The Northumberland County Forest Woodland Trails (Fenella) Review – A Winter Walkable

***Please click on this link Map Locations of ALL Trails on this Site to view a map with the location of every trail “2oldguyswalking” has written a review on.***


There are a lot of trails through the Northumberland County Forest (NCF). There’s what I call the West Block, and the Carstairs Tract, and then there’s:

The Woodland Trails – A Winter Walkable

UPDATE – Feb 21, 2021Just returned from a lovely walk here and figured I should re-name it a Winter Walkable. The huge parking lot is plowed and the trails are even wide enough for 2 at the shoulder. Some look groomed and most are just heavily walked and so, well packed down. Despite the parking lot being half full, we still had very few encounters on the trails. ‘Course, there’s near 20 kms of trails in there, so I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. 

These trails are at the end of Woodland Rd. just 16 kms North of the 401 on the right/East of Hwy 45 outa Cobourg. This link will open Google Maps at the parking lot :

The road is well maintained and short. The parking area is huge and there’s a Porta-Potty at the trailhead. Be advised that there aren’t any other facilities. Not at the trailhead, nor on the trails. From this parking area, there are 4 trails available.

You’ll note the shortest trail, the Purple Finch Loop is a mere three kms long, while the next two, the Black Oak and the Sweet Fern are 7.5 kms and 9.0 kms respectively. A major jump in distance between the first trail, and the next two for sure.

The Purple Finch Loop

This trail climbs up, and back down a hill which we find less steep to climb if you continue going straight ahead where the common trail from the trailhead splits.  The early part is mostly mixed forest, but there is a stretch of fake forest (rows of pines intentionally planted as soil erosion control in the 1940s) for a short while. Then, as you descend the hill back down to the trailhead, the forest becomes mixed again. UPDATE February 17, 2020 – Just returned from a walk here today on this particular trail. I should mention that on the West side of the trail (near Hwy #45), the traffic noise is quite audible this time of year.

The Black Oak and Sweet Fern Loops

The Sweet Fern trail is the Black Oak for it’s entire 7.5 km length with a 1.5 km extension on the end of it. So the Sweet Fern is really just 1.5 km of different terrain than the Black Oak.  Either way you look at it, these two loops are rather hilly, with some hills being quite steep and long.

The Lookout Mountain Trail

This return trail is not far up the shared Black Oak/Sweet Fern. Not so far up that you’ll hit any particularly long, steep hills yet. That’s a good thing as this trail, despite the zigzag double-back route (to reduce the severity of the climb), is a task. The ATV ruts didn’t make it any easier either. I applaud the Northumberland County Forest staff’s effort in providing this new lookout trail. The view would be lovely in the Fall of the year (I don’t even want to think about climbing up there in the heat of Summer). We walked it in the early Spring, but won’t try again until the Fall.

I like the Northumberland County Forest. Always have. I’m not too crazy over dodging piles of horse crap, nor twisting my ankles in ATV ruts. But then, I realize I’m not the only one using this forest, as it tries to be everything to everyone. However, I won’t apologize for asking the following question. What the Hell kind of mind, will haul a broken venetian blind 2.3 kms through a forest, to an altitude of 125 metres above the trailhead to the observation area of the Lookout Mountain trail … to dump it along with 6 broken beer bottles ? Seriously, what kind of mind does that ?

The Final Take

Anyway,  the NCF Woodland Trails are a nice, quiet stroll (with exception of the West side of the Purple Finch trail) through a fairly diverse forest. Rather hilly mind you, but at least the return part of the loops are all downhill. The trails, with very few exceptions are wide enough for two to walk side by side, and in most cases wide enough for 6 to do so. There is a distinct lack of wildlife in the forest though. I actually stopped and looked when I heard a chickadee. There aren’t any tracks of anything either. Maybe ‘cause there’s no water anywhere nearby and really, what food opportunities are there in fake forests ? There’s virtually no undergrowth so you can see through the forest with ease year round. There are some interesting mushrooms in the season though. There are no benches nor picnic tables at the trailhead nor on the trails. A portable washroom is available at the Woodland Rd. trailhead, and there is no charge for parking nor trail use. A walk through in February of 2020 found the parking lot completely cleared, and the trails seemingly “groomed”. More likely from useage than intentionally though. Either way, the trails were quite easily walked in Winter.

Have a nice walk,


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