a soul during this hike – which meant quiet time for me. Recently, I find that I crave aloneness and being at one with nature.

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*King City Trail*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably.
https://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/index.php?url=trails/view/king-city-trail

Location: Located in King City.
Highlights: Forest, marshes and Humber River.
Parking: Street parking.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: Although the trails are short, the area is nice. Trees along the edge of the path and the Humber River runs along part of the trail. Would be a nice trail for snowshoeing – as it’s pretty flat.

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*McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve (Muskoka)* (M)

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes, definitely.
http://www.ontarioparks.com/cr/mccraelakeconservationreserve
https://twitter.com/McCraeLake

McCrae Lake

Location: Located in Muskoka (Georgian Bay area).
Highlights: McCrae Lake, Crow’s Cliff and Eagle’s Nest.
Parking: Yes, but limited. Entrance to parking lot is hard to find (exit Crooked Bay Road, then take exit toward 400 south, but take first left on a small street which curves down before exiting the highway). Drive slowly or you’ll miss it, as I did once before.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Moderate to challenging. Trail: Dirt and Georgian Bay rock.
Plumbing: I saw a couple of composting toilets near the base of Eagle’s Nest. Otherwise, tree or bush.

My comments: What an invigorating experience! Body, mind and soul – but a slightly different feeling than hiking The Crack at Killarney Provincial Park. I started the trail right near the lake by the parking lot. I roughed it along the lake because there were no obvious trails there, then stumbled upon a marked trail. If you’re looking to hike on a trail, take the trailhead closer to the entrance to the parking lot. There were many small bodies of water along the trail to admire. I didn’t do much research in advance, but had heard of Eagle’s Nest – so when I saw the sign (1.9 km from the sign to Eagle’s Nest) I was excited and headed as fast as could along muddy trails, over massive rocks and across tree trunk bridges. What an absolutely spectacular view from Eagle’s Nest! Of course, I had to climb down some rocks to check out the base of the cliff. Met a few nice people along the trail and a few campers who lucked out with the mild November weather. The IG administrator @mccraelake recommends getting the map from their Twitter account (-click here) before heading out, as they rescue many lost hikers. Phew, I made it safely out of the forest. Not bad for someone with a bad sense of direction and no idea what day it is! Until the next time…

Second visit comments: I saw two beavers! One of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. I was born in Canada and never saw a beaver before until now.

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*Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve (Newmarket)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://ontarionature.org/programs/nature-reserves/cawthra-mulock/

Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve

Location: Located in Newmarket.
Highlights: Pond and stream.
Parking: Yes, but limited. Entrance to parking lot is hard to find. Drive slowly or you’ll miss it.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy. Trail: Dirt.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: The trails are not marked at the trailhead. Only when you get to the area near the pond is a trail map. Not so useful! Of course, I picked the wrong path to take – it was a super short loop with nothing to see but forest. The lined part (pictured left) of the trail is nice. From the Bathurst parking lot, take the trail to the right to get to the pond. It’s interesting to learn that a dam was built back in the 1960s to make a recreational pond. Since then, the dam has been removed and the water can flow downstream again. What’s neat about the pond is that they built a small dam (pictured right) so the pond is higher than the stream. The trail (which is not a loop) extends past the pond all the way to Dufferin Street. The map is below if you plan to go:

map of Cawthra Mulock nature reserve
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*Sheffield Conservation Area (Kaladar)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.ontarioconservationareas.ca/component/mtree/conservation-authorities-of-ontario/quinte/sheffield-conservation-area

Location: Located in Kaladar (basically east of Belleville and north of Napanee).
Highlights: Canadian Shield and Little Mellon Lake.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Purchase parking online on the spot ($5 for day-use). Need your credit card and data to do so.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Trail: Dirt with lots of small rocks and Canadian Shield.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: This area is a gem. Right at the parking area, you will get a spectacular view of Little Mellon Lake (especially if you go in the morning and the water is calm). It’s always exciting to hike (about a 4 km loop) on the Canadian Shield because of the sheer magnitude of the rocks. There is an abundant growth of beautiful tundra vegetation on the rocks. Though the “crunchiness” of the vegetation underneath your feet may make it tempting to stomp more – try to resist. I remember that there’s one fork along the loop that is not marked (go left). While most of the loop trail is well-marked, it’s easy to get lost on the rocks because of the vastness. Like most other trails – wear proper footwear. The terrain is uneven and can even be muddy. Worth the 5-hour return drive from Toronto.

