There are two trails in Altona Forest for a total distance of 5 km. The trails were established in the 1980s with four access points, clear trail markings, along detailed maps and signage.
For me, Altona Forest's highlight is the beaver habitat with the chance to see a beaver or two. The beavers seem accustomed to having people watch them while they swim, eat, or do chores. We've been told that there are three beavers in Lacey's Pond, but we've only seen one at a time.
Dogs may get very excited seeing and smelling a beaver, so have a firm hold on their leash.
Beavers have been seen dragging trees across roads when preparing for winter. They are primarily nocturnal but are often seen during the day in autumn and winter. We haven't yet seen a beaver this spring, so keep that in mind if you hope to see one.
There are four access points to the Altona Forest Trail, including Altona Road with a small parking lot: 1883 Altona Road, Pickering.
There are signs with park information and maps at each access point.
There are two trails: White and Blue.
The trail is marked with blazes as well as numbered posts.
The trail markings were likely obvious when they were first installed. Unfortunately, time and weather have deteriorated the markings. You'll still see blazes on some trees and posts with numbers, but the boardwalk areas are closed and marked as hazardous. I walked through the closed areas to look and found that it would be pretty easy to trip or step on a nail.
I heard that there had been some vandalism to the boardwalk as well. You can still hike the area, but be careful to avoid dangerous places for you and your dog.
Our actual hike on April 10 looks like this:
Even if you don't know the types of trees, you'll notice the difference from one section of the hike to the next. Some sections are very dense with evergreen trees so, it feels like you are in a deep forest.
Spring seems to be the best season to see Piliated Woodpeckers. These are very large and loud woodpeckers that the cartoon Woody Woodpecker is based on. I did get a photo of one while in this forest, but my photo did not turn out well. Look for the large holes in the trees that are made by Piliated Woodpeckers.
The park's official material says there are more than 100 different birds, so there are many opportunities for a sighting during your visit.
Altona Forest is 53 hectares or 102 acres in size and is located in Pickering, just over Toronto's border. When the area was being developed in the 1980s, "The Friends of Altona Forest" lobbied to save as much of the forest as possible because of the biodiversity of the area. Dr. J. Murray Speirs donated a large portion of his land to be used as an ecological reserve. You can see this area marked on the map, but you cannot access it during your hike.
School kids from the area come here for outdoor education. The many learning opportunities make this hike ideal for a family outing.