After visiting Cooper Marsh and Charlottenburgh Park in southeastern Ontario, I had one other conservation area to explore nearby: Gray’s Creek Conservation Area in Cornwall. Although I like to think I know Cornwall fairly well (I worked there a few years ago), I had never visited the Gray’s Creek Conservation Area.
And I have to admit it, I didn’t have high expectations. I don’t really like trails that are near urban centers because they are often busier and less “wild”. And since there is also a playground, soccer fields and a marina at Gray’s Creek Conservation Area, I thought that I might end up having the impression of taking a stroll in a large urban park rather than hiking for real.
In the end, my hike in Gray’s Creek Conservation Area was much more enjoyable than I expected. First, I was completely alone on the trails, which surprised me a little (it must be said that I was there on a weekday, but still). Then, rather than having an urban vibe, the conservation area was actually perfectly bucolic.
There are three trails, totaling just over six kilometres. I followed all three of them, which allowed me to make a long loop in the forest. I first walked along Gray’s Creek, the one that gives its name to the place. The stream is rather placid and not very photogenic, but I saw there a few ducks and even a kingfisher.
The trail eventually left the stream. It went along a golf course, before heading into the forest again. I walked along the soccer fields, crossed a bicycle path, went to the marina, before returning to the parking lot.
The forest is mostly made up of hardwoods (a mixture of hickory, maple, and ash). The landscape varies little along the trail (apart from a few points of view on the stream, the hike takes place under the cover of the trees), but the forest is so pretty that it is difficult to complain.
The trails are well maintained and wide. Wooden boardwalks cover the muddy portions. Signage is rarer (there is some, but I actually found it a bit confusing), so I suggest studying the map at the trailhead to decide which trails you want to hike. The place is accessible in winter, and it is even possible to rent snowshoes there.
And as I said earlier, there is a marina at the conservation area, giving access to the St. Lawrence River. The conservation area is also connected to the city of Cornwall via a cycle path.
And, just like that the Gray’s Creek Conservation Area was the twentieth Ontario Conservation Area I visited (the 14th this year!). And the more I explore these places, the more it makes me want to visit others!