I never thought I’d write a positive review on a Crown Land, not South of the 45th parallel anyway. When I hear the words “Crown Lands”, I usually have visions of ATV ruts, smashed beer bottles, spent shotgun shells, and piles of cigarette butts. Well, not so at Orono Crown Lands. The difference is because of the Orono Crown Lands Trust (OCLT), an incorporated, charitable, non-profit, volunteer group who manages the lands in partnership with the MNRF. And manage it they do … very well I might add.
Try as I did, I couldn’t find a trail map on the I’net so here’s a photo of the map from the trailhead
There are five trails. We walked the blue trail a year ago, but since we didn’t expect much, we went unprepared, and judged the whole area unfairly. This time we took it like the kind of trail reviewer I like to think I am, and were suitably impressed.
The Green Trail
This is the only non-loop, return trail of the five. It starts from the Ochonski Rd parking lot heading West along the abandoned 1910 Canadian Northern railway berm to the #23 location marker on the map above. At this point you can climb down the very steep “stairs” on your left to the base of the RR bridge over the creek.
You can then follow the trail along the banks of Wilmot Creek. The same Wilmot Creek that empties into Lake Ontario from the Sam Wilmot Nature Area. I should mention, the green trail has some interesting/innovative/scary “bridgeworks” over its distance. We used some, but not without caution. For a few, we took the longer, damper way around. The ground is black, heavy, and damp, but we walked it in mid April in street shoes with no problems.
It’s a single file, well canopied walk through cedar lowlands which terminates at Concession Rd 5. It’s not necessarily a difficult walk, and if you can handle the climb down from the berm to get here in the first place, you’ll be fine.
The Orange Trail
The South-West side (upper side on the map) of the orange trail follows the creek too. It had a number of boardwalks that were a tad slippery in the wrong shoes (which describes the shoes I had on) as it ran along side the creek. A few had some fanciful angles on them too. Everyone has a favourite trail (mine being the Green), but I think this one is the OCL Trust’s favourite because, as the trail leaves the creekside and wanders into drier forest we encountered a number of beautiful wooden bridges. Some were rustically designed, and craftsman built, and quite a few were constructed by Courtice Secondary School Construction Technology students. I particularly liked the “S” curved one as you don’t see them too often.
The Red Trail
Best accessed from the Taunton Rd. parking area, this trail also meanders along Wilmot Creek for a distance. While the walk was typical of what we’d seen on the other creekside sections, the incline up to the highland, wooded stretch was very wet. I’m guessing it would be drier later in the season.
The Blue and Purple Trails
These trails are entirely through high and dry woodland. Wide enough for four to walk at the shoulder while flat, smooth, and featureless. They’re OK trails, but just a bit dull in comparison to the others. If you’re looking for an easy, pleasant walk, or if you wanna concentrate on your Timmy’s cup and cell phone, these will work for you.
The Final Take
The Orono Crown Lands are not typical of Crown Lands, and the OCL Trust is to be thanked for that. You can choose between wide open, sunny trails with level surfaces, where up to four can walk side by side. You can wander alongside Wilmot Creek, through cool, canopied cedar lowlands in single file. The only real challenge would be the climb down to, and back up from, the railway berm to the creekside section on the green trail. Otherwise, the trekking is pretty easy. There’s no charge to park nor walk (but you can make a donation at http://oronolandtrust.org/?page_id=14). There are picnic facilities from the Ochonski Rd. parking lot. There are washrooms behind the Outdoor Educational Centre from the Taunton Rd. parking lot. The trails are very well marked and easy to follow, which is good as there are many unmarked cross trails made by local &/or regular walkers. There are very few rest spots or benches on the trails but they are rather short (1 – 2.5 kms). We were impressed at the cleanliness of the trails and the friendliness of other walkers over our two day visit. There were numerous dog encounters (all off leash), yet better trained/handled dogs I’ve not encountered anywhere before.
Have a nice walk,