Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: February 2021
Bronte Creek Provincial Park is located on the western edge of Oakville. It’s open year-round and features a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, swimming in one of Canada’s largest outdoor pools, fishing and disc golf. It also contains a number of picnic shelters, Nature Centre, large playbarn for kids, and Victorian homestead.
Provincial parks have become a lot busier than usual during the pandemic. Our strategy was to visit the ones closest to Toronto during the off-season to avoid the crowds. Today we decided to drive to Bronte Creek, which is located about 35 minutes from Toronto. The main road leading into the park is plowed in the winter and there is even someone at one of the booths to ensure people pay for a day pass. There are four main parking lots in the park (so you can just imagine how busy this place can get in the summer) and two of them are open in the winter.
We parked just outside the gate of Parking Lot D and planned to hike a loop through the park, hitting up a few of the trails along the way. From the parking lot we walked north towards Spruce Lane Farm. The farmhouse was built in 1899 and was home to the Breckon family until the 1950s.
According to legend, the Victorian house is haunted. Some visitors claim that there’s a door that opens and closes on its own. Other visitors, on separate occasions, have felt like a servant was following them around. There are also rumours of people hearing whispers, footsteps and children’s laughter from various parts of the house. One theory is that Henry Breckon who mysteriously died in 1931 haunts the house. Nothing is known about his death except that his body was laid out in the front parlour for a days-long wake. Pre-COVID, the park used to host a ghost walk every Sunday night in August to explore the paranormal side of Spruce Lane Farm.
The path passes by the Victorian house and around a series of barns and other buildings that were used by the Breckon family for farming.
The trailhead for the Trillium Trail (1km) is located behind the barns of Spruce Lane Farm. The trail loops along the top of the ridge through a section of hardwood forest and provides nice views into the valley below. Apparently the trail is especially scenic in the spring as there is an abundance of wildflowers and trilliums through the forest. During this time of the year however, the ground was just covered in snow.
Once we looped back to the trailhead, we followed the signs towards the Halfmoon Valley Trail (2km). The trail is well marked with numbered signs from #1 to #10 and is easy to navigate. It leads through a forest, down into the valley and around a small wetland. It also features a nice scenic lookout along the edge of Bronte Creek. The valley was formed during the last ice age. From 1849 to 1874, the valley was home to a kiln that manufactured the bricks used in many local structures. The area was also used for logging until the 1920s.
The path doesn’t quite form a loop and leads out into an open field. We proceeded straight through the field to the forest along the Ravine Trail (2.7km one-way). The path winds along the top of the valley and leads to a scenic lookout of Bronte Creek. The path is not signed and there are a few junctions that lead to Parking Lot A or a picnic area. We accidentally turned off at one of these junctions, ended up at the picnic area and had to use google maps to find the part of the trail that leads to the scenic lookout.
From there we walked back towards the picnic area to the Maiden’s Blush Trail (1.3km). The path is relatively flat and loops through the forest.
We veered off at the junction for the Barrier Free Trail (2.4km). This path was a bit confusing to navigate as there are several access points to the trail. The path leads up a hill and provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area. In the winter the hill is a popular place to go tobogganing.
From the peak, we followed the trail down to the road. We walked along this for a short stretch, passing the pool and park store along the way. The road eventually leads back to Parking Lot D where we parked our car.
We were surprised to see that the remainder of the parking lots were pretty busy by the time we wrapped up. I guess it’s not that surprising considering how close it is to a number of populated cities. Glad we were able to cross this one off our list during the winter as I can only imagine how busy this place would be when the weather is nicer.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here