There is a fine art to hiking with young children. It takes a lot of patience, understanding and snack food. The idea of wandering through fields of wildflowers, collecting rocks, skipping stones and having a picnic lunch sounds like something out of a dream, for many parents. This list will not make that happen BUT it’s meant to guide you to the best available hikes in the Peterborough area so you can fulfill your dreams. And the kiddos can burn some energy!
The following list outlines our idea of perfect family-friendly hiking trails for families; especially those with children ranging in ages from 0-6 years. It is recommended that you bring a softshell carrier or hiking carrier backpack for children under the age of 3. In my experience, young toddlers (18 months to 2 years) love to hike and explore but should not be expected to complete a 2km hike on foot. The following trails were chosen based on their length, level of enjoyment for kids, and ease of completing with two or more children at a time.
1. Miller Creek Trail, Bridgenorth
KID FRIENDLY LENGTH 🥾🥾🥾
My children LOVE this trail. It is very short (~1km) and can be completed by young toddlers mainly on foot. There are frequent spots to stop and explore for kids. I have three young kids (all under 5) and I can take them to this trail, as the only adult, and have a safe and fun place to play.
The loop starts with the option to check out a very cool wooden lookout tower (take the first trail to the right). Keep to the right after you’ve checked out the tower because the trail comes back around to meet up with the main path. After a short distance of hiking, there is a bridge that crosses Miller Creek. You will probably spend more than a few minutes here checking out the awesome scenery and looking for wildlife. Be careful around the creek, because it can get rather deep in spots. After crossing the creek the trail enters an awesome canopy of trees, in what we call the “tree tunnel”. It veers off to another loop on the right and takes you into a beautiful meadow full of bird boxes and many many birds. We checked out this trail in November this past year and were surrounded by chickadees. My 4 year old daughter was in heaven! Follow this portion of the trail back to the main trail and head back to the parking area.
LENGTH: it takes less than 20 minutes to hike this trail but plan on spending close to an hour or more exploring and taking lots of breaks, especially if you have young toddlers.
NOTES: the path can get super muddy and we all know how much kids love a mess, so dress accordingly and try to embrace the mess! It’s all the name of fun.
SEASON: this trail can be your worst enemy in the Spring and early Summer. The bugs (mainly mosquitos) are absolutely relentless and we avoid this trail until July/August and enjoy it throughout Fall and Winter.
PARKING: the only drawback to this trail is the parking. There is only one spot available out front of the gate and room for 2 cars to park across the road.
DIRECTIONS: Miller Creek trail is located on the 7th Line of Selwyn. From Peterborough, head north towards the zoo, take a left at the lights and head out the Centre Line. Turn left onto the 7th line and Miller Creek pops out of nowhere on the left hand side of the road, just beyond the big hill. From Bridgenorth, take the 7th line and once you’ve reached the end of the straight stretch (before the big hill), the trail is on the right hand side of the road.
2. Ennismore Heritage Trail, Ennismore
KID FRIENDLY LENGTH 🥾🥾🥾
This is such a fun trail for kids and it comes complete with a beach for swimming and playground equipment. We tend to spend around two hours or more here when we go and only about 30-45 minutes of that is hiking.
The trail loops around starting from the edge of the grassy clearing (towards the lake) and follows the shoreline for a few minutes before heading up to the lookout deck. There is a giant Osprey nest in view perched on top of a platform. After this, head towards the pavilion. This is a great place to stop for a water break or a quick snack. From the pavilion the trail meanders through a section of planted trees. At the end of this section you will see a sign for the Parking Lot (turn right) or more trail (turn left and then a quick right). Both options come complete with boardwalks and messy tramping through mud and cedar trees (think mosquitoes). You’ll want to go left it your children are having a great time. No harm in taking the other door if it’s just not your day. Go back to the play equipment. Try again another day.
NOTES: there is a lot of shoreline on this trail, so pay extra attention and keep the little ones close by. Use the opportunity to discuss water safety and collect rocks to toss 😉
SEASON: just like Miller Creek, there are lots of bugs, especially along the boardwalk section as it is damp and dark. However, we still attempt this trail in the Spring season and speed up through the boardwalk portion as I find the rest of the trail somewhat bearable during the bug season.
PARKING: loads of parking at the parking lot but it can fill up on a hot summer day (the beach is used frequently in July and August).
DIRECTIONS: after the causeway, turn right onto Robinson Rd in the Holy Land, veer right at the bend (if you see Sullivan’s, you’ve got too far) and turn right onto Ennis Road. Follow Ennis almost all the way to the lake. You’ll see a big sign for the Ennismore Waterfront Park.
