Kawarthas Northumberland is your fall destination for soft outdoor adventure.
If you’ve never heard the term before, “soft adventure” is a pretty inclusive concept. It refers to the more accessible end of the activity spectrum—think day hikes, bicycle trails, and flatwater paddling, as opposed to whitewater rafting or mountain climbing.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to switch up the pace or you’re relatively new to outdoor exploration, our soft adventures provide routes of a manageable length with access to nearby amenities. You’ll still feel like you’re in the lap of nature, and our varied geography means Kawarthas Northumberland has excellent offerings on land and on the water.
Kawarthas Northumberland is basically synonymous with paddling—Peterborough is the home of The Canadian Canoe Museum—but you don’t need to be a diehard canoeist to get out on the water. Many of the region’s day trips are suitable for families, and several operators provide rental equipment for those travelling light or new to the sport.
Balsam Lake Provincial Park says it right there in the name—Balsam Lake is your jumping off point for a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard expedition in Kawartha Lakes. Rentals are available near the beach, with popular routes of 5km to 14km available. Passing by Indian Point Provincial Park means you’ll be treated to one of the longest undeveloped shorelines in the region, maximizing the natural spectacle.
Warsaw Caves Provincial Park offers canoe rentals, and it’s the perfect place to launch for a relaxing paddle. Explore the gentle Indian River, pass through the impressive 36m gorge, and enjoy the colourful foliage on either bank. Paddle all the way to the village of Warsaw for a snack, or turn around whenever you’re ready and try spelunking the caves—a soft adventure all of its own.
Ferris Provincial Park offers easy access to the Trent River, where you can paddle down to Lock 10 and back (a distance of about 5km round trip). The views from the water are a treat, but once you’re back on land you’ll be close to other notable attractions, like the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge, giant toonie, and Campbellford’s downtown dining options.
Kawarthas Northumberland’s hiking trails are ideal for soft outdoor adventures because you won’t need specialized equipment or orienteering skills to get around. The trails below are well signed, and most parks offer loops of varying length, so you can cater the trip to your interests and activity level.
Northumberland Forest has some of the region’s most accessible hiking. The Carstairs Trail is an excellent choice especially if mobility is a concern—the shortest of its three loops is only 750m, and the level surface is 2m wide. The longest section of the Carstairs Trail runs 2.2km. At key points throughout you’ll find interpretative signage to learn more about local plantlife. If you’re up for something a bit longer and wilder, the Beagle Club Trailhead and Woodland Trailhead afford access to longer, hillier trail systems.
Ken Reid Conservation Area is one of the highlights of Kawartha Lakes. Its 12 trails add up to a combined total of around 12 km, but you can mix and match routes to your comfort level. Grades are gentle, and viewing platforms and boardwalks afford excellent views of Sturgeon Lake. For budding ecologists, the Talking Forest app provides an interactive learning experience via smartphone.
The Stony Lake Trails are a project of the Kawartha Land Trust, an organization dedicated to conserving the Kawarthas’ natural areas. That passion is evident in the Stony Lake Trails, a varied and appealing set of three hiking loops. Sling all three together for a grand total of 10 km, or choose the trail that appeals to you most. The blue trail winds around dramatic limestone formations near Viamede Resort, while the yellow trail provides the gentlest and short route; the red trail rewards those ready for an uphill climb with gorgeous views of Stony Lake.
From the shores of Lake Ontario to the quiet seclusion of Kawartha Lakes, cyclists have long enjoyed this region’s varied offerings. Extensive rail trail networks can provide a virtually car-free experience, and peaceful backroads expand the offerings still further.
Bike from Peterborough to Lakefield via the Greenway Trail, a former railbed that passes beside the Otonabee River, along open fields, and through tranquil green corridors. You’ll also have the chance to admire the Trent campus around the halfway point. It’s a satisfying ride that ends in the village of Lakefield, where a number of excellent dining options await the hungry cyclist. The whole route runs approximately 20 km, round trip.
The Glorious Ganaraska is an exciting but manageable way to see Northumberland County. This 30 km route begins in Port Hope, where you can take in the town’s handsome architecture and historic downtown before setting out on a route that includes a stretch of the Waterfront Trail ideal for Lake Ontario photo ops.
The Four Villages Tour will introduce you to some of Kawarthas Lakes’ quaint small towns along a 37 km route (with an option to extend to 51 km if you’re feeling warmed up). Begin in Burnt River, Kinmount, Fenelon Falls, or Coboconk, and spend the day rambling down quiet backroads, with several opportunities to stop at green spaces along the way.
To many boaters, Kawarthas Northumberland is best known for the Trent-Severn Waterway. The historic 386km waterway winds through the region, passing through lakes, rivers, canals, and picturesque small towns along the way.
Boat over the Peterborough Lift Lock to experience a National Historic Site of Canada firsthand. Lock 21 was the largest hydraulic lift lock in the world at the time of its construction, and remains one of Peterborough’s most iconic sights. You don’t even need your own boat—Liftlock Cruises offers tours that depart regularly from Little Lake, providing gorgeous fall sights and insightful commentary along the way.
Cast a line in Hastings, named Ultimate Fishing Town Canada in 2012. Even if you don’t catch a thing, the amazing fall colours on Rice Lake are their own reward. Those on foot can get in on the fun by fishing from the bridge by Lock 18, the only roadway bridge in Ontario where you can legally do so.
The Kawartha Tri-Lakes System includes Chemong, Buckhorn, and Pigeon lakes. All three offer plenty of fun for boats. Pigeon Lake, for instance, offers access to cottage country hub Bobcaygeon, with its varied restaurants, shops, and attractions. Another popular destination on Pigeon Lake is Big Island, the largest undeveloped island in the Kawarthas. Get out and enjoy its trails, or just drop anchor nearby and enjoy the view.
Not every trip needs to be hardcore—soft outdoor adventure awaits in Kawarthas Northumberland.