Earl Rowe Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
April 2021

Earl Rowe Provincial Park is a recreational park located near Toronto in Alliston. It provides plenty of camping opportunities and features two sandy beaches, a reservoir, a large outdoor swimming pool, picnic facilities and several hiking trails.

Earl Rowe is typically open from mid-May to mid-October. While the main road leading into the park is closed during the off-season, visitors can park in either parking lot near the main gate. There is also a self-serve machine here to pay for a day-use permit. After going for a quick hike at Beattie Pinery Provincial Nature Reserve, we decided to visit Earl Rowe since it’s less than a 10 minute drive away. We rolled into the park just after 11a.m and were surprised to see that one of the parking lots was already full.

From the parking lot we walked down to the water at East Beach. There were a few signs here that provided some history of the lake. Earl Rowe Lake is a man-made lake that was created in 1964 when a dam was built on the Boyne River. There is minimal water flow and since it is surrounded by agricultural fields, the water usually has high levels of bacteria. During the summer the water is tested on a regular basis, but nowadays it’s typically closed for swimming. Instead Earl Rowe offers a large outdoor wading pool that is safe for swimming.

A fishway was built at the dam site to ensure that Rainbow Trout could continue their annual migration up the river to spawn. The trout ascend the ladder by jumping the small falls in each chamber or by swimming through the drainage holes. Before leaving the fishway, the fish enter a trap which can be raised out of the fishway for tagging.

There are four short trails scattered throughout the park and one larger trail, the Rainbow Run Trail (11km loop, rated easy) that encompasses the entire trail system. We hiked the Rainbow Run Trail last summer, so for this visit we decided to just hike a smaller loop along the Lookout Trail (4km loop), which was our favourite section. From East Beach we found a trail marker for Fletcher’s Mill Pond Trail, which overlaps with the longer Rainbow Run Trail.

We walked north along the trail and turned east to hike counterclockwise along the Rainbow Run Trail. The trail first passes the outskirts of the Fletcher Field and Boyne Meadow Campgrounds before leading through a red pine forest. There were a few signs here that provided more information about the history and landscape of the area.

Earl Rowe was once a dense forest of tall pines. However from the 1840s to the end of the 19th century loggers cleared the land to supply materials for buildings, furniture and shipbuilding. Farmers then settled in to use the open fields. Red pines were planted during the mid-1960s to provide a windbreak for the open field habitat of the park.

The trail intersects with the Lookout Trail. We followed the path up a hill and out onto an open field. There’ve even a small wooden lookout platform that provides sweeping views of Earl Rowe and the surrounding area.

The trail winds back down through the forest and connects up with the Rainbow Run Trail again. We were a bit confused where to proceed, but we knew the path passes through the Trillium Woods Campground and amphitheatre, so we headed in that general direction. We passed a number of geese along the way. We then ditched the trail and walked along the road to get back to the main gate and parking lot.

Even though both parking lots were nearly full by the time we wrapped up our hike, we didn’t encounter a single person while on the trail. I guess most people were down by the water fishing or hanging out by the beach. The timing worked out perfectly. Dark clouds were rolling in and 15 minutes into our drive back to Toronto it started to pour.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

51 thoughts on “Earl Rowe Provincial Park

  1. Ab says:

    That looks like a cute park with nice trails and beach. And that boardwalk at the top photo is quite nice! Looks like you had very nice weather for your visit too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s nice that Earl Rowe PP is conveniently located close to Toronto. It looks like it would be a good spot for a picnic as there are a lot of picnic tables scattered around the lake, providing decent privacy. There was an insane number of Canadian geese when we visited though. The beach itself was nice, but I’m not sure I’d want to go swimming in the lake. We visited last year and the lake was closed for swimming due to high bacteria levels in the water, which is apparently quite common.

      • Ab says:

        Yes, I did notice the water looked a little grimy. Haha. But nonetheless a lovely escape to nature that is so close to Toronto.

        I always get Earl Rowe mixed up with Earl Bales. The latter is a small but lovely park with a functioning ski hill and lift in the middle of the city! You should check it out if you get a chance before you move.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Yes, the fact that this lake seems to be the congregating grounds for Canadian geese is a pretty good tip off that there is no swimming here! Grimy indeed. I’ve never heard of Earl Bales, but I’ll add it to the list of places to try to visit before we move out of the city. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the warm weather 🙂

  2. Planet Paul says:

    I was just typing a new post which had me looking back at my recent hike post where I saw what were probably brown trout. I saw some fish in a canal last year and haven’t been able to identify them but I wonder if they were rainbow trout. They had a bit of colour about them and it seems like they’ve settled well in a variety of water having been introduced from the US.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sounds like the water must have been pretty clear if you were able to spot some fish. A few years ago we got certified to go scuba diving. It was neat seeing all the different types of fish and then trying to identify them afterwards. Granted we went diving in the Caribbean where the water is much warmer and the types of fish are very different from what we find in the lakes and rivers here in Ontario!!

  3. ourcrossings says:

    What a beautiful place to soak up nature, and I love those white, fluffy clouds in your photos. It must be a little bit weird to camp beside the lake on a sunny summers day and not being allowed to go swimming due to high bacteria content. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day. Aiva 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always great to capture a shot where you can see the sky and land clearly reflected in the water. You could almost turn the picture upside down and it would somewhat look the same. And yes, it seems cruel in some ways to hang out at the beach or camp beside the lake while not being able to go swimming. Thankfully the park also operates a swimming pool! Thanks for reading and commenting. Enjoy the rest of your week.

