It’s that time of year again: trees are starting to look bare, and we have even had a few snowfalls! Hopefully you managed to spend some quality time outdoors during the last couple of months -if so then you will have certainly been in awe of the fantastic fall colour displays this season. But, just because the popular peak colours are behind us, it does not mean that there are any shortages of adventures for you to enjoy within the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) for the remainder of autumn! Keep reading to learn about several of the Amazing Places within the GBBR, starting with destinations further north, then moving south to Port Severn.
If you’re travelling from Toronto, Point Grondine Park is approximately a four-hour drive up north. So, grab your adventure buddy and plan this mini road trip –when you hike or paddle part of the 18,000 acres of natural wilderness landscape, you will be thankful you did. Don’t procrastinate, as day use of the park is available only until the end of November (the park will reopen in May). It is part of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and is First Nation owned and operated. Keep in mind for 2020 that cultural experiences are offered here from May to Thanksgiving, including guided hikes and Anishinaabek song and drum teachings.
The French River is a designated Canadian Heritage River, and runs from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay, passing through the iconic Canadian Shield and flowing through waterfalls, rapids, and gorges. Explore the French River Gorge by hiking the Recollet Falls Trail, which is found near the suspension bridge. With some rugged terrain, this is a moderately challenging 2.7 km hike. It reveals fabulous views of the river, and of course the namesake falls!
Left: A photo of the Waterfront Trail, by Tianna Burke, taken just a couple weeks ago. Right: A photo taken on the trail November 7th, by Emara Streich.
Tour the Jewel of the 30, 000 Islands, also known as Parry Sound, by beginning a hike or bike ride at Champagne Street, or by the Salt Docks at Marion Avenue. This scenic Waterfront Trail hugs the shoreline, offering breathtaking views of the bay. Walk through narrow rock cuts and underneath white pines that are more than a century old (it was these white pines that attracted lumber barons like William Beatty to Parry Sound in the 1850’s). If you’re looking to incorporate a little more exercise into your hike, use the five fitness stations dispersed through out the trail –see how many chin-ups you can do!
Views from atop the observation tower, photos by Emara Streich (early November).
Peer down at the town from the highest point in Parry Sound: the Tower Hill Lookout, standing 30 metres tall with 130 steps! Did you know that the sound is the world’s deepest natural freshwater harbour? Admire the Canadian Pacific Railway Trestle, the longest trestle bridge in Ontario (at 1,950 feet) and the Seguin or Zigwaan River, which is sacred to Anishinaabek people. There are many exciting events coming up this and next month at the Museum on Tower Hill, including a Wine & Wreath workshop, an Artisan’s Christmas exhibition, and the Forgotten Communities: The Commercial Fishing Villages of Parry Sound exhibit. They will also host a Community Art Workshop on November 24th, where participants will each paint a one-of-a-kind wooden fish, to be hung along the fencing of part of the Waterfront Trail!
Depending on the conditions, bring your mountain or fat bike, or rent one in town and head over to Georgian Nordic Outdoor Activity Centre (GNOAC). The trails here are scenic, and diverse, with plenty of options for first timers (like the Lynx Loop) and daring individuals. GNOAC encourages members of the community to spend time outdoors being active, and it’s a great spot to meet other adventurous individuals! On November 30th they are hosting a Ski Swap and membership registration event, so mark your calendars! Follow them on Facebook (@GeorgianNordic) to stay updated with other events they host through out the year.
The Rose Point Trail is 6 km from James Bay Junction Road to Rose Point Road along the old JR Booth Rail bed, another famous lumber baron who helped to found Parry Sound. Hike, bike, or horseback ride this trail to explore the wetlands, rivers, and bridges. This is simply one segment of the larger 230 km Park to Park Trail system, connecting Killbear Provincial Park to Algonquin Provincial Park! If you’re interested in volunteer opportunities, the Park to Park Trail Association is often seeking likeminded, passionate helpers. Some generous people have offered their time over the last few weeks to work together on the Seguin Falls Bridge, for example.
For anyone travelling to cottage country from the city for the weekend, the School House Trail is a worthwhile stop to make to take a leisurely walk, stretch your legs, or take your pet on this gentle terrain. It is conveniently situated just off of Highway 400 at Exit #156 at Port Severn. You could walk from one end to the other in under 40 minutes with a moderate pace, enjoying the changes in scenery!
Harvest season may be over, but there are many reasons to visit the cranberry farm at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery year-round! There are more than 10km worth of trails on the property, including three self-guided tours. See if you can spot the various rock paintings on the Orville Lake Trail, painted by local artist Janette McNaughton. On the Pioneer trail, you will stumble upon a pioneer fence, as well as a large glacial erratic boulder!
It will soon be time to dig out the skis and snowshoes, but for now enjoy this season by spending as much time outdoors as you can! Share your adventures with us on social media by tagging #AmazingGBay!
Written by Emara Streich, Sustainable Tourism Development Coordinator, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve