ORTA Trail through the Ganaraska Forest from Woodvale School Rd to Beatty Lane (Port Hope) Review

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ORTA Trail through the Ganaraska Forest from Woodvale School Rd to Beatty Lane (Port Hope) Review  

UPDATE – Oct 1, 2021 – the trail is clear again, and with the exception of a few heavy equipment tracks alongside the road (right at the extreme West end), you’d never even know they’d been there.

UPDATE – September 1, 2021 We noticed a logging operation happening on this trail today. By the pile of logs at the Beatty Rd entrance, it’s been going on a few days now. Not to worry, the trees being harvested are “plantation pines” which were planted decades ago to control erosion. The removal of them makes way for the forest to regenerate to a more natural state of mixed forest as it was originally. We’ll check back over the next few weeks and let you know when it’s open to walkers again. Bushwhacker

This is the second time a trail through the Ganaraska Forest has surprised me (see my 10 on 10 trail review). The wife and I were looking for a local trail as we only had a few hours to spare one Thursday morning in late May. I’d been looking at a coupla trails on Google’s satellite view  through a wooded patch which I didn’t realize was an extension of the Ganny Forest. I usually avoid that forest as I don’t care for the way it’s managed. However, I love finding free public access trails through it, which the forest management can do nothing about … and this Oak Ridges Trail Assoc. trail is another one of them. You can park on either side of the wooded stretch of Line #9 on Woodvale School rd. or Gilmour rd.

You can access from Woodvale rd by taking Hwy #28 North from Port Hope to line rd. #9 (14 kms). Take a left and drive 1.6 kms to the big sign welcoming you to the Ganaraska Forest just before the road turns left, becoming Woodvale School road. Or click on this link to show you the location, and you can choose your own route :


You can also access from the West side by taking Hwy #2 from the 401 at Port Hope to Welcome. Continue North on County # 10 for 11 kms to Ganaraska rd #9. Turn right and drive 1.6 kms to Gilmour rd. Turn left (North) on Gilmour rd and drive 2 kms to line #9. Turn right and drive to the end of the road. Or click on this link to show you the location, and you can choose your own route :


We approached it from Woodvale School Rd. (East side). It doesn’t matter which way you take it as both ways climb a bit, to a plateau, and back down again. Nothing serious though. The trail (as usual in this area) is sand based, and obviously a “forest road”. It’s wide enough for four to walk at the shoulder. While the sandy base can make for laborious walking, it’s really easy on old guys’ arthritic toes.

I really didn’t expect much from this trail as its only 2.5 kms (one way) and it’s through the Ganaraska Forest. This is one of those times when I love being wrong. We were walking up the hill to the plateau when a flash of color caught my eye. I stopped to look closer … then I noticed the entire forest floor was carpeted in magenta Fringed Polygalas !

I’d only seen these once before, and in very small patches at Linwood Acres Trout Farms

And here they were by the hundreds !  Another lesson I “re-learned” from this trail were the merits of Linear or Return trails. The wife and I walked for a kilometer and a half through these flowers, from the Eastern access, marvelling at their color, beauty, and proliferation. However, upon our return on the same trail … I noticed only one, and only because I knew enough to be looking for them. The enjoyment of a trail is directly proportional to the angle of observation, the lighting, the weather, the sounds, the scents, YOUR attitude, and just plain dumb luck.

Another thing I liked about this trail was, while I knew parts of it were at one time, fake forest (rows of pines planted in the 1940s to control erosion), we couldn’t see the rows.  This stretch of forest has very nicely evolved into a highly diversified mixed forest that you’d never know was “man – repaired”. There are some huge, major sized old trees here to be seen and enjoyed too.

After all our marvelling over the polygalas, I should mention the proliferation of Columbines. In fact, I joked with the Wife about how we once went ballistic over the sight of a Columbine, and how we’d obviously become jaded over the years.

The Final Take

The Ganaraska Forest is the last place I’d expect to find a forest floor carpeted in fringed polygala. The Columbines were less a surprise as I’d seen many in the Ganny Forest over the last few years. All the references to Spring flowers in this review doesn’t mean that’s all there is to this trail. While it’s short, at about five kms return, it’s a very pretty trail. The forest it meanders through is well mixed. The trail itself is actually a bush road wide enough for four to walk side by side. The base is sand and can be laborious walking, so this is a trail best walked after a rain, but that’s not essential.

There are numerous branching trails off this one so be sure to follow the ORTA white, rectangular, vertical blazes and you’ll be on a public access trail.

Have a nice walk,


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