Hiking in Presqu’ile Provincial Park in the Spring

Length of stay1 day
April 2023

Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located along the shore of Lake Ontario. It means “almost island” in French as it is connected to the mainland by a narrow piece of land. It is open year-round and boasts of having one of the largest wetlands along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Presqu’ile also contains a beautiful sandy beach and several hiking trails that wind through the different habitats in the park.

We planned to spend the Easter long weekend at the cabin. On the drive up, we stopped at Presqu’ile to stretch our legs and enjoy the sunshine. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone hiking. And ever since we completed our Ontario Parks Challenge in 2021, we haven’t been spending a lot of time at our provincial parks. In an effort to fix that, we purchased a seasonal pass for the summer which will grant us day-use at any provincial park in Ontario from the beginning of April to the end of November.

We arrived at Presqu’ile just before noon. Access to the beach was closed off, possibly due to high water levels from all the spring melt. Our first stop was at the Marsh Trail (1.2km loop, rated easy), which mostly follows along a boardwalk through the wetlands. There are a series of interpretive panels along the way that provide more information about the importance of the marsh and the critters and creatures that live here.

Near the start of the trail there’s an observation tower that provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The Presqu’ile marsh is one of the largest marshes on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

The path then winds through the cattail marsh. There are a few sections with tall reed grass towering above us on either side of the boardwalk. This reed grass is an invasive species called Phragmites. The plant is originally from Europe, but it has begun to spread through southern Ontario over the past hundred years. The Phragmites first appeared in the Presqu’ile marsh in the 1990s and it continues to spread. It’s problematic as it spreads quickly, crowds out native vegetation and creates a poor habitat for the animals who live in the marsh. It is also very difficult to control once established.

The trail passes a second viewing tower which provides a different view of the wetlands.

We then followed the trail through a dense cedar forest where we could glimpse a series of “horse trees”. These trees have a bend in their truck which resembles a saddle. Something damaged the central growing stem when these trees were small. One of the side stems then took over as the main shoot and bent upright as it grew.

Once we wrapped up our hike, we drove to the parking lot for the Pioneer Trail (3.8km loop, rated easy, signed with yellow markers) and Newcastle Trails (4.3km loop, rated easy, signed with orange markers), which connect to create a longer loop. For the first couple hundred metres, the paths overlap before reaching a junction where the trails diverge. We initially planned to hike the Newcastle Trail, but the path forward was completely submerged under water and would have required wading through a small pond.

So the Pioneer Trail it was! Shortly after passing the junction, we passed a lady who gave us a preview of what to expect on the trail. She said it wasn’t bad, but there were some dodgy areas with running water and mud. Lots of mud. But we should be fine with our hiking boots. She wasn’t kidding. We reached a certain point where we didn’t want to turn around and just hoped the conditions would improve. Spoiler: they didn’t. It was a slow and slippery slog through the woods.

And right when we were thinking this trail was a real dud, we passed another hiker who pointed out that there was an owl in one of the trees.

The path cuts through one of the campgrounds along the paved road, which provided a nice relief from the muddy trail. At this point we had had enough and called it quits. We decided to just walk back to the trailhead along the road, which would take a bit longer, but we were okay with that. Besides, the road follows the shore of Lake Ontario and featured nicer views of the wavy water.

Afterwards we drove to the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse. It was built in 1840 and is the second oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

We stopped for another hike along the Jobes’ Woods Trail (1km loop, rated). The area was once part of a farm settled by Thomas and Ezekiel Jobes in 1835. This part of the farm remained relatively undisturbed by settlement activity and today contains one of the oldest deciduous woodlots in the park. Most of the trail follows along a boardwalk, so we didn’t have to worry too much about the mud or flooded forest.

We then headed north to the cabin where we were able to clean our hiking boots … with snow. But more on that later.


86 thoughts on “Hiking in Presqu’ile Provincial Park in the Spring

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Marsh Trail is my favourite trail in the park. I’m such a fan of wetlands, even more so when there is a boardwalk that guarantees our feet will remain dry. It was nice to visit early in the spring when everything was just starting to come back to life, but the bugs haven’t come out yet. Good to know that there are lots of marsh-type trails in Nova Scotia.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Boardwalks are always a fan favourite, especially in the spring when our feet are guaranteed to stay dry, unlike some of the other trails in the park! Slipping and sliding through all that mud was so worth it to see the owl though. I’ve never seen one this up-close before. It was such an unexpected surprise.

