Tucked along the south shore of Georgian Bay, the mostly rura Grey county offers endless reasons to visit and explore. The county government itself has 8,500 acres of forest as part of 45 individual properties and there are 77 kilometres along the rail trail alone. Laying mainly south and east of Owen Sound, here are some highlights for this region.
1. Fall for winter
If you lose sight of water in any season, you’ll be awestruck by the glittering glory of the Winter Waterfall Tour of Inglis Falls, Weavers Creek Falls, Hoggs Falls, McGowan Falls and Jones Falls. Pack ski poles to help you cope with any icy slopes. You’ll also want to bring along snowshoes, a container with a hot chocolate and your camera. Download the map and printable guide to get clear directions and descriptions of these winter wonderlands.
- Inglis Falls – Inglis Falls Conservation Area, 237785 Inglis Falls Rd, Owen Sound
- Weavers Creek Falls – Harrison Park, 75 2nd Ave E Owen Sound
- Hogg’s Falls– 170566 Lower Valley Road, Grey Highlands
- McGowan Falls – Durham Conservation Area, 562 George St. E. Durham ( 323198 Durham Rd. E.)
- Jones Falls – Pottawatomi & Jones Falls Conservation Area, 717875 Highway 6, Owen Sound
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2. Warm up with a challenging hike
If your goal is to burn off post-Christmas calories, then the 14-kilometre Trout Hollow Trail at Bighead River Conservation Area will aid you in that mission. Its steep ridges will get your heart-rate pumping after the easy terrain of meadows and forests. The views will likely make your heart skip a beat as you look out over the intertwining rapids and channels below. Follow the yellow blazes to complete the loop around both banks of the river on skis or snowshoes.
Where: 295 Miller Street, Meaford
3. Get out on the trails
The Beaver Valley Nordic Ski Club offers eight kilometres each of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails near the town of Markdale.
Where: 153 Windy Lane, Markdale; 519-986-4369
Fees: Memberships cost $40 for an adult and $80 for a family for one season or $75 and $150, respectively. Day passes are also available.
4. Reach new heights
Southern Ontario’s longest suspension offers spectacular views at Scenic Caves Nordic Adventure. Your family can also enjoy its children’s adventure playground, the pathway of wooden animal carvings and 27 kilometres of groomed trails for skiers and 10 kilometres for snowshoers. The views of the Niagara Escarpment are worth the visit.
Where: 260 Scenic Caves Road, The Blue Mountains
Fees: Admission costs $21.50 for adults and $17.70 for seniors and youths on weekends and $17.50 and $15.05 respectively on weekdays.
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5. Fat bike near the fish hatchery
The trails at Grey County Forest 41 – also a fish hatchery – run for 2.5 kilometres through pine plantations and hardwood trees then fields. You can ride your skis, bike, snowmobile or snowshoes then continue onto the property owned by the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority. You can also ski or snowshoe at Kinghurst Management Unit, a 141-hectare property with great trails.
Where: 702736 Sideroad 5, Chatsworth; 519-372-3265
6. Ski along sheltered trails
The Glenelg Nordic Ski Club grooms 25 kilometres of cross-country trails amid hardwood forests that shield you from the wind, making a blustery day more welcoming. Please leave your dogs at home to preserve the track-set trails.
Where: West Black Line onto Hamilton Lane, Markdale
Fees: Pay your membership fees via the honour-system boxes at the main parking lot of entrance to the James Trails. The fees are $50 for adults for the season or $10 for the day. Companions under age 18 get in free if they are with an adult member.
7. Bring your skis, your sled or your horse
Grey County Forest 19 – Grey Main – has it all – a mix of forests and wetlands and trails that welcome hikers, skiers, sledders, snowshoes or horseback riders. Six kilometres alone accommodate snowmobilers.
Where: 473275 Camp Oliver Road, Priceville; 519-376-3265
8. Jingle along a sleigh ride
Where: Dual Acres Sleigh Rides, 300218 Grey Road 170, Shallow Lake; 519-935-3156
9. Visit the Klondyke
That’s the Grey County Forest 24 – Glenelg Klondyke Trail. It has seven kilometres of track-set ski trails groomed by the Glenelg Nordic Ski Club (see fees listed in item #6) and a one-kilometre link maintained by the Klondyke Snowmobile Club to connect networked trails on the north and south sides of the property. A permit is needed from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. Snowshoers are welcome as long as they stay off the set-track ski trails.
