Living in Toronto, my provincial park aspirations are generally geared to parks further north, often a 6-12 hour drive away. But some weekends you don’t make grand plans, or just want to stick closer to home.
Darlington Provincial Park, located along the shores of Lake Ontario, about 85km east from Toronto is one such park that is fun to visit for a day trip and only takes about 1.5 hours to get to.
You’re not going to get extreme or challenging hiking, as the four trails here total no more than 7.5km in length combined, with most being rated as “easy”. It’s more of a family-friendly, social gathering and low impact type of hiking destination at Darlington Provincial Park. Many people come here to toss a frisbee around, go for a swim, and just get an escape from the cities.
For the most part, the park is pretty wide-open, but there are some parts you can hike to that will make you feel like you have the entire place all to yourselves.
Hiking, or walking, along the Burk Trail, if your bet option for getting a bit of this escapism. The sign at the start of the trail mentions Cooper’s Hawks, songbirds and insects as the wildlife highlights. Hey – we’re not in northern Ontario here, so I’ll take what I can get!
Insects in the heat of summer can be a bit annoying, so if the mosquitos are around you may need some bug spray. It’s open fields at the start, so insects and scorching summer sun are prominent, then you get into some mix of shade and sun.
Part of the trail stops out in a big field near the lake, if you need to relax on a bench or go cool down in the water. Lots of greenery and plenty of small birds zipping about between the trees on this trail.
The lookout is probably the biggest highlight. Worth stopping for a break and quietly listening to the sounds of the insects and forest, while hoping to maybe spot one of those hawks that the trail sign mentioned.
It is a bit of a climb to get to the lookout, but nothing strenuous. The trail in total is only just over 2km in length so you’ll barely crack into your bottle of water by the time the trail ends. Well, not quite – it is a pretty open hike so a sunny summer day will keep you hot and sweaty and needing some hydration.
The lookout was a nice spot, but the pioneer cemetery wasn’t quite what I expected. A plaque tells the story of the Burk family who settled here, dating back to John Burk 1794. Perhaps they were the first people to live on this land, although it is likely that different Native American peoples passed through the area before then.
The trail is named after the Burk family, as Darlington Provincial Park comprises part of the land that they owned back in the early 1800s.
As for the cemetery itself, it’s a fenced off grid, with very little in the way of eye candy or interesting headstones. Looking at it, being maintained by the park, you can’t help but wonder how many other, similar pioneer family cemeteries might be hidden away by vegetation across Ontario.
The cemetery is towards the end of the trail, with a fairly flat and easy walk from here. Depending how much history and how many insect noises you want to stop and enjoy along the way, this is a quick 30 minute hike or leisurely hour long nature and bird walk.