  1. Ab says:

    What a nice detour on the way to a weekend getaway. I love Presquile, partially because it is so close to the city. The beach is lovely to swim in during the warm summertime.

    I can’t imagine hiking through the mud though, that’s no fun. But the boardwalk trail is a treat, especially in the summer when the wild plants grow tall.

    And that owl is so cute!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Presqu’ile is one of my favourite parks as well. The sandy beach is nice and is typically less crowded than Sandbanks. Plus there are some great hiking options. Hiking in the spring can be sketchy. Thankfully there are a couple of boardwalks, including the Marsh Trail, which are guaranteed to keep our feet dry. The one redeeming quality about the Pioneer Trail was seeing the owl!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Oh I know. It’s crazy how quickly those sites book up. I think Sandbanks is probably the hardest campground to reserve something. But hey, if it weren’t for that, we probably wouldn’t have discovered Presqu’ile until much later!

  2. Lyssy In The City says:

    The boardwalk part of the trail looks well maintained, I’m not a fan of mud either. It’s always nice when other hikers point out the wildlife or I totally would miss it! I love the lighthouse and blue of the lake too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thank goodness for boardwalks, especially during the spring! The Marsh Trail is fantastic. It was closed for a couple of years because of damage from high water levels, but thankfully it’s been fixed and has reopened. If it weren’t for that other hiker we definitely would have missed the owl. We had to walk a bit off the trail to get a better view. It’s too bad the water was so cold as it looked so inviting. We’ll just have to wait a couple more months before we can go swimming.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though I wear proper hiking boots, I hate getting them dirty. Plus the mud can make everything so slippery. I’m not a fan. But I’d rather hike along a muddy trail than not hike at all! It was so worth it to see the owl.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. I’m not a fan of getting my hiking boots dirty. But then again, I’d rather walk along a muddy trail than not hike at all. Plus it’s only a matter of time until the bugs come out to play. And I’ll take the mud over the bugs anyday. Spotting the owl was such a fun surprise and made our hike through the soggy and muddy trail all worthwhile.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Definitely worth the stop Linda. Even in spring drab, there can be something beautiful to see. Always good to spot and owl and be able to take the photo. Have a great day. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. And hey, we might as well make the most of the trails now, even if they are a bit soggy and muddy, as a few weeks from now the bugs will wake up. And oh boy will they be hungry. It was such an unexpected surprise to see the owl. We would have missed it if it weren’t for the other hiker that we passed on the trail. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

  4. John says:

    Wow, I would love to hike this area! And spend some time on the shore too, the water sounds so nice as the waves break. Beautiful photos! ❤️🇨🇦

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The trails can be a bit dodgy in the spring, but I’d nice to remember what the landscape looks like when it’s not covered in snow. And it’s always so relaxing being by the water.

  5. Book Club Mom says:

    Hi! Despite the mud and water, this looks like a great spot and how cool that you spotted an owl. I’ve never seen a real one in a tree. It doesn’t look like it was afraid – is that true? I love the water shot – I’m always amazed at how salty and ocean-like these lakes look. Great pictures!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The trails can be a bit sketchy this time of the year, but there are less people (and fewer bugs) around. I’m really glad we didn’t turn around and kept going otherwise we would have missed the owl. It was the real highlight of the trail and made wading through all that water and mud worthwhile. I’ve never seen an owl that up-close before. It seemed just as curious of us as we were of it! And agreed, the Great Lakes are pretty spectacular.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding, otherwise we would have missed seeing the owl! Even though the conditions on the trail were a bit dodgy, it was good to take advantage of the warm weather and spend time outdoors.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. Seeing the owl was such an unexpected surprise. We would have missed it entirely if it weren’t for the other hiker that we came across that was kind enough to point it out.