Where: 44512 Concession 8, Markdale; 519-376-3265
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10. Roam in the rolling hills
Allan Park has more than 162 hectares of undulating landscape with forests and a large pond. Within the property, you’ll find 15 kilometres of trails ideal for cross-country skiers and snowshoers set among woods managed by the Saugeen Conservation Authority.
Where: 301820 Concession Road 3 SDR, Hanover; 519-367-3040
11. Skate on Good Cheer and see a Slice of History
The Good Cheer Rink in Harrison Park in Owen Sound is open from 3 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends in the great outdoors. The urban park has 40 hectares to explore with a bird sanctuary and black History Cairn monument to the city’s first black settlers, who have escaped slaves who arrived via the Underground Railroad. It connects to the Bruce Trail which offers a view of Inglis Falls, Centennial Tower and Weavers’ Creek Falls.
Where: 75 2nd Ave. East, Owen Sound
12. Hush among the hardwoods
Enjoy a quiet ski or hike through the marsh, plantation and hardwood forest at Grey Country Forest 20 – Dornoch near Markdale. You can cover two kilometres that will warm your bones, no matter which type of movement you choose. Bikes and snowmobiles are also welcome as long as everyone shares the trails.
Where: 394755 Concession 2, Markdale; 519-376-3265
13. Become a trail fairy
Kolapore Uplands Trails can carry you 60 kilometres into the backcountry on your skis on paths that are ungroomed or maintained by volunteers. Go north if you are an advanced outdoors person or south if you are a beginner. Pick up a map at the Ravenna General Store or get one at the website.
Where: 495445 Grey Road 2, Ravenna; 519-376-2205 x.1376
Accessed from County Road 2 between Ravenna and Feversham
Fees: Trail use is free but you earn the title of Kolapore Trail Fairy if you leave a donation in the box at the main parking lot.
14. Get a dose of forest therapy
Free Spirit Tours captures the power of the natural environment with its forest therapy tours, serving wild tea along the way. With a certified guide, you tap into sensory experiences, discovering inner stillness and presence, while learning to listen more attentively to yourself and others. You sample four local wines paired with a cheese and charcuterie plate.
Where: Grey County Road 13, Heathcote; 705-606-0867
Fees: The basic tour costs $45 for 90 minutes; the Apple Pie Trail snowshoe and wine tasting adds up to $75 per person
15. Snowshoe a varied landscape
Enjoy a 5.4 km loop trek through the Ron Savage Side Trail for an adventure that gives you a little bit of everything – spectacular views of the Glen, ponds, wetlands, fields, and more.
Where: Start from the parking lot on Grey Rd 17, north of Owen Sound
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16. Discover the largesse and largeness of Lily Oak
Lily Oak is one of Grey County’s biggest forests, with nine kilometres of marked hiking trails and more than two kilometres of a logging trail for those who like to go off the beaten path. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and horseback riders are welcome to visit the hardwood and conifer plantations. Watch for the old building foundation as a special feature on your exploration.
17. Spot a bald eagle
While this area is rich in birding opportunities, the highlight of the winter season is the sight of bald eagles at Inverhuron Provincial Park, Baie du Dore or various spots along the lake shoreline. You can also focus your binoculars on more than 40 additional species that stay year-round, even in the cold. You’ll see and hear birds at every venue listed here.
18. Hike the Copper Kettle
Where: 302330 Grey Road, Georgian Bluffs; 519-376-3265
19. Lookout along the St. Vincent Tract
From the Georgian Trail, as you travel from Collingwood to Meaford, you’ll find a branch that takes you to the Grey Country Forest 40 – St. Vincent Tract. This trail ventures into coned and hardwood forests in the lowlands. You can also get there from Hwy. 26, coming in off Swathmore Drive near St. Vincent. This one-kilometre loop is suited for hiking, fat biking, snowshoeing and skiing.
Where: Concession 2, St. Vincent
20 Ski at Massie Hill
Visit the backcountry along 9.6 kilometres of the Massie Hills Ski Trails maintained by the Owen Sound Cross Country Ski Club. You get the breath-taking sights of being in the woods and the benefit of well-groomed trails. Expertise ranges from beginner to intermediate. Snowshoers are also welcome as long as they don’t travel on the set tracks.
Where: East Entrance: 497250 Concession 6, Owen Sound; 519-376-8046
Fees: You can buy a membership (of $45 per person or $110 per family), pay a daily fee (of $10 per person or $20 per family) or donate at the gate.