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The Northumberland County Forest McDonald Tract Trail Review
This tract of the NCF is only 3 kilometers South of Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve, and can be accessed by taking Lyle St (County Rd #23) North from the 401 at Grafton. At Centreton, the road name changes to McDonald rd. Continue for 2 kms past Centreton on McDonald rd. to Tucker rd. on the right.
This tract isn’t as well known or utilized as the popular Beagle Club Rd trail complex, and that was all the reasoning we needed to explore it. It’s a small piece of real estate for sure, but we found it rather rewarding all the same.
The map below is my best estimation of the trails available to you in this tract. The drawn in parts are not accurate by any stretch of the imagination.
The “trails” are a blend of unmaintained (automobile accessible) back roads, an old logging road, and single file (walkable) bush trails. All of these appear individually, on different sites of importance to the particular user. The map above shows them all together on one map for you.
We started from the trail immediately to the left of the trail map kiosk, and climbed a rather long, steady, single-file incline. At the top of it, we ran into an old logging road with familiar Oak Ridges Trail Assoc. white blazes on the trees. We took it to the right, as the other way just takes you back out to McDonald rd.
You’ll come across an unmarked trail to your right. It appears to be quite wide and inviting. However, it doesn’t take long for it to become rather unkempt. Described as a “trail to nowhere” on my trail map above, it was still a lovely little wander through the bush. We followed it until it became difficult to navigate safely. It was still a lovely little side “return” trail.
Returning to the logging road, we continued until we came across another single file walking trail off to the right. This one also has ORTA white blazes on the trees guiding you through the bush to a point on Caradoc Rd. where you can turn right and walk to Tucker Rd. where you can turn right again, to return to your ride. You’ll notice this trail continues across Caradoc road into the bush. Following it will take you to Tucker road further up where it curves North. To return to the parking lot, you’ll have to walk past a half dozen residences, which I don’t care for doing, but that’s up to you.
Otherwise, you could pass that 2nd bush trail and continue walking the logging road to Dunbar Rd. Turn right and enjoy a pleasant walk to Caradoc rd. Turn right when you hit Tucker rd, and take it back to the parking lot on McDonald rd. Of course, these road names aren’t apparent on the roads. There aren’t any signs on these unmaintained roads.
The Final Take
If walking Peter’s Woods isn’t enough for you, this tract is just 3 kilometers South on (the same) McDonald Rd. It’s about 3.5 kms long and walks single file trails, a logging road, and unmaintained back roads. This tract seems to be older than others in the NCF. I say that because the forest has many older trees and is more diverse than the others. As well, we were shocked to see a healthy population of wild cypripedium orchids which you’ll never spot on the more commonly used Beagle Club Trails.
We walked it in early June. The Columbines were everywhere and I mentioned the wild lady slipper orchids above. The scent of false solomon’s seal perfumed the air. Individually, the flowers smell very faintly, but when you get thousands of them lining a trailside, the scent is positively heady.
If you wish, you can walk this trail entirely on roads. Unmaintained and logging roads mind you, but they’re wide and clear, making an easy stroll. Or you can combine, to make half the walk through bushtrails for a little variety. I like having that option. The trails are remarkably quiet. We did run into a few off road vehicles on the unmaintained roads (not the logging road), all of which were being handled responsibly by rather friendly folks. One of them stopped and asked directions of us, which I found amusing, but … turns out, we actually did help him find his way.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this tract enough to write a review on it, but by the time we’d walked half of it on our first visit, I knew we’d be back. Two days later, we returned with all the equipment we needed to do this review.
Have a nice walk,