  4. kagould17 says:

    The wifi where I am is turtle speed so will have to look at the pix when I get home, but this sounds like a great place to visit. Stay well. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh the joys of dealing with slow internet. This park is conveniently located close to Toronto. There are a number of connected trails, so you can easily scale up or down depending on how much time you want to spend hiking. Glad we managed to wrap up our hike before it started to rain!

  5. leightontravels says:

    Lovely place to relax and enjoy some nature. The lake photo is very beautiful, it was disappointing to read that swimming isn’t allowed. Nice getaway from city life.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s always nice to spend time outdoors, get some fresh air and escape from the crowds in the city. We visited last year on a hot and humid summer day thinking we could just go swimming after our hike. Imagine our disappointment when we realized the lake was closed for swimming. This time we could at least adjust our expectations.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The trails are all well marked and easy to navigate. There are lots of options to add-on or scale back depending on how much time you want to spend hiking. Thanks for virtually coming along on the hike. Take care.

  6. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Great that it’s close to Toronto and easily accessible. Clear that even though there were a lot of people there, the trails weren’t being used, so that’s an advantage, too. Too bad that the lake is unsafe; there must be a lot of agricultural runoff from animals.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s definitely nice to not have to drive too far to go for a hike. Traffic hasn’t been too bad these days since we’re still under a stay-at-home order. I’m so not looking forward to the usual traffic jams on the weekend to get out of the city during the summer. And yes, it was nice that even though there were a few other people in the park, that it didn’t feel crowded. We visited this park last summer with the intention of going swimming after hiking all the trails in the park. You can imagine our disappointment when we found out the lake was closed for swimming.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Most of the trails are relatively flat and well signed, which makes it easy to follow along the path. I was a bit bummed that it was somewhat cloudy when we arrived at the park, but they definitely helped create a nice reflection on the water. As an added bonus, soon after we wrapped up our hike, even more clouds rolled in and it started to rain on the drive back home. Talk about good timing.

  7. Lookoom says:

    I was a bit intrigued when I saw the amphitheatre. I was also thinking about the Roman precedents, but no, this one won’t stand the test of time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Haha, no, they certainly won’t stand the test of time, but they do have some interesting history now thanks to COVID. The amphitheatres at most of our parks all look abandoned and haven’t been getting any use during the pandemic. All the evening ranger programs were cancelled last summer and will likely stay that way this summer too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The viewing platform itself is a bit jenky, but it was nice to get a panoramic view of the surrounding area. It’s too bad that the lake is often closed for swimming. We made that mistake when we visited last summer. We picked a hot and humid day to go for a hike thinking we can reward ourselves afterwards by going for a swim. We won’t be making that mistake again!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. There are forests, open meadows, lakes and rivers at this park. Glad we visited early enough in the spring before the mosquitoes are out in full force! One of the trails even had a warning to bring insect repellent.

      • winteroseca says:

        Oh boy! That makes me think of this time my parents and I were literally attacked by mosquitoes in Florida!

      • winteroseca says:

        It was definitely brutal but one heck of a story to tell. I didn’t have chicken pox, but I did have hand foot and mouth disease, so yeah, the welts I got reminded me of the mosquito attack

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s funny how it’s always the terrible experiences that make for the best stories. It’s always good to have a sense of humour. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease sounds worse (and more painful) than chicken pox. Ugh.

      • winteroseca says:

        It is really funny how that works. HFMD is the worst disease I have had!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! It’s always great to get some fresh air. Now that the weather is getting warmer, more adventures are definitely on their way!! Hope you had a wonderful weekend too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. When we first started hiking we had nothing but blue skies. I was a bit disappointed that the clouds were starting to roll in, but turns out they just added to the reflection on the water and it worked out well.

  8. carolinehelbig says:

    I’m glad to hear that a fish ladder was built for the rainbow trout. We have a few of them around here and I find them fascinating (especially if you’re lucky enough to see the fish). Looks like some very pleasant hiking trails.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve only ever seen pictures of rainbow trout, but anything with “rainbow” in its name is bound to look beautiful. It’s neat that they constructed a fish ladder and sometimes will even tag the fish to learn more about where they are heading. This was a pleasant area to go for a stroll. The trails are all connected and clearly marked, so navigation was a walk in the park.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. At first I was a bit disappointed that the clouds were rolling in, but the timing worked out well and it made for a great shot of the reflection on the water. I’m also glad we decided to start off by the water as even more clouds rolled in by the time we wrapped up. As we were driving home, it started to pour. I guess it all worked out in the end.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The platform was a bit sketchy, but it was nice to get a panoramic view of the surrounding area. And yes, the geese were everywhere!! It was cute seeing them with their all their little babies though.

  9. alisendopf says:

    What a lovely park. I can imagine it will be packed in the summer with so many activities to do. You are SO lucky that you can swim in the lakes!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, especially since it’s so close to Toronto too. This lake is often closed for swimming due to high levels of bacteria (which is not surprising given how many geese we encountered), but there is a large swimming pool that the park maintains during the summer. It’s sure nice to have that option to go for a swim after a long day of hiking!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! The timing worked out well. I’m glad we headed straight for the water as soon as we arrived at the park as by the time we wrapped up our hike, it was completely overcast.

  10. Janet says:

    Isn’t it great to hike on a trail and not see anyone, especially when you think you’re going to see others? Great photos. Your photos have influenced mine. I think about yours when I’m taking bridge or stair photos.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a wonderful feeling to have the trail all to yourself, especially these days during the pandemic. Many thanks for your kind words. I am such a sucker for taking pictures of bridges … and just about anything I find interesting or scenic on the trail. My husband sometimes gets frustrated at just how many times I stop to take a picture!

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