The benefits of trails - Ontario Heritage Trust

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Note: Many of the Trust’s trails and natural sites have reopened for the public to enjoy. Please stay local and, before visiting, check local listings and with our operating partners to determine which sites are open and what amenities are available. Remember to bring water and hand sanitizer and practise physical distancing. Enjoying natural properties is a great way to maintain mental and physical health and wellness, and we look forward to welcoming local visitors back to our properties.

To view the latest information from the Government of Ontario on COVID-19, please see ontario.ca/coronavirus.

The benefits of trails

Ontario’s open spaces, parks and trails provide us with opportunities to be active, improve our physical and mental health, and experience the rich natural and cultural heritage of the province.

Ontario Heritage Trust trails

The Ontario Heritage Trust owns natural heritage properties across the province. These lands were acquired to protect provincially significant natural heritage features and to secure public lands that provide access to trails. Many of the Trust’s properties include portions of the Bruce Trail and other publicly accessible trail systems.

The majority of the trails on Trust properties are free to use and are classified as recreational trails – meant for hiking only. The Trust partners with over 50 organizations to steward its lands and provide safe public access. Our largest partner is the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC). The Bruce Trail and its side trails are found on over 125 Trust-owned properties. Another 60 Trust sites are managed with local conservation authorities (CAs). Properties managed by partners such as these have their own set of rules and restrictions that must be followed when visiting, so please check with them before you go (see links below).

Health benefits to trails

Trails support an active lifestyle that improves health. The Ontario Ministry of Health recommends that all adult Ontarians walk a minimum of 30 minutes daily or participate in some other equivalent activity (Ministry of Health, 2010). Time spent in nature is also proven to have mental health benefits, such as contributing to a decrease in depression and anxiety and reducing stress. Physical activity also helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and colon cancer (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention).

Exploring Ontario’s trails is a great way for people to become more physically active. Trails can provide physical activity for the widest range of people, and many are designed for the types of recreational activities that most Ontarians enjoy – including walking, cycling and jogging. Trust trails are readily accessible to most Ontarians and are generally free to use. They are found in a variety of attractive settings and provide opportunities at different levels of difficulty, from moderate activity to challenging outdoor adventures. And while you’re exercising, you can enjoy the wonder of Ontario’s natural spaces.

Socioeconomic benefits to trails

Trail systems are key attractions for visitors to a region and are an inexpensive and accessible way for people of all ages and abilities to get regular exercise and spend time in nature.

Trails also stimulate local economies by attracting users who spend money in the communities they visit. Trail users spend money at a range of businesses – from restaurants and retail stores to accommodations and other businesses associated with outdoor activities. The Ontario Trails Council estimates that trails contribute at least $2 billion a year to the provincial economy. There is also evidence that suggests that the economic activity created by trails may be more resilient in the face of changing travel patterns than other sectors of the economy – a recent travel survey compiled by Statistics Canada indicates that the majority of visitors to local Ontario communities come from other Ontario communities (87 per cent).

Ontario Heritage Trust properties offer an array of trails in many parts of Ontario, providing unique experiences in some of the province’s most beautiful natural heritage landscapes.