An Autumn Hike in Northumberland Forest & Scenic Drive Through Cobourg, Ontario

Last Sunday, my parents and I went on a pre-Thanksgiving hike to get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful colours of autumn here in Ontario. We decided to check out Northumberland County Forest, situated near the town of Cobourg, which is about an hour’s drive from Toronto. Northumberland Forest offers over 45km of hiking trails as well as routes for snowshoeing, horseback riding, hunting and ATVing. Having never been there before, we weren’t sure where to find the hiking trails; vague road signs led us to Morris Trailhead, a series of trails located in Northumberland County (which is about 15km north of Cobourg). The first thing we saw was a massive warning sign for black bear sightings in the area! This freaked me out more than I’d like to admit, though you can’t really blame me given this terrifying Leonardo DiCaprio VS Bear fight scene from The Revenant that was recently burned into my brain.

Surprisingly, we hiked about two hours (7km) without running into a single creature, bear or otherwise. Two ATVs whizzed passed us and we heard the occasional hunting rifle go off, but apart from that we saw no one else on the trail. I strongly believe in safety in numbers, so little wonder I was so jumpy with the three of us walking through a secluded forest in the middle of nowhere! My heart skipped a beat every time a twig snapped, but eventually I realized that the recurring sounds of dirt bikes and hunting rifles would likely keep bears away from the trail during the day.

I really enjoyed the relative quietness of that trail. We’ve hiked many a time up north in Algonquin Park, and although the scenery and colours were always unreal, the trails could get a little crowded. There was something special about the feeling of being removed from the hustle and bustle of Toronto while we walked through Northumberland Forest. The colours weren’t too shabby, either:

The winding path was undulating, but nothing we, as hiking novices, couldn’t handle. That said, my lower body certainly ached after a couple of hours! We found ourselves needing walking sticks on the way back, and it was a relief to stretch my legs out in the car as we started to drive through the town of Cobourg.

What is it that makes small towns so charming? Maybe it’s the friendly people and the cute mom-and-pop shops. Or perhaps it’s the quaint streets and easygoing nature of life. Either way, Cobourg did not disappoint. On this particular Sunday afternoon, locals and tourists alike gathered at cute cafes and strolled along the boardwalk. We passed by the East Pierhead Lighthouse, where tons of people were taking pictures of the gorgeous vistas and breathing in fresh air. It was getting chilly outside (roughly 12 degrees Celsius plus the breeze from the lake), but the surroundings were so pretty that my numb toes almost didn’t matter:

The fresh air must have made my dad hungry because he made us stop several minutes later at a restaurant called Captain George’s Fish and Chips. The place looked a little run-down, but as soon as my dad brought the piping hot meal to the car and we saw the lightly-battered fish and hand-cut fries, we knew it was a great find. We ended up sharing two halibut ‘n chips meals between the three of us! It wasn’t exactly the veggies and lean protein one should consume after exercising, but none of us could remember the last time we’d had fish and chips that was as awesome as Captain George’s. Not an ounce of regret (or food) could be found afterwards! 🙂

Satisfied and ready for bed, we headed home, fully determined to return to both Northumberland Forest and Cobourg at another time. All in all, it was a very active and adventurous half-day trip. I’m looking forward to seeing how far down Morris Trailhead I’ll get next time…

Where are your favourite places to hike in Ontario? Leave a comment below!

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