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*Arrowhead Provincial Park (Huntsville)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/arrowhead

Arrowhead Provincial Park

Location: Located in Huntsville.
Highlights: Big Bend, Stubb’s Falls, Little East River, Big East River, marsh and several beaches.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Gated entry.
Challenging trails? Easy to moderate. Trail: Dirt with lots of roots and rocks.
Plumbing: Yes, at the Visitor Centre and near campgrounds.

My comments: The areas and trails were not very well-marked in my opinion and parking is limited near the trailheads. Getting lost was easy for me! But this park has a lot to offer. They have 375 campsites (and 10 cabins), a spectacular view of the Big Bend and the majestic Stubb’s Falls. I enjoyed sitting on the rocks at the falls and watching and listening to the sheer force of the water making its way downstream. No justice is given to the Big Bend in photos. You have to be standing there in person to really appreciate it. Even more exciting for those who enjoy winter sports – a 1.3 km loop for ice-skating. Thinking of going in the winter? Apparently the park has over 60,000 visitors during the wintertime – so you might be turned away if they have reached capacity. Check their IG account for updates.

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*Mary Lake (King City)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.

Mary Lake

Location: Located in King City.
Highlights: Mary Lake and forest.
Parking: Yes, but only along Keele Street.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy. Trail: Dirt.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: There is no obvious trail to get to Mary Lake. I couldn’t find it the first time I went. The trail starts on the west side of Keele across from the Oak Ridges Trail. You basically go under a metal pipe (looks like a limbo stick) that shows private property and walk on the open field grass until you get to the shrine. To the left of the old heritage building with broken windows, there is a very small path going up a slope – take that and keep walking. The lake is located on private property owned by The Augustinians, but they have generously allowed the public to use the trail for hiking. Mary Lake is a Kettle Lake, basically formed after the glaciers melted. The trail doesn’t appear to be a loop, although I didn’t have a chance to keep walking. It’s a nice forest trail. Worth checking out if you are in the area.

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*Seaton Trail (Pickering)*

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
http://www.seatontrail.org/

Location: Located in Pickering.
Highlights: Bluffs, West Duffins Creek, forest and fall colours.
Parking: Yes, but not many spots – start early.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy in some parts, but some elevation gain in the forest. My heart was pumping in some areas. Trail: mostly dirt.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: I enjoyed the trail because it was long and forested. The trail runs mainly along the creek. In certain areas, you will find yourself a meadow. One of the locals told me that it was about 7 km from Whitevale where I began the trail. It took me about 1 h 45 mins from the parking lot at Whitevale to the bluffs and 1 h 15 mins back (including some time for photos). The best part of the trail is the section overlooking the bluffs (1st and 2nd photos from the left). What a view! A nice way to spend 3 hours.

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*Happy Valley Tract (King City)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/happy-valley-north/

Happy Valley Tract

Location: Located in King City.
Highlights: Valley, forest and wetlands.
Parking: Yes, but limited.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy in some parts, but some elevation gain in the forest. My heart was pumping as I was walking quickly. Trail: mainly cut grass and dirt.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: The tract is part of the York Regional Forest. I was prepared to be disappointed walking along the open grass path in the valley, but was pleasantly surprised by the elevation gain in the forest. The forest is beautiful with the fall colours. The loop took me about an hour and fifteen minutes including photo-taking time. The creek is nice. At least there was some water running through it. I enjoyed the sunshine and a nice chill in the air. A satisfying enough hike overall.

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*Oak Ridges Corridor (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Probably in the wintertime.
https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/trail-map/richmond-hill-oak-ridges-corridor-old-colony-rd/

Oak Ridges Corridor

Location: Located in Richmond Hill, a few minutes away from Lake Wilcox.
Highlights: Meadow, wildflowers and forest.
Parking: Yes, but a very small parking lot. Street parking has restrictions.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trails? Easy. Trail: paved sections and dirt.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: A relaxing open trail. Parts of the trail are paved, so great for biking. When you step off the main paved trail, there are parts where you walk on a narrow one-person trail between 4 – 5 feet tall wildflowers/weeds. Can’t say I really enjoyed that! I watched the sunrise through the trees. According to the sign at the trailhead, there are a few trails varying from 3.8 – 10.2 kilometres in distance. Looking at the sign, the trail can be used for cross-country skiing /snowshoeing as well. I will definitely go snowshoeing there.

