As fiery reds, yellows, and oranges light up the landscape this fall, hiking conditions reach their peak, and Collingwood is a great kicking-off point for spectacular trails.
If you like to explore the great outdoors by foot, you live in the right place. Between Georgian Bay, the Bruce Peninsula and the Niagara Escarpment, there is no shortage of adventures to embark on in your backyard.
The beauty of hiking is that it is one of the only outdoor activities in our area that you can enjoy all year ‘round.
John Sandham, a local radio personality and outdoor enthusiast, typically hikes three times a week.
He loves to trek with his friends and family, learning about their hidden gems or showing them the secret spots he’s discovered. Sandham aims to try at least one new hike a week, but mixes in his favourites when the sun is shining and the pull of nature is too strong.
“Fall is my favourite time to hike. It’s not too hot or too cold. The air is crisp and refreshing, and the colours are almost unbelievable,” says Sandham.
Hike up to the top of the escarpment and witness the vibrant orange and yellows roll together for miles, until they abruptly end when met by the crystal blue bay. Or get lost in the autumn maze as you wander in and out of the colourful corridor deep in the valley.
"It's a laundry list. There are so many trails in the area I still want to experience, and the more I talk with family members or fellow hikers, the more I learn about. It's never-ending, in the best way."
Whether you are holding onto the last days of summer-like sunshine or you are happy to find any excuse to get outside, here are the top five hikes you should add to your to-do list before the last leaf hits the ground:
The Bruce Trail
The Bruce is Canada’s oldest and longest footpath and perhaps the best-known trail in the area. The route winds from Tobermory to Niagara, and this section is like no other. The trail changes abruptly as it enters the area interspersed with some of Ontario’s best ski resorts. Set among high bluffs contrasted with deep, wide valleys, the expansive views of rolling countryside and the Nottawasaga Bay are indescribable. Because this trail is so popular, going after the heat of the summer will only benefit you. The peacefulness of the fall forest instils a sense of calm, and you can feel the nature around you bundling up and preparing for the long, cold winters the topography brings.
Loree Forest Loop
The loop lends you a variety of terrain that leads you to stunning views of Georgian Bay and the Beaver Valley. The foliage should be in full colour by Thanksgiving, and there’s no truer description of autumn in Ontario than a walk down the colourful corridor on an October afternoon. If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll with a massive payout, the Loree Forest Loop is perfect for your next fall trek.
The Scenic Caves
While the caves are only open from spring until fall, the area can be explored by foot all year long. Along with its intricate system of stunning trails, the Scenic Caves showcase unique caves and caverns that skip autumn and live by their own calendar when it comes to the season inside the crevice. Take a self-guided tour to peek into the caves, walk across the infamous suspension bridge or simply stroll through the trails to take it all in. The sea of tall trees, interesting rock formations and everlasting views make this a must-see for anyone living in or visiting Collingwood.
Old Baldy Conservation Area
The out-and-back, 4.3-km hike leads you through an open pasture into a covered forest, and then up the unprotected edge of the Niagara Escarpment until you reach one of the most breathtaking views of the Beaver Valley. The autumn colours dance into the distance and you feel as though you can truly see for miles. The three-season hike becomes too dangerous in the winter, so get out and experience it for yourself while you still can. There are some difficult and more rugged sections, but ultimately this is a great hike to take the whole family on.
Kolapore Uplands Trail
One of the longer trails in the area, Kolapore has numerous routes of moderate difficulty. All of the offshoot trails are clearly marked with their difficulty and distance, so it’s easy to judge what you can handle on any given day. Also, as part of the Bruce Trail network, the majority of these trails are well manicured. Pick up a map at Ravenna General Store or Little Ed’s Ski & Bike Shop, bring water and a good friend, and take your time getting lost in this colourful gem.
While these trails are all very well known, there is a reason they can’t be missed. But, there are so many other side trails and hidden gems to discover just a stone’s throw away. It's rewarding to discover new favourites of your own, but always be sure to bring a buddy and be safe.
All Trails, Ontario Trails and other local resources offer plenty of information to get you started on your next hiking adventure.