***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 day prior to walking the Dahl Forest, had been very disappointing, so I was looking for something to re-ignite my enthusiasm. The Dahl Forest was more than up to the challenge.
The trailhead is accessed by heading North from Kinmount on Cty Rd 121 for 8 kms to Gelert rd (#1). At 5 kms on Gelert rd turn right onto Geeza rd. At less than 300 meters Geeza rd. turns right even though the road appears to continue going straight. You’ll see the parking area and well marked signage for the forest near the road’s end. This link will open Google Maps at the parking lot : https://goo.gl/maps/XfiTGPxjJhbSx6QJ6
There are seven named trails here (plus the access road) totalling five kilometers in length and we spent over two and a half hours exploring it all. Since the trails are so short, I can’t reasonably review each one individually. So, what we did on these trails was to follow all trail junctions to the right, until we hit the Concession Road at the North end. There we turned left and walked to the West trailhead, re-entered the forest, and returned to following all trails to the right.
The first thing you’ll notice are the width of the trails. They’re all at least wide enough for two to walk side by side and some are wider than that. Next, you’ll notice how amazingly well marked the trails are. I don’t mean just alot of painted tin can lids nailed to trees. I mean top quality, trail name signposts directionally pointing at EVERY intersection of trails (a rarity I’m sad to say), and clearly visible coloured diamonds to define the trail between the intersections. There is absolutely NO question where you are at ANY time on these trails. The Wife navigated with ease from the brochure we found at the trailhead kiosk (on September 1st, there were STILL a handfull of trailguides with a “guest sign in” book at the kiosk !). The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust takes better care of their trails than I do my own backyard.
There are a few sidetrails that lead to private residences, but those trails are very well (and politely) identified by signage, as private property with a request (and a thanks) to respect their privacy. I’ll mention a couple of signed shortcut trails we saw. We tried one, just to be thorough, but soon ran into difficulty finding markers. Not wishing to chance trespassing, we returned to the main trail.
There are three accesses to, and a couple views of, the Burnt River. At the access on the Big Bend Loop, there’s a lovely little collection of rough wooden benches overlooking the river. The others have a more limited view. Though, at the riverbank on the River View trail I saw a Cardinal flower in full bloom and the seed pods of a fringed orchid. On the subject of orchids, we saw many cypripedium (lady’s slipper) leaves and seed pods scattered about the Southern end of the forest. Should be an impressive sight in June. Numerous suspected patches of fringed polygala and partridgeberry lined the trails and were even underfoot as we walked.
The mushroom display was quite nice in September too.
Our blackberries (on the shores of Lake Ontario) were finished weeks before this. At Dahl Forest, they hadn’t even finished ripening yet. Damn! they looked tasty. And then, we saw something we didn’t recognize. Unfortunately, they weren’t ripe yet either. Double damn ! I’d never even seen, much less tasted, Arctic Raspberries.
I’d read that the Dahl family planted over one hundred thousand trees on this former failed farmland. I normally don’t care for plantation forests, but all I saw were some patchy spots in the Southermost section anyway, while the rest has re-forested naturally. However, I didn’t pay much attention to the trees due to … the mosses. I have never seen so much moss, neither in variety of species, nor in landscape covered in it. I felt like I was wandering about in a rainforest. In a word … lush. We walked on a carpet of moss, surrounded by a forest floor covered in mosses. I have no idea how many different kinds there were, but it would’ve been plenty. They varied from half a dozen shades of green to snowy white. At every step there were chartreuse carpets decorated with delicate fungi, or pure white carpets with bright green mosses protruding through, like tundra pines through a blanket of snow.
There were alot of interesting display signage recounting the history of the property and the natural features as well. The foundations of previous residences can be seen on the Red Squirrel Creek Trail and the Old Farmstead Trail.
The Final Take
There are numerous possibilities of loop trails here due to the excellent trail markers. All trails are wide enough for at least two to walk side by side.
Despite seeing some ATV tracks on the few private property trails, there wasn’t a trace of damage nor trash anywhere. *** My apologies to Peter Dahl. I have learned that neither ATVs nor Snowmachines are allowed in Dahl Forest. What I saw were the tracks of trail maintenance equipment used to keep this forest accessible and gorgeous *** The one thing I haven’t mentioned was the delicious silence. At the extreme North end we heard the faint growl of a few vehicles while walking the concession road between the Old Farmstead and the North Road trails. It came as almost a shock since the rest of the trails were soundless, save the wind and water.
William Dahl and his family lived my dream. He purchased an abandoned piece of failed agricultural land, poured his heart and soul into it, and re-created a beautiful place. I’m so envious … and grateful.
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust also deserves credit for their stewardship of this property. Please note the donation box near the trailhead. After walking these trails, it was very easy to be generous.
Have a nice walk,