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The Port Hope Lakeshore Trail Review
Update May 18 2018 – This morning we saw the signs of the Town of Port Hope preparing to do some major work on this trail. I mean right from the beach to the far East parking lot. Once done, I’ll repost pictures and all for this one.
Update December 12 2017 – We’ve spotted more wildlife along the Marsh Trail than we have in a long time. Perhaps caused by the changes brought about by the flooding. We’ve been feeding apples daily to a rather tame beaver for a month now, we regularly see a mated pair of muskrats, there was a Great White Egret late into the Fall, and a mink has been poking about in the creek (yes, I know the difference between a mink and the ermine pictured below).
Update Dec 12 2015 – Well, we can add yet another critter that can be seen on the Marsh trail:
This is an ermine, and she was bold as brass. Almost ran over our feet as she checked us out.
Have you ever wandered about a small town after exhausting the shopping ops ? Have you ever stumbled across an unexpected trail winding its way along a river or lakeshore? A trail unmentioned by the locals, almost as though they’re trying to keep it to themselves (but they’re too nice to do that) ? Well, it’s not a conspiracy. The locals just assume everyone knows about it because “It’s right here, in town”. Such is the Port Hope section of the ‘Lakeshore Trail” in Port Hope Ontario.
The trail series is (in my opinion) amongst the most beautiful, versatile nature walks a small town can offer. It’s well maintained by the town of Port Hope (roughly halfway between Toronto and Kingston, on the North shore of Lake Ontario). Just take Hwy #28 South from the 401 and follow it down ’til you find yourself on the map below.
I divide the trail into three parts : the AK Sculthorpe Marsh/Lakeshore, the Bluffs (Peter Huffman) Trail, and Gage’s Creek Trail. Though interconnected, they all have their separate merits. There are four separate parking areas as well, should you wish to break the trail up into more manageable pieces for time or distance considerations.
The wife and I have traversed these trail on countless occasions and are guilty of the same crime as other users … we just figured “It’s right here, in town” so who wouldn’t know about it ? And it’s been the setting for a few postings and numerous pictures on this weblog, year-round, see Ice Dragon.
The Bluffs (marked in red on the map and properly called the Peter Huffman trail)
There are a few major hills on this section of trail, but there’s ample benches to rest on along the way.
The view from the height of land is inspiring, not to mention the welcome cool breeze on a hot Summer day. Interesting/unexpected plants will be seen, and the gazebo at the crest is a choice spot for a picnic. Ranger and I have often sat down to a bag of chip truck fries or a “the wife prepped” sandwich at that gazebo.
The trail is a gradual uphill climb from Parking 3, then it drops steeply into a valley and back up again before dropping down to the harbour/lake level placing you just South of the main street. You can either return by the same trail, or take town streets back to the trail near the gazebo. It’s all downhill from there back to parking 3. You could also just park in Parking 1 or 2 and take the bluffs trail for just halfway either direction. There is a point where you’ll see a split in the trail if approaching from Parking 3 or 4.
Though it provides a unique perspective of the lake and the bluffs from their base, I would not recommend you take this trail for it’s entire length. It’s sometimes precariously close to the edge of the bluffs. Though only a 15 – 20 foot fall, the result would be rather painful.
The AK Sculthorpe Marsh/Lakeshore Trail (marked in yellow on the map)
I knew A.K. personally, and I couldn’t be happier that this lovely section of the trail was named in her honour. The charms of this section (park at 3 or 4) are manifold. This is where we first started hand-feeding chickadees 3 years ago, and they’ll now approach anyone with a handful of sunflower seeds. see Peggy the one legged chickadee.
This is where you’ll see the varied wildlife on a perfectly flat and easily walked trail winding between the marsh and the beach. The lake is visible through the trees as you walk along the entire route. The boardwalk is a nice touch, though a tad slippery in wet weather. The lookout over-looking the marsh is a favourite stopping spot to observe the birds and turtles.
After particularly heavy rainfalls, the trail might be flooded in places. You can easily walk over to the beach and take a slight detour, or just continue your walk along the shoreline. The map shows a loop trail where you can walk back by road. We rarely do, as traversing the trail twice, is more desirable.
Gage’s Creek (marked in green on the map)
From parking 4 you can follow this short trail right up to the train bridge over the creek. This was the point where I wrote of my buddy Ranger’s brush with death, see Danger Ranger. You’ll see fish year-round, turtles, numerous songbird species, muskrat, beaver, 2 kinds of herons, and wild native orchids just as examples.
The wife and I saw 4 herons flying in a “V” formation, just like Canada Geese from this trail last Spring. There are many side-trails to follow as well, but if I tried to mark them all on a map …
The Final Take
This series of trails all have their own distinct charms. They are very well maintained by the Town of Port Hope, and the residents of that town have every right to be proud of their trails. With only a few meters exception, the entire series of trails are walkable by two people side-by-side. Between the wildlife sighting opportunities, and the vistas, I challenge anyone to show me a more impressive “in town” walk. The numbering system of the parking facilities is just my way of showing them. They aren’t numbered with signs or anything like that.