Hiking in Orillia (Part 1)

Exploring some of the many trails that the Orillia area has to offer!

Earlier this year, I had the chance to explore the Orillia, Ontario, area a little more. A friend of mine was back home in Ontario visiting family and we arranged to meet up in Orillia one day for a visit. Since we both enjoy spending time in the outdoors, we thought we’d check out a couple trails in the area and go hiking!

After doing some research online, I learnt that there are actually quite a few different trails in and around the Orillia area. After reading about the different trails, we decided on two, the Water’s Edge Trail at McRae Point Provincial Park, and the Scout Valley Loop Trail. These two trails were easy and short, but due to the lack of time we had to hike that day, they would be perfect. They both were located very close to Orillia, had easy access and parking during winter, and I already knew how to get to the one trail as I had been there before.

We met up in Orillia and had a nice little chat before we headed out to the trails. The last time we had seen each other we had met up in Algonquin Provincial Park during fall of 2018 and had hiked the Booth’s Rock Trail. We both really enjoyed hiking that trail!

A short drive out of Orillia brought us to McRae Point Provincial Park. This small park is located on Lake Simcoe. For it’s small size, the park has quite a few campsites, a large beach, a boat launch, and beautiful views across the lake. I stopped at McRae Point for a quick visit one afternoon last summer, while in the area, and I had hiked a short section of the trail that my friend and I would be hiking.

McRae Point is closed during the winter season, but people are welcome to park nearby and walk around the gate into the park. The Water’s Edge Trail loops around the south and north ends of the park and is connected by the park roads in between. One section of the trail comes out to the road right near the gate, so that was where we would start hiking from.

From the start, we could tell that this was a well used trail during winter. The snow was packed down well from other people, and was easy to walk with just our winter boots, no snowshoes needed. The trail followed along the Lake Simcoe shoreline, and we could see the lake easily through the leafless trees. Fox tracks crossed the trail through one section and headed out onto the frozen lake.

Considering that there are many houses located just outside of the park’s boundary, it was very quiet. No birds chirping, just the noise of a light breeze coming across the lake. It was a beautiful warm and sunny winter day!

We arrived at the end of a point jutting out into the lake, the most southern end of the park. It was a nice spot to take a rest and look around. After a mostly dull start to the winter, it was nice to stand out in the open in the warm sun. Being that it had been a warmer winter, we could see open water still beyond the ice on the lake. The waves had pushed up broken chunks of ice against the shoreline which had a beautiful blue hue to it!

From this point you can also see Strawberry Island. This island used to be owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Congregation of St. Basil as a place of retreat, and Pope John Paul II spent three days on the island in 2002.

We left the point and continued on along the trail, which took us through some large Eastern White Cedar trees that had grown almost sideways, windswept from living in the harsh strong winds that blow across Lake Simcoe.

We hiked along and then found ourselves out to where the trailhead for the Water’s Edge Trail is located. There was a boat launch here as well, along with another expansive view across Lake Simcoe.

From here we began to hike out of the park following the main park road. Due to the lack of time we had, we would not be hiking the north section of the trail this time. On our way out we passed by a group of cross country skiers who were making their way into the park, enjoying an afternoon of skiing along the unplowed park roads.

We passed the closed up park gatehouse. I always find it interesting to see locations at parks like this during winter compared to how they look during the busy summer months. Everything is quiet and peaceful, and covered in a blanket of snow, resting until spring when everything will come alive again!

Walking around the gate we arrived back at our vehicle. We had enjoyed a nice little hike at McRae Point! It’s always nice to explore new places and during different seasons. I’d like to come back to this park during warmer months and check out the rest of the Water’s Edge Trail.

We hopped in the car and headed back into Orillia to find somewhere to have lunch.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, Hiking in Orillia (Part 2), where we explore the Scout Valley Loop Trail!

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