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Millbrook’s Trout Ponds Trails Re-visited
UPDATE – April 22 2021 – Thanks to Dave D’Agostino’s comment below, I’ve learned that you can continue past Fire road 310 into the Ganaraska forest (without a pass) to a picturesque bridge over a stream. We’ll return to complete this review when time permits. Bushwhacker
I wrote a review on these trails back in 2014. At that time there were only a couple of them, and though well maintained, they weren’t well claimed by anyone. Not as much as the trails to, and through, Millbrook were anyway. Since then alot has happened. It appears the Millbrook Valley Trail Advisory Committee got an infusion of fresh blood. I was going to simply update my earlier review until we put our feet on the ground to look around, and realized it would be easier to re-issue a whole new review. So … here we go.
There are now, two main parking lots to access this trail system. To get to them, drive North on County Rd 10 from Port Hope to the Zion Line (aka the 4th Line). Turn Left on Zion Line and drive a short way ‘til you see the sign for the 4th Line theater on the left, then just drive a few meters past it to the Millbrook Provincial Fishing and Recreation Area. The sign and entrance will be quite obvious on your left (South). This link will open Google Maps at the location:
Or, you can continue on the 4th (Zion) Line, over Baxter Creek, to Elgar Dr. (Also on your left). Continue straight down Elgar (past Fire Road 3) to a small parking lot. This link will open Google Maps at the location:
I’ll warn you now that the Elgar Dr. parking lot is a madhouse of mountain cyclists on weekends, so be advised.
There’s also a third access, without a parking lot though. It’s almost directly across from Carveth Dr. on 4th (Zion) Line, to the South. There’s a small hill to climb up to the railway berm, by going around the gate.
There are some straight forward trails and some wild and wiggly trails. The latter were designed by mountain cyclists for maximum thrills. However, they make good walking trails regardless. I think the best way to layout this review is to use the old railway berm to separate the trail system.
Trails to the North-east of the Railbed
I’ll start from the 4th (Zion) Line parking lot. From the lot you’ll start on the Grand Trunk Pathway. On your way to the first trout pond, you’ll pass two trails exactly on opposite sides of the Grand Trunk. On your right is :
The Baxter Creek Extension Trail (0.25 kms one-way)
It just goes past the South end of the first pond, through a cedar forest, and across a wet patch by boardwalk, back out to the 4th (Zion) Line. Across the 4th (Zion) Line, it connects to the Baxter Creek Trail to Millbrook. My review of that trail is here : Trout Ponds to Millbrook Trail
To your left is :
The Cedar Trail (0.6 kms one-way)
It starts with a steep climb through a cedar forest and continues to climb across a meadow, into a mixed forest where it levels out. As you continue, the forest turns to plantation forest. I call them fake forests as they were pines all planted in rows like corn. They were meant to control erosion from irresponsible lumbering practices nearly a century ago.
The forest turns to spooky cedars as you go downhill to a pretty little stream with an equally pretty bridge over it. The trail turns to flagstone and boardwalks as you walk over a wet piece of landscape. Then, its up a short hill to the Railbed.
There’s a trail to the left before you hit the Railbed. It’s called the Roots Revival. It’s just 260 meters long and delivers you to the Railbed at it’s termination (and the Backstage Pass Trail, reviewed below).
Continuing on the Grand Trunk Pathway, past the Cedar, and Baxter Creeķ Extension trails, you’ll see the first pond and it’s viewing platform. The Wife and I have seen some impressively sized trout under the ice here on our winter walks (the ponds are stocked by the province). As you leave the first pond you’ll see a tiny dam to your left just before the slight hill to the second pond.
Taking the left path up to the second pond will take you along the banks of that pond where, in season, you will spot blue bottle Gentians. The trail enters a mixed forest and climbs up to the Railbed. Just before the Railbed, you’ll pass the Grand Trunk Side Loop trail (reviewed next) which will take you past an historic train bridge, then back to the second pond, and the Grand Trunk.
Should you choose to take the uphill path to the right at the second pond, after a short walk alongside the pond, keep a look out to your right for :
The Grand Trunk Side Loop (0.6 kms)
This trail has been greatly improved by the addition of boardwalks over what was a “muck to the ankles” trail leading to a beautiful stone tunnel under the Railbed. My old walking chum Ranger and I, first saw this tunnel decades ago. At that time, Ranger scampered up the extremely steep side, to the Railbed to see where he was. He’d walked that Railbed for years looking for that tunnel and couldn’t believe it was right under his nose all the while.
Anyway, there’s a new trail to the left now that slowly goes uphill alongside the Berm to the Railbed. It meets up with the Grand Trunk just before it reaches the Railbed (as mentioned above).
The Railbed (1.2 kms one-way)
This railbed was the furthest reach of the Trout Pond Trails for many years. You can access it from any number of trails. Or, you can park in the 4th (Zion) Line parking lot and walk out to the road. Turn left (West), walk over the creek and up the hill to find access to the Railbed directly across from Carveth Dr. There’s a short hill with a gate you can walk around. Of course, you could just park on the roadside and walk up too.
This railbed was a wooden trestle when first built. It was filled in after maintenance costs of the wood became prohibitive. The view from the heights is invigorating. You might trip over what appear to be tree roots, but they’re actually 170 year old railway ties. The ground on both sides of the berm slowly rises as you walk South until it becomes even with the Railbed, near its termination.
