Bob Hunter Memorial Park - Monarch Trail

The Bob Hunter Memorial Park is part of the Rouge Urban National Park. It opened in 2006 and is named in honour of Robert Hunter, one of Greenpeace's founders. The 500 acres of land that makes up the park is owned by the province of Ontario.

Dog in front of sign for Bob Hunter Memorial Park

The park is located just north of the Toronto Zoo at Reesor Road and 14th Ave in Markham. Four trails are accessible from the main parking area on 14th Ave in Markham. See a previous blog about the Reesorway and Tanglewood trails. This blog documents the Monarch Trail.

Monarch Trail

The Monarch trail takes you through reclaimed wetlands, a cedar forest and white pine stand next to the Little Rouge River. The trail is 5.5 km in length and is easy to follow, despite the lack of signs. If you use MapMyWalk, follow our trail: https://www.mapmywalk.com/workout/5246779414.

Map of Monarch Trail from UnderArmour MapmyWalk

Parking 

There is a large parking lot, toilets, seating area, and signage at the park's main entrance: 7277 14th Ave, Markham.

Trailhead 

Start the hike on the trail behind the cabin.

Cabin at the entrance of the Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Follow the yellow signs for Monarch Trail.

The path is wide, but is icy in the winter. The first section crosses a private driveway, so be aware of oncoming traffic.

Start of the Tallgrass Trek in the Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Wetlands

The first section of the trail takes you through are wetlands that are being reclaimed from farmland. A sign in the area describes the importance of wetlands.  

Wetland sign in the Bob Hunter Memorial Park

I found the information so important that I copied it from the sign.

Over the years many of the wetlands. such an marshes and vernal pools, in the Rouge watershed have been drained, filled and used as farmland and urban expansion. Today, wetlands cover less than one per cent af the entire watershed. This is far from what is needed to support its fundamental ecological functions.

Wetlands serve an nature's stopover -- providing important nesting and breeding grounds for migrating birds. They are nature's nursery -- breeding sites for many beneficial frog, salamander, fish and insect species. They are nature's sponge -- regulating the water levels in our rivers and streams, evening out the highs and lows by storing water after heavy rains and slowly releasing it during dry periods. This reduces the risks of flash flooding and erosion, while maintaining waterflow in our creeks. Also, wellands are nature's water purifier -- filtering nutrients, breaking down animal wastes and settling out suspended sediments This is important as the Rouge is an urban watershed, vulnerable to many impurities, from road salt to fertilizers and pesticides

Every spring, the wetlands of Bob Hunter Memorial Park attract a wide variety of migrating bird visitors. Among these returning guests, you are most likely to see the familiar Canada goose (Brain canadensis), and mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the smaller blue-winged teal (Anas discom, and the chatty red-winged black bird (Agelis phoices)

Also keep a lookout for the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stalking frogs and small fish,
the great egret (Arda alba) with its snowy white plumage, and the noisy marsh wren (Cistothonis palustris) who sings all day and much of the night.
Reclaiming wetlands in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

The trail takes you to Reesor Road, where you'll see signs for the park and the Hamlet of Cedar Grove. Cross Reesor Road to continue on the Monarch Trail. 

Sign for Bob Hunter Memorial Park

The flat open land is perfect for prey birds to hunt small animals like mice, voles, and even rabbits. If you are quiet and observant, you may see birds like Cooper's Hawks, Redtail Hawks, Bluejays, Falcons, and even Owls. 

Former farm field in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

You'll pass behind a farm before you reach the forest. Maybe you'll spot this treehouse that is on the farm property.

Tree house seen from the Tallgrass Trek in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

We saw the Redtail Hawk that is a regular in the area.

Resident Redtail Hawk in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

First Bridge

The first bridge you come to takes you over the Little Rouge River into the forest. People often put seeds on the railing to attract chickadees and nuthatches. 

Chickadee on a bridge in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Just over the bridge, we followed a footpath up the hill that overlooks the river. As we reached the top of the hill, we startled a barred owl hunting for prey.

Barred Owl seen in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

He moved so quickly that I wasn't sure what I witnessed until I looked at the photos on my camera. I was also able to get this photo of the river from the top of the hill.

View of Little Rouge River in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Where the trail splits, follow the trail that stays close to the river. The other path takes you to another parking lot located on 14th Ave. Consider parking here if you want to shorten this hike.

Signage

There are posts erected throughout the forest, but the signs have not yet been attached. My first time on the trail was confusing, and I was worried that I had taken the wrong route. It's easier in the winter to find your way as you'll see a trail in the snow.

Dog walking in forest of Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Forest

The forest in this section is beautiful and consists of rare cedar trees. The forest is thick, even in the winter, and when the sun shines in, you'll be able to get some artistic photos.

Mature forest in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

It's wet in a few places, so boardwalks have been built to keep you dry.

Boardwalk in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Little Rouge River

Take a side trail to visit the river when you can. We suspect there are beavers, mink, or muskrats living on the river. Lucy found a possible home, and we saw freshly chewed trees. 

River animals making homes in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

Rest area

One of the side trails leads you to a rest area that overlooks the river.

Rest area on the river in Bob Hunter Memorial Park

The last section of the hike takes you past a farm on one side and greenhouses on the other. Another parking lot is located on this side of Reesor Road.

Cross the road and continue on the path that passes the church. The trail now connects to the Reesorway / Tanglewood Trails. If you turn right, the trail follows the river to a memorial bench and then leads you back to the parking lot.

Trail Extensions

To increase the length of your hike, turn left at the last signpost to hike through the entire Reesorway / Tanglewood Trail. You can also hike the Tallgrass Trek for a 3 km loop that begins at the parking lot.

Off-Leash Opportunities

We hiked the trails in the winter, where there were fewer people than in the summer, so Lucy could stay off-leash the entire hike.  

Instagram

Enjoy your walk! When you post photos to Instagram, tag us at @hikingtoronto or #hikingtorontowithlucy

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