      • Flowerpoet says:

        My daughter and I were hiking in East Sooke Park on the Island once when other hikers pointed out a mother and baby owls. They pose while we all took photos. Quite a thrill. 🤗💕✨

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s pretty awesome to see a mother owl and her babies. I’ve always appreciated hikers who point out interesting things they’ve found on the trail. We try to do the same to pay it forward.

  6. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    I’m not a fan of muddy trails, but there is a lot of that in the early spring with all the snow melt water, and I really hate getting my feet wet if I’m out for a long hike or walk (a couple of times I’ve had water get in around the top of my boot). Looks like you had a beautiful day, though.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though our hiking boots are waterproof, I don’t enjoy wading through the puddles or the mud. And yes, there’s always the risk of not knowing how deep some of those puddles are getting a soaker. Having wet feet is never fun, especially when you’re only midway through a long hike. But there’s a short window before the bugs wake up (with a vengeance), so we’re trying to make the most of the trails while we can, even if the conditions aren’t ideal.

  7. leightontravels says:

    The owl sighting was a nice reward for persevering despite the slippery, muddy terrain. You must have a fine and wide collection of lighthouses you’ve photographed over the years. I like the elegant simplicity of this one. The ‘horse trees’ are a fascinating detail, wonder what caused these particular trees to grow in such a peculiar way.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. Seeing the owl was the only redeeming quality of that trail! It’s funny because I actually didn’t take many pictures during that hike, probably because I was a bit too preoccupied with navigating through and around the soggy and muddy bits. It’s kind of neat how there are so many lighthouses along the Great Lakes. I’ve made a list of them all and we’re slowly trying to check them off. Agreed, the horse trees were pretty neat, especially since there was a huge collection of them in that one spot. It’s too bad the park didn’t provide any details as to what could have caused the damage to the central growing stem.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      As much as I complain about the mud, I know the conditions on the trails will only get worse in a few weeks when the mosquitoes come out to play (or rather attack). It was well worth it to catch a glimpse of an owl. I love that you never know what to expect when going for a hike. Thanks for reading. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Seeing that owl made trudging through all the water and mud on the trail worthwhile. We would have missed it entirely if it weren’t for the other hiker that pointed it out. It was great timing! And we couldn’t have asked for better weather for being outdoors.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s a great time of the year when everything is starting to wake up again and new growth is appearing. The only issue is dealing with muddy conditions on the trail. It was all worth it to see that owl though. I’ve never seen one so up-close before. It was pretty amazing.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Happy to learn you purchase a pass for this summer! I’m also hoping I can visit more provincial parks this summer, and Presqu’Île has long been on my list! Thanks for sharing, this makes me want to visit it even more!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The park pass is definitely the way to go if you plan on making a few day trips throughout the year. We’ve been to Presqu’ile many times as it’s along the way to our cabin. The beach is really nice and is typically less crowded than Sandbanks. Plus there’s a nice variety of hiking trails. It’s a great one to add to the list!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I hear yah. Hiking through the mud is never fun. But we also know that it’s a short window before the mosquitoes come out in full force, so we’ve been trying to make the most of the trails, even with the mud. And yes, it was all worth it to see the owl! It’s for moments like that that remind us why we even bother hiking in mud season to begin with.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The invasive reed grass looks pretty, but it was alarming to hear how quickly it takes over. We had some of that stuff in our backyard that the previous owners had planted and it took a lot of work for us to dig it out. You wouldn’t believe the size of the root balls. And yes, seeing the owl on the trail was such a highlight.

  9. Bernie says:

    That picture of the owl is outstanding! Just love it.
    I didn’t think such a huge lake as Ontario would be surrounded with so many marshlands. What little I know. Snow, now I know about that as we are getting wallopped with a spring blizzard!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! That owl was very adorable. I’m glad that other hiker pointed it out otherwise we probably would have missed it. I guess that’s what makes this park so special as I don’t think there are many wetlands around Lake Ontario. Either way, I’m glad it’s protected for all to enjoy. Yikes, seems a bit cruel to be hammered by a blizzard in the spring. Hopefully the snow is short-lived.

