On The Trails Highlights

Despite the frosty mornings a late fall flower is in full bloom, the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). This native forest understory shrub species is among the most common species in the oak dominated forests of our sanctuaries. The yellow flowers are quite distinctive against an otherwise dormant forest setting. The Captain Cootes Trail access from the Arboretum, or the Cherry Hill Gate trail into Hendrie Valley Sanctuary, are among the two best hikes at this time of year. Despite the November winds many oak trees around Cootes Paradise and Hendrie Valley remain in peak colour during the first weeks of November in brilliant shades of orange and red this fall.

Migratory birds continue to pass through, particularly waterfowl. November is highlighted by the arrival of the tundra swans, on route from Alaska to the Carolina’s. Large flocks of mergansers, teals, and shovellers can also be sighted. The best trails to see them from are the Princess Pt trail, the entrance to the south side of Cootes Paradise, or the Captain Cootes trail along the north shore of Cootes Paradise and accessed from the RBG Arboretum. On route the decaying leaves of the Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) of the Arboretum will make you think someone is cooking brownies, as their decaying leaves release this fragrance.

You can experience the season through one of the many public programs for kids or adults, with field ID pocket guides available at Shop @ The Gardens, and great lunch time dining available at The Gardens’ Café. If you’re looking for a guided hike try the Walking into Nature (WIN) walk in Hendrie Valley, or one of our weekly free Sunday Back to Nature walks also listed in our public programs calendar. Walks rotate between four locations, one for each week of the month and are provided by RBG volunteers.

Trail User Notes: All parking lots and trails are open.


There are five main trailhead locations, Princess Point, Westdale, the Arboretum, Cherry Hill Gate, and Rock Chapel, as well as two canoe launch sites (Princess Point & Valley Inn). These lead to 27km of trails within the sanctuaries as well as links to multiple other regional trails. A fee of $1/hour is required at all trailhead parking meters. Arboretum fees on weekdays are $3/hour, while weekends are regular garden admission rates. The parking meters do accept credit cards, but do not provide change. An RBG membership provides free access at all entrances, excluding special events.