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Pickering’s Seaton Trail Review
This trail (just North of Pickering) is well over 10 kms long. It runs along the West Duffins Creek watershed from the 3rd concession off Brock rd to Green River on Hwy #7. As I have noted in the past about trails as long as this one, there are good stretches … and not so good stretches. Seaton has an awful lot of really good stretches (like about 90% of it’s distance). There are four parking lots/accesses to the trail. All Seaton’s trail parking lot signs are very large and very easy to spot. As well, the lots are well maintained, clean, and provide ample free parking. This review will be presented in the four sections between the parking lots/accesses.
From Conc. 3 to Forestream Rd (approx. 5.5 kms)
We started at the Southernmost access at the far West end of Concession 3 off Brock rd 1 (called Grand Valley Park at the trailhead, but nowhere else). There are portable washrooms, but no other kinds of facilities. It starts with a long downhill grade on a wide gravelled path to an off leash dog park. Continue past the dog park to the trail. The trail markers are white, vertical rectangles, and they’re very generous with them. That’s a good thing, as there are all kinds of crosstrails wandering off in every direction. Just follow the trail with the white rectangles and you’ll be fine. That’s not to say the crosstrails aren’t lovely diversions, well worth exploring.
Eg) we made the error of turning left at the 1st “Y” in the trail and wandered off along the riverside until the trail turned into an impassable quagmire. But it was still a pretty walk. Judging by the number of wet dogs we met on it, we dubbed it “The Wet Dog Trail”. It appeared to be just a trail to the river for dogs to splash around a bit. And that was fine with us. There aren’t many happier things on this planet, than a wet dog.
We returned to the “Y” and continued going straight this time. This was where we learned to appreciate the generosity in trail markers, so had no further unexpected adventures. I say “unexpected” adventures, as we intentionally followed many a trail off to the left to gain a bankside view of Duffins Creek. The trail follows the creek and meanders through the woods until you’ll see another “Y” with a trail heading off to the right. This is the Woods Sidetrail. I would suggest you continue on the marked Seaton trail until you hit the trail marker numbered 1N025 where you’ll see the North end of the Woods Sidetrail. You can take it back to the parking lot to finish about a 3 km walk.
OK, now, if you wish to go further on the Seaton trail first, there’s an old railway bridge which I recommend you see. Its very impressive (and still in service, we discovered on our second day of walking the trail). You can continue past a drainage project, where you’ll see old railway trestle bases with two of them collapsing into the creek.
Just beyond those, you’ll hit the first hill on this route. From here on up to the Forestream rd. access, the views of the creek become spectacular. Mind you, you’ll pay for them. The trail becomes extremely hilly, and I mean very steep, long hills. There are two main ways to scale the first (and steepest) hill. Right at trail marker 1N034 there’s a well used, but unmarked trail going off to the left where the marked Seaton trail starts climbing the hill. The Wife and I walked both and preferred the non Seaton route. They’ll both have you scaling a steep incline, but the non Seaton route was somewhat easier, and much more aesthetically pleasing. The Seaton route takes you past some kind of construction project which was unattractive and noisy. If you’re approaching from the Forestream rd. access, this trail branches off to the right just before marker 1S054-1.
I mentioned the spectacular views of the creek. These can be seen from the Seaton trail and from numerous side trails. BE VERY VERY CAREFUL if taking these side trails to the bluff edges. Most are severely undercut and unstable. There were even some sections of the official Seaton trail itself, that made me rather uncomfortable.
There are also some brightly lit sunny stretches across two hydro tower corridors (most of this trail is well canopied with dappled sunlight). I was just about to make a note about the lack of anything botanically interesting when the Wife suddenly pipes up with, “Heay ! That’s a cypripedium orchid!”. It was done blooming and had dried up and turned brown, but she still spotted it. I don’t know how she does that.
The last viciously steep climb (down, thank God!) is near the Forestream rd. access. Fortunately, someone spent a boatload of money and installed the most impressive set of stairs I’ve ever seen out in the middle of nowhere. From the base of the stairs, it’s a short jaunt to an abandoned roadway. Turn left, walk around the car barricades, over the bridge, and continue straight ahead to the Forestream rd. parking lot on your right.
From Forestream rd. to Whitevale (approx. 4.5 kms)
We started this stretch from the charming little town of Whitevale. The trailhead is at the Southern end of Whitevale Park. There’s a port-a-potty and a covered picnic shelter made from a rustic old shed at the park. Take the trail to the right once you enter the forest. The trail wanders through a mostly cedar lowland within view of the water, but from behind a stand of trees which made viewing the river a little difficult.
