• orchard header brit hikes ontario
    Hiking,  Rouge National Urban Park

    Rouge National Urban Park Orchard Trail

    Similar to The Vista Trail, parking is possible on the side of Zoo Road – but not on weekends from May to September. Between these months you’ll have to pay to park at the nearby zoo. Or you can do this trail in the opposite direction to me and read this article backwards, by parking in the lot on Twyn Rivers Road. Expect the lot to be busy on summer weekends.

    Turkey Vultures

    I parked on Zoo Road and then continued on foot past the metal gates down the paved decline. It was early morning and I was surprised to see half-a-dozen Turkey Vultures roosting up in the trees beside the trail. They pretty much just turned their backs to me in disgust, so I continued on my way (after taking a couple of shots of them).

    Staghorn Sumac grows either side of the paved walkway. It is one of the first plant leaves to begin changing colour in the fall, eventually becoming a bright red colour. I was walking during spring and what was lacking in a little leaf colour was made up for by an Eastern Newt in its Red Eft (juvenile) stage basking on the path. These newts begin life hatching from eggs in the water. Their limbs grow, their gills shrink and their tail loses its fin qualities, until they become an Eft. They remain on the land for 2-3 years in order to leave their birthplace and find a new pond to breed in. As adults in their new home, they will redevelop a more fin-like tail and typically never leave the water again during their usual 15-year life-span.

    The trail climbed back up until it reached a crossroad. There is no access straight ahead and left takes you to The Cedar Trail. Our good old Orchard Trail continued to the right, so that is where I went! There is a large pond to the left where you can often find waterfowl such as Trumpeter Swans, ducks, and Canada Geese. During warmer months, Midland Painted Turtles often bask on the logs here.

    Into The Woods

    After the pond, the trail turned from gravel to dirt and made a steep decline through deciduous woodland where birdsong filled the air. To the right, I could just about spy a swampy area that hosted many more of the turtles for which The Rouge is an important breeding area. Shortly, on the other side of a wooded fence, I was afforded a view down towards the meandering Little Rouge Creek.

    The trail gently declined further until I was level with the creek and as I continued, there were several opportunities via well-trodden paths, to get close to the bank. Although I didn’t see it, I heard the distinct call of a Kingfisher. Further along, near a short boardwalk, there was evidence of a muskrat – trodden vegetation, chewed trees, and a potential nest.

    Heading away from the creek, the trail began to climb. At the fork, be sure to continue right to stay on the trail and don’t waste your time climbing the huge hill (it leads out of the park… eventually). Once more declining through forest, the trail can get a little muddy during wetter periods, though boardwalk helps to deal with the worst of it. At a steep section with bare roots and a handrail through coniferous trees, there is another good lookout over Little Rouge Creek.

    The fauna alternated between deciduous and coniferous woodland, as well as some small open meadows while remaining mostly flat for some distance before ending at Twyn Rivers Road. Congratulations, you can turn back at this point. Alternately, The Mast Trail is a little down the road on the opposite side (you will have to turn back eventually) or further down the road just after the bridge and on the left is The Vista Trail, which will loop you back to where we started today.

    Conclusion

    Terrain: Moderate
    Length: 2km
    Type: Point-to-Point (But you can loop via a separate trail)

    Views: Good for this close to the city
    Nature/Wildlife: Wide variety of flora and fauna. Probably the best Rouge Trail for wildlife, but Vista is also good.

    Overall: If you want a bigger terrain challenge, take The Mast Trail . If you want the best view, take The Vista Trail (mainly for the observation deck). For something in-between, this trail is for you and probably offers the better chance of a wildlife encounter.

    If you wish to know when I write new posts on this website, you can subscribe below. You’ll get an email letting you know so that neither of us will have to rely on social media!

  • rouge national urban park vista trail header
    Hiking,  Rouge National Urban Park

    Rouge National Urban Park Vista Trail

    As you might guess from the name of this trail, there’s a nice lookout platform that affords a view down towards the valley through which Little Rouge Creek flows.

    Parking Nonsense

    Bear with me. Let’s get the parking nonsense out of the way. I like to park at the north trailhead, but the parking is a little restrictive because of the nearby zoo. You head north along Meadowvale Rd past Sheppard Ave, turn right onto Zoo Road and make sure you keep going right. Park on the side of the road. You are good to do this from October to April. Outside of these months, you can only park here on weekdays. Weekends you’ll have to pay to park at the zoo. Or take the southern trailhead and park at Twyn Rivers road. This is likely to be rammed on summer weekend days.

    I survived the parking and turned right near the visitor’s centre to begin The Vista Trail. There is a Common Lilac tree outside the visitor’s centre which flowers in mid-to-late spring. It’s an introduced species, but not terribly aggressive, so I think it is probably okay for us to enjoy the scent the flowers give off. Go on, give it a sniff! There are some bird feeders beside the visitor’s centre, so it is often a good spot to have a look for some feathered friends.

    Pushing on, the trail follows the edge of a ridge through trees. Listen out for the call of Killdeer I’ve often seen and heard them spend their time in the open field to the right. Around a bend and I approached the viewing platform located beside an open meadow. From the platform, you can see down to the Little Rouge Creek and during fall the view of the changing leaf colours on the many trees is very pretty. There is also good birding in this area. I have seen many warblers in the trees, including my favourite – the Black-and-white Warbler, Eastern Towhees and many more. Near the hydro poles I have seen Eastern Bluebirds. Outside of the colder months, this area is often filled with Tree Swallows. On this particular morning, I saw half-a-dozen White-tailed Deer grazing and keeping half-an-eye on me.

