Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: May 2021
Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve is an older growth forest and is considered one of the original forests of Southern Ontario. It supports one of the most mature deciduous woodlands in the area. It is situated on the Oak Ridges Moraine, one of Ontario’s most significant landforms that stretches 160km from the Trent River to the east to the Niagara Escarpment in the west. It was formed 12,000 years ago by advancing and retreating glaciers. Peter’s Woods is a non-operating park and contains a small parking area and a single hiking trail.
We planned to spend the weekend up at the cabin. The bug situation in mid-May is always a bit of a gamble, but we decided to risk it and go anyway. We ditched work early on Friday to squeeze in a hike at Peter’s Woods on the drive up. It turns out everyone else had the same idea as there was heavy traffic on the roads. So much for staying at home (granted, we’re part of the problem)! We pulled into Peter’s Woods just after 5p.m. There’s a small parking area located just off of McDonald Road.
At one end of the parking lot there’s a sign that indicates that part of this area consists of the Rice Lake Plains which contain some of Ontario’s last tallgrass prairie and oak savanna habitats. Prairie and savanna once covered 90 million hectares across central Canada and the United States. Today less than 1% of this tallgrass habitat remains. Prairie and savanna habitats are among the world’s rarest and most endangered ecosystem. Thanks to landowners in this area and conservation partners, the Rice Lake Plains are being conserved.
The trailhead is located near the parking area. Near the start of the trail there’s a large boulder with a plaque that provides more information about how the park was named and created. The nature reserve was established in 1976 with the assistance of the Willow Beach Field Naturalists and was named in memory of A.B “Peter” Schultz, a publisher, naturalist and conservationist.
The trail is 1.5km in length and loops through the mature and deciduous forest of sugar maple, red oak, white pine, white cedar and other types of trees. The trail is well-signed with numbered posts from #1 to #9 and features arrows along the way to assist with direction and navigation.
It was a lovely day to go for a walk. The sun was shining and signs of spring could be found along the trail with budding trees, trilliums and other wildflowers.
There are even a few benches along the trail, including one near the end that sloped back so you can easily look up at the sky and get a sense of just how tall some of the trees are. The bench even came complete with a foot rest. Naturally we took a break here to test the bench out.
Overall it took us about 30 minutes to complete the loop, this included taking a break on the bench to admire the mature trees. We hopped back in the car and continued our drive to the cabin.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here
54 thoughts on “Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve”
What clear blue skies on such a beautiful spring day for your short looped trail. The weather is gorgeous here too, let’s hope it continues awhile yet. Marion
It was a lovely afternoon to go for a hike, even if it was a short one. I’m glad we left work early to make a detour here along the drive to the cabin. The weather has been pleasant here too and it looks like the weekend is supposed to be nice. Enjoy the rest of your week.
Always nice to get to know new areas of the world.
Upon reading your post, I also searched a bit more about Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve
For sure. It’s been fun trying to explore as many of these provincial parks and nature reserves in our home province as we can this year. I’ve certainly learned more about Ontario’s history, landscape and flora and fauna. I’m glad Peter’s Woods peaked your interest. Thanks for reading and commenting.
You are really dedicated to your project, you are even testing the benches now 🙂 Thanks for the nice walk in the woods.
Of course! We want to get the full experience at each park, even if that means testing out some of the benches! I gotta say, it was a very comfortable bench and a great way to look up at the sky and admire the tall trees. Thanks for reading.
Looks like a beautiful reserve and trail! Places like this are so easy to miss when zooming on the 401!
For sure. We’ve driven up to the cabin so many times over the years and have never really stopped to check out some of the provincial parks and conservation areas along the way. Last year we started to make more of an effort to explore some of the nearby trails and green spaces. It’s made me appreciate how scenic and beautiful Ontario really is.
Looks like a lovely forest and Peter had the proper last name didn’t he? Maggie
It was lovely to visit during the spring to see all the trilliums along the trail. It’s always neat to find out how a park was created and where it gets its name from. Thanks Peter for these woods.
Great place to hike around.lovely woodland area to see.
Definitely. It was especially scenic in the spring with all the trilliums and other wildflowers in bloom along the trail. The path is also very well marked and easy to navigate. I’m glad we stopped along the drive to the cabin to check it out.
