Hike #34: Island Lake Conservation Area

Distance hiked: 12km
Location: Island Lake Conservation Area, Ontario
Date: July 25, 2020

Island Lake marks the headwaters, or source, of the Credit River, which flows all the way to Port Credit and into Lake Ontario. It is the largest artificial lake in the Credit River Watershed and is considered a provincially significant wetland. 

Island Lake is named after one of the original settlers, Michael Island, who arrived here around 1830. He purchased a deed to 100 acres of land around the area where the original pond was located. In 1967, the local landscape changed dramatically when two dams were constructed to control the amount of water flowing into the river and improve the quality of the water. The Island Lake Conservation Area opened to the public in 1970 after the completion of these dams. Today, it is a popular recreational area for hiking, fishing, kayaking and birdwatching. 

There are a variety of trails that weave through the different habitats of the conservation area, including lakes, wetlands, forests and meadows. 

We first hiked clockwise along the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail (8.2km round trip), which follows along the shore of the lake. The trail is wide, relatively flat and well marked with orange squares on posts.

The trail itself consists of a mix between a gravel path and series of boardwalks, so there isn’t much to be had in terms of shade. 

Along the path are a series of interpretive signs which provide more details about things like: the history of the area, the importance of certain plants to the wetlands, invasive species, and why Island Lake is considered a provincially significant wetland. 

At the North Dam, the path reaches a junction. We made a short detour to hike along the Island Lake Family Trail (700m), which is marked by yellow squares. 

The trail leads to an overfill parking lot, but also connects with the Hockley Trail (1.5km) to form a loop back to the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. The Hockley Trail is marked by purple squares. 

After the detour, we continued walking along the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. Here the trail meanders through an open meadow (with very little shade). There’s an interpretive sign that provides more detail of how the land was shaped almost 13,000 years ago by glaciers. The trails at Island Lake Conservation Area are on a moraine deposit, a large formation of rocks and gravel that are released by a glacier when it melts. Before Island Lake was flooded, there was a smaller kettle lake here, which was made by a large chunk of ice that was left behind by the glacier. 

The trail leads to a scenic lookout of the portion of the lake that is a wildlife sanctuary and provides a nice view of the path onwards, which is a boardwalk that crosses the lake. 

On the way back to the parking lot, we made a detour to hike along the Sugar Bush Trail (2.3km round trip) to hide from the sun and dodge the crowds of people. The trail weaves through a Maple-Beech forest where maple syrup production is still practiced. 

The trail connects with the Memorial Forest Trail (1.9km round trip), which we hiked part-way along to extend this hike into a longer loop. The path weaves through the forest and passes by a memorial that was built in 2011 by dry stone waller Eric Landman who built a beautiful memorial tree wall in memory of his late wife, Kerry. 

We finished up our hike around lunch o’clock. Overall it took us 2.5 hours to complete most of the trails in the Island Lake Conservation Area. We were eager to head out to eat some lunch and get away from the crowds. 


My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here

33 thoughts on “Hike #34: Island Lake Conservation Area

  1. kagould17 says:

    Love the stone tree wall. What a great tribute. I think one would have to hike the “no shade” portions earlier in the day and enjoy the forest when it got hotter. Looks like a nice wetlands area. Thanks for sharing. Allan

  2. Christie says:

    We were about to go there few weeks ago, as some friends recommended it. Instead we headed to Niagara Falls, and detoured to some wineries LOL Next spring we’ll go for sure!
    Thank you for sharing!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Well visiting wineries in Niagara sounds like much more fun than hiking in the heat. The Island Lake Conservation Area is pretty lovely. The paths are all wide and relatively flat. There is very little shade coverage though. So it’s a good thing that you’re planning to go next spring. Take care.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It is a nice area to hike. The only downside is that other people thought so too, so the trail was pretty busy when we went. And yes, the memorial stone wall was very well done. The story behind it is very touching.

