If you are interested in short hikes of an hour or two, you may wish to shorten the Avon Trail into hikes between the country roads. Your guidebook has excellent coloured maps with the trail clearly marked. Leave your car at one road, and hike into the bush, along the trail. Once you reach the next road, turn around to head back to your car. Or if you have time, travel to the next road before returning to your car. The entire Avon trail is about 111 km long, so if you wanted to do the whole trail, break your hikes up into 10 km sections spread over 10 visits, and enjoy our country side.
Or consider some of the hikes listed below. These hikes are about 45 minutes around Stratford. Check websites like www.ontariotrails.on.ca for more hiking suggestions.
01) Stratford Side Trail – This linear trail spans the length of the Avon River from the East end to the West end of Stratford. Start anywhere along the Avon River and walk one way and turn around to head back to your car. If you purchase the latest edition of the Avon Trail Guide, it contains a coloured map of the Stratford Side Trail.
02) T. J. Dolan Natural Area & Trail, Stratford – Located at the west end of the Stratford Side Trail. It is part of the park system along the Avon River and near the Stratford Festival Theatre. It is a north and south river side trail loop with several side trails ranging from 0.3 km to 4.4 km. Parking: John Street North or Lorne Avenue West. If you purchase the latest edition of the Avon Trail Guide, it contains a coloured map of the Stratford Side Trail.
03) Victoria Lake Trail, Stratford – A loop walk located along the Avon River by the Stratford Festival Theatre. Start anywhere around the Lake. Be sure to cross both the Huron Street Bridge [coordinates 43.372266,-80.984887 (west end of Lake) and walk around the river crossing over the Lakeside Drive North bridge [coordinates 43.37678,-80.96575] (east end of the Lake near Romeo Street). It is a 2 hour leisurely walk.
04) Sebben Loop, Stratford – From Allman Arena, Stratford, follow the Stratford Side Trail east to km 3.0. Total = 4.4 km one way. (Sebben Bridge is on Rd 111). Refer to Stratford Side Trail Map & text on its back. Landowner Mr. B. Sebben indicates that the Avon River was straightened 50+ years ago and now resembles a canal along his property; but flood waters sometimes make it over to where the river used to be.
05) St. John’s Wood, West Stratford – The sign is located at 43.368118, -81.002123 south west or left of the entrance to the Perth County Health Unit, 653 West Gore St, Stratford. Park in one of the seven visitor spots. This coniferous woodlot was set up in 1991 by members of the St John Church initiated by Sue Bonisteel and Frank Lesley as a conservation project. There is no blazed trail but the woodlot is connected to the trails in the T. J. Dolan Natural Area.
06) Grand Trunk Trail, St. Marys – This is a linear hike (3.5 km) along the old rail trail including the Grand Trunk bridge that spans the Thames River. The eastern end of this trail is at the old Junction Railway Station on Glass Street [coordinates 43.272261,-81.132033]. The town of St. Marys website has an Always in Season Guide (PDF) that you can download. Check page 7 for a map.
07) Wildwood Lake Trail, Wildwood C.A. – A 22 km trail around Wildwood Lake. Do a linear walk on one side starting at the dam (12 km) or starting at the Entry Kiosk (10 km). Daily fee applies. Check maps at www.wildwoodconservationarea.ca/trails/ or download the Trail Map: 2012 Trail Map. If you are an Avon Trail member, show your membership card or pay the fee.
08) Dr. R. S. Murray Forest Trail, Wildwood C.A. – Entry fee, 1, 3, 5 & 7 km trails for hiking and cross country skiing within the Wildwood Conservation Area off Hwy 7. Check www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails.
10) West Perth Thames Nature Trail and Wetlands – A linear trail west of Stratford along the Thames River starting near 1 Huron Road, Mitchell. Check www.naturetrail.westperth.com.
11) Ellice Swamp Rail Trail – Hiking is available only on Sundays and Wednesdays. Check www.swampfriends.ca. From Stratford follow Line 119 (#19) north through Gads Hill, turn left (West) onto the 52nd Line, continue on the 52nd Line past 122nd Road and watch for the Ellice Swamp Rail Trail signs.
12) Health Valley Trail, Woolwich Township – A 5 km trail that is the old Conestogo River Trail between St. Jacobs and Conestogo. Maintained by the Township of Woolwich and members of the Woolwich Trails Group. Park in the parking lot at the end of Albert Street East [coordinates 43.539294,-80.551233], St. Jacobs. It is part of the Trans Canada trail system and Avon Trail.
13) Embro Conservation Area [coordinates 43.173401,-80.91736] – Head south from Stratford on Road 113 which turns into Oxford Road 6. Turn right onto Oxford Road 84. The Conservation area is about 600 m on the left. Excellent for snowshoeing.
14) Wildwood Lake Trail (Loop), South Section – The main Avon Trail follows the route north of the Lake. There is a 12 km southern portion that hikers share with bikers. Access is either north of the dam or off Line 9. Watch for blue markers. Please do not park on Line 9. Carry your Avon Trail membership card or pay the daily fee. Check trail maps at www.wildwoodconservationarea.ca. Follow Hwy 7 to the roundabout outside St. Marys. The park entrance is at 43.270273,-81.067984. There are other hiking opportunities at Wildwood including the Dr. Murray Forest.
