Discover new places to stretch your legs in these less well-known spots around Kawartha Lakes
It’s been a year of walking — for health, for a change of scenery, for sanity. But eventually those walking routes may have come to feel, shall we say, overly familiar.
Over the past 15 months, many of us have taken time to check out new corners of our Kawartha Lakes backyard — conservation areas, the Victoria County Rail Trail, the Ballyduff Trails and the Trans Canada Trail have all seen a huge increase in users.
If you’ve exhausted that list, too, here are a few places to de-stress and discover nature that you may not be as familiar with. (And for those of you thinking “There’s nothing new about that spot,” keep in mind that your old news is someone else’s exciting discovery.)
Please note that three of the areas we’ve highlighted are not public property; none have signs indicating that they are off limits and all three bear clear indications of being well-used, so we’ve included them here because they’re obviously popular with those in the know.
No matter where you venture, please be respectful and leave nothing but footprints. Oh, and don’t forget the insect repellent.
Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary
This is the biggest of the 26 reserves owned by Ontario Nature, a charity that protects and conserves wildlife and habitats. The trails, which wind through a northern portion of the 470-hectare property, are cared for by the Kawartha Field Naturalists; you can do one loop or combine several for a longer walk through peaceful forest.
A spot where presumably there would normally be a map was empty when we visited but the trails were well indicated with triangular markings. The entrance is at 4164 Monck Road. If you’re in the mood for a takeout snack afterward, depending on which way you’re heading, try Kinmount Fish and Chips or the Queen of Fries in Norland.
Riverview Park near the end of River Park Road on the south end of town is a pretty spot for a picnic, but if you walk past the Forbert Pool and across the dam, a bit of wilderness awaits. Stretching from the water almost to Kawartha Lakes Road 36, it’s a pretty bit of peace and quiet that is not public land but is obviously well-loved judging by the beaten trails.
Beyond the south end of McLaughlin Road lies a huge expanse of land bordered by housing to the east, the Trans Canada Trail to the south and Hwy 7 to the west. Judging by the footpaths and bike tracks, enough people know about this undeveloped area that it’s commonly used for non-invasive recreation. More open and full of large dirt piles at the north end, it offers meadows, trees, wildflowers and peaceful spaces as you meander south. This is not public property, so be responsible.
Take a few minutes just for yourself in this oasis of calm. It was created through donations of time and materials by local companies and residents when the adjoining building housed the Hospice Services arm of Community Care Kawartha Lakes. It’s still available to the community thanks to accounting firm Hutton Angelo, which now occupies the attractive brick office. The gravel path leads you on a contemplative, curving walk to a stone bench at the centre where you can sit in peace for as long as you wish. The labyrinth is open during daylight hours; please respect distancing and masking requirements and maintain quiet if others are nearby. 112 McLaughlin Road
This huge expanse of land on the northern edge of Fenelon Falls feels like a hidden conservation area. (It is not public property although there are unopened road allowances running through it and it’s obviously popular with residents.) From the main street, turn northwest on Queen Street just past the downtown and park where the road runs out. The nearby gravelly mound offers one of the nicest views of Cameron Lake you’ll find anywhere. Trails winding through the property range from well-maintained mown paths through meadows to steepish tracks amid trees.
Indian Point Provincial Park
You can’t help but feel for the disappointed Toronto resident who left a one-star online rating and this comment: “Drove over 2 hours from Toronto to explore this ‘park’ and was thoroughly disappointed!” In fact, the Ontario Parks website makes it clear this is what’s known as a non-operating park.
There are no facilities, no maps, no parking area, no beaches and, on the day we visited, no other people … which, if you like solitude, makes it a great place to walk.
From Coboconk, take Grandy Road southwest; just outside the village on your right is a pullout near some mailboxes. With no guidance to be found, we just headed down the track across the road and walked for about half an hour through alvar and woods before realizing there was no loop or offshoot to the nearby water (the park is on a peninsula).
We then drove about 10 minutes down the point — here’s hoping Ontario Parks changes the name as part of its planning process — past the developed area on its west side. At the end of the road, another simple blue sign indicates another entrance to the park; we followed one trail a short distance to a small outlet by the water.
For the moment, walks in this park are a chance to enjoy peace and accessible wilderness, but maybe don’t drive two hours out of your way. As always, don’t venture anywhere that you’re not sure is part of the park; there’s a lot of private land on the peninsula, too, although the province acquired the land nearly 50 years ago and it’s been a designated park for more than 30.
Do take precautions against ticks. Before or after your walk, stop in at M’s Bake Shop in Coboconk for delicious homemade sausage rolls and other treats.