So beautiful! As always, great pictures. In love nature!
Thanks for your kind words. It was a lovely day to go for a stroll in the woods and just appreciate nature.
Beautiful photos! That looks like it was a very pretty and refreshing walk.
Thanks!! I’m glad we left work early to squeeze this hike in on the drive to the cabin. We were a bit worried about the bug situation as it’s always a bit risky to spend time in the forest in mid-May, but there was a nice breeze (and we put a layer of bug spray on) for protection.
A beautiful day and a beautiful place for a walk in the green of spring. Hope you beat the mosquitoes. We bought bug shirts from MEC this year, as we do not plan on giving up our walks. Thanks fpor sharing. Allan
Hiking in May is always a bit of a risk as that’s when the mosquitoes start to become active. I’m glad we braved it as the mosquitoes weren’t too bad when we visited (likely because it was windy) and as a reward we got to see lots of trilliums and greenery along the trail and through the forest. Good call on the bug shirts. I’ve been contemplating whether to buy a bug hat. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Looks like a beautiful day out for a hike. The trails look very well maintained and signed indeed, as evidenced by the inviting benches too. I noticed trilliums for the rest time this year and they’re lovely!
And yes, for sure I notice the traffic now. Seems like things are indeed headed towards a return to normal soon.
It’s kind of nice having such long days now as we were able to go for a hike late in the afternoon. Granted it was a super short trail. By the time we arrived at the cabin it was around 8p.m and it was still light outside. I’ve always enjoyed hiking in the spring as it’s still cool outside and the forest floor looks so lush with all the greenery and flowers. And I guess the heavy traffic along the drive out of the city is just a preview for what the roads will be like for the rest of the summer!! I heard that schools are going to remain closed until September. Hopefully we are still set to enter the first step of reopening on June 14 (or earlier).
The late afternoon and early evening hikes are the best. 🙂 And yes, the outdoor parks in Ontario will be very popular this summer. Schools closed officially till September. Boo. But thankfully just three more weeks to go till it’s done! 🙂 Fingers crossed parks open for camping soon.
We usually go on our hikes early in the morning, so this was quite a different experience. The sun definitely looked softer later in the afternoon and cast a nice glow in between the trees. And yes, I imagine the parks are going to be insanely popular this summer, especially on weekends. Did you hear that at some parks you now have to make a reservation (up to five days) in advance for a day-use visit?
Is it you have to or you can? That would really suck. I’ll have to look into it more. Thanks for the heads up!!!
They are strongly recommending it. It’s a new pilot that they are starting at 17 provincial parks. You can read more about it here: https://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/advance-daily-vehicle-permits/
Thank you. Good to know as we plan to visit some of these parks this summer! Bookmarked. 🙂
No problem. Hopefully you’ll be able to pick up a park crest or sticker at these parks and add to your collection!
We really wanna visit Mono Cliffs but I hear about how awful the crowds are getting. Sigh.
Mono Cliffs is beautiful in the fall when all the leaves are changing colour. You could always wait until then and hope that the crowd situation improves as more people will be vaccinated and more things will (hopefully) be open.
I saw Mono Cliff’s Twitter this morning say park was full at 9 am. Yes, 9 am. Crazy!
That’s CRAZY! Maybe the pilot reservation system to obtain a day-pass in advance isn’t such a bad thing after all. Yikes.
I noticed it starts tomorrow. I’m gonna try Mono Cliffs to see if I’ll have any luck. Good luck!
Oooh looks like you’ve had some nice sunshine; what a lovely walk and beautiful shots as always 🙂
Thanks!! We usually go for our hikes first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, so this was quite different to go later in the afternoon. The lighting was just lovely with the sun shining through the trees. The forest always looks so beautiful in the spring with all the greenery on the ground and wildflowers starting to bloom. I’m glad the mosquitoes weren’t out yet.
I love prairie habitats! I am glad it also included woods. Here’s to hoping someday the prairie and savannah will be restored
Agreed! I can’t believe there is so little of the prairie and savannah habitats left. I often wonder what Ontario will look like in 50 years. I just hope that we continue to set aside green spaces like this to protect sensitive ecosystems and landscapes.
