Cliffs, caves, curling, camping, conservation areas. Fishing, ice fishing, ice sailing, ice in your drink, drinking from a waterfall. Fall leaves forever, “FORE” on a golf course greener and hillier than Scotland. All closer, all more genuinely natural than anywhere else. Where Ontario gets real.
Imagine yourself up here, awed by miles of green and the technicolour epic of fall. Then imagine it all under a curvy blanket of white snow. It’s your chance to try fun, off-the-beaten-track things. Ice fish in your cozy cabin on Island Lake Conservation Area and elsewhere, snowmobile all over, cross-country ski through hushed forests at Monora Park in Mono, pond skate at Alton Mill, snowboard at Hockley Valley Resort. And for families that want to take the commercial edge off the holidays, come up at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween, and join in the traditions that sustain us here: haunted houses, pumpkin picking, small-town store windows dressed for the season, tree-cutting, village Christmas parades. If your winter activity wish list includes a long drive and pricey activities, you’re out of luck. But if snow-covered barns, horses in blankets and spending more time playing in the snow than getting to it sounds good, you’re home.
There are only two things to do up here: everything or nothing. Hug a cave. Walk on a lake. Remember what air smells like. Get lost driving, deliberately. Fish, hike, bike, golf, stroll… or just be. Find a spot near Canada’s oldest trees, or along one of Ontario’s highest springs, and think. Even better, don’t think at all.
Headwaters is home to many conservation areas and provincial parks, each offering four-season activities and something memorable. Stroll right over the lake on the Island Lake Conservation Area’s amazing boardwalk (and upcoming floating stage). Walk Canada’s longest footpath, the Bruce Trail, which contains much of Ontario’s 450-million-year-old rock wonder, the Niagara Escarpment. You can also tackle the Escarpment’s cliffs, caves and limestone trails in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. Peek at our extensive collection of trail maps or just take any side road and enjoy the wild turkeys, horses, sheep and cows that are no doubt enjoying you.
Sports in Headwaters are plentiful and take full advantage of our landscape. Each of our many golf courses provide a different visual experience. Hailed as “honest” and “mystical in its beauty”, Osprey Valley Golf’s three courses offer a range of challenges; the Caledon Country Club seamlessly routes through the Credit River, natural creeks and Caledon’s lovely hills. We’re usually less busy than city courses, and the settings, well, they make it hard to keep your head down. Every one of Osprey Valley’s courses is in Score Canada’s top ten (including hilly classic Heathlands), and the Caledon Country Club will take you from Glory (1st hole) to Redemption (18th hole), in surroundings that feel like a 19th-century painting come to life.
Your own inspiration may come at 25 km an hour on two wheels. With thousands of hills and forest-lined roads, mountain and road cyclists have it all here including these friendly resources, Don Coats and the team from Caledon Hills Cycling, Inglewood and Brian Travis from Forks Bicycle Shop, Erin. Events are everywhere: the Tour de Terra Cotta is like a country-flavoured Tour de France, and for all-nighters, the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, North America’s largest 24-hour mountain bike festival, takes over Albion Hills every June, with races, camping and events.
Birding’s popularity has recently taken flight (yes, we wrote that): it’s easy, inexpensive, social and year-round. A real find is Luther Marsh just north of Grand Valley, the largest inland marsh in southern Ontario and a major wetland habitat. Magnificent great blue heron and our iconic loon are frequent, and you might even spot a rare American white pelican.
It’s natural to want to take it slow up here, too. Retreats and escapes come in many forms, spiritual to soothing. Personal exploration through meditation, yoga and more, in a breathtaking natural setting, happens year-round at the Ecology Retreat Centre in Mono. Thousands of people seek the stress-fighting solace of our graceful bed and breakfasts, such as Cheltenham’s 180-year-old Top of the Hill, and its acclaimed breakfasts. Many of Canada’s best spas are here, like the Millcroft Inn & Spa in Alton, nestled among 100 woodland acres. Spiritual centres are many, including one masterpiece: the International Tai Chi Centre has built a spectacular Chinese-inspired temple on 100 acres of rural Mono, and people from all walks of life worldwide come for its tai-chi and other spiritually-centered programs. You can, too.
History and nature merge in our area’s many mills and waterfalls, reflecting just how many of our towns were built around them. People love visiting the Millcroft Inn and Spa, built in 1881 as a knitting mill, to eat over or just enjoy beautiful Shaw’s Creek Falls. Crowds come to watch the waterfall crash around the ruins of an 1899 power station at Cataract Mills in the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. Every mill and fall is worth a look, especially because of the towns around them.
If you really want to see it all, the Credit Valley Explorer lets you do it, and lets someone else do the driving, too. This three-hour guided train tour from Orangeville to Brampton and back snakes through and above forests, valleys and rivers, stops in postcard-quaint Inglewood, slows to a crawl over the Cataract Falls, and offers a rolling view of fall’s colours, winter’s blanket, and spring and summer’s emerald greenery. In fact, many people come every season for just this reason.
In our country, while every season is celebrated, holidays take on a back-to-basics feel. A white, country Christmas is like no other. There’s homespun, traditional events like Erin’s Window Wonderland, where retailers black-out store windows then unveil their seasonal decor. In Orangeville, everyone comes out for the Tractor Parade of Lights, and Christmas in the Park at Kay-Cee Gardens features 50,000 bulbs and all kinds of choirs for a full month. A country setting also brings extra spookiness to Halloween. There are corn mazes all over, and Terra Cotta Conservation Area’s annual “Haunted Forest at Terror Cotta” features flashlight strolls, haunted houses and other shadowy fun. Lots of farms and centres, like Downey’s Farm and Teen Ranch in Caledon hold Easter events, too. (The best way to never miss a thing is to sign up for our newsletter.)
Above all else, please get lost.
Because every backroad, every “there-can’t-be-anything-down-there” left turn will be where some of your most authentic and unplanned moments will just happen. Like a sheep or cow who’s decided to go for a stroll appearing out of nowhere. Foxes and turtles crossing the road at their own speeds. A rainbow over a barn. A box of vegetables picked hours ago with a pay-what-you-feel bucket. And you’ll always run into someone who’ll help you find your way back. That is, if you want to.
There’s no better way to discover the natural beauty you’ll find in the Hills of Headwaters than by hitting the trails. With hundreds of kilometres of trails that wind their way through some of southern Ontario’s most stunning natural beauty, grab your backpack and enjoy a hike, ride or run. Stop along the way at a heritage town, village or hamlet, grab a bite to eat, and discover the Hills of Headwaters, just steps from the city, but worlds away!
The Headwaters area has an extensive network of trails that offer outdoor enthusiasts a myriad of opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding and trekking. We are pleased to offer an expansive collection of trail maps for your consideration.
The rolling hills and valleys that define the Headwaters region, along with our parks, conservation areas and our collection of heritage towns and villages make the Hills of Headwaters a desired location for cyclists to visit. Check out our trail maps and plan your route. We’re also pleased to provide some other resources to help you plan your trip.
Discover the area on our picturesque back roads. There are so many ways to explore the Headwaters region including this route suggestion for beginner motorcyclists.
Learn about even more routes with Ontario Tourism’s interactive motorcycle trip planner.