The Bay of Quinte region in South Eastern Ontario is a treasure trove of amazing hiking trails and beautiful scenery. Bay of Quinte consists of Brighton, Trenton, Belleville, and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, as well as the natural spaces surrounding these cities and towns. I’m going to show you the best places to go hiking in the Bay of Quinte, along with photos and details about each trail.
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Presqu’ile Provincial Park (Brighton)
Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a wonderful spot for hiking trails in the Bay of Quinte region. It’s only five minutes from the town of Brighton. While it costs $15.50 per car for a day permit, Presqu’ile has the most hiking trails out of anywhere in the region. You can easily spend the whole day exploring every trail and path. There are 16 kilometres of trails in total, which are open only to hikers (no bikes). Cyclists and in-line skaters can stick to the paved shoulder of the roads that meander through the park.
The Newcastle Trail is one of the main hiking trails at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. You can leave your car at one of the main parking lots for hiking, which is opposite the Group Camp entrance on Lighthouse Lane. Park at this lot to access the Newcastle Trail and the Pioneer Trail, as well as the Jobes Woods Trail if you feel like walking to it instead of driving.
This trail is a 4.3km loop, the longest trail in the park. It should take around 2 hours to complete, although it might take longer if you decide to take a detour to see the lighthouse. Follow the orange arrows as you’ll wander through the forest, plantations, and old fields. You might catch glimpses of white-tailed deer (I did!), songbirds, woodpeckers, frogs, and salamanders.
There are many wooden boardwalks that meander through the forest, which help keep your feet dry and less muddy on the journey. I found that the boardwalks got a little slippery when wet and covered with leaves, so take care on them.
As a short detour from the Newcastle Trail, I suggest visiting the lighthouse. After hiking through the forest for some time, you’ll eventually reach one of the main roads in the park. Head south on that road to the small parking lot before the lighthouse. The Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse is the second oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Constructed from limestone in 1840, its double-curved roof is unique to the lighthouses of Ontario.
The Pioneer Trail is a 3.8km loop trail that’s opposite the Newcastle Trail. When you walk from the parking lot, you’ll have the option to venture one way for the Newcastle Trail (orange blazes) or the other way for the Pioneer Trail (yellow blazes). I decided to hike the Newcastle Trail instead of the Pioneer Trail, but you could definitely hike both if you’re spending all day at the park.
Follow the yellow blazes and arrows through the forest and fields that you’ll encounter on the trail. Some of the fields are reforested with White Pine, Red Pine, and Norway Spruce trees. Others are left as meadows full of wildflowers, which makes for great habitats for butterflies.
Jobes Woods Trail
I also went for a walk on the Jobes Woods Trail on my visit to Presqu’ile. After completing the Newcastle Trail loop, I hiked a portion of the Pioneer Trail (yellow blazes). From there, you can reach the Jobes Woods Trail. There’s also a small parking lot right across the way if you’d rather drive over. The Jobes Woods Trail is one of the most picturesque trails in the park.
It’s a 1km wheelchair accessible loop trail that’s mostly covered in boardwalks with a few sections of forest floor. This is an old growth forest with tall Sugar Maple trees throughout. You’ll also venture across a Black Ash swamp, an old field, and a conifer tree plantation. The park pamphlet says that it will take 45 minutes to walk this trail, but I finished it in 20-25 minutes.
Owen Point Trail
The Owen Point Trail is a 1.6km loop trail that should take about an hour to complete. You’ll find parking for this trail west of Presqu’ile Parkway, between Beach 3 and the Park Store. You’ll find that this path winds through tall grass and young trees. It keeps close to the beach and waterfront, and there are shorter side trails that lead to lookout stations.
The Marsh Boardwalk is a 1.2km wooden boardwalk loop trail that’s completely wheelchair accessible. The park pamphlet estimates that it can take up to 45 minutes to walk, but I feel like it would take less time. There are two observation towers and 16 interpretive panels on the way. It’s the best way to see the marshland at Presqu’ile, which is the largest protected wetland on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
Some wildlife that you might experience on the Marsh Boardwalk trail includes various songbirds, turtles, frogs, dragonflies, muskrats, and waterfowl. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit the Marsh Boardwalk because it was closed when I went to Presqu’ile Provincial Park. The boardwalk is prone to flooding and does close down from time to time. If you end up going there and the Marsh Boardwalk trail is back open, please let me know in the comments section.
