Hike the Torrance Barrens Main Trail
Canada › Torrance Barrens - Main Trail
Added by Dave Allan
Amazing trail with easy footing and wood bridges over the wet patches. Great place to spot wild life and the occasional wolf. Also considered a dark sky preserve with virtually no artificial light pollution. Ideal to see the stars and milky way at night.
The Torrance Barrens is a great half day hike and a very unique spot in the Muskokas. Different landscape than the typical 'Muskoka woods and lakes', the barrens are mostly scraped back to the bedrock with less trees and more fen mats and low vegetation.
The trail head has a great parking pad off Southdown Road with plenty of parking, even in the summer months (no permits are required). The barrens aren't hiked as often as a lot of the other Muskoka trails which means that even in the busiest summer weekends you can still feel isolated on the barrens. When you start towards the main trail, there's a large granite bedrock area which is great for picnics or camping as well as night photography and stargazing.
The main trail (there are several smaller off-trails) is all marked with white ribbons and white rocks so the hiking is very easy. On the sections where the trail crosses streams and bogs there are wooden bridges that have been built. Some are pretty beaten up, but footing is generally great the whole way. Depending on which direction you travel first (loop), you'll get a good mix of coniferous woodland, exposed granite bedrock and transitional bog.
The wildlife around the barrens is incredibly diverse. There is a pack of wolves that lives in and around the barrens and their calls can be heard at night (there have been no reports of them coming within range of humans or dogs though) as well as all sorts of little critters from the threatened Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the uncommon Eastern Hognose Snake, Southern Bog Lemming and the elusive Five Lined Skink (Ontario's only lizard). Birds in the area include Vesper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows and Bobolink as well as the occasional raptor.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Torrance Barrens, however, happens at night. The area around the barrens is virtually totally absent of light pollution making it the perfect place to observe the natural beauty of the night sky. Because of the absence of artificial light, the barrens have been able to retain the natural darkness of night. When this is combined with plenty of large open spaces and hard granite surfaces (immune to vibrations), the barrens are one of the most ideal spots in Ontario for night time photography and star gazing (located only 2 hours from Toronto... the busiest metropolis in Canada).
Overall a beautiful and easy half day hike in the busy Muskoka cottage country.
Check here for a trail map.
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Bit different for a Hike
Completed a 9.5 km loop of the Torrance Barrens Trails. Our hike included the Pine Ridge Loop and the Barrens Extension Trails. The landscape in my opinion is breathtaking. As the name suggests, it is somewhat "Barren." The trails from our perspective where a great change from hiking miles of forested trails. It is completely different from the typical Muskoka trail. The trails are very well marked with white blazes on trees and rocks and with some plastics flagging tape tied to branches. At the trail head there is parking for maybe 8 cars. There is a port-potty available but to my understanding(i didn't use it) it could stand some cleaning. As well, there is some info about the Barrens and trail maps in a mail box at the trail head. Overall the hike isn't a huge challenge. There was only one very small steep ascent on the Pine Ridge section after crossing a small bridge. Not far from Bala or Gravenhurst. If you where looking for an afternoon outing, you might consider this is an option.
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