The Province of Ontario is home to many beautiful Provincial Parks and stunning Conservation Areas.
You can see pictures of various Provincial Parks and Conservation Areas by visiting the Image Gallery
Rockwood Conservation Area
Rockwood Conservation Area is part of the Grand River Conservation Authority. It is located in beautiful Rockwood, ON located near Guelph, ON. There you will see limestone caves, stunning limestone cliffs and huge glacial potholes, including one of the world's largest. You can rent a canoe from the conservation area and take a paddle down the Eramosa River that runs through the area. Take a hike and stand at the top of these towering limestone cliffs and see a great view of the river. They have serviced and non-serviced campsites, so bring your family along and stay a few nights. Take a stroll and see the old Woolen Mill, it dates back to 1867. There you will see an old dam and follow an old road. This road will take you along a stream to the massive caves that make their home at Rockwood. The park is rich in geological history and the glacial potholes that were formed in the ice age and caves will demonstrate just that.
A gorgeous place to visit, Rockwood Conservation Area is one of the most unique and beautiful areas I have visited. Stay a couple of days and enjoy this beautiful natural environment to its fullest. The park is open from the last Friday in April to the Sunday following Thanksgiving.
For more information about Rockwood Conservation Area, you can visit the Grand River Conservation Authority website: www.grandriver.ca/index/document.cfm
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area is part of the Conservation Halton Foundation and is located near Milton, Ontario. Like most conservation areas, it has a day-use fee to get in, it is a per adult fee. This place offers hiking, rock climbing and even cross-country skiing for those winter enthusiasts. Take a hike and find five lookout areas that offer great panoramic views of the whole area. You will be hiking along the top of the Niagara Escarpment and cliffs there can vary from 30 Ft. (10m) to 80 Ft. (30m). Most of the time, you will have a beautiful tree top view. The trails are easy to find and at the trail head, you will find maps of the trails and information about wildlife and the conservation area. The maps of the trail are easy to read and they show you where the lookouts are located. The lookouts have barriers so you can take pictures with ease of mind. The conservation area also has a picnic pavillion and several campsites as well.
The park is open daily and year round at 8:30am and closes at different times seasonally. The lookouts are definitely the highlights of the hike here. The hiking trails also connect Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area to Crawford Lake Conservation Area. The Rattlesnake Point trails also connect to a Bruce Trail Side Trail and the main Bruce Trail. Go ahead and take a day trip to this beautiful park atop the Niagara Escarpment, you'll enjoy every minute of it.
For more information and fees for the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area website: www.conservationhalton.on.ca/ShowCategory.cfm
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park is located near Mattawa, Ontario. We were lucky enough to visit this park during the off-season while the park was closed. It was mid-October and the park was closed for the season, so I called in and asked if we could access the park to go hiking. The lady on the phone was very nice and said that we could enter the park anywhere there wasn't a gate. The only gated areas were generally the campsites. She also warned us about bears, but this is to be expected in Northern Ontario. The main road gave us access to the Wabashkiki hiking trail and the Etienne hiking trails. Unfortunately, we did not find the Kag hiking trail. The Kag trail may not be marked like the other trails are.
We took the Wabashkiki hiking trail first. This trail is a loop trail of about 1km. You will walk along a boardwalk over a marsh that will lead you to the loop part of the trail. You can go any direction and you will be back at this boardwalk to get back to the trail head. The trail is pretty much surrounded by water and has markers along the way. They say this is the best trail to see some wildlife. All we saw were geese. The parking area for this trail is also the day-use area with a beach, picnic areas and a gazebo.
We then tried to find the Kag trail, but we did not succeed. We drove to the end of the park and found a nice portage area called the Portage Campion. Here you can see the beautiful Mattawa River and have a seat on the bench that is conveniently placed there beside a plaque that explains the Mattawa River.