    Provincial Flower

    Sticking to the left trail and back into tree coverage, I continued to make my way along the ridge. Dappled sunlight and tree coverage make for good habitat fort Ontario’s Provincial Flower, the Great White Trillium which can also be seen flowering in mid-to-late springtime and I was pleased to see some here.

    A couple of steeper climbs with tree roots underfoot make the trail slightly more challenging, though it is less difficult than The Mast Trail. Likely due to the way the sunlight lands, along the ridge are conifers to the left and deciduous trees, mostly maples, to the right. Expect to hear the calls and drummings of woodpeckers through much of the year.

    Choices, choices!

    The Vista Trail reaches its conclusion after a gradual decline down towards Twyn Rivers Road. You have three options now! You can turn back the way you came, or you can pick up either The Orchard Trail or The Mast trail. The Orchard Trail will take you back to where you started out. The Mast Trail will mean you’ll have to eventually turn back. These two trails can be found by turning left onto the road. Be careful, the road can be a little dicey, there are no sidewalks and drivers aren’t always as generous as they ought to be. After a short walk you will find signs for The Orchard Trail on your left and The Mast Trail on your right.

    Conclusion

    Terrain: Moderate
    Length: 1.5km
    Type: Point-to-Point (But you can loop via a separate trail)

    Views: Good – has an observation deck offering views down into valley
    Nature/Wildlife: Good – I’ve seen numerous birds and deer in particular. I think The Orchard Trail might be a touch better.

    Overall: One of the shorter trails (though you do have to walk back again). The observation deck is a highlight. Around the deck is also good for birding, especially during spring migration (April to June, peaking in May).

    You can also read about my Mast Trail and Orchard Trail hikes!

    If you would like to know when I make new posts, you can subscribe. I don’t share your information and my updates aren’t too often so you won’t receive lots of emails from me.

  • rouge national urban park mast trail header
    Hiking,  Rouge National Urban Park

    Rouge National Urban Park Mast Trail

    I like to begin this trail at the northern trailhead located near the parking at Twyn Rivers Road. At the east of the Twyn Rivers parking lot, near the creek, there is a sign for The Orchard Trail. Take this trail initially, cross the bridge, and then The Mast Trail is on your left.

    Ship Masts

    I began by walking along a stretch of an old logging trail where White Pine trees were cut down en masse a couple of hundred years ago. The trees grow tall and straight and so they provided ideal timber for ship masts in Europe. There are no longer many mature White Pines remaining.

    twyn rivers bridge

    As the trail turns I saw large concrete slabs washed over by The Little Rouge Creek. These are the remains of a dam, once used to create an opportunity for visitors to swim when this location was a popular resort. Shortly before entering a wooded area, the trail skirts alongside the base of a hill. This was a popular skiing destination during the 1950s through to the 1970s. There was even a chalet here and a ski-lift.

    During the summer, this meadow area can throw up some nice birds. On a previous hike, I was fortunate enough to see a Scarlet Tanager. Less common than the Northern Cardinal, but the males are as brilliantly red. I smiled to myself at this encounter before spotting a bright blue coloured bird hopping around before flying away a short distance. I pulled out my camera and snapped a few shots with my 450mm lens… then I zoomed in on the picture. I had never seen an Indigo Bunting up until this point – as the name suggests, a rich, deep blue little bird. Many butterflies and dragonflies can also be seen here.

    The Hog’s Back

    hairy woodpecker

    The trail then leads into woodland and it is not unusual to hear the deep drumming sound of woodpeckers within the trees. As I climbed the ridge, nicknamed “The Hog’s back” I turned back and saw a Hairy Woodpecker clinging to a maple tree. They use their long tongue to forage for insects hiding beneath the bark and are great fun to watch. The terrain is moderately challenging during this stretch of the trail, especially if you are still working on your fitness and hiking experience.

    american toad

    Through the woodland, I walked along the ridge. Steep declines either side of me, valleys cut into the land by glacial retreat. Squirrels frolicked and fought, chasing each other around-and-around tree trunks vying for territory. I spotted movement beside a fallen log and amongst what remained of last year’s fallen leaves was an American Toad. Surprisingly, Ontario is home to only two species of toad, the other being the Fowler’s Toad which is considered an endangered species in Canada.

    After a stretch of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, with many maple trees that make this walk quite colourful during the fall, “The Staircase” leads partway back down the ridge followed by another smaller descent. After opening up for a while, I crossed a bridge over The Rouge River before reaching the Southern Trail Head at Glen Rouge Campground. Time to head back!

    Conclusion

    Terrain: Moderate-to-Hard
    Length: 2.5km
    Type: Point-to-Point

    Views: Not bad, but a fair bit of tree cover.
    Nature/Wildlife: Lots of Sugar maples which look great in the fall. Fair birding, especially woodpeckers.

    Overall: If you’re looking to work your heart rate, this is a more challenging trail and you’ll enjoy a couple of the climbs. If you are looking for nice panoramic views, some nature, or you just want something more leisurely, I’d recommend The Vista Trail or The Orchard Trail (or both together which creates a loop).

    If you would like to know when I post new stuff to this website, it would be great if you would subscribe below so that I can count on you as a loyal reader. I don’t share your information and unless I become considerably more committed, you won’t receive too many emails from me!