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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.

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