• 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.


    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.

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  • 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.


    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!


    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).

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  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 06

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    I didn’t do an update last week, so the progress I have made covers two weeks worth of distance. Also, going forward, I am only going to update my progress on this “Virtual Walk” every month. This is mainly because I hope to do some REAL hikes and better spend my time writing about those!

    In the last two weeks I walked 237km (118km a week, 17km per day). This is a little lower than I was doing because I’m walking a touch less at work, but is better than it would have been because I did some hiking of The Bruce Trail for fun one weekend.

    Here is a zoomed out view of my progress across Canada so far.

    I’m a few km east of Cranbrook, BC and by the next update I should be getting close to Calgary, Alberta.

  • bruce trail welland canal brithikesontario
    Bruce Trail,  Hiking

    Bruce Trail 02b – Welland Canal

    A Year later

    Somehow it has been more than a year since I last visited The Bruce Trail. Perhaps an explanation of my personal circumstances might be in order, especially since, if you read the introduction to this adventure on my main Bruce Trail page, I talked about the issue of mental health.

    After losing a much-loved job and promising career a few years ago I have had, to put it mildly, a hard time of things. The great news, which I eluded to at the end of the previous hike, is that I have found a new job that I greatly enjoy. Despite this good news, and with consideration to what I am able to reveal here, let’s just say that an unexpected and fraught situation towards the end of 2019 had led to a bit of a mental health relapse that also kept me away from this adventure.

    However! I am back and am feeling better than I have for what seems like a very long time. Years, in fact. I’m also considerably fitter. I have lost around 35lbs since I started this adventure. So let’s kick the shit out of this trail, yeah?

    Driving back along the highways familiar to my previous trip last winter, I parked up at Woodend Conservation area and walked a little way to where I last left off at the 11.8km point. Once more, the trail follows the high ridge of The Niagara Escarpment and likes to punish you by occasionally weaving down into the valley before making you climb right the hell back up again. It arcs around the Welland Campus of Niagara College (where you might like to enroll in a course in wine production). Today is Saturday and nobody else was foolish enough to be outdoors in these temperatures.

    This winter, like last, has been relatively warm. This morning was just below freezing with the promise of temperatures rising to around 8°C. The ground was hard and icy where freeze and thaw cycles had melted the snow before re-freezing. I stepped around what I could and waddled over what I couldn’t. Around 3km later, the trail crosses Taylor Road which was thankfully quiet enough that I could safely traverse.

    Next up, we are given permission to travel through Royal Niagara Golf Club. Everyone in the region was sensible enough not to be playing golf today, so I had the place to myself aside from a couple of ladies who I passed heading in the opposite direction along the trail. It was very icy here with the occasional narrow boardwalk. At this time of year, most plants and deciduous trees are bare. A few black coloured berries from Common Buckthorn grew either side of the trail. They are toxic to most animals, including humans. Birds avoid them until they are ripe. Vines of Oriental Bittersweet were also present. This plant is poisonous, but some medium-sized omnivore had given it a go judging by the remains visible in the nearby scat. I’ll save you the photos.

    Skirting the perimeter of the golf course, the trail emerges upon The Old Welland Canal, also known as the Third Welland Canal. When built, this canal would connect two of The Great Lakes, Lake Ontario (which is fed by the St Lawrence River) and Lake Erie to replace earlier versions of the canal and upgrade an important shipping route. Lake Ontario already fed naturally into Lake Erie via The Niagara River, but there was the not-so-small matter of Niagara Falls being in the way. The 3rd iteration of the canal was completed in 1887. Turning left, I walked a short distance along Glendale Avenue until I reached The Fourth Welland Canal, known officially as The Welland Ship Canal, which opened in 1932 and is active today. Well, not literally. It closes late December until late March.

    I crossed The Welland Ship Canal via Glendale Bridge. The entire bridge is raised by two crane-like structures when a ship is passing through. Around 3,000 ships pass through the canal each year, from tankers to pleasure craft. It is 43km (27mi) long and has 8 locks. The difference in elevation along the length of the canal is 326ft. This is where I decided to stop. There is parking here where I could pick the trail up again and the next parking isn’t for another 6km (don’t forget I have to walk back each time!). There was also an inviting bench where I sat and ate some lunch until the windchill became a little too much.