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*Crawford Lake Conservation Area (Milton)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
Kid-friendly
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=crawford-lake

crawford lake

Location: Located in Milton. About an hour from Toronto.
Highlights: Crawford Lake, boardwalk, Iroquoian village (longhouse pictured bottom right), wooden carvings, forest and fall colours.
Parking: Yes. Gated entry.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Reservations are required.
Challenging trails? Easy.
Plumbing: Yes. Near the parking lots.

My comments: This is a nice place for discovery. You can walk around a 15th century Iroquoian village which was reconstructed by the park and walk a short trail (1 km mostly on a boardwalk) around Crawford Lake – which I learned is a meromictic lake (a lake that is deeper than the surface area). Because I never heard the term meromictic before, so I had to read up on it. Basically, the different layers in the water do not mix and the bottom layer is poorly oxygenated – making the lake an unsuitable environment for many organisms. The lake view was incredible at 9 am in the morning with the mist floating above the calm water. I took the Woodland Trail (1.5 km) and Crawford Lake Trail (1 km). The trail to Nassagaweya Canyon Trail was closed due to COVID, as there’s not enough time to hike it during the two-hour reservation time.

Caution: the boardwalk around the lake is quite slippery when damp, making it a falling hazard.

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*Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls* (Haliburton)(M)

Rating: 5.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes – how soon?
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/oxtongueriverraggedfalls

oxtongue river and ragged falls

Location: Located near Algonquin. About 3 hours from Toronto.
Highlights: Oxtongue Lake, Oxtongue River, Gravel Falls, Ragged Falls, rocks and heavenly fall colours.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes at the Provincial Park, but no cost for parking at Algonquin Outfitters where I rented my canoe.
Challenging trails? Some parts of the trail are uneven (rocks and roots). Even trickier when muddy.
Plumbing: I’m not sure if there are toilets at the park entrance, but there were portable toilets with pumping sink water at Algonquin Outfitters.

My comments: I totally lucked out with perfect weather for a September 26th in Canada- blue skies and 25-degree weather. I was wearing short sleeves! The scenery was incredible as well with the changing of the season. Intense red, orange and yellow fall colours still dance in my mind. I had an absolutely amazing time. I cannot wait to go back again.

I didn’t get to the falls through the provincial park entrance but instead rented a canoe at Algonquin Outfitters at Oxtongue Lake location. I decided to canoe to the falls because I read online that the trail (if you enter through the provincial park entrance) is only 1 km. That’s too short for me. I knew I would be disappointed hiking such a short hike. I paid about $40 for a canoe day rental. When I called Algonquin Outfitters ahead of time, I was told that day-use equipment is only available for rent on a first-come-first-serve basis – so no online bookings. Though supply may be high, I suggest that you get there early to avoid disappointment.

I canoed about one hour each way across Oxtongue Lake and got off at Ragged Falls. From there I hiked the trail to Gravel Falls – which is apparently fed by glacial melt. The sheer force of the falls is unbelievable. You can see, hear and feel (the spray) the power of the rushing water. There are some parts of the trail (such as the section near the Ragged Falls) that are difficult to climb (unless you’re a monkey) – but you can challenge yourself physically. The views of Gravel Falls from there is well worth the climb. This whole area is absolutely magnificent. My dreaming continues…

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*Bruce Peninsula National Park* (M)

Rating: 100.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes!

