Hidden Gems -Stay at Home Gem: Scout Valley Loop
For many folks, March Break is the perfect time to seek out some fun in the sun. For those of us who may not have this opportunity or who just plain LOVE winter, Springwater Township and the areas surrounding it, offer a plethora of options. Whether it’s skiing the slopes or cross countrying along the trails of Blue Mountain, Horseshoe Valley or Snow Valley or seeking out wonderful spots to snowshoe or hike through the many trails and conservation areas of Simcoe County, you are sure to find beautiful winter scenery everywhere. One spot that has become a favourite is the Scout Valley Loop Trail.
Being in such close proximity to Lakehead University, this natural gem has become very popular with students attending school at the Orillia campus. To access this trail, park in the lot located at 419 15th Line N or the ones located off of Old Barrie Road and Memorial Ave. Both of the latter are west of Hwy. 11. In 2007, the City of Orillia donated this conservation easement to the Couchiching Conservancy. Consisting of 228 acres, this trail system meanders through forests and skirts streams amidst an extremely varied habitat. It is a particularly fabulous spot for viewing songbirds. With spring just around the corner, there’s a good chance of spotting some newly arrived feathered friends.
There are three main loop trails located on the Scout Valley property. Each is approximately 2 km and is considered moderate in terms of level of difficulty. The three trails interconnect although you can start and finish each one independently. Begin the Algonquin Trail at the SE corner of the north parking lot off of Old Barrie Road. Proceed up to the top of the shoreline ridge. Turn right to reach the viewing platform or left to continue downhill to reach the connecting side trail. Go straight to cross the bridge to the connecting Sugarbush Trail or turn right to complete the loop. The Sugarbush Trail starts from the 15th Line parking lot. There is a short link to reach the main loop. Turn right at the junction to begin the loop. Turn left when you meet up with the Homestead Trail. Watch for a sharp left turn at the junction of another trail. Sugarbush Trail then meets up with the connecting side trail to Algonquin Trail across the bridge over the creek. Turn left to complete this loop. The Homestead Trail can be accessed from the Memorial Ave. parking lot. There is also a short link to the main loop. Once up the hill, turn left. Turn right at the start of the loop. You will come across the remains of a log building on the left. Continue left up the hill. Turn left to complete the Homestead Trail or right to complete the Sugarbush Trail. Each of the loops provide an opportunity to observe a remnant of majestic white pine, hardwood bush, sand barrens and wetland. Upon closer inspection, you can see the old retreating Ice Age Lake Algonquin Shoreline. Regan House, a 33 by 23 square foot home built of squared pine timbers is also located within the boundaries of the valley. It is considered Orillia’s oldest home and was formerly located on Westmount Drive.
For those looking for a fairly challenging hike, Scout Valley Loop is just the ticket. Still not a fan of the wintery outdoors? Many local shops, restaurants and pubs have fun events planned for the break and Barrie’s Locallicious continues to be in full swing. Check them out!