From Deseronto to Maynooth, the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows are popping across Hastings County right now. But all of that fall foliage won’t last forever. So dig out that fall sweater, fill up that thermos with hot cider, and hit these six hiking areas and driving routes to see those jaw-dropping fall colours while you still can.
McGeachie Conservation Area (Limited Trail Availability)
363 Steenburg Lake Road North, Gilmour
Note: Not all trails and areas are open due to the May 21st, 2022 storm. At this time the BLUE and GREEN trails are open, the rest remain closed. For more information contact Crowe Valley Conservation.
On a crisp fall day, you could spend hours wandering through the beautiful McGeachie Conservation Area. There are now two trails open Blue and Green thanks to the hard work of staff who worked to reopen these trails following the devastating May 21st, 2022 storm. These trails are easy to navigate, well-marked, and give you multiple options whether you want an easier stroll or a longer hike. And if you just can’t pull yourself away in a day, consider a stay in the Conley-Drinkwater Cottage, which features four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a loft, and private access to the lake.
Learn More: crowevalley.com/mcgeachie-conservation-area
Tip: Rustic Roadside Restaurant
If you’re hungry after your McGeachie hike, head a few minutes south to the Rustic Roadside. Featuring fantastic hospitality and down-home cooking, it’s a relatively new roadside gem in Hastings. On the menu: breakfast, sandwiches, salads, wraps, burgers, mains like fish ‘n’ chips and hot turkey sandwiches, and incredible homemade desserts.
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The Gut Conservation Area
2399 The South Road, Coe Hill
You’ll have to travel off the beaten path to get to The Gut, but it’s definitely worth it. There are few natural wonders in the area quite like the 200-metre-long gorge here, especially when it’s wrapped in fall colours. Chances are you’ll feel the rushing water in your chest before you actually see the falls, but when you do descend through the forest trail and finally come to the great beast, just sit down and let the sound envelop you. When you’re ready, follow the Wilderness Trail along the river as it meanders through the thick forest, along an old logging road, and back to the parking lot.
Tip: Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery
Any trip to this area isn’t complete without a stop at this legendary general store. Organized around 11 themed rooms, you’ll find everything from Canadian arts and crafts to vintage toys and antiques to cottage-themed gifts and clothing. Just don’t forget to leave with a handful of penny candy.
Learn More and Explore: oldhastingsgallery.ca
Eagles Nest Park (Park Closes October 16th for Winter)
Few fall views can rival those at this 6,000-hectare park overlooking Bancroft and the vast York River valley. The accessible Hawkwatch Trail leads you to Eagles Nest’s iconic lookout platform, but there are actually four other lookouts here too. You’ll find them along the six short hiking trails in the park. Each trail is unique, offering a variety of different ecosystems, plants, trees, animals, and other wildlife. The 700-metre Gerry Whyte Trail is a good example. It’s a plant identification path that will also give you a good sense of why the Algonquin people have so valued this land since the end of the last ice age.
Learn More and Explore: eaglesnestpark.com
Tip: Sun Run Café and Bakery
If you finish at Eagles Nest by early afternoon, head 15 minutes up the road to Maynooth’s Sun Run Café. Nab one of the outdoor picnic tables and go for a pastry alongside a brie and apple sandwich on buttermilk white bread. You can’t really go wrong with anything at Sun Run, though, where it’s all made from scratch and always fresh.
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History buffs would be wise to take one of the tailored road trips put together by the Hastings County Historical Society. These trips are a great way to combine the gorgeous colours with some colourful history. Each journey is structured around stops at historical plaques, such as “Treasures of Tyendinaga”. It features five plaques, including one describing the founding of Deseronto by a group of Mohawk supporters of the British during the American Revolution and another about local World War I hero Captain George Fraser Kerr.
Tip: O'Connor House English Tea Room
Head over to Deseronto for some afternoon high tea at the O'Connor House where you will find delicious pies, sandwiches and their famous quiche.
Learn More and Explore: theoconnorhouse.com
Road trip: Rapids, Rocks, and Rallies
Check out Hastings County GIS’ 14 interactive maps for tailored fall road trips in the beautiful rolling reaches of north Hastings. “Rapids, Rock, and Rallies” is a classic that begins in Bancroft and circles east for a few dozen kilometres through thick deciduous forest that will be lit up this time of year. You might not have time to stop at each of the 22 points of interest along the way, but definitely hit up Egan Chutes. Named after John Egan, an Irish immigrant lumber baron, the Chutes are where the York River crashes through steep rock sides with a thundering roar.
Tip: Scenic views
The “Rapid, Rocks, and Rallies” road trip is also great one for the fall because it includes several scenic viewpoint stops, including Eagles Nest Park, Maxwell Settlement Road East, and another east of L’Amable. Together, they’ll give you a great sense of just how gorgeous these hills can be in the fall.
Road trip: Painted Quilts
This is the newest addition to Hastings County GIS’ interactive maps — and the most creative. It explores the area north and east of Bancroft and features 20 hand-painted quilts displayed on barns, buildings, fences, and other unique spaces. See if you can spot them all as you wind your way through the backroads. Some display the flora and fauna of the area, others celebrate north Hastings history, and some are just be beautiful artistic displays. Just be warned: with the backdrop of all those bright fall colours, it might be tough to spot each colourful quilt.
Tip: Brush with the North
You might not only spot the polar bear quilt at Maynooth’s Brush with the North but also get moved to create your own work. This popular shop is a great place to restock your art supplies or just get inspired by the in-house gallery and one-of-a-kind home décor items.