If you’re looking for a beautiful place to retreat to, you really don’t need to look beyond YDH. There is so much beauty in our province’s forested parks alone. You’ll find everything from lush green forests to breathtaking cliff views and clear blue beaches. As the weather begins to warm up, jump in your car and head to one of the amazing natural parks in YDH. The ones listed here are either conservation or provincial parks and they’re all only an hour’s drive from Toronto.
Boyne Valley Provincial Park is a perfect place to spend the day. 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 board walked swamp – you’ll 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.
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. 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.
It’s 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.
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, horseback riding is permitted on the Trans Canada trail in the park. 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. It is really a great destination for a day in the country!
If you are headed to Clarington, make a stop at Darlington Provincial Park. Your furry friends will love taking walks around the park. Take your 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 work-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. 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.
Another Ontario park that has it all. Large, sandy beach on Lake Simcoe! It is nice and shallow, so it is perfect for little kids. 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, swimming, boating, volleyball, and, more. Oh yeah, there is cycling, birding, wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, sailing, and hiking!
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!
Due to COVID-19 the parks visitor centres and facilities are currently closed. The provincial parks are open at this time. Prior to your visit, please refer to individual attractions and organizations directly to confirm hours of operation and programming updates.