15) Petersburg Regional Forest, Region of Waterloo– Located at 1974 Snyders Road East, Kitchener [coordinates 43.416473,-80.586472]. The Pines parking lot is at the end of a private lane. Good loop walks and snowshoeing. CAUTION: To enter the parking lot at the end of the lane requires crossing an active CN/VIA Rail tracks that have no signals. See notes for number 12 above.
16) Gibney Regional Forest, Region of Waterloo – Sandhills Road, Wilmot Township, Baden [coordinates 43.400589,-80.641497]. Off the Conestoga Parkway (Hwy 7/8); use the Baden cut off and go south 1 km.
17) Morrison Dam Conservation Area Trail, Exeter – 71108 Morrison Line, Exeter [coordinates 43.359744,-81.457726]. From Stratford travel west on Perth Line 20 (becomes 83) for 30 minutes watch for signs. A 2-hour, year round trail perfect for hiking and snowshoeing. See the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority website for more information and specifically the Morrison Dam Conservatrion Area web page for a PDF brochure/map.
18) Ausable River Trail – A 13 km linear hike. Travel west on Hwy 7 out of Stratford for 50 minutes watching for the town of Sylvan and turn south on Scouts Rd [coordinates 43.135794,-81.79455]. Mystery Falls can be accessed from the trail or by following the blue trail leading north from the west end of Elm Tree Drive. See the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority website for more information.
19) Joany’s Woods (Talbot Trust Tracts) – A 2-hour loop hike, 45 minutes west of Stratford along Hwy 7. Three trails: Ivey Trail 4.8 km; Inch Trail 3.2 km; River Trail 2.2 km. Located north of County Road 7 (Thompson Line) just west of the village of Sylvan. It is classified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). Check the Thames Talbot Land Trust website for more information and printable guides with maps. Also check the Lambton Wildlife Inc. website.
19) Waterloo Hydro Cut – The Glasgow St. (Kitchener) parking lot is located at coordinates 43.429138,-80.563134. The trails in this area are on Region of Waterloo lands and are developed and maintained by the Waterloo Cycling Club. The trails are well marked and open to hiking. Loops are available. You can hike west via the power corridor to a point north of the Petersburg Regional Forest that also has trails. Check waterloocyclingclub.ca/mtb/trails for maps to the trail parking lots and trail maps. See number 19 below.
20) Carmel-Koch Road Trails, South Side – This is a privately owned woodlot and part of the Waterloo moraine. One may enter from 43.460270, -80.626120 or 43.461600, -80.617860. The trails are usually obvious but not blazed. On the south side one could walk 3 km, 5 km or more. All these trails are for hiking only from mid-spring to mid-fall (dry conditions). Trails on both sides of the road are restricted to cross-country skiing only in winter (no hiking/no snow shoeing). [The north side contains a portion of the main Avon Trail thanks to the generosity of the Musselman and Schneider families - see Map 5.]
21) Johnson Tree Farm, West Perth – It was planted by the Johnson family and is maintained by current family members living on the corner of the 100 acres. There are some wet areas and a pond with turtles. Roadside parking is near a small yellow sign. The loop trail is not blazed and takes a little over an hour. Have a look and enjoy the generosity of the landowners. From Stratford follow Hwy 8 W for 14 km, turn left (south) onto Rd 150 for 3.6 km to 43.41164,-81.15654.
22) Walker Woods, Region of Waterloo - It consists of a single stand type for forest with the dominant species being Sugar Maple. The forest was privately owned and managed as a sugar maple bush until 1993 when it was donated to the Region. As part of the transfer agreement between the previous owner and the Region of Waterloo, Walker Woods is to be managed to maintain, encourage and/or enhance old growth characteristics. A study completed during the summer of 2003 showed a significant population of great crested flycatchers. Vehicles must pull off onto the shoulder of Regional Road 3, (Walker's Road from Highway 7) which is sufficiently wide. There is an existing trail that loops around through the forest. See pages 39 and 40 in the Waterloo Regional Forest Management Plan: Forest Tract Summary Sheets PDF.
23) Hullett Provincial Wildlife Area – The Hullet Marsh, 40905 Summerhill Rd, Clinton, is about an hour north west of Stratford via Hwy 8. The main entrance is at coordinates 43.645515, -81.456557. Trail maps and other information are available at www.hullettmarsh.com. Check water conservation methods along the trail, notice the dykes, pheasant release areas, trapping activities for the overabundant beavers and the mature sugar maple bush trail.
24) Bannockburn Conservation Area – 76249 Bannockburn Line, Exeter (Ausable Bayfield C. A. (ABCA). Check www.abca.on.ca for a trail map. The main parking is at coordinates 43.542310, -81.572350. The 1 km trail starts with a boardwalk with the Ausable running below.
25) Lions Lake Trail (Woolwich Reservoir), Floradale – A 7 km loop around the Woolwich Reservoir (Canagagigue Creek) maintained by the Elmira Lions Club. Park at the main entrance off Reid Woods Dr. [coordinates 43.61671,-80.565014], or park on Ruggles St (1st St) near Bonnie Lou’s Café, 2238 Floradale Rd/Rd 19 [coordinates 43.634169,-80.580287] - view access spot to trail from Ruggles Street | location of footbridge. The Café is good for breakfast or lunch Monday to Friday. Easy walking (flat) and good for snowshoeing.