Backtracking, we headed back to where the Etienne hiking trails are. We found this trail head easily, it was well marked. The Etienne trail system at Samuel de Champlain is quite impressive and offers four loop trails. These loop trails each have a theme and they are all different lengths in size. The Ecology trail is a 2.5km loop that will lead you atop a cliff along the Mattawa river. This is the shortest of the four loops and the only one we managed to hike. It will bring you uphill to the top of the cliff and take you along the river until you will climb back down and head back to the trail head. There was one spot that offered a great view of the river from 80+ feet above, but there is no barrier, so be careful. The next three loops are themed Geology, Nature and History. These loops are 5km, 8.5km and 9km respectively. These are day trip hikes and unfortunately our day and time in Mattawa was running short. We will have to try these trails next time we have the chance to visit. It would be a great park to stay for a week, and I am looking forward to doing so.
For more information about the park, you can visit: www.ontarioparks.com/english/samu.html
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
MacGregor Point Provincial Park is located near Port Elgin, ON along the beautiful Lake Huron. This beautiful park is open year round and his home to many campsite and a few yurts. The park offers many hiking trails, which are turned into cross-country ski trails during the winter. Some of the trails in the park are for bikes and bicycles are available for rent at the Park Store. The park also has two dog beaches along with a camper's beach. The beach at the park was mediocre, but the beach in Port Elgin was great. It was well worth the ten minute drive over to Port Elgin beach. Even though the beach at the park was not the best, the coast is still awesome looking and is filled with wildlife. The water of Lake Huron is nearly crystal clear.
On our first day there, we were greeted by the camp hosts at our campsite. They were part of the Friends of MacGregor Point. They informed us that they collected empty beer bottles and wine bottles as donations, if we wished to donated them. They also let us know of their campsite in case we had any questions. We stayed in the Ash Woods campground in the Algonquin section of the park. Next time we would likely stay in the unserviced section of the park, as this seemed the most relaxing section of the park. Our section had lots of trailers and families with many kids.
We hiked a few of the trails in the park, the Tower Trail was our favorite. Along this trail you will find a lookout tower overlooking a marsh area where you will read about the birds that inhabit the marsh. You will also come across a bird blind viewing area, where you can get a good view of the wildlife. We also got to do some geocaching in the area, but none are in the park itself as geocaches are not allowed in Provincial Parks. You will still find several caches within a five minute drive from the park. While you are there, be sure to sit down and see the beautiful Lake Huron sunsets. We also found a place called Thorncrest Outfitters in Southampton that we rented a canoe from and did a 15km stretch down the Saugeen River. They supply the equipment and shuttle. Altogether, it was an awsome day canoeing. Make sure to check out their site if you are in the area.
We stayed for five nights and we could have stayed longer. Macgregor Point Provincial Park is a great place to visit and stay a few days. With nearby towns, it makes for a convenient camping trip. You will find everything you need to keep you going in Port Elgin, which is about five minutes away.
For more info on the park visit: www.ontarioparks.com/english/macg.html
Westminster Ponds/Pond Mills Conservation Area
In the heart of London, Ontario you will find the Westminster Ponds/Pond Mills Conservation Area. This Environmentally Significant Area is part of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. It is rich in history and will take you on a great hike for the day. You can find parking at the London Tourist Info building located on Wellington St. Here you will be able to get some area information if you like and also find one of the trailheads of the Ponds area. There will be a plaque showing you some maps and history of the area. There are 5 kettle ponds here and 11km of hiking trails.
The ponds are stocked with fish, we could see goldfish in one of the ponds. They were big. Fishing is also permitted within the conservation area provided you are licensed. Most of the trails here are on clay or muck soils and sometimes some parts near the ponds may be flooded. We found a way around every time, just make sure to bring proper footwear. You will also find sections of the trails with boardwalks, and standing docks leading you to the ponds where you can see tons of wildlife. If you enjoy geocaching, there are many geocaches to be found here. This place was well worth the visit, be sure to take a hike next time you are in London, ON.
For more information and trail maps you can visit: www.thamesriver.on.ca/wetlands_and_natural_areas/westminster.htm