3. Windy Ridge Conservation Area, Omemee
KID FRIENDLY LENGTH 🥾🥾🥾
Windy Ridge is a hilly trail suitable for young children with a *bit more of a challenge due to the terrain. It is short (under 2km) and steep with a beautiful lookout spot (with a picnic table) about halfway through the trail. The loop starts at the hilly end of the parking lot. You can decide to take it in reverse, but keep in mind this way has a lot more uphill sections. The loop is very straightforward, well-marked and we tend to finish this trail pretty quickly because my kids love to run it. Lots of open meadow space and a wetland to look for wildlife, as well.
NOTES: Watch your footing while coming down the hill, especially if you are carrying a child on your front or back. Wear proper shoes.
SEASON: Spring-Fall for families. Some Winter days would be perfectly fine, but it is very windy and cold (especially for children) on the ridge in chilly temperatures.
PARKING: huge parking lot.
DIRECTIONS: from Omemee, turn left onto Mt. Horeb Road, Drive a few minutes and then make a left at the sign for Windy Ridge CA.
4. Trent Wildlife Sanctuary, Peterborough
KID FRIENDLY LENGTH 🥾🥾🥾
At the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary, there are six different trails available to hike. On the north side of the road are the Yellow, Blue and Red trails which travel up a drumlin and through a beautiful meadow complete with many species of birds. These nature trails range from 2.5 to 5km in length and are clearly marked. This is a great place to go with younger and older children. Bring a softshell carrier or hiking backpack for this one, as the terrain varies and can be challenging for younger children in spots.
Across the road, there is another section of trails which meander through cedar patches and border part of the Trent Canal system. These trails vary in length, but are generally less undulating than their neighbours across the road.
I’ve hiked all of these trails several times in various seasons and they are entirely suitable for children. I like having the option to take a different trail each time we go. It would be a great trail system to complete with younger and older (6+) children.
NOTES: Be warned that there are many people who take their dogs on these trails (love dogs) and unfortunately there can be a lot of dog poop alongside or even on the trails. There have also been many times I have hiked these trails and come across off-leash dogs that are running wild and free. I do not take my dog to these trails, as he is not always a fan of his own kind. So be prepared for lots of furry friends along the trail and leave yours at home if she is socially awkward like mine.
SEASON: Summer through Winter. Mosquitoes are terrible in the Spring due to the muddy, damp conditions on some sections of these trails. I avoid the trails “across the road”, in particular, during the Spring.
Map of the Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Trails, from All Trails.
PARKING: big parking lot that can be quite full and busy because this is such a popular spot.
DIRECTIONS: heading towards the East Bank of Trent University, take a right onto University Road. The trails are just ahead; parking lot on the left.
5. Emily Tract, Kawartha Lakes
KID FRIENDLY LENGTH 🥾
Emily Tract is a 2.9km loop trail with undulating terrain, that is suitable for younger children. I highly recommend bringing a carrier for younger toddlers and babies as they will not be able to complete this distance on foot. The trail wanders through a highly wooded area. This trail is a great escape from the city, as there are not usually many people on the trail and it is somewhat secluded. The reason my kids enjoy this trail is because it feels like you are deep into the woods. In reality, it is close to civilization and long enough to be a challenge for most kids with an endless supply of energy. There is a small creek along the trail that is a great spot to stop and have a snack, water break, and check-in with your little ones. This is also a great spot to turn back, if you feel like your kids have had enough.
NOTES: this is a multi-purpose trail. I have hiked this trail a few times and have seen people on horseback and mountain bikes using the trail. Be prepared to share the trail.
SEASON: like most of the other trails on this list, Spring time can be a nasty season. Towards the creek section of this trail it can be very muddy and damp. Bugs love that stuff. Humans beware.
PARKING: there is a small parking lot, suitable for the amount of traffic seen on this trail.
DIRECTIONS: follow Yankee Line through to Peace Road. Turn right onto Peace and watch for the parking lot on the left-hand side of the road.
Written by Jenna Buck of The Little Expedition Company. Jenna is a mom of three: 4 year old twins and a 2 year old maniac – I mean, wonderful little angel. Jenna recently completed the 52 Hike Challenge, most of them alongside her three children and her fur baby Bo. She runs an outdoors business dedicated to getting women outdoors. Kate Godwin helped assemble the Top 5 list and contributed several images. Kate has two young children and is on her second round of the 52 Hike Challenge, most completed with her children in tow. She is an avid hiker and outdoors woman.