I already posted about Bruce Peninsula (read my review by clicking here), so this is just a supplement because I went again last Sunday – after being away for over three years. You’ll see that I updated my rating from 5 stars to 100 stars. This place is just unbelievable and dreamy! Below is a photo slide show. Just look at the water and rock! Things are slightly different now with COVID – you have to make reservations for The Grotto (the cave) online. You get a four hour window to explore. In some ways it’s good to make reservations because you are guaranteed a parking spot. Normally, if you just show up, you may be disappointed because if the parking lot is full, they will turn you away. For the past few years, I wasn’t able to book for an overnight yurt, so I was worried that the parking would be full. And after driving for four hours you do not want to get turned away. I took advantage of the reservations and went for it. So glad I did.

bruce peninsula

*Kelso Conservation Area* (Milton)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=kelso

kelso

Location: Located in Milton. About an hour from Toronto.
Highlights: Cliffs, escarpment, lookout points, forest, Kelso Lake, and beach. Skiing available in the winter.
Parking: Yes. Reservations are required at this time.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Gated entry.
Challenging trails? Some parts are calf-burning and uneven (rocks and roots).
Plumbing: Yes, a washroom with toilets and running water near the Visitor Centre.

My comments: Your online reservation includes a 2-hour time block, so you have to time yourself. I booked for the “Kelso Main Entrance” and not the “Kelso Summit” – as two hours is not enough time to explore the summit. The Halton Conservation Area website suggests that if you are just hiking (not biking) that you hike in one of their other parks. The reason being – Kelso’s trails are famous for mountain biking. The trails are mostly shared and two-way traffic, so you have to be ready to jump off the trail when bikes are coming at you at full speed. The first part of the trail to the lookout point is rather boring – it’s paved with gravel and passes through the gondola areas. It takes about fifteen minutes to get to the lookout area. The park boasts over 29 kilometres of scenic and well-marked trails. The beach area is small and I saw a lot of goose poop, but I’m sure they clean it up more in the summertime. I enjoyed my two hours at the park with blue skies, water, trees and rock!

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*Elora Gorge* (Elora)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.grandriver.ca/en/outdoor-recreation/Elora-Gorge.aspx

Elora Gorge

Location: Located in Elora. About 1 hour 45 minutes from Toronto.
Highlights: Gorge, Grand River, “Hole in the Rock” and white cedar trees.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes.
Challenging trails? No. But tubing in the river is an adventure!
Plumbing: Yes, but closed due to COVID. Washrooms/change rooms at the tubing area were open.
Camping: Yes.

My comments: Initially I was disappointed by the short trail overlooking the Grand River and the Hole in the Rock section. I was yawning and about ready to leave and check out another park, but then discovered a trail (where the tubing launch area is) which leads to the base of the 22-metre cliffs. You can walk along the rocks and watch the raging river. You need to be careful because the rocks at the river edge can be slippery.

Based on my research last year, I saw that people could tube along the 2 km long river. Apparently there is zip-lining somewhere in the area but I didn’t see anything there. I learned that tube rentals need to be purchased online ahead of time. However, I was lucky that they still had rentals available that day and my cell phone data worked so I ordered the tube and equipment (basically a helmet and life jacket) online. I paid $55 for the rental plus a $75 refundable deposit for the equipment. As usual, I highly recommend bringing your own life jacket (due to sliminess of the rental ones). Lucky I packed my kayak and life jacket “just in case” – never know what activities you might be doing!

Tubing was definitely the highlight of the adventure, though I wasn’t certain how my motion sickness would factor in (I was fine). Certain parts of the river were rough and did actually hit a small rock and get stuck on another one. I was most worried about falling off the tube, but the park staff said if I was to fall off I should hold onto the tube, relax and let the current take me to the end. I was floating in the tube in some areas and had to kick and use my arms to paddle closer to “moving” water to be able to continue along the river. The view of the cliffs was incredible from my tube. I felt that the “ride” was too long (almost an hour). I’m not used to doing nothing for so long so I felt a bit stressed. Plus you have to factor in additional time to walk to the launching area and back to the rental area. It took about two hours in total. Met a lady who sadly dropped her car key into the river. Yikes!

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*Silver Creek Conservation Area* (Halton Hills)

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? No.
https://cvc.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/silver-creek-conservation-area/

silver creek conservation area

Location: Located in Halton Hills. About 1 hour from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, Niagara Escarpment, pond and creek.
Parking: Yes. Along the street.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trail? Some parts. Some elevation gain.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: I am too spoiled! I took the Roberts Side Trail which meets the main trail and loops back around to the parking. That trail is not exciting at all – just forest with little variety of trees. The trail to the left of where Roberts Side Trail meets the “T” (end of trail) is a dead end. I backtracked and hiked the loop to the main trail – which was more interesting with the rock on the forest floor (pictured above 2nd and 4th photos). On the Roberts Side Trail you can see a pond and part of the creek, but other than that, you can’t really see the creek. Maybe I missed something. The rocky section on the main trail made up for the initial disappointment.

