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The Victoria Rail Trail South Corridor (Bethany to Lindsay) Review – A Winter Walkable
UPDATE – Feb 26 2021 – Just returned from walking the Fleetwood to Mount Horeb section today. It’s very well groomed (for, and by, snowmobilers I assume) but that makes it very nice for walking too. So, let’s not be too harsh on them. If they hadn’t groomed it, it wouldn’t be a very nice walk (as we found out when checking a few other trails that weren’t groomed by anyone) on our drive Home.
The Victoria Rail Trail is actually 85 kms long, stretching from Bethany to Kinmount. The length from Bethany to Lindsay must be fairly new as, only one site on the I’Net mentions it. Even my old hiking buddy Ranger, didn’t know it went that far South.
The VRT is defined by three corridors. The South section is from Bethany to Lindsay, the Central section is from Lindsay to Fenelon Falls, and the North section, from Fenelon Falls to Kinmount. There’s another extension running from Kinmount to Haliburton apparently, called The Haliburton Rail Trail.
This review will cover the Southern section From Bethany to Lindsay.
From Ski Hill Rd. in Bethany to Lifford Rd. (3 kms one – way)
The Southern access to this section of trail is on Ski Hill Rd. (Cty Rd #38) 30 meters North of Jackson St. In Bethany. This link will take you to a Google Map of the location.https://goo.gl/maps/LQxm37DSz4k
The North end (Lifford Rd.) is listed below in the next section.
From the South, this trail passes through a bit of the Bethany outskirts. There are both some audible and visual minor distractions for the first 1/4 of the distance to Lifford Rd. However, once past that, and a quiet stroll through a forested section, the wetlands surrounding Fleetwood Creek come into view. We walked it in early December, with a light layer of snow on the ground. We saw numerous animal tracks that were definitely not domestic. Fleetwood Creek passes under the trail twice on this stretch. At one of them, we scared up something very large which cracked a lot of ice and crashed into the bush alongside the Creek bank. We didn’t see what it was, but assumed a deer.
There’s a short stretch of forest before reaching Lifford Rd.
From Lifford Rd to Fleetwood Rd (3 kms one – way)
About 3 kms North of Bethany on Ski Hill Rd. (Cty Rd #38), you’ll see an unsigned road. This is Lifford Rd. Turn left and put about one km behind you until you find yourself between a bridge and a Dufferin quarry driveway. The roadside trailhead is very easy to recognize. This link will take you to a Google Map of the location. https://goo.gl/maps/3E63Qgs3kGz
Admittedly, you’re bound to hear (on weekdays) some sound from the quarry for the first quarter of the trail as you head North. However, as you continue, the forested section will give way to a wetland to the East and a surprisingly noisy stream to the West. We walked this stretch in early December, yet the stream was quite active and audible.
About half-way to Fleetwood Rd, there’s a short trail to the West that’ll take you to the streambank. There was obviously a bridge over the stream long ago as evidenced by the huge timbers and old iron pieces of equipment strewn about. I assume it connected the two separate lengths of Bethany Hills Rd.
The wetland and stream views continue until the last forested stretch to Fleetwood Rd.
The day had been warming up and I was getting accustomed to the sound of cracking ice. Then I heard a particularly loud crack. I turned to see an otter bounding across the ice. Whipping out the camera, I slowly crept up on where I’d last seen it. The otter suddenly appeared to my right, and just as suddenly, disappeared into a patch of cattails. There was a pile of sticks right beside the trail. The Wife claimed she saw something duck into it, so we stood and watched for a moment, hoping the otter might make another appearance.
After awhile, we started to get distracted and began discussing what a great day we’d had, and how long it’d since we last saw an otter. Lowering the camera, and preparing to continue, I started to turn away when a pine marten suddenly bolted out of the pile of sticks and raced across the ice. In its panic run, it didn’t notice the open water between the ice and the bush. A quick scamper, a terrific splash, and it vanished into the bush in a fraction of a second. As the Wife often says, that was worth the price of admission right there.
That made identification of the weasel – like tracks we saw earlier, somewhat easier. There were so many footprints across the trail (over the deer tracks), it was obviously part of a “weasel highway” through the marsh. As we finished up the trail, a huge great blue heron took flight and drifted over the marsh.
