Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: 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.