Go on, dig out those hiking shoes. The warmer temps are here to stay, and you’ve got more tracks than ever to choose from across South Eastern Ontario. Seriously, take your pick: easy strolls along old rail lines, moderate paths around big sand dunes, difficult routes up the Canadian Shield. Whether you’re an amateur stroller or pro hike head, there’s a trail for you out there. Here are 10 of the best, from west to east.
1. Sandbanks Provincial Park: Dunes Trail
Length: 2.5 km
Get up close to the world’s largest
The best days to visit Prince Edward County in the summer is mid-week in the early morning or late afternoon.
2. Trans-Canada Trail: Corbyville to Stirling
Length: 25 km (or less)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
The Grand Junction Railway once ran from Belleville to Peterborough, but now it’s part of the multi-use Trans-Canada Trail. This stretch begins in Corbyville, a hamlet just north of Belleville that was once a booming distillery town. From the path, you can still see remnants of Corby Distilleries in old water towers, cement buildings, and rusted pipes and equipment. After Corbyville, the trail heads northwest for 15 km, mostly through farmlands, until Madoc Junction, where it splits and goes 25 km northeast to Madoc or 10 km west to Stirling. Since the trail is on a rail line, it’s easy on the body.
3. Frontenac Provincial Park: Slide Lake Loop
Length: 21 km
This rugged hike in the most remote area of Frontenac Park isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the rewards for the willing speak for themselves: a series of waterfalls dropping 16 metres, barren rock ridges overlooking the surrounding landscape, a gorge crossing, and multiple lakes almost all to yourself. The trail also passes through forests, by marshes, and up and around Canadian Shield granite as it follows Buck Lake, Slide Lake, Doe Lake and Big Salmon Lake. Stop for panoramic views and pics of Mink and Camel Lakes, but remember that there’s only so much daylight: give yourself 7 to 9 hours to enjoy this challenge.
4. Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves
Length: 3.2 km
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Millions of years ago, the Salmon River flowed through this area about a half hour from Kingston, carving the limestone into overhanging ledges, mushroom-shaped rocks, caves, gullies, potholes and sinkholes. It’s one of the most unique geological areas in South Eastern Ontario, and because it’s now empty of water, you can hike it. Your journey will take you over a natural stone bridge, through a mini rainforest, across a gorge and, for the truly adventurous, down into “Hell Hole Cave,” which requires a 7.5-metre descent and a flashlight. When you’re done, play a round of mini golf or fuel up in the Log Cabin Snack Bar. Open weekends Victoria Day – Father’s Day, 10 am to 5 pm; Daily Father’s Day to Labour Day, 10 am to 5 pm. Weekends only after Labour Day, 10 am to 4 pm. Weekdays by appointment.
*Hell Holes Nature Trails is closed for the 2020 operating season.
5. Cataraqui Trail
Length: 104 km (or less)
With 48 access points along a former Canadian National Railway line between Strathcona and Smiths Falls, the Cat Trail gives hikers the most diverse cross-section of South Eastern Ontario’s natural environment. From Smiths Falls to Chaffey’s Lock (42 km), it’s flat farmland and woods, but after, near Sydenham Lake, it passes along the Frontenac Axis of the Canadian Shield. The trail then goes through or around big lakes, swamps, hilly forests, and pink granite.
6. K&P Trail
Length: 75 km (or less)
Once part of a rail line for steam trains, this track is now for non-motorized travellers. Hop on and off at six different access points, all within Kingston’s city limits. At one end is Little
7. Rock Dunder
Length: 3.9 km
Pink granite formations like Rock Dunder are what remain from the Grenville Mountains, which towered over this area just south of Morton about a billion years ago. Rising 275 feet from Morton Creek, all of Rock Dunder’s 230 acres were once a wilderness Boy Scout camp. Now the area is open to the public and has three trails: one easy (1.3 km), one moderate (2 km), one more difficult. Take the last, the Summit Loop, if you can handle a short, steep climb. The trail runs alongside Dean’s Island, through thick forest and offers sneak peaks of the grand finale: a summit atop rocky cliffs overlooking the Rideau and beyond. rwlt.org
8. Rideau Trail
Length: 327 km (or less)
Difficulty: Easy to difficult
9. Thousand Islands National Park: Jones Creek Trails
Length: 12 km
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
It’s those ecologically stunning islands that get most of the attention in the Thousand Islands region, of course, but don’t forget about the thick forests and all of that diverse wildlife on the nearby mainland. Get a glimpse at this 12-kilometre trail network within Thousand Islands National park, established in 1904 as the first national park east of the Rockies. There are nine different trails here, each between 0.7 km and 3.9 km in length. You’ll be taken from pine ridges to birch lowlands, and from creeks and wetland boardwalks to forests dramatically changed by beavers. Keep your eye out for rare species like the Black Rat snake and the Least Bittern bird. pc.gc.ca
10. Glengarry Trails
Length: 15 km
The four trails that make up this network and bird-waters’ refuge are found just west of Alexandria on the Gary River watershed. The 3 km Red Trail starts at Island Park and features hardwood and cedar forests, along with chickadees you can feed in the winter. Between it and the 3 km Orange and 2 km Purple loops is the Green Trail, a 5 km straight line that passes through wetlands and forests. Throughout the property are boardwalks, small bridges and interpretive signs, all built by The Friends of Glengarry Trails Association. glengarrytrails.com