This is what it looks like in the Summer :
Fleetwood Rd. to Mount Horeb Rd. (3 kms one – way)
Take Ski Hill Rd. (Cty rd # 38) North from Bethany, turn left on Fleetwood Rd., and about 1.5 kms later you’ll see the gates. Or, click on this link for a Google Map location : https://goo.gl/maps/iJudwqcW7uB2
As well, Windy Ridge Conservation Area is less than 300 meters from the Mount Horeb Rd. trailhead. So, if a six km. (return) walk isn’t enough for ya …
The parking is very tight at both ends of this stretch, and the ditches are deep, so be careful. There are two slight bends in this section so it’s not perfectly straight (one of my dislikes for railway berms). Though you’ll still be able to stand in one spot and see where you were twenty minutes ago, and where you’ll be twenty minutes later. However, you might not notice or care, with all the marsh life around you. This trail cuts straight through a marsh/wetland that couldn’t be done today, between environmental concerns and expense.
Another reason I normally don’t care for rail trails is because they’re usually very hard packed and feel like you’re walking on a sidewalk. The trail base here was mercifully soft and shifty, making for a more comfortable walk. Though, judging by the bicycle tracks we saw, it might be tiresome without wide bike wheels if you’re trying to cycle it. There’s a nice even mix of forested, and open stretches. We walked it in late October, and so enjoyed the sunny lengths. In the Summer months, the shady stretches would be much appreciated.
As stated, we walked this in late October. Yet, evidence of wildlife was all around us. Deer tracks on the trail, a freshly maintained beaver dam and lodge, numerous species of ducks and marsh/wading birds (including the biggest Blue Heron we’d ever seen) were all spotted during our stroll here. We never did figure out what caused that big splash only a meter from the trail. Probably a muskrat.
Mount Horeb Rd. to Old Mill Rd. (3.4 kms one – way)
Take Ski Hill Rd. from Bethany to Omemee , turn left on Hwy # 7, then left on Mount Horeb Rd. About 300 meters past Windy Ridge CA, you’ll see the trailhead. Or, click on this link for a Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/fTiz6NjCMq12
The first km of this section is quite pretty as it cuts through a wetland. The rest is pleasant enough, but rather uninteresting as it walks (straight as an arrow) between cultivated fields. After crossing Crosswind Rd. it makes a slight curve for half a km before hitting Old Mill Rd.
Old Mill Rd. to Post Rd. (2 kms one – way)
Take Hwy # 7 West from Omemee. Turn left at Heights Rd., turn right at Crosswind Rd., then turn right on Old Mill Rd. 400 meters up Old Mill Rd. will bring you to the trailhead. Click here for Google Maps location https://goo.gl/maps/f5ixugMtHak
This section of trail has two patches of wetlands separated by a few short stretches of cultivated lands. The wildlife tracks across the trail were plentiful, and a quick I’Net search revealed … I gotta go buy yet another field guide.
There’s a half km of wetland across Post Rd. but after that, you’ve got Hwy #7, some more cultivated lands, and then you hit Lindsay. We didn’t take it any further for those reasons.
The Final Take
The South Corridor of the Victoria Rail Trail actually starts at Syer Line in Bethany, but we found it too urban for our liking. We felt the same for the final two stretches beyond Post Rd. to Lindsay. As will be obvious by the amount of text and pictures, our favourite stretches were the two between Lifford Rd. and Mount Horeb Rd. This was due to the beauty of the water views, the abundant wildlife encountered, and proximity to Windy Ridge CA. Like all rail trails this one is wide and level, but also rather straight. However, with all the water, bridges, and wildlife along it’s edges, I found myself suitably distracted. On that note, I would suggest you prep your camera, speak softly, and walk quietly as you approach the open water spaces near bridges and culverts. We neglected to do so and only saw a few animals, while we HEARD a great deal of cracking ice, splashing water and snapping tree branches all along these trails. With few exceptions, the specifically reviewed sections above were quite silent and secluded. At under half an hour’s drive from Peterborough, Lindsay, and Newcastle at the 401, it’s easy to get to. Roadside parking is reasonable (outside snowplow season). Dog walking is permitted.
Distances between road accesses is 3.4 kms or less. There are no facilities of any kind on these stretches but there are washroom and picnic facilities, as well as (I believe) year round parking at Windy Ridge CA near the Mount Horeb Rd. access.
Have a nice walk,