Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve
In October, we spent two weeks hiking trails in the Muskoka region. This entry is part of that series.
Torrance Barrens is a great trail that was recommended to us by local hikers. On a Sunday morning in October, the parking lot was completely filled, so this is a well-known trail. Even with a full parking lot, we rarely encountered other people on the trail. The area is extensive and people walk the trails at different speeds.
The official parking lot is on Southwood Road, Gravenhurst.
Portable toilets can be found at this location. We noticed cars parked on other sections of the road, so there are many access points.
One of the first things I noticed about this trail is the secondary name "Dark Sky Reserve." A sign at the trailhead gives more information.
For the past year, I've been working with the Space Place Canada team to bring a planetarium to Toronto. One of the things that Toronto is short of is a dark sky. The Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve is a roughly two-hour drive for most Torontonians, allowing them to find a pristine night sky to view and photograph. I didn't visit at night but will one day.
From the muskoka.ca brochure:
In 1999, Torrance Barrens Conservation Area was designated as the world’s first permanent Dark Sky Reserve. The 4,700-acres of Crown land is bedrock and wetlands, with trees and bushes that are stunted in height. For star-gazers this means a spectacular 360 degree view of the night sky, unhampered by light pollution. Even an amateur’s telescope can see the rings of Saturn. Late in the summer and in the early fall it’s posssible the northern lights (aurora borealis) could put in an appearance.
The next thing you'll notice is the barren bedrock. The Canadian Shield is a striking landscape feature of the Muskoka area, and this park is a perfect example.
Muskoka's landscape was inspirational to the Group of Seven artists, so at times, walking this trail is like walking in a painting.
There are three trails in Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve: 3 km, 5 km, and 6 km loops.
Near the end of the hike, you'll cross Southwood Road and come to a small waterfall.