Proctor Park Conservation Area (Brighton)
Proctor Park Conservation Area is a lovely and free place to go hiking in Brighton, Ontario. There’s a roomy parking lot just below the trail head. There are two trails at Proctor Park Conservation Area: the Cedar Loop Trail and the Hardwood Hill Trail. You start and finish on the Cedar Loop Trail, and you’ll spend most of the hike on the Hardwood Hill Trail.
The Cedar Loop Trail provides a shortcut for those looking for a shorter hike, but I suggest walking the entire Hardwood Hill Trail. The entire hike will take you about an hour. Walking the bigger loop of the park is about 3km in length.
When you first start hiking on the Cedar Loop Trail, you’ll come across a small wooden bridge across the Butler Creek. Continue walking and you’ll meander through tall cedar trees, which have a very magical atmosphere. Eventually, you’ll reach the Hardwood Hill Trail. Ascend up some small hills and descend down through the Butler Creek Valley. The whole hike offers some stunning scenery, especially if you’re visiting in the fall.
While the trails at Proctor Park Conservation Area are shorter than some of the others, this is one of my favourite hiking trails in the Bay of Quinte. It’s pretty and scenic, and it also happens to be free to visit. If you’re visiting during July and August, you might have the opportunity to check out the Proctor House Museum. The museum is right at the entrance to the park, and it’s open for tours in July and August from 1:00 to 4:00pm (closed Mondays).
Sager Conservation Area (Quinte West)
Sager Conservation Area isn’t much of a hike, but it’s most well known for its epic viewpoint and scenery. It’s one of the highest points of land in the area, and there’s a lookout tower with 360 degree panoramic views.
There’s a large, free parking lot at Sager Conservation Area. From the car, you’ll see a boulder to your left with a drawing of the lookout tower on it. Hike up a series of steps to the top (97 steps to be exact), and then walk to the top of the 30 foot tower (48 more steps) for impressive views. It’s worth all the climbing, trust me! Visiting in the fall is especially amazing as you’ll witness autumn colours for days.
Back on the other side of the parking lot, there are facilities, picnic tables, and an area of grass if you feel like playing some sports. You can walk on a short trail into the forest beyond the picnic tables, but you’ll hit a dead end at one point as it isn’t an official trail.
Bleasdell Boulder Conservation Area (Quinte West)
The path at Bleasdell Boulder Conservation Area isn’t terribly long or scenic, but it’s all about the boulder itself. This is a 1.5km loop trail that doesn’t have many spectacular views, although it is very quiet and serene. There’s also an additional 0.6km trail that connects to the Lower Trent Trail, if you wish to keep on hiking.
Bleasdell Boulder Conservation Area is (not shockingly) dedicated to the Bleasdell Boulder. This is a gigantic rock, one of the largest known glacial erratics in North America, that weighs an estimated 1 million kilograms or 330 tonnes. This boulder is over two stories tall, measuring 13.4 metres long, 7.3 metres wide and 6.7 metres high. It’s made mostly of Grenville marble calcium carbonate, and also contains coarse quartz, blue-green actinolite, coarse calcite and tremolite.
How did this giant boulder form and get to its present resting place? 20,000 years ago, this whole region was buried beneath glacial ice that was 1km thick (the Laurentide Ice Sheet). As the ice started to melt (12,000 years ago), the glacier retreated and moved very slowly over the next 8,000 years. Some very large boulders were moved by the glaciers in this process, and the Bleasdell Boulder was one of them. It’s thought to have dragged 40km to reach this point in the world where it currently rests.
This is a sacred site for Indigenous peoples who have regularly visited throughout the years. The boulder is named for Rev. Canon William Bleasdell who wrote about the boulder in 1862. A local family purchased the land in 1997 and donated it to the Lower Trent Conservation Authority in 2005.
A trip to Bleasdell Boulder Conservation Area might not be one of the best hiking trails in the Bay of Quinte, but it’s home to one of the most intriguing landmarks of the area. It’s definitely the largest boulder I’ve ever seen!
HR Frink Conservation Area (Plainfield, North of Belleville)
The HR Frink Conservation Area is home to many top hiking trails in the Bay of Quinte. There are trails both north and south of Thrasher Road. When I visited, the main entrance north of Thrasher Road was closed, so there was only parking in a lot south of the road. It’s fairly large, and it costs $5 to park (payable by mobile device). There are 13km of trails in total at this conservation area that spans 341 acres.