I hope so too. The fact of the matter is COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic because we’re encroaching on animals’ habitats. We already have tick bourne illnesses because of encroachment too. It’s so easily preventable if you just use common sense
I couldn’t agree with you more. Ticks are becoming a growing problem here in southern Ontario. They are supposed to be especially bad this year because of the mild winter we had.
Oh dear! Yeah, ticks have been prevalent in California these past couple years. If I brushed past long grass it was automatically checking for ticks!
It’s always a good call to do a tick patrol after hiking through the bush or past long grass. I usually hike in yoga pants and tuck them into my socks.
I do the tucking my pants in my socks too! There is no way I am getting lyme disease thank you very much!
Glad to hear that I’m not the only one that does that!! The trail is not a runway, I don’t really care what I look like while hiking!! I’d rather not get lyme disease either!!
Good on you too! I also have yet to find a good repellent that protects against ticks. I was especially scared of getting lyme disease in the US where medical costs are through the roof!
Same. I’ve looked into it, but not sure we can buy some of the repellents in Canada that are supposed to work the best against ticks. So not sure how I feel about putting that on my skin. I usually either use Deep Woods or Great Outdoors.
Thanks for the recommendation. I never found anything in California either, even though I had to worry about ticks every time I went out. Maybe there will be better products in the future, but it’s also like “Can we stop this habitat loss and other reckless behaviour that just caused a global pandemic already?
Totally agree as that’s the real underlying issue here. It’s the same reason why we’re seeing more coyotes and cougars in the cities. There’s clearly a high demand for parks and green spaces these days, so it seems like a total no brainer to me to just conserve more land for the wildlife and us humans to enjoy. But what do I know? 🙂
It’s definitely a no-brainer. Plus, there is a safety issue too. And more people can enjoy nature!
You’d think that grass would never be endangered, but it’s amazingly fragile. I’m glad to hear that it is being protected, and re-planted.
As for the moraine, how cool is that? I had to look up more info on it. This is a massive terminal moraine. The ice sheet came down from the north, building up this huge moraine. Wowzers. This dwarfs any of the moraines we have out west. That ice sheet must have been devastatingly massive and thick. However, it is cool how the moraine is now percolating and filtering the water.
Personally, I think it’s wild that people can figure out what these ancient geological features are. Out west, the moraine is ‘naked’ and in plain view. In the east, these features are covered in mature old growth forests. Thanks for sharing another hidden Ontario gem.
No kidding. Apparently this kind of tallgrass needs regular fires to survive, which is why so few of it remains. The Oak Ridges Moraine is pretty impressive and it was neat to read about how it was formed. I’m right there with you, I have no idea how people can figure out some of these geological features. This moraine is actually a contested site as it’s in a prime development area for a few neighbouring towns. There’s been a lot of effort over the years to conserve and protect it, but those efforts may not be enough to deal with the increased development pressures.
No way! Wow. Building on top of a moraine, even an ancient one, does not seem like a good idea. The ground is so porous. It’s not like the shield that the rest of the area is built on. I could see slumping. Plus, with the aquifer effect of the porous moraine material, any chemicals (lawn stuff, waste water, etc.) would percolate on down to the fresh water sources beyond. Yikes. I sure hope the conservation efforts can hold off development.
For the grassland, yes I get it. We have an endangered native grass that only grows if the entire root ball is transplanted and then carefully tended. How did this plant grow in the first place??? 🙂
I would definitely not want to set up shop on a moraine now that you’ve pointed out what a terrible idea that is! I’m not really a fan of new builds anyway. I like a house that’s a little more unique and has a yard with mature trees. Also, who knew grass could be so finicky!?
Too true! It sounds like your new home will have lots of character and room to grow all kinds of grass and other plants. Enjoy!!!
Haha, most definitely. Probably not any tallgrass though as I’m not too sure how my neighbours would respond to us burning our lawn every few years! One of things I’m most looking forward to though is growing a garden. Take care.
It’s difficult for me to imagine the less dense presence of savannas, prairies and plains in this area. I’d be interested to know what caused such evolutionary change.
Same. It’s incredible to think that much of this forested area was once a prairie filled with tallgrass. The tallgrass prairie ecosystem is apparently very sensitive and requires regular fires to survive and renew. Much of it was destroyed well over a hundred years ago to make room for agricultural land use. It was once common from Ontario to Manitoba, but today less than 1% of it remains.