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*Charleston Lake Provincial Park* (Leeds and the Thousand Islands) (M)

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

charleston lake

Location: Located in Leeds and the Thousand Islands. About 3 hours from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, lakes, marsh and Canadian Shield.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Gated entry.
Challenging trail? There are a number of different trails depending on what you are looking for.
Plumbing: Yes.

My comments: I was impressed by this park. There is a variety of different landscape (Canadian Shield, lakes, marsh, forest, etc.). I took the Tallow Rock Bay Trail which is a 10 km loop and considered difficult with the elevation gain and uneven forest floor. The trail is interesting – some sections you will walk across beautiful lichen covered large rocks (Canadian Shield) or come across a rocky Georgian Bay-like area (pictured bottom left) or a swamp covered with neon green algae (at least I am guessing it’s algae) (pictured top centre) or find yourself between huge rock walls or walk across multiple boardwalks. The park has a couple of 10 km trails and several shorter trails. I thoroughly enjoyed my 6 hours exploring this park. I didn’t get a chance to kayak, but I am sure it would be amazing. There is camping and portaging available at this park.

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*Algonquin Provincial Park* (M)

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/algonquin

algonquin

Location: Located along Highway 60. About 3.5 hours from Toronto.
Highlights: Forest, lakes, fungi, portaging and loons.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Gated entry.
Challenging trail? No. Trails at Burnt Island Lake were not challenging, but portaging from lake to lake is.
Plumbing: There are washrooms at the Canoe Lake access point. At my campsite on Burnt Island Lake, there was a composting toilet (a toilet made of wood surrounded by forest).

My comments: If you love forest, lakes and portaging – this is a great place to go. Algonquin didn’t get a 5 rating from me, because it’s mainly forest and water – and I love rock! However, I really enjoyed my adventure. My journey began at Canoe Lake at 8:30 am. Paddled from Canoe Lake, portaged to Joe Lake, rowed to Lost Joe Lake, and finally portaged to Burnt Island Lake where I camped a couple of nights. Honestly, rowing and portaging the rain sucks – especially if you wear glasses like me. I don’t recommend that you bring too much stuff with you, because you have to carry it for the portages.

Algonquin PP is very popular, so everything is very organized. At my campsite, there was a fire pit set up with rocks, a couple of wooden benches and a composting toilet. As with any camping trip, it is important to have proper equipment/items like portaging shoes, a rain jacket, waterproof bags for your clothes, wallet, phone, etc. You never know what Mother Nature will throw at you.

Disappointed because of cloudy skies – didn’t see any stars. Couldn’t sleep on the second night because of the wolf howls in the distance, thought of bears, scurrying sounds around my tent and the pitter-patter of rain hitting my tent.

Apparently, there used to be an inn at Burnt Island Lake. There were a number of stone chimneys at my site. My favourite parts of the trip: navigating the small flowing rivers along the route, and being in my canoe on Burnt Island Lake at 6 am to wait for sunrise.

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*Boyd Conservation Park (Vaughan)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
https://trca.ca/parks/boyd-conservation-area/

Boyd Conservation Park

Location: Located in Vaughan.
Highlights: Forest, East Humber River and butterflies.
Parking: Yes. Gated entry.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Admission gate.
Challenging trail? No.
Plumbing: Didn’t see any, but probably because there are many picnic areas.

My comments: These days, I’m afraid to be disappointed by new local trails. I’ve hiked and wandered to so many places – expectations (thought I don’t want them to be) may be a bit high. But on the flip side, I might really enjoy the new place. All this being said, I was pleasantly surprised by this local treasure. I have been to sections along the Humber River and its not so impressive, but the forest surrounding the river is nice. As usual it doesn’t hurt to have the sun shining through the forest. What I loved most were the butterflies. The same special flower had three butterflies land on it. While I didn’t picnic, there were lots of large group gatherings (looks like parties) all over the park. No masks worn…Anyone can say COVID Wave 3?

