When it comes to summer strolls, Southern Ontario’s expansive conservation areas and lush trails offer plenty of opportunity to reconnect with nature. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely footpath to explore, a scenic cycling route to traverse, or a challenging hike to get your cardio in, any of these five locations are sure to do the trick. Read on to discover some of the best trails and conservation areas near our communities.
Cheltenham Badlands Trail
15 minutes from Erin Glen in Erin, Ontario
One of the most recognizable and visited natural landmarks in Southern Ontario, the Cheltenham Badlands is a favourite destination for hikers of all skill levels. First formed at the base of an ancient sea over 450 million years ago, the Cheltenham Badlands are characterized by its striking red shale composition and the slow-growing forest that surrounds it. The Cheltenham Badlands Trail is accessible via the equally popular Bruce Trail, and includes a boardwalk and viewing platform. Leashed pets are welcome to explore the trail alongside their human companions, however, cycling is not allowed to help preserve the integrity of this rare natural feature.
Luther Marsh Conservation Area
25 minutes from Cachet Arthur in Arthur, Ontario
The Luther Marsh Conservation Area is more than wetlands at the headwaters of the Grand River: it’s a nature lover’s paradise that’s home to a variety of bird species, wildlife and flora and fauna. The property is defined by its 1,400-hectare lake and its verdant trails, which include two six-kilometer hike or bike trails, and an 11-kilometer long cyclist-only trail. The conservation area is also a great destination for families in search of fun summer activities, with canoeing, boating, fishing, hunting, picnicking and bird watching all welcome on-site.
F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness Area
7 minutes from Generations in Ayr, Ontario
Perfect for both novice and experienced hikers, the F.W.R Dickson Wilderness Area is a large natural expanse that includes a small lake, wetlands, tall-grass prairie, and three trails of different difficulty levels to explore. The 2-kilometer Short Loop is particularly favourable for families with small children or pets. Don’t forget to bring a few sunflower seeds for the friendly chickadees you’ll spot along the way — they’ll often land on your hand if they see you have something to offer.
Dundas Valley Trail System
20 minutes from Mount Hope by Cachet in Mount Hope, Ontario
Boasting some of Southern Ontario’s most spectacular vistas, it’s no surprise that the Dundas Valley Trail System is a favourite for hikers, cyclists, dog-walkers and mountain bikers. The Dundas Valley Trail System features over 40 kilometers of terrain and offers access to almost every part of Dundas Valley. It features three major trails — the Monarch Trail, the Heritage Trail and the Main Loop Trail, which leads to the Hermitage Ruins, Sulphur Spring and Hermitage Cascade — and it also connects to the Bruce Trail and Brantford Rail Trail.
Shade’s Mills Conservation Area
10 minutes from Westwood Village in Cambridge, Ontario
There’s no shortage of things to see, do and explore at Shade’s Mills Conservation Area, which includes opportunities for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, boating, picnicking, swimming, cycling and hiking through 12 kilometers of moderate trails. Spend the day with family exploring the lush trails and cooling off by the lake before using the on-site barbecues and designated picnic areas to grill something delicious for that appetite you’re sure to work up.
In search of more family-friendly activities to help you make the most of the season? Look no further — we’ve got your summer fun roundup here.