However, there is a stretch that affords a terrific view of the water as it climbs very high AND (I think) dangerously close to the edge of the bluff. I know I’m not alone in my concerns as previous walkers have deliberately re-routed the trail a few meters back from the edge. Further on, the trail goes through what I thought was forest with a heavy brushed understorey. When the “brush” cleared for a few meters and I could see into the “forest”, I realized that what I thought were bushes, were the tops of trees growing from the bottom of the ravine ! Taking one step, ten inches to the East of that trail would’ve placed my foot over empty space, very far above solid earth. So, please be very cognizant of your position, relative to the edge of the bluffs on this stretch of trail. If you wanna look around, don’t do it in transit. Stop to look about, or take pictures. Otherwise, watch what your feet are landing on.
Other than that, the best insight I can give you about this trail (unless you have vehicles parked at both ends of it’s length), would be to suggest you begin from the Whitevale end (to make a return trip). I suggest this as, there’s a very steep hill (without stairs as many others have) that you can turn back at, right before the trail goes under Taunton Rd. If you climb it, you’ll simply walk under Taunton Rd. and then walk back down a series of stairs (numbering over 100) to get to the Forestream parking lot. That’s a lot of climbing up and down for very little distance covered. Especially, at the very start of your walk. However, if you like the idea of walking under the big bridge and seeing it’s underbelly, it can be kinda interesting.
If you want to start from Forestream Rd. You’ll have to walk back out to the road, turn left, cross the “closed to traffic bridge”, and look to your right for a trail into the trees to go South to the Concession #3 access at Grand Valley. To go North to Whitevale, turn left before the closed bridge and within a few meters you’ll see an unmarked trail through the bushes at the roadside. If you walk past a rustic barn to your left … you missed the trail.
Whitevale to Hwy 407 (approx. 2.5 kms)
From the Whitevale Park parking lot, walk back to the entrance (Whitevale rd.), cross the road and turn right. Cross over the concrete bridge, and the trailhead is on your left with a set of stairs going down to the river.
The first stretch is heavily infested with the garden plant “Rough Comfrey”. So much so that we were tripping over them as they lay over the trail. Prettier to look at than Dog Strangling Vine, but damned near as invasive. The trail seems to follow a railway berm for awhile (flat, level and straight), but it soon turns off into bush again. We came to a split in the trail where the left side went off to a pretty dam and stream.
We continued on Northward. The din of the 407 was audible from nearly the start of the trail and of course, increased in volume with proximity. The trail bed became increasingly damp and a number of boardwalks began to show. Right near the end, the river made a rare appearance but the roar of the highway spoiled any benefit the view might have added (for me anyway).
We met another couple on the trail who seemed oblivious to the noise, so I guess if it doesn’t annoy you, this is not a bad walk. On a closing note, there are numerous postings on the trail about an abandoned gravel pit/regenerating marsh, some locals are trying to save from developers. It’s right on the trail so, if they don’t win (and I seriously doubt they will), there won’t be much of a trail here to bother with anyway.
Hwy 7 to Hwy 407
Half a km between two major highways. Seriously ?
The Seaton Trail Final Take
The Southernmost access to this trail provides a pleasant walk alongside the river, and a nice loop trail opportunity. Once past the railway trestle bases, the hills start, and they never end. So, if you’re looking for an easy stroll … look elsewhere.
However, if you’re looking for a stunningly gorgeous (and a little scary) trail, continue past the railway trestle and begin your cardio workout. She’s a hilly one for sure, but the rewards are certainly there. I personally didn’t care for the far Northern sections (North from Whitevale) as they’re too close to highway noise for my likings, but if you don’t mind that, they’re interesting and pretty enough.
Trail lengths are approximations on my part. If you wander about the many available sidetrails and such, the whole trail might be twenty kms or more.
Watch your step near the bluffs. Many of those cliffs are seriously undercut and unstable. If you wanna snap pictures (and you WILL), don’t approach the edge while looking through the camera. Approach, STOP, look where your feet are, ensure your safety, then compose and hit the shutter.
With the exception of port-a-pottys at the Southern most (end of Concession 3) parking lot and the Whitevale parking lot, there are no facilities, (beyond ample free parking at four access locations), anywhere on this trail. You’re gonna be walking single file for pretty-much it’s entire length too. You know how, sometimes, it’s easier to walk the hill beside the stairs, than to use the stairs ? Yeah, well, that won’t be happening here. There are, thankfully, some impressive stairs along this trail, and you’ll be glad to see, and use them.
The Seaton Trail was an unexpected jewel to add to our list of reviewed trails … just don’t expect to see any updates, anytime soon.
Have a nice walk,