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*Devil’s Punchbowl (Hamilton)* – M

Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://tourismhamilton.com/devils-punchbowl

Devil's Punchbowl in Hamilton
Devil’s Punchbowl

Location: Located in Hamilton. About an hour from Toronto.
Highlights: Devil’s Punchbowl, rock formations, steep trail to the base of the punchbowl, view of Hamilton, train track and tunnel.
Parking: Yes, but go early because it is limited.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Parking machine. $5 fixed daily rate.
Challenging trail? Yes, if you want to get to the base of the punchbowl.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: Devil’s Punchbowl has been on my “to-go-to” list for quite some time. Because I heard the punchbowl is a very busy place, I never found the time to go during an off-peak time. I originally planned to go the Felker’s Falls. However, when I entered a location search, I saw that these two places are just a ten-minute drive apart. I looked at the time (7:30 am) and figured I could probably beat the rush and get to Devil’s Punchbowl by 8:30 a.m.

When I went, there were only a few trickles of water falling from the top of the cliff – but it’s supposed to be a 37 metre ribbon waterfall. I guess there hasn’t been much rain lately! I must say that I loved the challenge of hiking down the steep trail to get to the base. It took about 30 minutes to get to the base with time for photos. The rock formations were a bonus. This place is really cool -lots of different things to see including a tunnel with beautiful graffiti and a train track. Extra bonus, got to check out Felker’s Falls too!

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*Felker’s Falls (Hamilton)*

Rating: 3.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://tourismhamilton.com/felkers-falls

felkers

Location: Located in Hamilton. About an hour from Toronto. Just ten minutes away from Devil’s Punchbowl.
Highlights: Ribbon waterfalls.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No. Located in a residential area and has its own parking lot.
Challenging trail? No. Just part of the trail if you want to reach the section on top of the drop.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: Couldn’t get a good view of the falls because 1) you can’t get to the base safely (basically it looks like a ninety-degree drop) and 2) the tree foliage is obstructing the view of them from the top. Maybe you will have a better view in the winter. The trail is fenced off but you can climb over the fence in a couple of sections. From there, the trail(s) will lead you to the top of the “drop” where the water flows to the falls (see photo on the right). Pretty cool hidden falls. Love the dark rock contour in contrast to the delicate waterfall. You would never know there are falls right behind a playground in a residential neighbourhood.

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*Mount Nemo Conservation Authority (Burlington)* – M

Rating: 4.0 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
https://conservationhalton.ca/park-details?park=mount-nemo

nemo

Location: Located in Burlington. About an hour from Toronto.
Highlights: Escarpment and view below, caves, and Turkey Vultures.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: Yes. Gated entry.
Challenging trail? There are a few trails. I took trail #2 which is the park considers moderate – so some slopes, but mostly flat. Lots of tree roots and rocks on the forest floor, so you do have to be careful not to trip.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: currently you need to make reservations online for some of the Halton Conservation parks (Mount Nemo, Crawford Lake, Rattlesnake Point, Kelso, Hilton Falls and Mountsberg). You are only allocated a two-hour window for your hike, so I suggest that you show up about ten minutes before your scheduled time to maximize your hiking time. I took the north loop. It took me about 1 hour 40 minutes including time to take lots of photos. I booked the first time slot: 9 am to 11 am – which was good because the parking lot was almost empty. The forest was not particularly spectacular, but the way the sun hit the forest made it beautiful. The escarpment, cool caves and areas you can walk between cliff walls (see the second photo from left) are definitely the highlights of this hike. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have to make elevation gain to get to the lookout area – basically just followed a flat trail from the parking area and there it was. But walking along the escarpment made up for that. In terms of the view, I would say it’s similar to Rattlesnake Point.

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*Saigeon Trail (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 3.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes.
Dog friendly (off-leash area).
https://www.richmondhill.ca/Modules/Facilities/Detail.aspx?CategoryIds=&FacilityTypeIds=&Keywords=&Page=18&CloseMap=false&Scroll=true&id=ad3c0088-5ec9-45cd-b5ba-ecb36a652c4f


Location: Located in Richmond Hill.
Highlights: Pond, forest, meadow, boardwalks, and unique wildflowers.
Parking: Yes.
Admission/parking cost: No. Residential street parking.
Challenging trail? No. Trail: paved. Great for biking.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this forest trail. I researched the trail before and wanted to go but shows online that the trail closes in the early evening (saw a sign there – it actually closes at 11:30 pm) so never made it. I took Winter pup to the huge open off-leash area right near the trail. The trail is tucked behind big-name stores in a residential area. The trail is quite long and the variety of colourful wildflowers is amazing. I will definitely walk this trail again – especially since it’s close to home.

