On The Trails Highlights
A mild winter has limited conditions for skating, but is making winter survival for local wildlife easier than in recent years. The leafless winter forest provides extensive views throughout much of RBG's natural lands, revealing the largest of the Canadian woodpeckers - the Pileated Woodpecker. RBG sanctuaries have 3-6 pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers and the best locations to spot one are on the north shore of Cootes Paradise via the Arboretum, from the George North and Bulls Point Observation Towers, at the Hopkins Wood Special Protection Area. Please stay on the trails as wildlife have very limited shelter and space at this time of the year, while at the same time are setting up there breeding territories.
Signs of spring are edging in with species such as eagles and owls working on breeding territories. Also commonly heard are the mating calls of chickadees and cardinals echoing through the ravines. On warmer, sunny days along Spencer and Grindstone Creeks, winter stoneflies are emerging from their riverbed homes. Their unusual behaviour of emerging in the winter makes them an important food source for hungry winter birds, as well as a sign of good health of these two creeks (stoneflies as sensitive to water pollution).
Skating on Cootes Paradise Marsh at Princess Point has been limited, with ice less than 4 inches thick to start February. Information on ice thickness status is available on our Facebook page as well as on a sign at the Princess Point access. Please keep to the Princess Point area as moving water areas near creeks and at the connection to the harbor always have much thinner ice.
Explore and learn with one of the many programs for kids or adults. Field ID pocket guides are available at the RBG Shop, and great lunch time dining is available at the RBG Centre Greenhouse Cafe. If you’re looking for a guided walk try the 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: Rock Chapel parking lot is closed for the winter season. The Captain Cootes Trail below the Nature Centre will be temporarily closed for renovations in mid-February.
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 trailheads and $3/hour at the Arboretum, excluding special events. The machines do not provide change and accept cash only. An RBG membership provides free parking at the trailheads.