The Port Hope Ganaraska River Trail Review

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The Ganaraska River Trail Review

I was rather surprised by the reaction to my review of the “in-town” Port Hope Lakeshore Trail. To be quite honest, I only wrote it because we hadn’t been anywhere else that week, and I had to publish something (We like to try to publish weekly). Anyway, I figured not many would be interested in a trail right in town as opposed to something more distant and unusual. But then, I suppose not everyone has the time to drive for an hour, to walk for two or three hours, and drive an hour back. Not if you got a job and a family and only have, at best, two days a week to spare. I guess I’ve finally embraced retirement as I’ve forgotten about that “other” lifestyle which many folk are still living. So, for those of you who like walking, but not on pavement so much, here’s another “in-town” trail you may not be familiar with.


Again, in the lovely town of Port Hope, through which flows the famous Ganaraska River, there is an equally lovely trail. Since the “Ganny” flows right through the heart of town, you can walk it along stone paved walkways through the gardens and the downtown business section. But my aim is to get you onto the unpaved trail to the North of town. Admittedly, the unpaved trail runs only along the East side of the river. To make a loop, you’ll have to return on a trail along the West side which has a moderate traffic use road beside it too (or just make it a return trail). Despite the proximity to residences and roads, there are sections of this trail where you can’t hear, see, nor smell civilization. For all you know, you could be out in the middle of nowhere. The trail on this side of the river does occasionally narrow and can have a bit of tilt toward the river. I wouldn’t suggest you try it after a heavy rain as it can be slippery. 

To access the unpaved trail, you can leave your car anywhere along the North side of Barrett St just East of the bridge over the Ganny. From there you can walk upstream through the park. Stay near the riverbank as you approach what appears to be the end of the park. You’ll see a narrow opening through the brush which seems to lead down to the exposed riverbed.

While you can certainly get to the river from here to walk right beside the water and even cool your heels in the swift current,

the trail continues North. Depending upon season, you’ll encounter amphibians, muskrats, beavers, assorted waterfowl, trout, salmon, lush green expanses of ferns, wild vines climbing the trees   … and then you’ll see these :


Mysterious concrete columns some 3 – 4 meters tall.

I felt like a meso-american archaeologist, the first time I encountered those. I had no idea what they were. Years later, my historian friend Ranger showed me what they looked like, a century earlier. 

They were bases for metal frameworks. Metal frameworks providing level tracks one hundred years ago for trains crossing over the river valley. The valley created forty-thousand years ago by a much wider and deeper river. A river which eroded a path through the 650 million year old limestone. Limestone deposited by the buildup of microscopic protozoic sea animals a billion years before today … Yeah, that’s what goes through my head when I gain the slightest little piece of information. I have no idea why Ranger and the wife put up with me. Below is a .GIF showing a few shots along the East side trail.

east side GIF

The old building was the Nicholson File factory. The wife’s Dad used to say “You’ll find a Nicholson file in every tool box in the World”.

So anyway, you’ll continue walking until the trail ends at a road crossing over the river. BE WARNED this road (Jocelyn St) is at the top of a MAJOR HILL you’ll have to climb or turn around and walk back the way you came, as there is no other way around it. I only mention this because, though the wife and I are pushing sixty, we can climb this hill without too much problem. However, if you are at all infirm, this climb could be a task. I would suggest you check it out from Jocelyn St before you start from Barrett St unless you have no problem with making it a return trail from the start.

Assuming you have no problem with the hill up to Jocelyn St, you can cross the bridge and return by making a left (turning South) on Cavan St. You could also navigate your way down the other side of the bridge and walk along the riverbank to Cavan St. too, if you wish.

The walk along the West side is nice enough. The view of the river is often better from it. There are picnic tables on the West side park after the Jocelyn St bridge has been crossed, but none on any other part of the trail (I’m disappointed to report). But then,by the time you’ve walked the East bank, climbed up to Jocelyn St., and back down the other side … it might well be time for a picnic break anyway.

west side

Pictures from the West bank trail.

The Final Take

For a more wild, up close and personal walk, the East bank trail will deliver nicely. Its been well maintained (thank you GHT) and has properly built and maintained boardwalks and bridges where needed. Keep in mind, trails are living, active parts of the ecosystem. On a recent walk of this trail, the wife and I encountered a fallen tree which presented a bit of challenge to get past. I’m sure it will be handled soon, but … this stuff happens. The trail is a single-file walk though, no side-by-side walking here, though it provides ample opportunity to stop and look about. However, there is a steep climb at the halfway point if you wish to loop with the West bank trail. The West bank trail is an easy, more civilized walk presenting no challenges at all.

The distance is three and a half kilometers (whether by return or loop).


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