  10. Bama says:

    Almost Island. What an interesting name! Too bad about the invasive reed grass; this is one of the main reasons why countries like Australia and New Zealand are very strict about biosecurity on their borders. While hiking through the mud sounds awful, it’s great that you were able to see that owl. I thought during daytime they would have chosen a much darker/well-shaded place to rest.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The tall reed grass looks pretty, but it was crazy to hear just how invasive it is. We actually had some of this stuff in our backyard that the previous owners had planted. It took us weeks to pull it out. The size of the root balls were massive. And if we missed even the smallest part of the root ball, the stuff would just keep growing. We’re almost guaranteed to come across muddy patches when hiking in the spring. But you never know what you’ll come across on the trail. Spotting the owl made it all worthwhile. I’ve never seen one this up-close before.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was nice to take advantage of the sunny weather and spend some time on the trails (even if they were a bit wet and muddy). It was a great start to our long weekend.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Seeing the owl was such an unexpected surprise. We would have missed it entirely if it weren’t for the other hiker that we passed that pointed it out.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a great day to hit the trails and enjoy the sunny weather. Seeing the owl was such an unexpected surprise. It was also a real treat to hike on the boardwalks as it meant we didn’t have to worry about any wet or muddy patches!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. But I keep telling myself that muddy trails with mosquitoes is even worse! We might as well take advantage of the trails now, even with the mud, before the bugs come out to play. And it was all worth it to spot that owl.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The trails can be a bit dodgy early in the spring with wet and muddy conditions, but it’s a great time to see some wildlife. Plus the trails are also generally pretty quiet, which is just how we like it. Seeing the owl was such a highlight.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s right. Presqu’ile is reputed to be one of the best places in Ontario for birdwatching and to see the shorebird migration. We were a bit too early in the spring for it. But the downside to coming a few weeks later is that the mosquitoes will be out in full force then.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know! We probably would have missed the owl completely if it weren’t for the other hiker that kindly pointed it out. It definitely made walking along that muddy trail worthwhile!

  11. BrittnyLee says:

    I love that you got such a great photo of that owl!!! That’s a great find!!!! I love owls. They have such thoughtful eyes. There’s a trail near us that gets very muddy. My shoes got covered when I went there a week ago. Matt and I went today and there were no mud puddles. We have had a rainless week, though. The lighthouse is so well kept !!! I saw a lot of lighthouses when my friend ann and I went to to Erie. It was really neat. Lighthouses are so mysterious. I love them .

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Seeing the owl was such an unexpected surprise. I’ve actually never seen one this close in the wild before. I totally agree about their eyes. They are quite fascinating. The hiking conditions in early spring can be a bit dodgy, but I’d rather deal with the mud than the bugs. The mosquitoes are just starting to come out now, so we’ll be taking a break from hiking for the next couple of months. I’m such a fan of lighthouses too. It’s pretty great how there are so many along the Great Lakes.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        I would love visiting the great lakes. I would’ve been so ecstatic seeing that owl. You got a brilliant shot, too! I hear that . I bought some natural bug spray online so I’m hoping it will keep mosquitos off of me and Matt. They worked when my brother and I walked on our local trail. That trail can get very buggy. It has essential oils like tea tree and lavender and others. Fingers crossed 🤞. I’ve been getting out more to take photos and have been enjoying it. It’s a great way to get away from stressors and enjoy nature. We have such beautiful birds around this time of year, too. I saw an orele and some yellow warblers. They’re so colorful and their songs are out of this world. I can go on and on. I’ve been enjoying spring, despite the bad allergies haha . I don’t blame you for taking a break though. The mosquitos can make anything miserable

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We’re lucky that we have access to four of the Great Lakes here in Ontario. It’s hard to forget that they are even lakes sometimes since they are so vast. That’s good to know about the natural bug spray. The stuff I use is way too greasy. It works well, but I’m not a fan of putting it on. The mosquitoes are out in full force now. I nearly got eaten alive when doing some yard work on the weekend. I can only imagine what the trails are like.

        Glad to hear that you’ve been able to spend more time outdoors despite the bugs and your allergies. I couldn’t agree more about how spending time in nature is a great way to de-stress. Happy birdwatching!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We never would have seen it if it weren’t for another hiker who pointed him out. It made hiking through all the mud all worthwhile and was easily the highlight of our day.

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