Island Lake Conservation Area is a really special place to go hiking in Ontario. I didn’t really prioritize hiking here because I figured it would be an ordinary hike around a lake. Boy, was I wrong about that! Hiking at Island Lake Conservation Area is nothing short of amazing.
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There are numerous meanders through tall trees in the middle of the forest. There are also expansive boardwalks and bridges crossing the lake offering beautiful scenery. There’s loads of wildlife and birds, and the fall colours at Island Lake Conservation Area are spectacular.
Island Lake Conservation Area Map
Here’s a map of where I went hiking at Island Lake Conservation Area, including my exact route. I hiked round trip on the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. It’s a loop trail that’s approximately 8km long. There are many other trails within the park if you’re looking for a shorter hike, or feel free to complete just a section of the trail.
I do recommend hiking the entire loop if you can. The Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail is relatively flat and there’s such a great variety of scenery and views along the way.
Hiking at Island Lake Conservation Area
The main hiking trail at Island Lake Conservation Area is the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. This is by far my favorite Orangeville hiking trail to date, and it’s right in town. There are also a few shorter trails: Island Lake Family Trail (marked in yellow), Hockley Trail (purple), Sugar Bush Trail (red), and Memorial Forest Trail (green).
The northeast section of the lake is a wildlife sanctuary without any hiking trails. This is a protected area for many species of flora and fauna, especially birds. For this reason, you’re likely to spot a wide variety of birds on your hike. I managed to see a blue heron, a white egret, and numerous geese and ducks.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some of the animals that live at Island Lake Conservation Area. There are populations of deer, foxes, raccoons, porcupines, flying squirrels, painted turtles, and leopard frogs.
Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail
The Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail is named after Credit Valley Conservation’s retired manager to recognize her outstanding contributions. During her time at the CVC, she was passionate about cleaning up the Credit River to ensure safe and clean groundwater for all. In total, this trail spans 8.2km around the Orangeville Reservoir.
You can hike at the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail in all four seasons. The terrain alternates between packed gravel and wooden boardwalks. For this reason, the hiking trail is accessible for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, cycling, wheelchair users, and strollers. There are also benches and places to rest no further than 800 metres apart.
At Island Lake Conservation Area, you’ll come across wetlands, meadows, forests, and the lake. This space helps protect the headwaters of the Credit and Nottawasaga Rivers. Part of a series of wetlands spanning over 6km, this space feeds clean water to these river systems that play an important role in our ecosystem.
It takes about two hours to hike around the entire Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. There aren’t too many elevation changes throughout the hike. Walking in a counter-clockwise direction, I did find myself at one point at the top of a hill overlooking a meadow. From there, it was a gentle descent back down the path. I don’t recall any harsh inclines throughout the journey.
More Hiking Trails at Island Lake Conservation Area
While I found that the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail was the perfect length for a hike, there are a few other hiking trails that you can add to your trek. You might decide to hike these shorter trails instead of the longer Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail, especially if you have young children or you’re partaking in other activities that day. Here are the other hiking trails at Island Lake Conservation Area to explore.
Sugar Bush Trail
The Sugar Bush Trail winds through an old Sugar Bush forest with lots of maple and beech trees. This is a forest hike with a more rugged terrain, and it isn’t maintained in the winter. This is where you’ll find the annual Maple Syrup Festival. The Sugar Bush Trail is 1.2km and the entire hike should take about 20 minutes.
Memorial Forest Trail
The Memorial Forest Trail weaves through the Dods and McNair Memorial Forest, named for the Dods and McNair Funeral Home in Orangeville. You can plant a tree here in the memory of a loved one if you contact the funeral home. It’s a gentle walk through former meadows, and it’s a great place to go cross-country skiing in the winter. It is 1.6km in length and it should take you 25 minutes to hike the whole trail.
Hockley Trail & Island Lake Family Trail
The Hockley Trail connects to the Island Lake Family Trail in a loop off the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail at the northwest corner of the park. It’s a continuation of more packed gravel trails and boardwalks. Hiking here will add about a half hour to your walk (an additional 2.2km).
Other Activities at Island Lake Conservation Area
The outdoor activities that you can participate in at Island Lake Conservation Area include hiking, cycling, dog walking (on a leash), bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, boating (no gasoline motors), paddleboarding, and wind surfing.
