Established in October 1946 under the Conservation Authorities Act, the Ganaraska Regional Conservation Authority (GCRA) is one of the oldest conservation authorities in Ontario.
The GRCA catchment area is 361 square miles, from Wilmot Creek to Clarington east of Cobourg, and from the south shore of Rice Lake to Lake Ontario.
The region includes all or part of seven municipalities: Cavan Monaghan, Cobourg, Alnwick/Haldimand, Hamilton, Port Hope, Kawartha Lakes, and Clarington.
The Ganaraska Regional Conservation Authority respectfully acknowledges that the lands on which we gather are within the traditional and treaty territory of the Mississaugas and Chippewas of Anishinabek, known today as First Nations Williams Treats.
Our work on these lands recognizes their resilience and long-term contributions to the region. We value the opportunity to live, learn and share with mutual respect and appreciation.
The Ganaraska Forest is the largest continuous forest in Southern Ontario, covering 11,000 hectares (45 km²). It lies between the counties of Northumberland, Peterborough, Victoria and Durham.
The Ganaraska River is a river in Northumberland and the Regional Municipality of Durham in southern Ontario, Canada. It is part of the Great Lakes Basin, a tributary of Lake Ontario that reaches the central community of Port Hope.
The river’s name is believed to be derived from Ganaraske, the Cayuga name of a village where the Iroquois Nation settled in the area in 1779.
Along with the rest of the Iroquois Confederacy, they emigrated from New York and were forced to give in. Motherland, as they allied with Britain in the American Revolutionary War.
The crown granted the Iroquois more land, including what is now known as the Six Kingdoms on the Great River Reservation. Later, the Crown granted land here to United Empire Loyalists as compensation for their loss of the Northeastern colonies, particularly New York. They were the first European Americans to settle here.
Significant conservation work has been carried out in recent years. It attracts salmon and trout anglers. The Ganaraska River fishway is a fish ladder that allows rainbow trout to travel upstream to spawn.
Enjoy this 44.4-kilometre loop trail near Pontypool, Ontario. Generally considered a difficult route, it takes an average of 11 hours and 33 minutes to complete. It’s a popular route for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during the quieter hours of the day.
Top 8 Amazing Things to do In Ganaraska Forest:-
1. Ganaraska Forest Trail
Ganaraska is known for having some of the best hiking trails in central Ontario, so be sure to add this loop to your list! These are great hiking trails in the fall and summer and are mostly covered in sand. Users can therefore expect the trails not to be too muddy unless it has just rained.
There are ATV and snowmobile trails that intersect with the hiking trails, but motor vehicles are not permitted on this loop. In addition to walking, you can go horseback riding or mountain biking. There is a good network of mountain bike trails through the hiking trails. Horseback riding is also permitted and there is a separate trailer park just outside the forest centre. Dogs are also allowed.
In winter, this circuit contains the main routes dedicated to cross-country skiing and are coloured orange, blue and yellow. Orange is difficult with three selectable loops (A, B, and C), blue is medium, and yellow is less difficult.
Orange can be anywhere between 10 and 16 kilometres depending on which loop you choose. Blue is about 6.5 kilometres and yellow is about 4 kilometres. The car park is not well maintained in winter so plan a 4×4 vehicle with good ground clearance.
2. Ganaraska Forest Centre
Popular for horseback riding, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and hiking, the Ganaraska Forest Center Loop is a fun option for a variety of adventures. The trails are wide and well-maintained. There are dozens of intersecting trails and it’s easy to get lost, but they all converge at some point, so you’re never really lost. Discover this 7.7-kilometre loop trail near Cavan–Monaghan, Ontario. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 2 hours and 9 minutes to complete.
The trail is great for running, hiking, and horseback riding, and you likely won’t encounter many other people as you explore. The trail is open year-round and can be visited at any time. You will need to leave small children at home – dogs are not allowed on this trail.
3. Ganaraska Oak Ridges Trail
Explore this 28.8-kilometre point-to-point route near Clarington, Ontario. Generally considered a moderately difficult route, it takes an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes to complete. It’s a popular route for birdwatching, hiking and horseback riding, but you can still enjoy some solitude during the quieter hours of the day.
The trail is open generally almost every time and can be visited at any time. Dogs are welcome but should not be left without the least. This route is mostly ORV/off-road and heavily forested so there are no rivers or small streams to cross.
