Snowshoe in Happy Valley, just 30 minutes north of Toronto west of Hwy. 400. A secluded enclave of small loops in a hardwood forest nestled in the hills of the Oak Ridge Moraine.
I had been eyeing this large forested area on maps for years. It seemed large enough to have potential, yet there were only fragments of info mentioned by hikers. A recent snowshoe trek with my brother and our wives revealed the possibilities and limitations.
The hiking trails consist of two areas close to each other. We started at the small Happy Valley Tract which has a medium sized parking lot.
Heading up the hill to the lookout is the first thing I do. From the top is a grand view of the countryside, homes, farm fields and the forest to the south. This open area has newly planted evergreen trees and was windy that day.
We made our way into the woods on our snowshoes over a narrow wooden bridge. This took us to another sizable climb and a healthy challenge for anyone on snowshoes. We were glad we had poles and shoes with aluminum teeth to dig into the ice below the snow cover.
Our first loop was only 2 km, so we drove south (it’s a bit far to walk) to the end of the dirt road and parked on the side. Beyond the road barrier minutes away are two other loops going 2 km west or 2 km east into the woods.
Plus on the east side, the trail forks and you can stomp for another 4 km (one way) to the Feldman Nature Reserve. That’s another entry point with a few tiny loops to check out. We did not add that to our 6 km day hike.
A lovely trek and it was a sunny mild day, so I guess we were happy in this valley. A very quiet place where we saw a few dog walkers and another group on snowshoes.
This area isn’t really suited for Nordic skiing, though signs allow it. There just isn’t enough quality trail to ski (or Fatbike) to be enjoyable and safe.
I wished that I would have discovered more routes, but I think much of the forest is private land with country estates, hidden somewhere. I also understand now why these county roads on my map do not intersect. These country lanes would have been, back then, too steep to drive.
Yet amazingly, this was a long canoe portage route to get to Lake Simcoe. Paddling up the Humber River, then overland into the Holland R. The village north of here is called Pottageville, sounds similar, hmm I wonder…
This large forest is so close to Toronto, the GTA, it makes for a quick getaway for those wishing to use their snowshoes. There’s not a ton of trail in here but certainly on snowshoes, enough for the weekend wanderer.
Signage keeps you on track. There are no amenities nearby so pack what you need. A drive of 10 km in any direction will certainly find something to your liking to eat, drink and warm up. Try Nobleton, King City, Schomberg or Aurora.