On the surface, going to a dark-sky preserve during the day makes no sense. Ok, so you go at night in order to view constellations and beyond in the vastness of the universe – got it!
All kidding aside, Torrance Barrens is a nationally designated dark-sky preserve that provides unparalleled opportunities to view the night sky without the effects of light pollution. In addition to being a dark-sky preserve, Torrance Barrens, is also a provincial conservation reserve, with kilometres of hiking trails developed by the Muskoka Lakes Trail Committee(MLTC). You can check out the MLTC site here. Muskoka Trails Council website
Being just over an hour from our home, it was an easy half day trip that we made in August 2015. The trailhead is more or less between Bala and Gravenhurst on Muskoka Road 13(Southwood Road). Google map Torrance Barrens, those directions will be far clearer than anything I try to give you.
There are a number of loop trails at Torrance Barrens. On our day there, we completed a 9.5 km circuit, including the Pine Ridge Loop and the Barrens Extension Trails.
As the name suggests, it is somewhat “Barren.” But, and this is a big but, the landscape here makes the trip worth it. Hiking here from our perspective, presented a wonderful change from hiking kilometres of forested trails. It gives everything from rock, wetlands, moss covered areas to peat-filled bogs. We found it a fascinating location because it was completely different from the typical Muskoka trail one might find. Not that we have anything against kilometres of forested trails, but this here was a breath of fresh air.
The trails are very well marked with white blazes on trees and rocks and with some plastics flagging tape tied to branches.
At the trail head there is parking for maybe 8 cars. In August 2015, there is a port-potty available. Can’t say if it is there now. As well, there was some info about the Barrens and trail maps in a mail box at the trail head.
Overall the hike isn’t doesn’t present a huge overall challenge. The payoff comes in the landscape. There was only one very small steep ascent on the Pine Ridge section after crossing a small bridge.
If you where looking for an afternoon outing, you might consider this is an option. Plus, being not far from either Bala or Gravenhurst, makes these two towns great locations to either start or finish your outing with a meal.
Photographs are the property of Lynn McKenzie of Lynn McK Photography and cannot be reproduced without her consent.