Hi, it’s Shirley Sue. I’m one of the few new faces around the York Durham Headwaters (YDH) office. As the outdoor adventure correspondent for YDH, it’s my job to offer tips and tricks to get you outside and adventuring. Adults always ask me how my love of the great outdoors got started; I tell them it was because of family road trips to the campgrounds and hiking trails in our provincial parks. We’re lucky to have so many to choose from, so let’s get started on planning a full summer of outdoor adventures because school is almost over!!! Here are the seven provincial parks and nature reserves in YDH and the activities you can do in each one.
My family loves taking day trips to hike the trails at Boyne Valley Provincial Park. It is your gateway to the amazing views and varied landscape of the Bruce Trail. Located just west of Shelburne, in Mulmur, these trails are really cool. There are big forests, open fields, and a boardwalked swamp – I love walking on the planks! You can do an hour-long hike or go into full adventure mode and make a day out of it with a nine-hour hike. Bring your fishing rod too, as fishing is allowed in the park. Also, if you want to snap a cool selfie the Bruce Trail gives access to an excellent lookout in the northern part of the park.
I have made a lot of memories at Glen Haffy Conservation Area. It is the place where I learned to fish! The fish ponds are stocked with rainbow trout and if you join the Glen Haffy Fly Fishing Club you get access to private headwaters ponds and row boats. I love rowing!
Get active on their amazing hiking trails that wind along the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine and are perfect for everybody. There are options for 30, 45, and 60-minute hikes and you can bike the trails too. If you like to picnic there are three large picnic areas with enough room for you to book a spot for large or small groups.
Like I mentioned before, I learned to fish here. There is a fish hatchery that raises 60,000 rainbow trout a year and supplies the ponds in the conservation area. They also offer private pond rentals for groups to reserve them for fly fishing events.
Photo by TRCA Parks
Mono Cliffs is another park located on the picturesque Bruce Trail! Located just 15 minutes (or half a TV show) north of Orangeville, this unserviced provincial park offers great hiking for an afternoon with the family. My little brother loves the cliffs! There are loads of hiking trails throughout the park ranging from half a kilometre up to 5km. If you love flora (or is it fauna…um…whichever is the plant one…) there is a diversity of ferns and cedars.
Its called Mono Cliffs for a reason: you can walk through a canyon on the spillway trail or past 30-metre cliffs on the cliff top trail. There are biking options, too. After a day spent hiking, have a picnic in the small grassy picnic area next to the parking lot. I love this park so much. It is so fun to walk between the rocks, watch for turtles, and see fish! You can’t do all the trails in one day. Believe me, I have tried. So, make it a return family destination.
As you can tell, the Bruce Trail and the Provincial Parks in our region are linked. Like the other parks on my list, Forks of the Credit is also on the famous Bruce Trail. It is such a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon! I would say hiking and picnicking are my favourite activities. There are numerous trails throughout the park, including Bruce trail, Dominion trail, Kettle trail, Meadow trail, Ruins trail, and the Trans Canada trail.
It is a great spot for fishing, so pack those rods. If you love horses (I do!), horseback riding is permitted on the Trans Canada trail in the park. My Mom loves the beautiful serene nature and I love the waterfalls and lakes. It’s just a short drive from Brampton, so nature is at your doorstep. Make sure to bring a lot of water and wear comfortable shoes.
Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Preserve is an Algonquin-esque natural wonderland that is a short forty-five minute drive from the Greater Toronto Area and is entirely free of fees to visit. Win-win! Hockley Valley provides good opportunities for hiking and nature appreciation. The Bruce Trail, as well as several side trails, wind through the reserve. Just northeast of Orangeville, the hiking here is totally awesome. There are several loop trails, so you can do a short hike or spend all day exploring. Every time we go as a family we always say hi to the fellow adventurers on the trail – it is really a great destination for a day in the country!
If you are headed to Oshawa, make a stop at Darlington Provincial Park. Our dogs loving taking walks around the park. I love taking my time on the trails, stopping to sit on a picnic table for a snack, or skipping stones on the water – it takes all the stress out of any homework-filled day. A little tip: the store has the best ice cream! Grab some and stroll along the long sandy beach on Lake Ontario (better yet, go for a swim then get ice cream).
There are campsites to accommodate all types of camping equipment from tents to large RVs and trailers. It is fun to go with the whole family – our grandparents love it! They love birding at Darlington. They love to tell us about all the species of migratory birds they see in the park in the spring and fall. I love getting updates from the bird sightings board at the main park office to let them know what has been spotted lately.
Fishing is a popular activity for the whole family in Darlington’s McLaughlin Bay. You can even borrow fishing rods and tackle at the park store through the TackleShare program. During the summer, there are many opportunities for the whole family to learn about the natural ecology and cultural history of Darlington. There are games, evening films, campfires, and sing-alongs, as well as guided hikes. I signed up for all of them…twice! Visit the Log Cabin Visitor Centre to check out the many artifacts, exhibits and live specimens, or to chat with one of their friendly park naturalists (#myfuturedreamjob) and learn about the natural and cultural history of Darlington. Wow, there really is so much to do at the Park!
Another Ontario park that has it all. I love the large, sandy beach on Lake Simcoe! It is nice and shallow, so it is perfect for little kids – my littlest brother loves it. It is a great place to spend a whole weekend. Sibbald has spacious electrical and non-electrical campsites with pull-through trailer sites too. The Sibbald family museum is really cool – displaying 19th century artifacts and furniture. It is open during July and August. St. George’s Anglican Church, built in 1877, is located at the northwest corner of the park. Its graveyard is the final resting place of famous Canadian authors Stephen Butler Leacock and Mazo de la Roche.
Your weekend will be packed with so many fun things to do like: movie nights, arts and crafts, and wilderness learning, fishing (I caught a bass), swimming, boating, volleyball, and, well, basically I want to live there because of all the amazing things you can do. Oh yeah, there is cycling, birding,wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, sailing, and hiking! Wow.
So there it is, seven provincial parks to visit this summer (fall, winter, spring, next summer…). Ontario Parks are the perfect place for everyone. There are activities that keep the whole family happy. Plus, you get to end the day with s’mores, so it is the best. I am going to keep adventuring in YDH and letting you know all about the best outdoor places. Happy adventuring!