Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: January 2021
Located along the sandy shores of Lake Ontario, Darlington Provincial Park is considered an important area for many birds. The northern shores provide nesting grounds for nearly 100 species of birds and feeding and resting areas for between 100 to 200 more species during spring and fall migration. Darlington also provides a variety of recreational activities, such as swimming, hiking, birdwatching, fishing and boating. It is conveniently located right off Highway 401 and it is open all year-round.
It’s been a drab and dreary start of the year, so when the forecast was calling for sun on Sunday (funday), we decided to head outdoors and go for a hike. We drove to Darlington, which is only a hop, skip and 40 minute car ride from Toronto. Darlington is open all year-round and the parking lots at both the Registration Office and Main Park Office are plowed in the winter. There is a self-serve machine to pay for a park permit near the main gate and Registration Office.
Darlington is a small provincial park and there are a handful of short trails that wind through the different habitats in the park. We first hiked along part of the Burk Trail, which loops through the forest and to a scenic lookout. There is a wooden platform at the lookout that provides a nice glimpse of Lake Ontario through the trees.
The path crosses the road and overlaps briefly with the McLaughlin Bay Trail (1.5km, rated easy). The path is relatively flat and weaves through tall grass near a wetland and leads to the shore of Lake Ontario.
We walked along the beach. There are a few signs here which included more information on how the northern shore of Darlington is considered an important area for many birds, including the Piping Plover, which is an endangered species both federally and provincially. The Piping Plover typically arrive in mid-May and make their nests on the western end of the beach. Park staff along with volunteers have fenced off areas of the beach to minimize human disturbance to the nests and even will place small caves over the nests for protection from predators.
The trail then leads to the Darlington Pioneer Home, which now serves as the park’s Visitor and Information Centre. The original cabin was built in 1832 north of Whitby for a family of twelve. In 1967, the home was moved and rebuilt as a centennial project to commemorate the early settlers.
In 1959, Darlington Provincial Park was created due to increased demand for recreational opportunities for nearby communities. The area was initially open farmland and in the 1960s, Boy Scouts and the then Department of Lands and Forests brought shovels and seedlings and planted trees.
The path ends at a junction for the Campground Trail. We followed this north for a short stretch and crossed the road to get to the trailhead for the Robinson Creek Trail (1km, rated easy). The trail is relatively flat and loops through the forest along Robinson Creek.
Once we looped back to the trailhead, we continued along the Campground Trail, which leads to the Park Store and back to the Burk Trail. We followed along the remaining portion of the Burk Trail that passes the Pioneer Cemetery.
There is a sign here that explains the significance of the cemetery and early settlers. On October 2, 1794, three families: the Conants, Trulls and Burks, landed on the shores of Lake Ontario and were considered the first settlers to arrive in the Darlington area. They came from New York State in response to Governor Simcoe’s offer of free land to any man over 18 years of age. The cemetery contains a single gravestone and it is here where some of the members of the Burk family were buried.
We followed the trail back to the scenic lookout for one last glimpse of Lake Ontario. Someone had recently stopped by and left some bird seed along the railing of the wooden platform. I used this as an opportunity to try to convince a chickadee to land in my hand. It was a great way to wrap up our time at Darlington.
From the scenic lookout it’s a short walk back to the parking lot. We wrapped up just before 12p.m and headed back to Toronto for some lunch.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here