ImPort Stanley is weekly series about life and discoveries by a recent “import” to Port Stanley, ON. Access previous posts on everything from shopping to hotels and our beaches by clicking the tag ImPort Stanley.
Some people like to stay motionless when they’re on vacation. I’m not one of those people. Although we’re not avid hikers, we’re not couch potatoes, either. We are yams in motion.
Beach life is great, but sometimes you need to surround yourself with wildlife and trees. There are plenty of areas to hike around here and they’re all free. And many are happy for you to bring your four-legged pal along.
The Elgin Hiking Trail begins (or ends, depending on your POV) here at Mackie’s on the main beach. It’s 41 km of sometimes hilly walking trail that basically follows along Kettle Creek, to the west side of St. Thomas. It ends at Southdel Drive. If you’re so inclined, you can hook up with the 110 km trail from London to St. Marys. There is a Shaw’s side trail that takes you to Shaw’s Dairy where a refreshing ice cream cone is your reward. A map of the entire trail is HERE. Rover is best left home for this one.
Hawk Cliff Woods, 6 minutes from Port Stanley. It’s known internationally as a “hawk watch” site. A short walk in a beautiful forested area, In the fall, visitors are welcome to gather seeds from the wildflower garden. (Instructions posted on site.) The trail is wheelchair accessible in dry weather. More than 1500 bird species have been spotted there. Dogs are welcome ONLY if they can manage their own binoculars and field guide.
Solitude Nature Reserve, 10 minutes from Port Stanley. My neighbour Carol and I discovered this beautiful place when we signed up for a fundraising walk for dogs last year. It’s a woodsy parcel of land with ponds and a clearly identified boardwalk-style trail. The Phil McNamee Charitable Foundation manages the reserve. There are six free, secluded camping sites that can be booked via email. (email@example.com) Each site has a tent platform, fire pit, picnic table, and composting toilet. We’ve been fortunate to run into Mr. McNamee and his wife at Solitude. They’re hands-on at the site and were very sweet and humble when we thanked them.
Fingal Wildlife Management Area, 15 minutes from Port Stanley: This 700+ acre parcel of fields and forests is a former air force training base. About half of it is active farmland. The rest is devoted to hiking and, at certain times of the year in specific places, controlled hunting. There are remnants of its old life, like crumbling concrete building pads, and reference plaques here and there. One website I visited claimed there have been moose and bear sightings at Fingal. The county says there are about 200 species of wildlife calling the area home. It’s dog friendly.
Port Burwell Provincial Park is just under a half-hour’s drive. It has two easy hikes of 1 and 2 km. The park also has a dog beach and play area that goes along with camping there, if you’re so inclined.
There are other places to stretch your legs that are further out from our village. John E. Pearce Provincial Park, for example, is about a half-hour’s drive west. If you’ve got a hankering for hiking in this area, I’d suggest you follow The Happy Hiker on Facebook for more ideas.