Where to go hiking in the Kawarthas to see the fall colours

The Kawartha/Northumberland region is beautiful year-round and offers a variety of landscapes to explore, from dense forests to wetlands, lakes, and scenic waterfalls. What’s great is you usually don’t have to venture far to see it all—some of the smaller towns in this region have trails that start at or wind through their central spots and still offer scenic views. This is where to go hiking in the Kawarthas for your next outdoor adventure.

Ken Reid Conservation Area trails

Open year-round, this conservation area has more than 10 kilometres of trails for hiking, walking, and even biking (when the terrain permits). The parking area, open from April to November, requires payment (about $4 for a day pass), but if you visit frequently, you can purchase a yearly pass. The Ken Reid area has something for all ages: accessible trails for those with different mobility needs, a playground for kids, and even a specific off-leash dog park area for pet owners. The trails range from something as short as 500 metres to three kilometres, and all are well marked, offering views of areas like the McLaren Creek wetland, (from Woodland loop trail) or Sturgeon Lake (from Point Loop trail).

Emily Tract

An easy crowd-pleaser, this hiking trail in the Kawarthas, which starts west of Pigeon River, takes you through a peaceful stretch of forest with minor elevation that opens to views of the surrounding area. Keep an eye out for butterflies, unique flowers, and different bird species, as this area is popular for birding. Along the way, there’s informational signage to help you look out for these features. 

Balsam Lookout Trail 

Located in beautiful Balsam Lake Provincial Park, this popular hike gives a good overview of the park and can be completed in under an hour. Keep in mind that the park closes at the end of October, so get this hike in before the season ends and while the colours are at their best. The park also has a good-sized sandy beach, so if it’s a nice day, you can turn your hike into a picnic or relaxing afternoon by the shore.

Peter’s Wood Provincial Nature Reserve Trail 

We usually only associate ‘old growth’ with forests in western Canada, but what’s special about this hike is that it’s situated within one of Ontario’s oldest forests —and what better time to see it than during the fall colour change? This short hiking trail in the Kawarthas circles around the special maple-beech forest after passing through an open field with sweeping views. It’s more of an easy walk than a hike, but if you want to see a unique forest in this peaceful area, it’s well worth it.

Carstairs Universal Trail—Northumberland County Forest 

When it comes to hiking in the Kawarthas/Northumberland region, the Northumberland County Forest can’t be beat. With over 50,000 visitors per year and more than 100 kilometres of multi-use trails, there’s something for everyone, and the density of forest gives way to some of the most beautiful vistas of fall colours. While there are endless hikes to choose from, Carstairs is a good go-to option, as it’s mid-level difficulty (about four kilometres) and has more than four route options depending on your ability, group, and what you’d like to see. There are also many informational signs detailing the unique trees in the area to add to the experience.

Warsaw Caves Conservation Area trails 

This multi-use area, popular for summer camping, has more than 15 kilometres of trails, with the bonus of getting to see the unique Warsaw Caves. Specifically, the Cave & Scenic Lookout Trail will take you through all of the highlights, and if you’re looking for something a little more challenging, there’s the Limestone Plains Trail, which can be extended to seven kilometres. You can download the trail map for a self-guided tour—note that the trails are best until the end of October; the terrain gets more difficult as the season cools.

Victoria Rail Trail

Open year-round for everything from walking to dog sledding, Victoria Rail Trail extends through the town of Lindsay and takes you through a historic railway path through the region’s forests. There are numerous access points, trail combinations, and historical points to see throughout, including the Austin Sawmill, which is part of a public park. The Rail Trail also takes you past the access points for other hikes on this list, like the Ken Reid Conservation Area, so it can be a useful jumping-off point for a day of hiking and exploring.