This is an excerpt from the soon to be released Day Hikes of Ontario Vol. II.
Terra Cotta Conservation Area is one of ten parks under the jurisdiction of Credit Valley Conservation or CVC. It includes, wetlands, ponds and some 15km of hiking trails within it’s nearly 200h.
From about 1947, this area was used as a full-blown, privately owned, recreation facility with paved parking lots, swimming pools, campsites and everything that goes with that, including concession buildings and pavilions. Then, about 1958 the CVC began to acquire acreage with the idea of creating conservation land. The concept of gaining land for recreational revenue was, at the time, an enticing idea, for the revenue would help pay for the conservation land being acquired.
By 1979, there was a shift in thinking about the CVC priorities. It went from recreation, followed by conservation, to conservation before recreation. About 1990 a new master plan (Hough, Stansbury, Woodland Limited, et al.) placed an “emphasis on the protection of the environmentally significant portions of the parkland and provision of passive recreational uses.” While recreational facilities were still being considered, there was a shift Since about 1990, the land has been slowly and carefully managed back to its original state. The paved parking lots have been revegetated, the pools removed and replaced with award winning wetlands and the campgrounds have been re-planted with native vegetation. Now, visitors can enjoy the conservation area in a more natural state, closer to what it was like prior to European settlement, an outstanding example of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO designated World Biosphere Reserve.
Begin your visit at the Visitors Welcome Centre (A). Refreshment, maps and washrooms. In the winter you can rent XC skis and snowshoes. Call ahead for hours of operation 905-877-1120.
Terra Cotta Lane 3.2km loop
This is a good place to start, if you haven’t explored the area before. The loop takes you throughout the park, and touches on some of the highlights of the history and topography of the park. Starting and ending in the parking lot, there are other, one-way trails that will connect you to the Vaughan and McGregor Springs walks. It’s an easy trail, along an old access road. Most, if not of it, is wheelchair accessible, but as always, call ahead to confirm condition of trail. The trail circumnavigates Wolf Lake, named ofter original land owner, Leo Wolf. In the winter, Wolf Lake is a great spot for ice skating or hockey on it’s frozen surface.
McGregor Spring Pond Trail 1.2km loop
This trail leads north and west from the parking lot, along the northern edge of Spring Pond and up into the rolling hills above the water’s edge. It makes it’s way through mixed forest in a westerly direction to eventually connect with Terra Cotta Lane trail. When you get to Terra Cotta Lane, turn left and head back eastward to the parking lot and welcome centre. Of course, you can extend the walk by turning right onto Terra Cotta Lane and following it in a loop back to the parking lot.
Vaughan Trail 2.2km
The Vaughan Trail skirts the western edge of the park from it’s intersection with Spring Pond Trail in the north and then turns eastward to meet up with the western leg of the AF Coventry trail in the SE. This is a little more advanced trail with lots of ups and downs, not to mention that the footing is a little sketchy due to tree roots and rocks. Hiking boots are recommended.
AF Coventry Trail 1.2km
Like the Vaughan Trail, this trail is not groomed in any way. It’s a much rougher trail, than, say the Terra Cotta Lane route and hiking boots are recommended. The trail takes the hiker across and through at least three river ravines with quite a bit of climbing and ridge walking.
Wetlands Trail – 0.6km
This trail seems accessible for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, alth