From the border crossing at the Ambassador Bridge up past Oil Springs to the North and Niagara Falls to the East, the province of Ontario has big skies, and miles upon miles of mostly flat farmland. While it is beautiful green country, it is not a spot that most outdoor enthusiasts go to seek adventure. Yet, in this area, there are enclaves of wilderness that still exist to this day, mostly bounded by the Great Lakes that also surround this part of Canada. A prime example of one of these wilderness enclaves is Pinery Provincial Park. While Pinery Provincial Park is mostly known for the campgrounds and beaches along the shores of Lake Huron, it was established to protect one of the largest remaining stands of Oak Savannah habitat in Ontario. While the park’s beaches are impressive, a great way to experience the natural beauty of the parks is along the Hickory Trail.
Directions/Fees: Pinery Provincial Park is located at 9526 Lakeshore Road RR2, Grand Bend, Canada, N0M 1T0, and is located directly off Highway 21. The park is well-signed on both sides of the highway, and the nearest town is Grand Bend, Ontario, which is also located off of Highway 21 (10 kilometers, 6.6 miles) to the North. As of 2017, day use fees are $17.00. From the park entrance along Highway 21, visitors will want to follow the park road for a short distance before turning right (Northeast) on a one-way park road that passes numerous hiking trails, including the Hickory Trail before looping back along the shores of Lake Huron.
All of the park’s trails are well-marked along this road, and for the visitor that has the time, all of them are well worth a hike as they are none of them are too long. From the parking area, the Hickory Trail begins in a pine forest and has an interesting feature within the first fifty feet, a “PhotoMon” post, which is a spot that is designed to be interactive for visitors and parties at home (or other locations). The way it works is that hikers place their phone (there is a perfect phone sized groove on top of the post) or other device on top of the post, take a picture, and then share it through the information on the sign. Through this, the park and the public can watch how the area changes from day-to-day and throughout the years. Shortly after this post, the trail ascends gradually upward through the forest before descending to a small dock along the Old Ausable Channel, which has excellent views, and is a great spot to perhaps see a turtle or two. From the dock, the trail loops back around toward the parking area for an easy, mostly flat .9 kilometer walk (1/2 mile roundtrip).
Tips: Like many trails in Ontario during the summer months, the Hickory Trail has three things that hikers should be aware of: a) poison oak; b) mosquitoes; and c) ticks. Fortunately, with the proper precautions, and by staying on the trail, hikers can assuredly all of these three things. Nearby the trail there is a bridge that provides great views of the whole of the Old Ausable Channel. Finally, although I did not witness a sunset at Pinery Provincial Park, the park is renown for its sunsets, which have been ranked by National Geographic as one of ten best in the world.