When spring arrives after a long and cold winter, it’s that first warm day that starts your blood to flow again. The forest wakes up and things start to grow and bloom one more time and you get that itch to be on a trail somewhere; someplace. April 16th, 2016 turned out to be that day. That Sunday dawned a warm 20 degrees C; igniting that spark to get back out on a hike.
This day, we drove about an hour from our home to The Pretty River Valley Provincial Park located south of Collingwood. It’s a non-operating park; therefore no facilities. The Bruce Trail passes through the park, as well as a couple of side trails providing the opportunity for a loop circuit versus a linear hike. It’s a fairly popular location for the mountain biking crowd as well.
There is parking available at a couple of locations on Pretty River Road (Side Road 33/34 Nottawasaga). The first is a parking area used by snowmobilers, located west of the Collingwood/Clearview Township Line, the second is a Bruce Trail parking area (2 or 3 cars only) located a couple of hundred metres west of the first location. We parked at this location and accessed the trail at this point.
Let me say that this is a beautiful, but challenging area to hike given the very HILLY TERRAIN.
Our goal was to hike to the highest point on the Bruce Trail and return… a distance of about 8 km.
We hiked up through a meadow and entered the forest to start on a 2 kilometre trek down to the Pretty River.
On our way to the bottom of the valley, we encountered dry sections of trail, very muddy sections, as well as snow and ice-covered parts of the trail as well. Come on, who doesn’t like temps in the 20 degree C range, while hiking in shorts and surrounded by snow and ice?
The trail passes through a number of different tree canopies and crosses the Pretty River several times. At this time of year, it was fast-moving and very clear. There was no sediment or water discolouration that you find in many streams in this area. Any spot along the river would make a nice place to sit and enjoy the solitude.
The trail makes two crossings of the Pretty River. One on a man-made bridge; the other – well, let’s say “get across any way you can.” Once you cross the river for the second time, a long 2 kilometre uphill slog lies in front of you… to get to the location of the highest point of the Bruce Trail. The high point is located on the John Haig Side Trail. You’ll see signage indicating the intersection of this trail and the main Bruce Trail.
Upon arriving at the high point (see pic above) we had a bit of a rest and a bite to eat (fuel for the return trip). Coming the other way was a mountain biker who we found out had already biked about 20 or more kilometres just to get to this point. Yikes! After chatting for a bit, I gave him a bottle of water, which he graciously accepted and he was on his way.
Having been re-fuelled and to get going again, we returned via the main Bruce Trail and the Pretty River Side Trail in order to create a loop trip. This proved to be a great choice because we happened upon this stunning pond.
Although these pics might not illustrate it perfectly, the water had a very turquoise colour, reminiscent of the glacial lakes found in the Rockies.
The sun was out, and everything and everybody seemed to be coming out of hibernation. It was the type of day we all long for – that perfect spring day.
As an added bonus, there were some great views to be had of the valley and hills to the south.
We had driven through this area several times in the past, always thinking that it would be a good place to hike. We were glad we made to the Pretty River Valley. Located not far from any location in Simcoe County, it would make a great choice to head out for the day.
I think it would really make a great spot to hike for a couple of hours, then head into Collingwood for lunch or maybe an early dinner.
I’d recommend checking the Pretty River Provincial Park out. It’s a can’t miss location.
There are tremendous hiking opportunities to be found in every area of the province. Most muncipalities, counties, provincial and national parks to name a few, have extensive trail systems. Everything is available from urban hikes right at your back door or maybe a short drive of an hour or two for something a little different.
There is a hiking trail out there, not far away, that has your name on it.
I encourage you to get out there and find it. You won’t be disappointed.
See ya out there!