Most notably, you’ll want to hike on the trails south of the road, especially for the Wetland Ecology Boardwalk. This wooden boardwalk spans across a Provincially Significant Wetland. Some of the creatures living at this wetland include the northern water snake, three species of turtles, a variety of frogs, blue and green heron, geese, ducks, and more. There are a series of nesting boxes for ducks across the waterway.
After visiting the marsh, I continued hiking on the Horsetail Trail / Boundary Trail, which is a 2km loop through the forest. Even on a Saturday afternoon, I encountered very few people on this trail. It was a little bit muddy. There were several boardwalks and planks of wood that allowed me to navigate across the mucky terrain without getting my boots too dirty.
I suggest hiking on the boardwalk and the Horsetail Trail loop if you’re new to HR Frink Conservation Area, like I was. If you’re looking for more hiking trails, walk across the road to experience eight more short trails by the Moira River, Parks Creek, and through deciduous forest. The main trail, the Drumlin Trail, provides access to all of the trails. From there, it turns into a “choose your own adventure” with many different options that loop around in many ways.
More Bay of Quinte Hiking Trails
These five hiking trails in the Bay of Quinte are an excellent place to start. But, if you’re looking for more adventures, there are a few more places to go hiking in this region of South East Ontario. I haven’t visited these ones yet either, but they’re on my list!
Trenton Greenbelt Conservation Area
Trenton Greenbelt Conservation Area near downtown Trenton offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city. The Jack Lange Memorial Walkway is a 3km path on the Trent River.
Potter’s Creek Conservation Area
Potter’s Creek Conservation Area is located on a former farm, and there are lots of opportunities for hiking, biking, cross country skiing, and birdwatching. There are six short loop hiking trails that all connect to one another. Here is where you’ll find a useful trail map.
Sidney Conservation Area
You’ll find lots of natural vegetation, mixed forests, and open areas at Sidney Conservation Area. You can go hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing here. It’s a shorter hike and great if you’re looking for a little bit of time in nature. Here is where you can view a trail map.
Bay of Quinte Trails Map
Looking for all of these Bay of Quinte hiking trails visually represented on a map? Here is every provincial park, conservation area, and trail that I’ve mentioned in the article. As you can see, they aren’t terribly far apart from one another, so it doesn’t involve too much driving.
Do you want to save this map for future reference? If you click the star beside the map title, it will be saved to your Google Maps account. Then, you can access it while hiking from your own Google Maps app (it will be listed under “your places” and then “maps”).
Plan Your Weekend Getaway
With all of these amazing hikes in the Bay of Quinte, you’ll want to make a weekend of it. Here’s how you can take a vacation or staycation in Brighton as there are lots of things to see and do, as well as fantastic restaurants and cafes. I suggest basing yourself in Brighton because it’s very quiet and peaceful. You can also stay right on Lake Ontario for your own private lakeside views.
Where to Stay in Brighton
There are lots of great places to stay in Brighton and beyond. Here is a convenient and handy map where you can browse the hotels and accommodations, including vacation rentals.
What to Bring on a Hike
A proper pair of hiking shoes is an absolute must. It’s also a good idea to bring sunscreen and lots of water, too. My water bottle of choice is the GRAYL Purifier because you can drink ANY water from any source, no matter what. Water from lakes, streams, rivers, public restrooms, you name it. It’s the world’s fastest portable purifier. Get your hands on one ASAP!
Don’t forget to pack some bug spray because there can be biting bugs depending on the time of year. Even if there aren’t any signs, it’s safe to assume that ticks are all over Ontario hiking trails. Protect yourself against ticks by reading our guide to avoiding ticks on the trails.
For amazing deals on hiking products like backpacks, boots, clothing, and gear, check out the Decathlon Canada shop!
More Places to Hike in South Eastern Ontario
Aside from all of these Bay of Quinte hikes, I loved going hiking in the Thousand Islands region. Of course, there are tons of fantastic provincial parks, conservation areas, and hiking trails in South Eastern Ontario. I’ll continue to update this list as I visit them. For now, here are some hiking trail guides to check out:
- Marble Rock Conservation Area
- Jones Creek Trails (1000 Islands National Park)
- Landon Bay Hiking Trails (1000 Islands National Park)
- Hiking Guide for the 1000 Islands Region
- Gray’s Creek Conservation Area
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