Rockwood Conservation Area
A great day trip from Toronto, Canada
Every now and then you stumble across a nature conservation area which just takes your breath away. The region of southern Ontario surrounding Toronto is teeming with parks, forests, trails, rivers and lakes. In fact, that’s what the geography looks like in pretty much all of Ontario (at 1,076,000 km², this province is the size of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France put together!).
The conservation area itself has just over 100 campsites, making this a great spot to hide out for a weekend. Along the river, you’ll be able to explore the preserved ruins of an old mill dating back to the late 1800’s. Following the marked trails around the old mill, you’ll encounter the entrance to several caves. The Rockwood cave system is one of the most extensive in Ontario.
The Rockwood Conservation Area has another special characteristic not all the Ontario parks can boast about. It is riddled with giant potholes which were cut out of the stone floor by giant glaciers melting back near the end of the ice age – including one which is amongst the world’s largest!
There are various activities which can be done year round. Swimming, canoeing, caving, wildlife spotting and camping are great in the summer. Autumn brings with it the gorgeous changing of many of the tree’s leaves, and the crisp, cool air – perfect for hiking. Winter, the conservation area becomes a white wonderland, ideal for cross country skiing. Springtime in Rockwood, and the park comes back in to full bloom, and the diverse wildlife comes out of hibernation for the summer season ahead! My favourite time of year to explore trails in this part of the world usually falls in the autumn. Ideally, I like to visit Rockwood between late September to early October, when all the deciduous trees leaves are changing colour. The colours add a dramatic backdrop, with vibrant yellows, oranges and reds.
The limestone bedding, mixed with the beautiful deciduous and coniferous trees give Rockwood it’s name. Add in the ruins of an old mill, the forested campground, the stunning limestone cliffs and caves, the world famous glacial potholes, the breath-taking walking trails and the lakes and rivers accessible by canoe or kayak, and you end up with a little piece of nature-lovers’ paradise. This conservation area seems a perfect fit for someone looking for a day trip around Toronto, and in search of natural beauty.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Located only an hour drive from Toronto, this site is very accessible by car, Go Transit trains & buses, and other forms of public transit!
161 Fall Street
Rockwood, ON N0B 2K0
Approximate latitude 43° 36′ 47″ N
Approximate longitude 80° 8′ 52″ W
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
Eat – Restaurants
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Open annually May 1 – October 15
Safety – Possible risks
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
The costs of various facilities in the conservation area range from canoe rentals, campsites, and other such activities. There is a general admission fee which varies based on age (child, adult, senior), and this is subject to change. To give you an estimate, when I entered the park for the day, it cost $6 CAD (roughly $6 USD). This gave access to all the trails, ruins and waterways.
For the most up to date fee information, please visit the official Grand River Conservation Authority website.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Reality Check – Be Aware
This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a perfect nature walk, full of history, geographical wonder, and beautiful, simple trails. Be sure to bring a camera, a full reusable water-bottle, and your sense of adventure! Happy Trails!
JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!
Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.
Have you ever seen a deciduous forest change colour in the autumn? If so, where were you and what were the walking trails like? What’s your favourite place or time of year to hike?
Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!
Love the pictures of Rockwood, Ontario is a great destination for travel. Thank you for sharing
I’ve lived less than an hour away from Rockwood all of my life and have never visited. Now that I have a young son (and a pair of cameras), it just became a “must visit” item for the spring.
Looks like another place we can add to our must visit list for Ontario.
So many amazing places to explore in Ontario.
Agreed! Rockwood, as with much of Ontario, is gorgeous in almost any season, for hiking, paddling, or just taking in the scenery. I miss Ontario, especially this time of year while the leaves change. There’s so much beauty everywhere… “Ontario… yours to discover”
This is such a great detailed post. I love the pictures of the pot hole glacial holes. I would like to know a little more about how they were created… I know I can Google it but I wanted to read it here. Hah! The pictures you have are absolutely incredible and I will have to add this to my list of places I need to hike. The ruins of the mill make the whole place seem so ancient!
Hey Joel! Thanks for the wonderful comments! I’m glad you liked it. I actually know how they’re created, I must have just omitted that detail (whoops!).
When glaciers melt, they often develop huge crevasses in which the water pours into. It starts with a trickle, but over time, it can almost be like a waterfall in itself. Sometimes pebbles, and rocks find their way down there, and at the point where they hit the ground, they can get caught in whirlpools (or eddies). They violently whip around, slowly carving away the stone beneath them. Mind you, based on the sheer size of some of these potholes, it’s said that even boulders were being moved around in the same way! That just gives you an idea of how MASSIVE these ice-aged glaciers really were!!
Hope you get out to see Rockwood! It’s great at all different times of year, as you get to see it in very different ways. Enjoy!! 🙂
I used to live near Rockwood – a long time ago – but never made time for the trails or probably didn’t know they existed. Next time I’m in the area I’ll make the effort to go. It looks beautiful.
Funny enough Leigh, I grew up in Guelph (right next door) a fairly long time ago too! Rockwood was a hotspot for family day trips as a child, but it’s great to see it with older, more appreciative eyes now as well! Hope you enjoy it!
Looks like a great place to visit! Thanks.
It really is, Dianne! Glad you enjoyed the read… now hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy the conservation area as well!
Love this! I had no idea about Rockwood. Now I’ll have to finangle someone to go with me.
Glad to bring some new info to your table, Natalie! Finangling shouldn’t be too hard with views like this! It’s a pretty small conservation area, so I’m sure you can do it all in a day 🙂
Thanks Lorraine! Hopefully you’ll be able to come visit one day 🙂
Love the photos. Ontario looks like it would be really pretty in autumn. I love the season, but it goes too fast in Edmonton. The leaves are gone, and it’s already snowed.
It was such a pleasure to be visiting Ontario right at the peak of the leaves changing. It’s one of the most beautiful times to visit in my opinion… but you’re right, even in Ontario, it passes by too quickly! At least you’ve got some decent hills relatively close by in Edmonton to enjoy the snow on!
Hi Ian, I grew up in Guelph. My mother would take my four siblings and I regularly to Rockwood in the summer for a picnic lunch and a swim. We always had to go for a hike first before diving into the water. When I look at your images I see how beautiful the park is but as a youngster I only saw it through eyes of obligation. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures!
Hey Nanda! Wow, I’m glad I could bring back some childhood memories! I grew up in Guelph too, surprisingly enough 🙂 I know exactly the sentiment you shared, and it’s great to revisit it now years later and see it through different eyes!