Distance hiked: 4.5km
Location: Sheffield Conservation Area, Ontario
Date: September 20, 2020
Located just north of Napanee along Highway 41, Sheffield Conservation Area offers the most southerly dark sky site in Ontario and is often used for stargazing. The conservation area also features a single hiking trail that weaves through the forest, along granite outcroppings and around wetlands.
Cases have steadily been rising in Ontario since the start of September. So to (safely) celebrate my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday, we decided to head up to the cabin for the weekend. On the drive back to Toronto on Sunday, we stopped at the Sheffield Conservation Area to knock another hike off the list from our 52 Hike Challenge. The weather was fabulous (16°C with blue skies) and we could use the exercise from eating pure garbage over the weekend.
The trail starts near the small parking lot and boat launch. There is a small fee for parking ($5 per day), which assists with maintenance and upgrades of all the conservation areas in Quinte. Near the trailhead there’s a map of the trail.
Near the trailhead, there are a couple of picnic tables overlooking the lake. There is also a plaque that indicates that the purchase of the land for the Sheffield Conservation Area was made possible by a donation from the Belleville Yardmen Benefit Fund.
Shortly after the trail reaches a junction, we turned left and hiked clockwise along the loop. The trail is clearly signed with blue blazes on the trees and rocky outcrops.
The path follows along Little Mellon Lake before winding deeper into the forest. About 1.3km in, the trail crosses over a little stream near a beaver pond. We were a bit confused where to go at first because there’s a sign that indicates that the trail is closed and there is no maintenance beyond this point. But then we saw some makeshift bridge of logs, so we used that to cross over the stream and continued to follow the blue blazes onwards. The path seemed in decent shape, a bit narrow and rocky, but we’ve handled worse.
The path then follows along granite outcroppings to a scenic lookout of Haley Lake. From here, the trail continues along the ridge, above the treeline. Maybe we should have brought sunscreen for this. I was also starting to regret my decision to wear sweatpants (sweat is right).
The path onward wasn’t obvious and the blue blazes weren’t always easy to spot. We had to backtrack a couple of times, but eventually we found our way.
The path then dips back into the forest, providing some much appreciated shade from the sun. The trail continues through the forest leading back to the junction and passes by a few marshy areas along the way. These were easily the most scenic lookouts of the hike.
Even though it was still early in the season, some of the leaves were already starting to change colour here. We finished up our hike shortly after 12p.m and from here it’s about a 2.5 hour drive back to Toronto. Not a bad way to end the weekend.
My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here