If you are driving a 4×4, it is recommended to stay out of mountain bike/bicycle lanes because the tracks are narrow and you risk disturbing other users. This is a relatively simple and easy route, suitable for beginners.
4. Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority
The GRCA is home to some of the oldest protected areas in the province, many of which were opened and dedicated by those who were instrumental in the conservation movement.
The primary role of these areas is the long-term conservation of the character and function of the watershed; however, they are free for passive recreation.
is open from dawn to dusk and is closed from mid-October to May for no maintenance during the winter.
4.1 Rice Lake Conservation Area
is for passive recreation, including nature appreciation, hiking, dog walking and wildlife viewing. Swimming and fishing are prohibited.
There is a large open area east of the parking lot for picnics. The route begins on the north side of the parking lot. The hydroelectric corridor bisects the reserve.
Please stay away and respect neighbouring properties. Note to visitors: Bears have been reported in the Rice Lake Conservation Area. Be careful when visiting.
4.2 Natural Heritage and historical figures.
Acquired in 1972, Rice Lake Preserve protects much of the Bewdley Marsh, a provincially significant wetland.
4.3 Ball’s Mill Conservation Area
Swimming and fishing are prohibited. Steps on the north side of the car park lead visitors to the dam and pond.
Natural Heritage and Historic Landmark The main feature of the Ball’s Mill Conservation Area is the Baltimore Creek Dam purchased in 1971, constructed from an earth dam with a concrete spillway and retaining blocks.
The dam and the disused track that accompanies it bears witness to a past when the dam was used to operate a grain mill and a small sawmill.
As shown in the 1979 master plan, the mill was owned and operated by several people, five of whom were instrumental in the development of Ball’s Mill: William McDougal, William Ball, John Ball, Fred Ball and Jon R . Ball.
The plant was in operation until it was sold to the Ganaraska Regional Conservation Authority.
On July 2, 1974, the concrete dam collapsed due to dam siltation and flooding, causing damage to the dam and downstream areas.
The dam was rebuilt, and in 1988 the Ganaraska Regional Nature Protection Office sold the mill portion of the property to a private interest. The dams, ponds and lands surrounding these elements remain the property of GRCA.
The Baltimore Creek Provincially Significant Wetlands are on the north side of the reserve and further upstream.
4.4 Richardson’s Lookout
Conservation Area This conservation area is used for passive recreation, including nature appreciation and views of the Ganaraska River Valley and Ganaraska Forest. Please note that this reserve is small (1.2 hectares) and is surrounded by private property. Please respect our neighbours.
After climbing the steps and natural slopes, visitors can enjoy the view from the observation deck. Richardson’s Lookout Conservation Area was acquired in 1963 and is located at the top of Dean’s Hill at 259 meters above sea level.
This location offers visitors a 225-degree radius of breathtaking views that are spectacular in all seasons. This shrine commemorates A. H. Richardson, author of the Ganaraska Watershed Report. This is fitting, as the dramatic landscape is dominated by the Ganaraska Forest, as the Ganaraska Watershed Report suggests.
The primary role of these areas is to preserve the character and function of the watershed over the long term, but they are free for passive recreation. Open from dawn to dusk, closed from mid-October to May, no maintenance in winter. Rice Lake Conservation Area Conservation Area is used for passive recreation including nature appreciation, hiking, dog walking and wildlife viewing.
5. Cross-Country Skiing
The Ganaraska Conservation Area is a very large forest north of Port Hope with over 35 kilometres of cross-country ski trails. The site is easy for anyone to trade. All 3 trail colours start at the trailhead and work your way up. When they split up to do the loop, the elevation was medium-sized hills with wider turns, no surprises, just more sweat. On the way back, you will have a nice long descent to the trails.
The path is a classic trail, ranging from graceful winding paths to wider, straight ancient forest passages. Here you will find hardwoods and large evergreen trees growing on the sandy soil. For cross-country skiing, the popular 4.2 km yellow loop and 6.3 km blue loop take you on similar trails.
People found the trail grooming to be adequate. To attempt one of the many orange loops, you will have to go back several kilometres. Consult the menu and make your choices. The additional optional loop B+C adds 16 kilometres! Keep an eye out for strange snowmobiles that speed up when you cross their tracks!
