York Regional Forest is 2,300 hectares of protected land made up of 18 properties with more than 120 kilometres of trail. Tract locations include Whitchurch-Stouffville (11), East Gwillimbury (three), Georgina (three) and King Township (one). And, it’s all free to the public, 365 days per year.
It’s a great place for walking or hiking, dog walking, bird watching, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. But, it’s also a great place to learn about nature at free events held throughout the year.
“We encourage people who have never visited the forest to sign up,” said Heidi Breen, York Regional Forestry team stewardship specialist.
In 2019, there’s a lineup of 13 events, beginning on March 23. Stories of the Forest runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for ages six and up and 1:30-3:30 p.m. for those aged 16 and up. It’s an opportunity to take a guided stroll through the forest and learn how to look for signs of its rich history.
The series continues with Introduction to the York Regional Forest (April 13); Community Tree Planting Festival (May 11); Tree Talk (June 8); Birds, Butterflies and Pollinators (June 18); Explore the Tallgrass Prairie (July 23 for ages 16 and up, July 25 for ages six and up); Forest Photography (Aug. 8); Introduction to Bats (Aug. 23); National Forest Week Festival Kick-Off (Sept. 21); Tree ID Workshop for Beginners (Sept. 24); Forest Folklore (Oct. 26); It’s for the Birds (Nov. 2); and Holiday Open House (Dec. 14).
“Nature is good for you,” says Breen. Studies have shown that walking in the woods can lead to significant health benefits, including improving blood pressure, boosting mental health and decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to global data, involving more than 290 million people, populations with higher levels of green space exposure are also more likely to report good overall health.
As well, York Region maintains three trails accessible to wheelchairs and other assistive devices in the forest. The trails have been widened, cleared of obstructions and graded to ensure ease-of-movement for all visitors at Hollidge Tract (16389 Highway 48, north of Aurora Road), North Tract (17054 Highway 48, south of Davis Drive) and Hall Tract (15681 McCowan Road, north of Aurora Road). Each trail ranges between one to two kilometre loops that pass through a variety of landscapes and accessible parking is available.
Main photo: Scout Tract is a 3.4 kilometer loop trail located near Whitchurch–Stouffville. York Region photos
Accessible trail at Hollidge Tract.
York Regional Forest trail.