You can rent kayaks and canoes on site. It costs $20 an hour or $50 a day. They don’t take reservations (just show up to rent them), but there are a limited quantity. You can also rent paddleboards for $10 an hour or $40 a day.
Maple Syrup Festival
There’s also an annual Maple Syrup Festival at Island Lake Conservation Area. The Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival takes place at several Ontario conservation areas, including the Kortright Centre for Conservation, Bruce’s Mills Conservation Area, Terra Cotta Conservation Area and Island Lake Conservation Area.
Plan Your Visit
You can drive right into the main entrance (673067 Hurontario St. South, Orangeville) and there is parking on site. If you decide to enter through the main gates, the entrance fee is $5.75 per person ($2.65 for children, $4.43 for seniors). These fees go directly to Credit Valley Conservation and help maintain the parks.
However, if you are only hiking the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail, there is pedestrian access from 4th Avenue. Do not park at the Home Hardware or any other retail parking lots. You will risk being towed. Instead, leave your car at the huge free parking lot at Rotary Park (75 Second Avenue, Orangeville). Walk along the George Douglas Way to the intersection at 4th Avenue. Cross the street and you’ll spot the starting point for the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail.
If you are only walking on the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail and you aren’t parking your car within the boundaries of the conservation area, you do not need to pay an entrance fee.
There are restrooms on site near the main parking lot. This is a dog-friendly hiking trail, but please keep your pets on a leash. You can also cycle on the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. I saw lots of people riding their bikes on the trails. They’re relatively flat and the trail is wide enough to accommodate hikers and cyclists.
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.
Where to Stay in Orangeville
Thinking about making a little vacation or overnight stay of it? There are lots of great accommodations in Orangeville. Go for a hike and stay a while. Explore the rest of the city, enjoy a great meal, or get cozy in a local cafe.
The incredible Hockley Valley Resort isn’t too far from Island Lake Conservation Area. You’ll be surrounded by many more hiking trails, a renowned golf course, a winery, restaurant, and so much more. Read more about how my boyfriend, Justin and I enjoyed a memorable overnight stay at Hockley Valley Resort.
For a hotel right near downtown Orangeville, check out the Best Western Plus Orangeville Inn and Suites. It has an indoor pool, indoor hot tub, a fitness centre, spacious guest rooms with complimentary Wi-Fi, and a complimentary breakfast in the morning.
More Credit Valley Conservation Hikes
While this is my favorite place to go hiking in Orangeville, there are many more nearby conservation areas. There are several Credit Valley Conservation Areas in Mississauga, Halton Hills, Caledon, and beyond. Here are all of the Credit Valley Conservation Areas:
- Silver Creek Conservation Area
- Terra Cotta Conservation Area
- Cheltenham Badlands
- Island Lake Conservation Area
- Belfountain Conservation Area
- Ken Whillans Resource Management Area
- Elora Cataract Trailway
- Limehouse Conservation Area
- Meadowvale Conservation Area
- Rattray Marsh Conservation Area
- Upper Credit Conservation Area
- Riverwood Conservancy (owned by CVC & City of Mississauga)
Frequently Asked Questions
Have any questions about Island Lake Conservation Area? Here are some quick answers to many of your questions about hiking in Orangeville, Ontario.
The main hiking trail at Island Lake Conservation Area is the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. It wraps around the entire lake for 8km and it’s the most beautiful and scenic trail at the park. There are a few additional shorter hiking trails: Island Lake Family Trail, Hockley Trail, Sugar Bush Trail, and Memorial Forest Trail.
You can go hiking, cycling, dog walking (on a leash), bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, boating (no gasoline motors), paddleboarding, and wind surfing.
Yes! You can rent kayaks and canoes on site. It costs $20 an hour or $50 a day. They don’t take reservations (just show up to rent them), but there are a limited quantity. You can also rent paddleboards for $10 an hour or $40 a day.
If you decide to enter through the main gates, the entrance fee is $5.75 per person ($2.65 for children, $4.43 for seniors). These fees go directly to Credit Valley Conservation and help maintain the parks. You can park your car right within the conservation area. If you are only hiking the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail, you can walk into the park for free. There are numerous places to park your car for free, like the nearby Rotary Park.
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