Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
March 2021

Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve protects one of the few remaining remnant patches of tallgrass prairie in Ontario. It is located in the Town of East Gwillimbury, just south of Lake Simcoe and is situated on deep sand and silt deposits of the prehistoric Lake Algonquin that existed at the time of the last ice age. Holland Landing Prairie is a non-operating park, so there are no visitor facilities or services provided, but it does have a small network of trails through the forest for hiking or cross-country skiing.

We were a bit tired from our hike through Short (more like mud) Hills Provincial Park the day before, so today we decided to take it easy and go for a short hike. We drove Holland Landing Prairie, which is about 40 minutes north of Toronto. The boundary of the park is fenced, but there are a few access points which allow entry. When we plugged the address into Google Maps, it took us to an access point on Maple Street, however, there was a sign here to indicate that visitors should park along Cedar Street instead.

We turned around, and drove to Cedar Street to park the car. There are a couple of access points along this street. We parked behind one other car that was here and bundled up. While the temperature was slightly above freezing, it was quite blustery outside.

Near the access point, there was a sign that provided more detail about the sensitive ecosystem. The nature reserve consists of 34 hectares and protects rare tallgrass prairie and endangered butternut trees. Tallgrass prairie was once common from Ontario to Manitoba, but today less than 1% of it remains. It needs sun and regular fires to survive. While much of Holland Landing Prairie contains red pine, there are plans to restore the native prairie ecosystem. Planted trees are now being thinned and small controlled burns are conducted annually.

There is no map of the trail system either in the nature reserve or online and the trails themselves aren’t marked. So navigation was a bit tricky, but it’s a relatively small park so it was kind of hard to get lost.

While there is no longer any snow in Toronto, we were surprised to find snow here. The trails themselves were quite icy, something we weren’t prepared for. But luckily it’s a small network of trails and the ground is relatively flat. Besides, the snow and ice did help get rid of some of the mud that was caked on our boots from the day before.

The trail winds through the forest and crosses an open sand pit. Some of the snow had melted here exposing the sandy soil underneath. We continued to wander through the forest, slipping and sliding along the icy trails. In no time we were back at the access point on Cedar Street.

While Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve is a relatively small park (with a long name), it was nice to visit and learn more about its prairie ecosystem.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

34 thoughts on “Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    This reminds me a bit of our Bunchberry, but the trees seem to have been planted in rows, which is a neat effect. Trail condition is so hard to gauge this time of year. We always wear waterproof hikers and carry our cleats in our pack. We needed them this last Wednesday as the packed snow on the trail was quite ciy in areas. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, the trail is always full of surprises this time of the year. There may be snow, ice, or mud (or a combination of all of the above). It’s good to be prepared. We just assumed it would be muddy considering the conditions on the trail we hiked yesterday. But you know what they say about assumptions. For the most part we could just walk along the sides of the trails, which wasn’t too bad. It also helped that it was relatively flat, so no hills to climb up or slide down.

  2. hlindsay says:

    I love the effect of the rows of trees in your photos. What kind of gear would you ideally use when hiking in snowy conditions like this? I really enjoyed reading about you experience at Holland Landing!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Me too. There’s always something so satisfying about walking through a forest with neatly lined rows of trees. It also makes for some great photos. In retrospect we should have brought microspikes, which fit underneath your boots and provide better grip and traction on the ice. It wasn’t too bad though. For the most part we could just walk along the side of the trail which was free of ice. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Yes, this park looks like it could be in Alberta. We’re doing some hiking this weekend around YK but there’s a lot of softening snow. Have to find a medium between keeping the feet warm and potentially icy conditions!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The only thing missing are those mountains! It’s always a bit tricky to hike this time of the year. In some areas the snow has already melted, which can result in the trail being muddy or submerged under water. On the other hand, it can still have crusty snow and ice, making conditions slippery. Hope you had a wonderful hike this weekend and managed to keep your feet warm and dry.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. It’s always good to get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty in the world around us. While this wasn’t the most scenic trail we’ve hiked, it was nice to learn something new about Ontario’s ecosystem and just be out in nature. Take care.

