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Sheffield Conservation Area Re – Visited Trail Review
If you want to click on the link below, it’ll take you to Google Maps so you can zoom into the location. However, ignore the trail map that will show on Google Maps. It’s a closed trail and has been for some time. Use only the map on this site or on the official site. Any other maps I’ve found on the I’Net haven’t been updated.
When we first saw Sheffield CA back in September of 2014, I was struck with it’s beauty, until we tried to walk it’s “loop trail”. I wrote a scathing review warning all our readers to stay out of this CA. Well, sometime between then and today, major changes were made which transformed Sheffield into one of the most beautiful walks you’ll find on this site.
I’ll mention here that all Quinte Conservation Areas have “pay to park” now. It’s a bit cock – eyed how they do it though. See this site for info on how it works : http://quinteconservation.ca/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=403&Itemid=9
If you find this mode of payment annoying as we did, you could always just head 250 meters South on Hwy 41 and park in the huge Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area parking lot, for free.
The trail we followed four years ago (with extreme difficulty) looped around four lakes to the South-West and is still visible on Google maps and many websites. It was a beautiful trail that was sadly, poorly marked. It ended in a wade across a swamp to get out to the highway which one had to walk, to return to the parking lot. I’ve read micro reviews by people who claim they’d like to try the “South Loop”. Trust me, that trail has been declared closed by Quinte Conservation for good reason. Stay away from it.
Now, the new Blue Trail. I call It the Blue Trail as its very well marked in blue spray paint. Due to the nature of the topography and ecosystem, a lot of the blue marks are on bare, exposed bedrock. So this trail would be very difficult to follow in Winter. I particularly enjoyed how the markings on the rock surfaces were shown to curve so you’ll know which way to look for the next mark. There’s a lead – in trail that will take you alongside the lake with lovely views, and a picnic area over – looking the lake.
Where the loop starts, there’s a blue “Y” painted on the rock so you can choose which way to go. I would recommend taking it to the left for no other reason than one particularly steep spot. I had to actually grab a tree trunk, sit down, and slide down the rock face hoping to Hell my 60+ year old knees wouldn’t act up upon impact. It wasn’t all that bad really, but my point is, trying to climb up from the other direction would be considerably more difficult.
You’ll come to an ATV type trail which is well marked, taking you to the left. As you approach a sign warning you of the trail closure (that’s the trail we followed four years ago), look to your right, and you’ll see what appears to be a side trail to a pretty little wetland. That’s the Blue trail. After you walk over an old beaver dam, you’ll see the first of many, many steep hills on this trail.
It seems this loop trail spends half it’s distance gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) climbing up to a lookout crescendo. On the way, you’ll walk between towering granite ridges draped with ferns and mosses, and you’ll climb quite a few as well. Huge glacial erratics are everywhere. Beautiful pink granite outcroppings delicately adorned with lichens and mosses comprise the most of this trail.
I found the two lookouts showing on the trail map to be an understatement. I’m used to lookouts being a man-made raised platform on the edge of a ridge with, at best, a 60° view to the horizon. Here, you’ll find yourself standing on a 1.4 billion year old granite outcropping, 100 meters in diameter, with a 360° view of the untouched wilderness surrounding you. Despite being the height of land, glaciers, kilometers deep, slid over these multi-billion year old outcroppings. The stones embedded in the glacier’s underside have left deep grooves and scratches in the bedrock under your feet.
As I wandered about the outcrop waiting for a break in the cloud cover, I looked down and was pleasantly surprised to catch sight of a corydalis in full bloom, in mid October. Then, we spotted another, and another !
Carrying on from the second lookout, the trail starts to head downhill back to the trailhead level. This is where the lovely small ponds, beaver dam wetlands, and lowlands forests appear. I was pleased to see these, as they were the only thing missing from a trail through this part of Ontario. Once I saw them, I didn’t miss a thing about the Southern trail. This new trail has it all. The low, lush wetlands and forests, AND the majestic, windy, granitic heights (which the Southern loop never had).
The Final Take
Not an easily walked loop, but a gorgeous trail well worth the effort. The distance is about 5.3 kms. The markers are blue spray paint on trees and on the granite rock base. Unfortunately, the paint on the rock base won’t last more than another Winter or two. The problem being, the beginning of the loop is marked on the rock base, as is a good half of this trail. If it isn’t maintained, it isn’t going to last. So, if you wanna walk it, you’d best do it soon. For the most part, this trail is a single file walk, with a few wider stretches for at most two, to walk side by side. There was a port – a potty at the parking lot and some picnic benches over looking the lake. The trail begins to the left of the picnic area and is well marked.
The pay for parking procedure is kinda silly, so just park in the Lennox and Addington Dark Sky parking lot only 250 meters South on the same road.
Don’t pay any attention to the trail map that’ll show up when you zoom in on Google Maps, nor on any other websites. They show the (now closed for good reason) previous Southern Loop trail, which couldn’t compare to this new one anyway. This new blue trail is truly spectacular. Look into the distance, and at your feet to experience it all.
Have a nice walk,