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*Moraine Park (Richmond Hill)*

Rating: 2.5 stars
Would I go again? Maybe.
Kid-friendly.
https://www.richmondhill.ca/Modules/Facilities/Index.aspx?CategoryIds=&FacilityTypeIds=&Keywords=moraine&ScrollMap=true&CloseMap=false

moraine

Location: Located in Richmond Hill near Lake Wilcox.
Highlights: Forest. Small playground next to the forest.
Parking: Street parking only. Watch for no parking signs on the main street though.
Admission/parking cost: No.
Challenging trail? No. Trail: wood chips.
Plumbing: No.

My comments: While I love sunset in the forest, sometimes I find the darker parts eerie – especially when I am alone in a new forest. This trail is nestled in a residential area. When I initially walked into the forest and followed the straight trail, I was disappointed because in less than five minutes I was on another residential street. But then I backtracked and took a side trail along a small creek. I was pleasantly surprised that the forest was bigger than I thought. The trail is covered with wood chips which looks pretty. This is a great local trail for a quickie hike. Sunsets are always a bonus. I love how the light bounces off trees and gives a magical glow to leaves.

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*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/

porritt

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

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

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 because of the people. 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 from 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! Follow-up note, I went back to the Bluffs the following day to experience kayaking in Lake Ontario. The currents were rough, but where the land meets the sky – is heaven on earth!

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*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

Toogood pond

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.
Challenging trail? No. Trail: dirt/rock/paved. Good for biking.
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!

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*Scanlon Creek Conservation Area (Bradford)*

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

scalon park

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

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*Killarney Provincial Park (Killarney)* – M

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

killarney
Killarney

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

georgian bay

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. Pay at the parking machine.
Challenging trail? Some parts of the trails are challenging. You should definitely wear hiking boots.
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/cliffs, 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!

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*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

milne dam

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. Gated entry.
Admission/parking cost: Yes, check with park.
Challenging trail? No. Trail: paved. Good for biking.
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

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*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

Thornton Bales Conservation Area

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.
Challenging trail? Mostly no, but some elevation in certain areas.
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!

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*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.

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*Ferris Provincial Park (Campbellford)* – M

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

ferris provincial park

Location: Located in Campbellford. About a 2 hour drive from Toronto.
Highlights: Suspension bridge, falls, Trent River.
Parking: Yes. Gated entry.
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 trail? 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 🙂

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*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

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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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/

wilson's 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 trail? 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. And no, I don’t know that man!

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*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 trail? 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.

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*Emily Provincial Park (Omemee)*

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

emily provincial park

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 trail? 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!

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*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 trail? 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 hot spot 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? No. Paved trail. Good for biking.

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

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*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/

limestone rocks

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 trail? Easy but 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.

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*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 trail? No.

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!

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*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 trail? No.

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.

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*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 trail? No.

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.

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*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 trail? No.

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.

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*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 trail? No.

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.

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*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 trail? Yes, especially when you go straight up and down the mountain. 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!

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 very limited. As of December 2020 – parking is no longer allowed on Bridgewater Drive off Stouffville Road. Not sure if there is more parking in the area. May need to start the trail from Bayview Avenue north of Stouffville Road. There are only a few spots on the shoulder along Stouffville Road where you can park between the no parking signs.
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 trail? 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.

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*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).

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? No. 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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? No. 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?

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*Pomona Mills Park (Markham)* – M

Rating: 4 stars
Would I go again? Yes, definitely.
Average time spent here: 45 minutes
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? No. 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.

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*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 trail? No. 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 🙁

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*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 trail? No. 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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).

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*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!

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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!).

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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* 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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? No. Easy.

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

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? 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.

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*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 trail? Easy to moderate.

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*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 trail? 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!

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*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 trail? 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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Quick Tips/Recommendations

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you have your own equipment such as a kayak, bring it.
  4. Some places have very limited parking, so I would suggest starting out early to get a spot.
  5. Remember to respect the environment. Leave no trace behind. This means to take your garbage home with you.

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!

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