  4. ourcrossings says:

    It’s always nice to see that there are nature reserves designed to protect unique ecosystems. I had to use Google to see what tallgrass prairie looks like and I have to say that it’s quite stunning. It was shocking to find out that they once covered 400,000 square miles of North America, but today less than 4% remains. Thanks for sharing and have a good weekend. Aiva 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed, it’s becoming increasingly more important to save these sensitive ecosystems. Our parks have had a surge in demand during the pandemic and it seems like demand can’t keep up with supply. Some parks have had to start turning people away or set up reservations for day-use to prevent the park from becoming overcrowded. While it’s great to see so many people using the parks, we need to ensure the park’s ecosystem is still protected. I had to Google to see what tallgrass prairie looked like too. In retrospect we should have visited later in the spring when it’s out in full force! Thanks for reading. Hope you had a wonderful Easter.

  5. Little Miss Traveller says:

    I like the way the tall trees have been planted in long avenues. It looked very quiet on the day of your visit and I’m in agreement as I prefer walking on snow and ice to mud! Continue to enjoy the Easter weekend., Marion.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always very scenic to walk through a forest of neatly lined rows of trees. It also makes for some great photo opportunities. The crusty snow and ice at least helped clean all the mud off our shoes from the day before! Hope you had a wonderful Easter too. We had beautiful weather and managed to get more hiking in.

  6. Rose Vettleson says:

    Your photos of the paths lined with tall trees look like they belong in a storybook of adventure. It’s fun to read through your blog and see all the places you’ve been.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. There’s always something so satisfying about walking through a forest and the rows of trees are all evenly spaced. Travel options are pretty much non-existent this days so we’ve been trying to explore more of the trails and parks in our own backyard. It’s certainly made me more thankful to have access to all this green space. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, it’s always great to have access to trails close to home. This pandemic has really demonstrated just how important parks and other green spaces are. I hope there will be more of an effort to preserve sensitive ecosystems and to keep the current parks clean.

  7. Ab says:

    Another park that I would never have heard of if wasn’t for you!

    Good for you to go for a hike when you’re tired. I would’ve just stayed in bed. 🤣 It’s always interested to hear and see a non-operating Park without much amenities and in this case, not much of guidance in terms of a trail map either!

    I think when I read your posts, it always puts into context the vast history of the land we stand on – such as where Lake Algonquin used to exist among the Ice Age. Really puts it into perspective!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha, we figured we could use the exercise and fresh air. This park was super bare bones. At least they had a sign to indicate that we were in the nature preserve! It’s been a lot of fun learning more about our province by visiting some of these parks. It’s neat learning how the landscape was shaped and formed, the history of the early settlers, and how parks were formed and named. It’s all very impressive and interesting.

  8. alisendopf says:

    You’d think that grass would be the most hardy and least endangered plant species, but it’s remarkably fragile. Interesting that it needs regular burns to thrive. The straight lines of trees look so strange, like they were lining a walkway to a house. Was this a former homestead? Great trek to a probably overlooked provincial park. Thanks for bringing awareness to the endangered grasslands.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, it really goes to show just how fragile the environment is. Apparently back in the day, land managers thought the sandy open area needed trees, so they planted trees right atop the prairie. This area was officially protected as a nature reserve in 1994. The park has been slowly removing trees and have begun burning sections of the park to help the prairie recover.

      • alisendopf says:

        Good for them. It’s great how the knowledge evolves and that action is taken to address that wisdom. That is a good news story for sure.

      • alisendopf says:

        Absolutely. We need fires out west for the pine trees. The big fires of 2003 in Kooteney National Park now have thick pine trees over 10′ tall. Very impressive how quickly they regenerated.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s amazing how resilient the forest is when left on its own. Us humans always think we know best. I remember when we used to suppress forest fires. Now it’s all about the controlled burns. I’ve been to Kooteney once a few years ago and saw signs from the fire in 2003. It’s a lovely park and wish we could have stayed longer.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks, the neatly lined rows of pine trees sure make for some interesting pictures. While this was a relatively short and simple walk, it was neat learning more about this park’s prairie ecosystem. In retrospect we probably should have visited in the spring when the tallgrass and other wildflowers start to bloom.

  9. carolinehelbig says:

    East Gwillimbury…wow, now there’s a name out of my past. We lived there for a couple of years but Holland Landing Prairie PP does not ring a bell. I loved the rural, peaceful feel of the place while still being close to amenities.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      What a charming little area to live. Holland Landing Prairie isn’t well signed and there isn’t much posted about it online. It’s a non-operating park so there are no facilities. There’s just a single hiking trail and weaves through the forest and prairie ecosystem. In retrospect we should have visited later in the spring to enjoy the wildflowers.

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