Update April 24 2017 – Just returned from a walk here. There’s now a pay and display for parking. But $3.00 will cover the 1.5 hours it’ll take to walk this trail (if you walk slowly and stop to look around alot). Or you could just park on the road outside the lot for nothing (like most people did while we were there).
The wife stopped and looked back at me. “What are you looking for?” she asked. I said “I can hear something moving over here”. As she walked back toward me, I spotted the ribbon snake slithering through the undergrowth. “There it is ! Oh, it’s a snake” I explained.
That’s how quiet Stephen’s Gulch can be. I heard a snake. No droning 401, no chain saws, no ATVs no factories, no … nuthin’. ‘Course, it’s a fair piece away from the 401 and most everything else too. From Hwy #2 take Lambs Rd (just East of Bowmanville) North, and drive until Lambs Rd makes a sharp left and becomes Concession #4. Take your 1st right (Bethesda Rd), and follow it to Stephen’s Mill Rd on your right. Stephen’s Mill Rd will lead you to ample parking.
Yeah, yeah, this is the place I went on a rant about in my posting An Open Note to Dog Walkers. But in my defense, the reason for the rant is that we love this place. It`s got a bit of everything and it deserves more respect than those walkers were giving it. Anywaaaaaaayyyyyy before my fuse gets lit again …
As you enter the trail from the parking lot, I’d suggest you go straight ahead into the bush. The wife and I sometimes take the left trail heading uphill, but that can be a task on a hot day. The trail straight ahead is more gradual an incline over a longer distance. There are a few fairly steep hills here but nothing one can`t stop and take a rest on if desired.
We like Stephen’s Gulch for the diversity. There are open meadows, mixed canopied forests, low cedar wetlands, dirt roads, berry bushes, wildflowers, flowing water, bridges, everything we like/need to make a trail a favourite. It’s well used but not really abused. As well, and perhaps best, the trail is wide enough for two to walk side-by-side for its entirety. I gotta love that. There’s a part of the trail that walks along the side of a hill with the forest running down to one side while the hill runs up the other side. This is one of our favourite spots on the whole trail as it makes you feel you’re slightly suspended in space. You’re looking straight to the side at tree bases one way, and at treetops on the other. The upward side is one of our first indicators of Spring as there are hepaticas, and ramps there in season. I took pictures as we walked in late May and made the following .GIF to show the diversity of the entire trail.
This is what I call a “tree skeleton”. It’s just off the trail about ¾ the way along. I found it fascinating as the manner in which it’s decaying is not commonly seen. You can see what was the outer trunk, and the branches that would’ve emerged from the trunk. They look like fish bones or some kind of alien vertebrae.
The Final Take
Stephen’s Gulch is moderately easy walking with a few hilly spots through a richly diverse ecosystem. It’s rather well cared for and usually fairly private, with comfortably wide trails for its entire distance of three kilometers. The trails are generally dry and well drained with few exceptions even after recent inclement weather. Its remoteness is clearly a bonus. Though it is lacking picnic facilities (or any other facilities) there are a few logs along the side the trail that make adequate seats for a quick sit-down and a snack. There are few (if any) signs to guide you in, so you must know where you’re going. Take clear instructions or a map.
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