Over the past year I have spent several weekends exploring the Haliburton Highlands. In Toronto's favourite cottage country there are some great hikes to be had.
One of my favourites is perhaps Barnum Creek, a lovely stand of mixed forest and meadows bisected by the waters of Barnum Creek. After heavy rains the creek swells dramatically, leaving some wonderful rapids accessed by the aptly named Waterfall Way.
Along the Heritage Hike, which meanders through pretty forests and past an old farmstead, I found a short stretch of the trail to be under water, making for an adventurous shin-deep creek crossing.
Barnum Creek is 5 kms south-east of Haliburton along the Gelert Road.
If you are looking for a more educational and perhaps spiritual experience, look no further than Abbey Gardens. Near the parking lot are lush vegetable gardens where volunteer gardeners are more than happy to answer any questions you might have about sustainably growing your own food. Further towards the back of the property, behind the retreat centre, you will find a network of pretty forested trails.
Abbey Gardens is also home to the Food Hub, a prime example of how businesses can operate in a sustainable way. The gardens are located just off Highway 118, halfway between Haliburton and Carnarvon.
A third hike I can recommend is set in the deep woods north-east of Kinmount. Here Dahl Forest is approximately 500 acres straddling the Burnt River. In 2009 the Dahl Family left this ecologically significant property to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.
There is a nice network of trails, most of which follow old forest roads. But keep your eyes out for some of the short cuts and you will find yourself on narrow hiking trails which are not on the trail map.
Some of the side trails lead down to the Burnt River, a beautiful wide stream which on sunny days sparkles like so many diamonds were strewn on its surface.
Dahl Forest is located where Geeza Road meets the Burnt River, 5 kms south of Gelert.
You can find these hikes, along with directions, trail maps and downloadable GPX files on our Near Toronto Hikes page.