Let’s talk about hiking. Close your eyes—what do you think of when you picture the word? We bet you’re conjuring the skim of a summer breeze over your bare arms as you follow a crystal-clear forest brook. Or perhaps the scent of autumn leaves and far-off wood smoke is sharp in your olfactory memory. Maybe the vibrant hues of a spring meadow in bloom is what you’re thinking of when we say hiking.
Yes, they’re all beautiful and wondrous things that you’re bound to experience. But we have to ask… did anyone think of winter?
Here in York Durham Headwaters we have some of the most scenic winter landscapes that will take your breath away. At a time of year when our natural inclination is to hibernate in front of the television until spring, we challenge you to invigorate your body and soul with an outdoor nature trek, surrounded by crisp air and fragrant snow.
Make tracks on our trails
There is something supremely satisfying about laying down footprints in new snow, isn’t there? Beneath a canopy of bare trees and a brilliant blue sky, our extensive network of trails provides you with a variety of landscapes and challenges.
“With the arrival of snow comes the experience of making tracks through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Southern Ontario,” says Ben Roberts, Manager of Business Development, Tourism and Culture for the Town of Caledon. It is through here that the Bruce Trail runs, which is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. “The fresh air and the crunch of fresh snow underfoot is a truly Canadian experience we shouldn’t take for granted. Take the time to get out and make some tracks.”
Amanda Ferraro, Director of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Culture for the Township of Uxbridge agrees. “Winter provides a refreshing opportunity to experience some stunning and serene landscapes surrounded by white, clean snow,” she says. “Winter activities are naturally a little more challenging. However, the rewards are great.”
Known as the Trail Capital of Canada, Uxbridge has more than 300 kms of trails. The town itself is incredibly scenic, and some of its trails, like the Countryside Preserve Trail, link to amenities in. “It’s an ideal spot to come for a visit because you step into the preserve and you feel like you’re in the forest,” Amanda says. “But you’re only a kilometre away at most from getting back to an exit where there is access to shopping, washrooms and food.”
If you’re looking for a more stroll-like hike, the close proximity to Uxbridge’s coffee shops and restaurants is the best part of hiking in winter. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a break from the fresh, crisp cold to warm up with a hot chocolate or a cup of coffee?
YDH’s top winter trails
The beauty of living in York Durham Headwaters is that just about every neighbourhood has a community trail in its backyard for casual, local foot traffic. But if you have the opportunity to move around in our region this winter and want a more memorable experience, we’ve got some great next-level trails you’ll want to explore. These are the trails that extend several kilometres, surrounded by nature and covering different elevations and terrain, and which are designed and maintained as destinations for trail lovers. Here are a few of our favourites that we recommend for your trail adventure:
- Terra Cotta Park https://cvc.ca/discover-our-parks/terra-cotta-conservation-area/
- Albion Hills Conservation area https://trca.ca/parks/albion-hills-conservation-area/
- Mansfield Outdoor Centre https://www.mansfieldoutdoorcentre.ca/
- The Trails of Uxbridge https://discoveruxbridge.ca/trails/
- Ganaraska Forest https://www.ganaraskaforestcentre.ca/
- Long Sault Conservation Area https://www.cloca.com/long-sault
- East Gwillimbury Trail System https://www.eastgwillimbury.ca/en/living-in-eg/trails.aspx
- Cold Creek Conservation Area https://www.coldcreek.ca
- Kortright Centre for Conservation https://kortright.org
What to do on the trails
Hiking is probably the easiest thing to get out and do because, other than your warm winter gear, you don’t need a whole lot of equipment. But if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging than walking, you may want to consider cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Though some of our trails in York Durham Headwaters are groomed, many are not. Don’t let that deter you, however. With the extra effort of an ungroomed trail comes a greater winter adventure.
“Snowshoeing opportunities abound,” says Stephen Snoddon of the Durham Mountain Biking Association. If skiing an ungroomed trail is a little too intimidating, snowshoeing is much easier for beginners since it is not much different from hiking. Additionally, it’s also relatively expensive and snowshoes don’t take up much room in your vehicle.
Another winter trail activity which is experiencing a rise in popularity is fat biking. In case you’re not familiar with this term, a fat bike is a bicycle with oversized tires which allow for a smooth ride over rough and unusual surfaces. Snow-covered trails are now no obstacle for cyclists who want the beauty of nature to accompany their ride all year round.
“The DMBA has two SnowDog mechanical groomers and maintains a mechanically groomed prescribed Fat Bike route in the Durham Forest main tract,” Stephen says. “For the past [few] years, the DMBA has also mechanically groomed the Countryside Preserve Trails in Uxbridge for the benefit of hikers and dog walkers.”
Do we really need to say it? The only possible conclusion is that you need to get out there onto our many York Durham Headwaters trails. Winter is not a time to hide and hibernate. You’re not a bear, after all. You’re an adventure seeker whose passion knows no seasonal limit. As the old Roy Rogers song goes: Happy (Winter) Trails to You!
Story by Katherine Ryalen