New signage with improved directions. The trails are fine, but if you want to go a little further to hike, there’s plenty of wilderness to explore. You better pack wisely and have maps, phones, GPS, food etc. loans. Snowshoes have a small 2.5 km loop and a new 8 km loop, but there is more to find, and more if you like to get out.
The starting point is behind the building on the west side, leading to a pleasant hike. The trail fee is a bit high for what you get, it’s a little beyond the level of skiing. There is a domed building where you can warm up, have lunch or use the restroom.
They now rent ski and snowshoe equipment, and although the afternoons are short, ask ahead. They don’t serve skaters here anymore. Didn’t see proper touch-ups a few weeks ago.
Great skiing experience when it snows, but it freezes and closes sometimes.
Due to our short/warm winters and being in the south, you may not have many opportunities to visit but please try. There are a few areas near Toronto that offer you the serene and zen atmosphere of the Ganaraska Forest.
6. Ganaraska Mini Pine MTB Loop
Explore this 55.5-kilometre loop trail near Kawartha Lakes, Ontario. Generally considered a difficult route, it takes an average of 14 hours and 33 minutes to complete. It’s a popular route for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during the quieter hours of the day.
Ganaraska Mini Pine is a great long mountain bike loop that park campers love to ride over and over. Visitors can also walk the course and camp at selected sites throughout the forest. Since these trails are mixed-use, be polite to other walkers and share the trails!
7. Gravity Cavity and Main Street Loop
Enjoy this 11.3-kilometre loop trail near Port Hope, Ontario. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 2 hours and 59 minutes to complete. The trail is great for running, hiking, and horseback riding, and you likely won’t encounter many other people as you explore.
This route starts just outside the Ganaraska Forest Center where there are restrooms. Downloading a map is recommended as there are many traversal routes in the area. The Ganaraska Forest is a popular mixed-use area. Seasonal and geographic restrictions apply to certain recreational activities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, and off-road/ORV riding.
8. Ganaraska Forest Watering Hole Trail
Explore this 15.3-kilometre loop trail near Kawartha Lakes, Ontario. Generally considered a moderately difficult course, it takes an average of 3 hours and 52 minutes to complete. The trail is great for running, hiking, and horseback riding, and you likely won’t encounter many other people as you explore. The trail is open almost every time, if you are unlucky or your timings are not nice you might find it closed and can be visited at any time.
Approximate location of the “Central Forest” of Ganaraska; there are western and eastern forests of Ganaraska; motorized and non-motorized recreational vehicles are permitted in the west and east, while the central forest is only permitted non-motorized recreational vehicles permitted in the area. The area does not include all the wrapped things – this is an approximation – private property scattered throughout this area and the central forest.
With hundreds of miles of trails, the Ganaraska Forest offers opportunities for a variety of activities throughout the year. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, trail running, snowshoeing, and nature appreciation are popular activities throughout the forest. Motorized activities such as mountain biking, mountain biking, and snowmobiling are only permitted in the West Forest and East Forest.
The St. Lawrence River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, and these surrounding forests are easily cleared for agriculture and urban development, especially in Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec and the suburbs of Toronto, Syracuse and Albany, New York. Less than 5 percent of natural forests remain intact.
Fragmented areas of remaining habitat include the eastern end of Lake Ontario; Mississquay National Wildlife Refuge, Vermont; Chaumont Barrens, Rome-Sand-Plains, Albany Pine Bush and the proposed Split-Rock-Wildway, New York; the Bruce Peninsula (the area between Georgian Bay and the main body of Lake Huron), Alfred Burger, Luther Marsh, Canaraska Forest and Caden Plains in Ontario; and Mont‣Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Lac‐Saint-François‐National‐Wildlife‐Area and Cap‐Tourmente‐National‐Faune‐Espaces.
The Ganaraska Forest Trail is one of Canada’s best “epic trails” for North American mountain biking (300 km). Come to Northumberland and experience it. Based on the terrain of our region, this 4,856-hectare (12,000-acre) eco-forest offers a nice mix of twists and turns for mountain biking.
The Ganaraska forest has a mountain bike trail considered one of the best in Canada. It is one of only three epic trails in the country designated by the International Mountain Bike Association. This trail title is given to the best mountain bike trails in North America. It attracts cyclists looking for exciting bike rides in Canada.
Ganaraska is known for having some of the best hiking trails in central Ontario, so be sure to add this loop to your list!
It is one of the most beautiful forests, other than trailing you can do a lot of various things and it is one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.
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