***Please click on this link Map Locations of ALL Trails on this Site to view a map with the location of every trail “2oldguyswalking” has written a review on***
The Durham Regional Forest Trails Review
I’d been hesitant to review this forest as I didn’t expect much from it. I usually interpret the phrase “multi usage” as “multi abusage” and unfit for walking. Especially when 11 of the 22 named trails are specifically for mountain bikes. It doesn’t show as a green spot on Google Maps despite its size.
Well, imagine my surprise when we found ourselves enjoying this forest so much that we spent two days there. We’re both still a little unsure as to why we liked it so much. There’s no water of any description anywhere. Hence no bridges nor boardwalks (virtually a “must have” for the Wife). It’s typical of the Uxbridge area in that, she’s moderately hilly and doesn’t have a bench or rest station anywhere, so you’ll be standing around for your trail snack. I’d also suggest you make use of the portable potties at the trail heads, as there’s not much understorey here to maintain dignity.
So, why did we like it so much ? Well, for one, it was gloriously silent despite it’s proximity to some fairly busy roadways. The four main trails I’ll be reviewing here, were wide and clear enough for two to walk side by side with ease. Lotsa wildlife as well. We were greeted on the first day by a pair of Indigo Buntings, followed by a Scarlet Tanager on the trail, and we were thrilled to see a clump of cypripedium orchids as well.
The Red Oak (3.3 kms) and Spruce (2.2 kms) Trails
These two were the longest and widest of the trails in the Southernmost section of the forest. They’re best accessed from the East Gate on Lake Ridge Rd (Reg. Rd. 23) 21 kms North of the 401. Click on the link to open Google Maps at the parking lot :
Considering the cars in the parking lots (and the half dozen cyclists we met at the trail head), we were surprised to see precious few other walkers or cyclists. There was just one small patch of man made forest in the 5.5 kms we covered on the first day. If I hadn’t been looking for it, I’d never have noticed. That’s what I think I liked best about this forest. The trees are varied in species, and they’re quite old and well established.
Though reasonably generous with the trail markers, we found having a printed map in our hands helped a fair bit due to the numerous trails in there. There aren’t any maps or brochures at the trail head kiosks either. Nor are there any maps along the trail showing you where you are. I’m not being nit-picky here. I just mention that as, if you’re familiar with the other trails in the Uxbridge complex, you might be expecting them.
Though there are a mess of unnamed trails in this forest (about 22 kms worth, apparently) we came up with a simple way to avoid unfortunate encounters. If a trail is only one foot wide, is deeply cupped in shape, and careens madly with seeming careless abandon through the bush… stay off it. The chances of your crotch (from front or rear) becoming a bicycle parking rack (at 25 km/h) are pretty good. Speaking of bicycle trails … if I were forty for even thirty years younger, I’d be tempted to buy a mountain bike and bring it here. The Durham Mountain Bike Assoc. has built some incredible trails in there.
The White Pine (2.6 kms) and Red Maple (2.0 kms) Trails
We chose these two trails to give you an idea of what the Northern section of this forest is like. They’re best accessed from the West gate on Concession 7. Take Lake Ridge Rd North from the 401 to Chalk Lake Rd (8.5 kms). Turn left (West on Chalk Lake Rd and drive 2 kms to Concession # 7. Turn right (North) on Conc. # 7, and drive 3.5 kms to the West Gate. Or click on the link below to open Google Maps at the parking lot :
The West gate parking lot side of this forest is a fair bit different from the East Gate in that it’s very much more hilly, and I mean longer and steeper hills. As well, traffic noise from Goodwood rd. is audible on most of it. It’s also used by the EEC (Environmental Education Centre) so on weekdays, the noise from pre – pubescents will at least drown out the traffic noise.
POP QUIZ ! Guess which gate access of this forest I preferred ? Just kidding. But seriously, the trails accessed from the East gate are a lot easier to walk and are so quiet. However, the forest is still quite pretty from the West gate trails. So, if you aren’t an easily tired, nor cantankerous old guy like me, you should be alright with it.
Actually, at the bottom of the massive hill on the Red Maple trail, we saw a sign which explained why this forest is so nice. Most forests South of Lake Simcoe are plantation forests, planted to counter failed attempts to farm the sandy land. This one was planted in 1929. Much earlier than most, so it’s had time to regenerate.
The Final Take
I just remembered something else I really liked about this forest. Trash ? What’s that ? Not only the trails, but even the parking lots were spotless. That just speaks volumes for the regular users of this forest. I wish I could say the same for the forest in my County.
The four “tree – named” trails I reviewed above are a small representation of the total trails in this forest. However, they cover the total experience to be expected, and will provide you with about ten kms of walking. There are numerous ways to make all kinds of loops from them, but I’d advise you to print out the map and take it with you despite the generous trail markers. It’ll make things a lot easier as there are no maps provided at the trail heads nor on the trails themselves.
Personally, I feel there are too many trails through this forest. At less than 4.5 square kms, this forest has over 36 kms of walking, plus 9 kms of bicycle trails. Waaaaaay too many trails. The problem is that these trails criss-cross all over the place, making navigation very difficult. We made two erroneous attempts to find the Red Maple trail from “Coyote Junction”. There was one spot where I counted seven trails converging within 6 meters of each other. If you gotta use a dozen names, every colour in the rainbow, AND half a dozen geometric shapes to separate trails of the same colour, you got too many trails.
The undulating topography will provide a mild cardio workout which can be a good thing. The reviewed trails are wide enough for two to walk side by side. Any that aren’t … might require some thought. There are two good sized parking lots with port-a-potties but no other facilities of any kind (like benches or picnic tables), anywhere. The forest is well established, healthy, mature, and quite lush in appearance.
Have a nice walk,