Trails to the South-West of the Railbed
Where the Cedar Trail meets the Railbed, it’s name changes to:
The Meadow Trail (0.9 kms one-way)
This one begins on the other side of the Railbed from the Cedar Trail. This trail is a long, steady, steep climb up, and up. You’ll pass an extensive patch of blue bottle Gentians on the way up. It will eventually level out and will present you a pleasant walk through mixed forest.
Before you get to the level ground on the Meadow Trail, you’ll pass an offshoot trail to the right. That’s the :
Trench Town Trail (1.1 kms one-way)
This one is a real mountain cycling trail. It might well measure over a kilometer long, but it doesn’t cover anywhere near that distance, across the landscape. It’s a nice walk with a lot of switchbacks that makes the uphill climb a bit easier, or not. It depends on your hill climbing philosophy, and it terminates on the Meadow trail as the ground levels out.
Further up the Meadow trail you’ll hit :
The Backstage Pass Trail (1.3 kms one-way)
This is a cyclist trail as well. However, it’s not as switchback as the Trench Town, and it’s actually a really nice trail to walk. It has some lovely views of the forest valley which has a clear understorey. It will take you back down to the Railbed.
Just a short way into the Backstage Pass you’ll find :
The Itch Trail (0.35 kms)
I have no idea where (or why) mountain cyclists get these names from. The Itch is very short and has nothing new or unique to offer.
From the intersection of Trench Town and The Itch with the Meadow, the Meadow Trail becomes :
The Meadow Trail Extension (0.6 kms one-way)
It will take you across a mildly undulating landscaped corridor between two private properties to the Elgar Dr. parking lot.
The Deyell Detour (2.4 kms) and The Ganny Transit (2.6 kms) both one-way
While you could make numerous loops out of all the other trails here, these two are just one trail of five kms one-way, with a name change at about the halfway mark. They’ll lead into the Ganaraska Forest which I have virtually no use for. You need to purchase a day pass for it, and quite frankly, they couldn’t pay me to venture into the Ganaraska Forest.
The Deyell Detour Trail is back up Elgar Drive (toward the 4th Line) and around to Fire Road 3. You passed it on your way to the parking lot on Elgar Dr. if you came in from the 4th Line. It’ll be on your left from the parking lot. I really enjoyed this trail ’cause it exemplifies everything I love about back roads. It starts out as an easily driven road, then it degrades into a road I’d think about if I had my truck, then it degrades into a road I wouldn’t even take my truck down, then it turns into a single file trail into the bush. Gotta love it !
The Deyell Detour becomes the Ganny Transit Trail without any fanfare (nor signage) somewhere along the way. It doesn’t really matter as I didn’t notice the name change ‘til I looked closely at a map.
Mind you, the walking is pretty easy (meaning level) up to the point where it becomes a trail into the bush. That’s where the mountain cycling thrills start. Yeah, she gets pretty hilly again, just after you cross over the lovely little stream. I should mention there are a few offshoot trails along the road, but just look for the diamond shaped trail markers and you’ll be fine. Then … we saw the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen on a trail. SOMEONE hauled at least a ton (literally) of flagstone out there and paved the trail with it ! Decades ago, the Wife and I paved our backyard with three tons of flagstone, so I know what an unbelievable achievement this trail was. I can’t even imagine … a) how they did it …b) WHY ??
The trail ends at Fire Rd 310 (unless you have a Ganaraska Day Pass or whatever). You can’t miss the Fire road and there’s very clear signage stating that the Ganaraska Forest (and the need for a pass) is just ahead. The good news is, though it feels like you were climbing up and down to get to the fire road, you’ll notice you were actually mostly climbing up. So, the walk back to the level roadway at the stream will be a welcome, mostly downhill, stroll.
I should mention that there was water on the trail (with tadpoles in it) on the section of road before the bridge over the stream. We got around it in early August, but the terrain around the wet spots isn’t any drier than the trail, so you’re not gonna be able to bushwhack around them. The next time we walk it, I’ll either bring some waterproof footwear, or just plan on getting my feet wet.
The Final Take
Some of these new trails are obviously designed by, and for, mountain cyclists (Trench Town and Backstage Pass). But don’t let that deter you from walking them if there aren’t hoards of cyclists around. I figure, they ride our original walking trails, so we can walk their new cycling ones. Either way, I wouldn’t use the two I mentioned above, on a weekend. As I suggested earlier, don’t bother trying to park at the Elgar Dr. lot on weekends either.
The nine new trails are wonderful. Combined with the overall improvements and maintenance of the original trails, this trail site is a “stand alone” location in which one could spend an entire day. A century old railway berm and stone tunnel, two stocked trout ponds, wildflowers and animals, wildly varied landscapes and topography, they’re all here now.
The trail widths vary between single file and two at the shoulder, and the width will vary back and forth on the same trail. There’s usually a privy at the 4th (Zion) Line parking lot, but I didn’t notice one at the Elgar lot. Leashed dog walking is permitted (watch for bikes though). There are boardwalks, a bridge, and flagstone based pathways. Any number and length of loop trails can be made from these.
From the ponds, the trails can be a bit hilly on the way up to the Railbed. From the Railbed, the trails become very hilly on your way to the Elgar Dr. parking lot. From Elgar there’s a nice level walk … until the bridge about 4/5ths the distance along, when it gets … hilly. Due to the steepness of many of these trails, I wouldn’t try walking these after a rain. You’ll wanna make sure the ground will be dry.
Have a nice walk,