  3. carol hopkins says:

    Love the photographs as well as the text – great post. It brings me back in time to a point when we used to enjoy many different spots along the Credit River, especially the forks of the Credit, near Belfountain and Caledon. I love that you included Island Lake in your places to wander. I can attest, hikers will not be disappointed, especially at this time of year when the forest is in full fall glory.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Near and along the Credit River is one of my favourite areas to hike, especially in the fall. We’ve driven by the Island Lake Conservation Area countless times and I’ve always thought it looked like a nice place to hike because of the boardwalk. This was our first time visiting. In retrospect, we probably should have saved this one for the fall to enjoy the fall colours, and also because there is very little shade along the main trail. Either way, glad we finally visited.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve driven by this conservation area so many times on our way through Orangeville. I’ve always been intrigued by the long boardwalk that you can see from the highway. So we thought we’d give it a whirl. The main trail follows along the shore of the lake and the path is quite wide and relatively flat. The only downside is that it can get busy and there isn’t much shade coverage along the main path. It’s nice though and I would highly recommend it.

      • Ab says:

        Thank you. It’s on our list. 🙂 I looked at the weather again. 23 on Saturday! Will try to make the most of it and pack it with activities. I love boardwalks and this one looks good! Thank you again!

      • Ab says:

        Thank you! We did end up going to Ferris and Presquile. The drive in the country roads in Brighton are quite beautiful.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We ended up going to Ferris on Saturday instead of Bon Echo, largely because Bon Echo is still open for another week so we’re going to try to visit next weekend instead. Ferris was beautiful with all the fall colours. Thanks for putting this spot of my radar. I also picked up my first park patch! Glad you were able to get out and enjoy the nice weather. Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend.

      • Ab says:

        Enjoy Bon Echo! So beautiful there.

        And congrats on your first park patch. You’ve been warned – It’s fairly addictive collecting them. We stopped by PresQuile and Darlington on the way back just to pick up the patches. Lol.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I can see that. Now that I bought my first park patch, naturally I want to collect them all. Unfortunately Ferris didn’t have the Ontario Parks Passport in stock, otherwise I’m sure I would have bought that too and the Ferris sticker.

      • Ab says:

        Maybe it’s a blessing the passport was sold out! 🤣 Yah my spouse was very irritated that Ferris and Presquile only had the patches and not the stickers. We’re gonna have to go back again just got the stickers. This is how they sucker you!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Ha, yes!! One of our goals for 2021 will be to try to collect as many patches/stickers as we can. I got a bit too excited and already picked up a patch for Ferris. I didn’t want to return next year only to find that they had no more in stock. Inventory levels have been a bit low this season because of the pandemic and higher than usual visitors.

  4. Lookoom says:

    Great post, I never think about stopping in Orangeville, I drive past there to go beyond, but it’s already a bit far from Toronto for just a hike. But it’s well laid out and it’s interesting to know where the Credit River water comes from.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same, we’ve passed by Island Lake Conservation Area so many times while driving through Orangeville. This was our first time actually visiting it. We were a bit concerned that it might be noisy given its close proximity to the highway, but we couldn’t really hear the traffic. It was very busy though. Glad we came early in the morning so the trails weren’t too bad when we first arrived. It’s a nice spot and glad we were able to finally check it out.

  5. carolinehelbig says:

    Looks like a very pretty hike. I frequently visit a good friend in Port Credit and now I know the source of the Credit River. Interesting to learn that Island Lake was artificially created.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the history of some of the areas that we’ve hiked through this year. I’ve done a lot of hiking near and along the Credit River, so it was neat to learn that this area marks the headwaters of it. I’ve also passed by this place so many times, so it was nice to finally explore it. I tend to take the area that I live nearby for granted. Thanks for reading.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve driven by the conservation area so many times over the years, so it was good to finally stop and check it out. The trails are all well signed and relatively flat. It was a nice way to spend the day. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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