Trail opening and Pilgrim Route maps now available

Just in time for the June 21, 2014 Pilgrim Route opening, maps of the 87 km route from Barrie to Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland via Orillia were posted on under maps.

As for the opening day, it promises to be a great day… lots of sunshine, an 11 km hikealong the beautiful Georgian Bay Snowriders Trail (with drop out points for anyone wanting to do a shorter hike, etc. ), historical and aboriginal information, a blessing and smudging, fundraising BBQ, campfire with bannock making, free admission and tours at the Martyrs’ Shrine, pilgrim mass, etc. Bring water and insect repellent!

For details and a map of the event itself see trails event brochure

Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the board of Simcoe County Trails and staff of the Martyrs’ Shrine for making the Pilgrim Route become a reality.

Thanks also to the Georgian Bay Snowriders snowmobile club for opening up the snowmobile trail to other users, and thanks to Tourism Simcoe County, Avionics, Factory Recreation, the Champlain Commemoration 2015, and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for assisting us with the June 21 opening of the Pilgrim Route and Georgian Bay Snowmobile Trail.


Tiffin Centre CA Loop Trail closed

The Tiffin Conservation Area in Utopia will be closed June 18 due to storm damage. Members of the public are asked to avoid the area as downed trees and property damage may pose hazard.

All trails at the Tiffin Centre, including SCT’s Loop Trail, are closed until further notice.

Also, the NVCA Administration Office, located at the Tiffin Centre, will be closed June 18 due to the storm damage. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Grand opening: Pilgrim Route & Georgian Bay Snowriders Trail

Pilgrim Route Logo

Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the idea of a permanent Pilgrim Route to the Martyrs’ Shrine, was presented by Simcoe County Trails ( to the Martyrs’ Shrine and has been enthusiastically embraced by various municipalities in Simcoe County.

“The Pilgrim Route enables anyone to follow the route any day of the year, alone or with friends or family, as a parish, or as a tourist to explore this part of Canada, in an off-road setting”, says Fr. Bernard Carroll, S.J., Director of the Martyrs’ Shrine. “Some pilgrims may want to follow the Pilgrim Route for religious reasons, others may just want to set themselves a personal challenge, meet other people, or visit another region.”

Mike Lauder, chair of Georgian Bay Trails, a recently founded Trail Development organization and committee of Simcoe County Trails, added that “From a tourism perspective, the Pilgrim Route is expected to bring tourists to the area and contribute to the local economy as pilgrims and tourists need accommodations, food and other supplies along the way”.

As a first phase in the development of the Pilgrim Route in Simcoe County, a route between Barrie and Midland via Orillia and Coldwater has been confirmed and follows Barrie’s North Shore Trail, the Lake Country Oro Medonte Railtrail, Orillia’s Millenium Trails, the Uhthoff Trail, the Tay Shore Trail and the Georgian Bay Snowriders Trail. Further expansions are planned south to Tottenham and into neighbouring regions.

Georgian Bay Trails, Simcoe County Trails and the Martyrs’ Shrine are therefore very pleased to announce the official opening of the Georgian Bay Snowriders Trail as well as the Pilgrim Route on June 21, 2014, National Aboriginal Day, which was deemed an appropriate date as our local trails in many instances follow aboriginal trade routes. Samuel de Champlain also took advantage of these trade routes to explore the area.

The June 21 opening event program includes:

·        Official opening ceremonies at St. Ignace (on Rosemount Road, Tay Twp)

·        10 km Walk from St. Ignace to the Martyrs’ Shrine along the Pilgrim Route on the new Georgian Bay Snowriders Trail

·        Fundraising BBQ for Georgian Bay Trails at Trestle Park on hwy 12

·        Guided tours of the Martyrs’ Shrine and the Museum

·        Bannock making and trail club displays

·        Pilgrim Mass

Everyone welcome. Free admission and parking at the Martyrs’ Shrine. Enter via the west gate on hwy 12, just east of Midland. Free busing to St. Ignace between 8:30 AM– 9:30 AM. Hop-on/hop-off buses at trail crossings to Trestle Park and to Martyrs’ Shrine in the early afternoon. Parking at St. Ignace or on Rosemount Road is very limited and should be avoided. Bring your own water bottle.

We hope you will join us for this event.

For event details, see our flyer (Poster final), check or contact

Midland hikers support Georgian Bay Trails

Midland Ganaraska Hiking Trail members donate cheque to Georgian Bay Trails  presentation

Midland Ganaraska Hiking Trail members donate cheque to Georgian Bay Trails 

Earlier this year, the Midland Ganaraska Hiking club raised $550 at a winter ski and snowshoe event, and is happy to donate these funds to the newly established Georgian Bay Trails (

The Georgian Bay Trails (GBT) organization is a grass roots trail organization established to provide quality, well built and well maintained trails that connect the trail systems in Tiny, Tay, Midland and Penetanguishene. Their goal is to work closely with local municipal trail committees, as well as with residents and businesses, to design and develop new trails, secure private and public land use agreements or easements, and to raise funds to finance the projects (grants, donations, endowments, events, etc.), Some of their current projects, (all still in the planning stages) include a trail from Penetanguishene to Awenda Provincial Park, and a trail from the Tay Shore Trail at hwy 12 in Midland to Wyebridge then further extending along Tiny Conc. 7 to Wylbolwood Beach.