    On the ice, I had lost my footing but saved myself a few times, legs flitting around like a newborn deer. In the golf course I went crashing to the ground and gave my knee a good bang, but managed to roll around gracefully before looking around urgently to see if anyone had seen me. They hadn’t. Today I hiked a measly 6.4km (and back!!!) and I have completed 18.2km of The Bruce Trail. Just over 2%. Oh dear!

    Until next time!

    The Bruce Trail Index

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 05

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    A second week in a row with better distance, I moved 122km (compared to 124km the previous week). Still a bit short of the 25km per day I need (I’m doing about 18km per day), but better than when I started.

    I got a little less walking in at work than the previous week, but did a quick 8km hike on Saturday afternoon to make up some of the gap.

    As you can see from the map, I’ve put some distance between myself and Vancouver and am now just about through The Rockies. I’m just past Skagit Valley Provincial Park. I’m roughly 1/4 of the way to Alberta and about 4% of the way across Canada.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 04

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    As anticipated, I walked a much greater distance this past week. I managed about 124km. Pretty good. That’s more in one week than I had done in the previous three combined. Although it’s about 18km per day average, which is less than the 25km per day average I need to make it across Canada in a year.

    As you can see from the map, I have bust it from the Abbotsford and Chilliwack area and am now a little south of a place called Hope. I’ve almost made it past The Rockies. I am now about 2% through the route having completed a total of 216km. I should reach Alberta sometime in late February.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 03

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    It is week three and I have had another fairly inactive week mainly due to some sedate activities at work and the rough snowy weather on the weekends. I’m confident that I’ll make a ton more progress starting with the next update, but until then, let’s just get this out of the way!

    I did just under 38km last week – well below target. I went to the gym a couple of times, else it would have been worse! Not sure if the gym will continue (I’m not a fully paid-up member), but I may not need it as my work is (normally) highly active.

    Anyway, as you can see from the map, I am about halfway between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

    I don’t want to keep being negative, but this is definitely further behind than I had hoped… Maybe I will be able to catch up? The next update will give a good idea about that. Until then!

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 02

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    In the last update, I had made it from Vancouver to Surrey – about 21km during a short week of 4 days, as the year began on a Wednesday. That’s about 5km per day instead of the 25km per day I need.

    This second update covers Jan 5th – Jan 11th. I managed 44km in 7 days, about 6km per day. Not really close to what I need and I’m falling behind. Maybe this will turn into a two-year challenge!

    The main challenge I have faced is that my assignment at work is a lot less physical than usual. Typically I would walk 20,000-30,000 steps per day, but I am working in a set area and doing only about 5,000 steps per day. That should change in a couple of weeks time. This week went a little better mainly because I have started to accompany a friend and old work colleague to the gym where we do some speed-walking, among other things. I’m going along on a free trial and trying to decide whether I will pay the typically expensive membership fee to keep going!

    Anyway, I have made it far enough to no longer be inside the “Metro Vancouver Area”, the border of which lies a little east of Langley City, BC. As you can see from the updated map below, I am just on the edge of Abbotsford. This will be my first city that isn’t part of the Metro Vancouver Area. The route I am taking is borrowed from a website that makes it easy to track my progress, but the route is a little odd and I cannot change it – so for the next little while it looks like I am walking through random forest! It means that I won’t hit another community until Keremeos, a little village in a valley with a population of 1,500.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 01

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    This first week is a partial week because January 1st fell on a Wednesday, so it is a 4-day-week. Even so, it hasn’t gone well so far. The route I planned is 8,871km and I would need around 25km a day to make it. Sadly, I came absolutely nowhere close to this. In fact, I only did 21km across 4 days. Eeek.


    As you can see from the map, I am still in the suburbs of Vancouver, not yet even into Surrey.

    My work usually involves a ton of walking but that hasn’t been the case lately. And I don’t expect much distance for the next couple of weeks, either. Oh dear! Maybe things will improve once the weather warms because I’m not getting out much in my spare time, either.

    It’s likely I might have to alter the route to make it more direct (there’s a couple of extra thousand extra KM on the route I mapped to visit Nova Scotia, for example). Either way, I need to pick it up before the challenge gets away from me. See below for the overview map.