When looking up hiking trails in the York Regional Forest, Happy Valley Forest caught my eye. You might think that with a name like “Happy Valley Forest”, it must be a pretty magical place. It grabbed my attention for other reasons. You see, I’m a massive fan of British crime dramas and there happens to be one called Happy Valley. Have you seen it? I definitely recommend checking it out on Netflix because it’s an amazing story with fantastic character development. While most people are drawn to Happy Valley Forest because it’s a remarkable and significant landscape, it was actually thrilling tales of murder in England that led us to hike there.
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All About Happy Valley Forest
Happy Valley Forest is an ecologically significant region in the York Regional Forest, specifically located in King Township (part of the Greater Toronto Area, or GTA). It’s managed by Nature Conservancy Canada. The forest is the largest intact region of deciduous forest that is on its way to becoming an official old-growth forest. It will achieve that title in the next 50 to 100 years if we can properly maintain and conserve this land.
This natural landscape supports at least 30 at-risk species, as named by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. This includes the endangered Blanding’s turtle, Jefferson salamander, cerulean warbler, and golden eagle. Happy Valley Forest was used throughout history as a portage and travel route. It’s the most direct route between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe, so many early settlers and indigenous people carried birch bark canoes through this 45km trek. However, the forest is relatively untouched nowadays and over the last 100 years, which is one reason why it’s so biologically diverse.
How to Hike at Happy Valley Forest
There are a few different places where you can explore the Happy Valley Forest. I’ll detail where we went hiking in the early spring. This hiking trail is super peaceful and quiet. We only encountered a couple of other people enjoying the trail, taking their dogs for a walk.
To reach this section of the trail, take 15th Sideroad and then head north on 7th Concession. When you’ve almost reached the end of the road, you’ll see enough room at the side of the road for a couple of cars and the entrance to the trail. It’s a little tricky to find, so you can use the map at the bottom of this blog post to help you.
The section of Happy Valley Forest that we hiked includes part of the Oak Ridges Trail, the Humber Source Woods, and Love Mountain Nature Reserve. There’s also a secondary section of the Oak Ridges Trail to the northwest of this one, as well as the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve to the northeast.
The Oak Ridges Trail
The Oak Ridges Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in Ontario, running along a stretch of the Greenbelt called the Oak Ridges Moraine. It’s a ridge of land that runs east to west, parallel to Lake Ontario and 60km north of it. In total, there are 275km of trails within the Oak Ridges Moraine, including the main trail and its side trails.
When we started hiking at Happy Valley Forest, the main trail is the Oak Ridges Trail (marked by white blazes on the trees). There’s a large sign welcoming you to the forest when you arrive. The Oak Ridges Trail is a fairly straight path. There’s one little wooden bridge over a little creek that I’m sure has varying levels of water throughout the year.
You can venture off to the Humber Source Woods loop trails or the Love Mountain Nature Reserve trail from the main Oak Ridges Trail. These side trails are marked with blue blazes.
Humber Source Woods
Humber Source Woods is a protected 54 acre property within the Happy Valley Forest. There are two loop trails, marked as loop 1 and loop 2. A large trail map is posted at both entrances on the Oak Ridges Trail. We hiked a little bit on both trails. Justin and I started on loop 1, which connects up with loop 2 about halfway through the walk. You’ll end up a little farther down the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail. From there, we walked back to where we started to the car.
Throughout our adventures on the Oak Ridges Trail and the Humber Source Woods trail, we saw many wild mushrooms in various shapes and sizes growing on the sides of trees and fallen logs. There’s also a lot of fuzzy green moss on stumps and logs, which was a lovely contrast to a lot of the bare branches. I’m sure that this trail is amazingly green during the late spring and summer months, once the leaves return to the branches after winter.
Love Mountain Nature Reserve
Unfortunately, the Love Mountain Nature Reserve trail was closed when we visited Happy Valley Forest. We obeyed the signs and vowed to return at some point to hike through this area of the trail. It connects to the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail at two points, forming one big loop trail.
Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve
I don’t believe that there’s a trail that connects the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve to the other tracks. To reach the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve, you’ll need to hop back in your car and head north on Weston Road to 17th Side Road. There is a small parking lot on 17th Side Road. This section of Happy Valley Forest is a 2.4km loop trail. It will take about an hour to hike.
Another Section of the Oak Ridges Trail
There’s another place to go hiking at the Happy Valley Forest. You’ll have to drive south of Pottageville down 7th Concession, beyond 18th Side Road. You can park your car at the side of the road on 7th Concession. The trail starts west of 7th Concession, and it’s a segment of the Oak Ridges Trail. Hike through this northern section of Happy Valley Forest until you reach 8th Concession. It isn’t a loop trail, so you’ll have to turn around and hike back to your car.
Happy Valley Forest Trail Map
I wasn’t able to find much clear and concise information online about this hiking trail in the York Regional Forest. There are some hiking trail maps online, but they’re not entirely correct and they leave out many parts of the trail. I hope that this Happy Valley Forest map helps you on your journey. I’ve marked three points on the map, which is where you’ll find the entrance to all three areas of the forest that I mentioned above (both starting points on the Oak Ridges Trail and one is the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve). You’ll want to visit the one that’s the farthest south on the map to hike where we went.
More TRCA Hikes
There are several places to hike at properties operated by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. I’ve listed some of these among my top 10 places to go hiking in Toronto. Here’s a full listing:
- Albion Hills Conservation Park
- Altona Forest
- Bolton Resource Management Tract
- Boyd Conservation Park
- Boyd North & Glassco Park
- Bruce’s Mills Conservation Park
- Claireville Conservation Area
- Cold Creek Conservation Area
- East Duffins Headwaters
- Glen Haffy Conservation Park
- Heart Lake Conservation Park
- Kortright Centre for Conservation
- Nashville Conservation Reserve
- Oak Ridges Corridor Conservation Reserve (incl Happy Valley Forest)
- Palgrave Forest and Wildlife Area
- Petticoat Creek Conservation Park
- Rouge National Urban Park
- Tommy Thompson Park
- West Duffins Headwaters
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