Hiking Mono Cliffs Provincial Park
I continue to be marvelled by Ontario’s parks. So many are filled with incredible beauty, fantastic trails and enchanted treasures. Mono Cliffs Provincial Park was just one of these amazing parks. Located just outside Shelburne, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park contains some of the oldest, intact old growth white cedar forests in eastern North America. And at over 700 hectares it’s massive size offers a multitude of habitats, wildlife and stunning cliffs. Hikers will love the option of over half a dozen trails.
Our hike started out mid-morning on another hot, humid, yet beautiful blue sky kind of day. The initial trail from the parking lot is the Carriage Trail. This trail gives access to many of the park’s other trails. The trail took us passed old forest on one side and a sweeping field with a stunning hillside off in the distance. The forest seemed alive with screaming cicadas, who seemed to provide the soundtrack to our hike. We took the trail to a flight of wooden stairs, taking us up the cliff face and passed some pretty ferns growing from it.
From the top of the staircase we met the Cliff Top Trail. This trail took us along the top of the 30 metre tall cliff and to the first lookout. There before us was a lush green landscape. After soaking in its rich beauty we continued on through the forested trail that offered a slight breeze and much appreciated break from the heat and sun.
The next trail was the Lookout Trail which took us up and up, and to an open field where we met a fork in the trail. With seemingly no markers we steered left and thankfully chose right! There before us was another view, this one was a jaw-dropping vista over the area and even all the way to a wee CN Tower in the distance. I couldn’t believe it! One of the best views I’ve found yet! And there in the wide open, at 1650 feet above sea level, sits a large rock that seemed absolutely perfect to sit on, enjoy the epic view and thank the trail Gods.
After tearing ourselves away we made our way to yet another trail, the McCarston’s Lake Trail. This one took us around part of McCarston’s Lake. And every so often there was a little trail leading down to the lake’s edge. It was so picturesque and secluded. Except for the killdeer strutting along the shore.
McCarston’s Lake Trail loops back around to the Cliff Top Trail. Here we took the Spillway Trail that is a must – even though its a dead end. The trail took us down a short flight of metal stairs that turned into a trail that leads you through a canyon. Right between two massive cliff faces, its as though we were suddenly in the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Shrunken and in an enchanted scene. It was dark, damp and at least ten degrees cooler. At the dead end lies a lone wooden bench and we couldn’t help but sit and soak in the tranquil moment.
Back up at the Cliff Top Trail we headed back the way we began. Down the wooden staircase, passed the screaming cicadas and monarchs on the hunt for wild flowers. We were nearly to the end of the trail when my friend caught sight of a wee baby snake on the trail. Barely filling the palm of your hand, it was a baby red bellied snake. After taking a flurry of photos and being totally in awe we gently ushered it off the trail, in hopes it made it to adulthood.
Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is one of my new favourite hikes from this summer. It was home to epic views, magical scenery and so many trails. I can’t wait to return and explore the rest of the trails. Another highlight of the park is the great amount of information plaques throughout, telling all about the history, geology, environment, as well as the flora and fauna. There are also plenty of maps, with ‘you are here’, throughout and all the trails are very well marked.
Difficulty – Moderate
Parking – Lot off the 3rd Line with meter parking (Note: fee is $14.50, not $11 like the website states)
Facilities – Bathrooms
Trails – Carriage Trail (1.3km)
Spillway Trail (1.3km)
Cliff Top Trail (2.8km)
Walter Tovell Trail (4.8km)
McCarston’s Lake Trail (3.6km)
South Outlier Trail (3.5km)
Lookout Trail (600m)
Link Trail (600m)
Bruce Trail (6km)
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