The Georgian Bay Trails organization has been set up as a trail development committee of Simcoe County Trails (, which is a not for profit charitable organization. Donations to Georgian Bay Trails can therefore be made to Simcoe County Trails (charitable number 869134759RR0001), or through the Huronia Community Foundation.

The Georgian Bay Trails committee’s first success story involves a new 13 km trail running south of highway 12 from Rumney Road (i.e. from Hole in the Wall at Hogg’s Bay) to Sandhill Road in Tay Township. The Georgian Bay Trails committee is very thankful to the Georgian Bay Snowriders, the local snowmobile club, for opening their snowmobile trail to walkers and cyclists so that this trail can be used year round. Last fall, Georgian Bay Snowriders spent $25,000 on resolving drainage problems and surface upgrades on this natural surface trail located on the old CPR line. The trail is particularly scenic as it passes various wetlands, goes through dense forest, along the Hogg River, and crosses the Sturgeon River waterfalls east of Rosemount Road. In combination with the paved Tay Shore trail, trail users can now walk or ride a mostly off-road loop between Midland and Waubaushene. The official opening of this new trail is scheduled for June 21, 2014 at 10 AM at St. Ignace on Rosemount Road and will be followed by a walk and bike ride to the Martyrs’ Shrine. More details to follow.

Ganaraska club members will be participating in the June 21 event, as part of their regular hiking schedule. Anyone is welcome to join in the club’s weekly hikes, which may include a variety of difficulty levels (from easy to challenging) and may take place close-by or further away  such as on the Bruce Trail. The Wednesday hikes are quite easy, local and a maximum of 2 hours.. The club meets at the Tim Horton’s sign post in front of the Huronia Mall on hwy 93. Members also take part in recreational bike rides, canoe and kayak outings, camping weekends, and many more social events. Everyone welcome. For more information, check the Hike Schedule on or contact 705-245-1005.

The Pilgrim Route – opening June 21, 2014

Martyrs' Shrine near Midland, ON.

Martyrs’ Shrine near Midland, ON.

We all know people who have hiked the Camino Frances, an 800 km pilgrimage from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (in France) to Santiago de Compostela in Western Spain. Some of us may even plan to hike this Camino as one of the things on our bucket list. And if you have not seen it yet, you’ll enjoy seeing the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. Quite the cultural and spiritual experience he had, as he walked the 800 kms to Santiago.

So if people from all over the world come to Spain to hike the Camino Frances, why not create a Canadian Camino? We have the National Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs located in Midland, right on the Ganaraska hiking trail. We also have a network of existing railtrails leading to this same shrine in Midland. And annually, huge pilgrimages already take place from Burlington, Guelph, Toronto, etc. to Midland.

Hundred of pilgrims take part in organized pilgrimage walks on specific days throughout the summer.  The groups tend to use roads, some quite busy, to make the annual trek. Would it not be much nicer to undertake a pilgrimage on more scenic trails? Trails would certainly be much more suitable for quiet reflection, meditation, prayer and enjoyment of our beautiful countryside.

With a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Simcoe County Trails ( presented the idea to create pilgrimage routes that one could follow any day of the year, alone or with friends or family, or as a parish, or as a tourist to explore this part of Canada, to the Martyrs’ Shrine who enthusiastically embraced the concept.

Some pilgrims may want to follow the Pilgrim Route for religious reasons, others may just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, or set themselves a personal challenge, meet other people, or visit another region or country.

Also, from a tourism perspective, the Pilgrim Route is expected to bring tourists to the area and contribute to the local economy as pilgrims and tourists need accommodations, food and other supplies along the way.

The Pilgrim Route to Midland uses existing trails, on which pilgrimage wayfinding signs will be installed in the future. Permissions have been requested and have been received from various landowners, usually municipalities, who own most of the major trails in Simcoe County. As an option, pilgrims and tourists can also follow the blazes of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail from Barrie to Midland.

In 2014, the Pilgrim Route is being opened on June 21, 2014 and will include a 10 km hike or a 30 km bike ride along the Georgian Bay Snow Riders Trail and the Tay Shore Trail to the Martyrs’ Shrine.

Participants will enjoy re-enactments, a fundraising BBQ, storytelling, traditional 17th century food, and free access to the Martyrs’ Shrine, the grounds and the museum. We hope you will join us for this event. For more information, contact

While the Pilgrim Route started in Simcoe County, it is hoped that neighbouring regions will also pick up on the idea and extend the Pilgrim Routes through their areas.

