The temperatures are dropping, the bugs are disappearing, and the leaves are changing colour. These are just a few reasons why autumn is the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy one of York Region’s many beautiful hiking trails.
To me, hiking represents what life is all about: pushing boundaries, exploring different paths, and discovering something new. If you’re willing to put in the work, you’re rewarded with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment at the end (plus one heck of a view as Mother Nature shows off her vibrant attire this time of year).
However, the benefits to hiking go beyond the connection with nature; a passion for this type of outdoor recreation may introduce you to a whole new community of fellow explorers. The Oak Ridges Trail Association (ORTA) is a volunteer-based charitable organization offering a wide-range of guided hikes to over 700 active members in the greater Toronto area. First developed in 1991, ORTA continues to pursue a mandate to build and maintain a public hiking trail system across the Oak Ridges Moraine, which stretches over 300km in distance – from Caledon to Warkworth.
“We want to develop opportunities for folks to hike and to be part of the Moraine,” says Kevin Lowe, president of ORTA. He explains the objective is to increase awareness of the Moraine’s ecological, cultural and scenic integrity, with the aim of retaining a trail corridor in its natural state.
ORTA operates in all seasons, with over 300 scheduled hikes offered by trained hike leaders every year. “The fall is a great time to be out and about,” says Lowe. After all, the trees only display their bright pallet of oranges, reds and yellows once a year, and the window for enjoyment is much too short. If you don’t take advantage, you might miss out.
Some of Lowe’s favourite hikes for seeing the fall colours include Walker Woods in Uxbridge, as well as Bendor and Graves Tract, north of Newmarket. The ORTA website (www.oakridgestrail.org) provides a full list of featured trails and maps, as well as guidebooks and other resources. The hikes are categorized by distance and difficulty, allowing visitors to find a route that suits their comfort level. There’s even a gallery featuring photos from past hikes.
While you’re encouraged to use these tools to explore on your own, anyone with an interest in hiking is welcome to join in on one of ORTA’s organized hikes. By doing so, you’ll benefit from the company of fellow hikers – groups range in size from four to 35 people – as well as a certified guide to lead the way. You don’t have to be a member or a regular hiker to join. But if you are looking for routine hiking and the camaraderie offered by an organized group, the membership cost is only $40 annually, with the majority of the fee designated for regular trail maintenance.
If you’re interested in learning more, ORTA is hosting a Discovery Night on September 15th. Further details can be found on their website. Go explore!
Oak Ridges Trail Association
Nokiida Trail Association
Uxbridge Trail Maps
Silver Lakes Golf Club, East Gwillimbury
written by Charlotte Ottaway