In Spain, “buen camino” is commonly used to greet pilgrims and wish them well. We’ll have to come up with our own Canadian version… any suggestions?

What has Simcoe County Trails been up to lately?

Visioning Excercise

Simcoe County Trails is a not for profit charitable organization, and recently refined its  mission as “Connecting communities and citizens with nature through trail development, promotion and maintenance“.

Pilgrim Routes to the Martyrs Shrine

These permanent pilgrimage routes will provide wayfinding for anyone to walk or bike to Midland from various locations in Simcoe County (and eventually from beyond) by following special markers. They will be able to do so at any time of the year, in small groups, individually or as a parish or club. The routes are also expected to draw tourists to the area (similar to the Camino in Spain), as “pilgrims” will require accommodations and food along the way. This project is being very well received and is making good progress. We have about 90% land owner permissions for 3 mostly off road routes, following existing trails:
- Easterly Route: Barrie-Orillia-Midland
- Westerly Route: Barrie – Elmvale – Penetanguishene – Midland
- Southerly Route: hwy 9 to Barrie
Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, we will only be marking the Easterly Route in 2014, and hopefully will have funding for the other routes in 2015. For more information (or to make a donation!), contact

Georgian Bay Trails

A new trail development committee has been formed as a subcommittee of Simcoe County Trails. It will focus its efforts on building new multi-use trails in Midland, Penetangusihene, Tay and Tiny. The first project, the 10 km long Georgian Bay Snow Riders Trail is opening in the spring of 2014 between Triple Bay Road and Waubaushene (Tay Township) along the abandoned railline owned by the local snowmobile club. The committee is also working on the 3 additional multi-use trail projects:

  • from the Wye River at hwy 12 to Wyebridge to Wyevale and Wymbolwood
  • from Penetanguishene to Awenda Provincial Park
  • through the Thompson Forest in Penetanguishene

For more information on these project, or to donate go to

Trans Canada Trail in New Tecumseth

While much progress has been made between hwy 9 and Tottenham, the Trans Canada Trail section from Beeton to Cookstown was again in jeopardy due to opposition from the farming community, and risked being moved onto roads, rather than staying on the town-owned abandoned railline. Simcoe County Trails worked hard to ensure that the trail stays off-road, and in the end, council voted in favour of doing so.

Trail assessments for accessibility under the AODA guidelines

Simcoe County Trails has been certified to undertake HETAP Trail Access Information (TAI) Assessments. This process enables land managers or trail owner/operators, such as government agencies and park authorities, to obtain accurate trail data, and meet the Ontario Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA) Guidelines. For more informaiton, see
or the HETAP brochure SCT

Trail assessments can start anytime this spring, as soon as the trails dry up, and weather conditions permit us to do so.

Other activities

  • Simcoe County Trails’ board of directors is representative of the various local trail user groups, and therefore takes on the role of the “Voice of the Trail User” on the Copeland Forest Stewardship Committee, the Minesing Wetland Management Committee, etc.
  • With funding from the County of Simcoe, we have started work on the next edition of the ever so popular Simcoe County Trails map book. (On-line maps and Virtual Tours are currently also available on our Maps page).  However, new maps will be created and are being developed in partnership with the County of Simcoe’s GIS department.
  • We are trying to convince the Town of Midland to put some trail funds back into the trail budget, after the budget was cut in 2013, and the Town actually experienced a $900,000 budget surplus in 2013.
  • We are planning an “Invasive Species” and “Trail Update” for trail users on June 10, 2014 at the Simcoe County Museum. The invasive species session will be provided by the County of Simcoe’s forestry department and we will provide the trails update. Cycle Simcoe offered to provide the refreshments.
  • Simcoe County Trails also provides Trail Consulting and Trail Maintenance Services.
  • The board of directors is also working on new branding for the organization. Hopefully you will see the results of that soon.

And lastly, spring is finally here, so get out on the trails, and enjoy!



Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail Alert

Marker without wayfinding sign

Marker without wayfinding sign

The Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail is a 14.1 km multi-use recreational trail running between Memorial Square in Barrie and Fort Willow Conservation Area in Springwater. A few of us walked the Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail yesterday, and are disappointed to report that wayfinding along the Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail is very difficult, as the wayfinding markers are either missing (as in the above picture), or in very poor shape.

Note that even with a map  (9MP 2012 map), one would have trouble following the right path, especially in a valley or a forest.

So, until the wayfinding markers are refreshed, we advise against walking or biking the Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail, unless you are very familiar with the area.

Interpretive signs, providing a history of the Nine Mile Portage and its role in the war of 1812,  as well as the many benches and monuments along the way, are in good shape. It would be a shame not to refresh the signage, so that we can all enjoy this historic trail again.

Interpretive sign along the way

Interpretive sign along the way

The Trans Canada Trail and the proposed Pilgrim Route to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland are hoping to use this route to link the North Simcoe Railtrail with the Barrie Waterfront. A new committee is being formed to promote the trail. Perhaps its first task will be to fix the wayfinding problem. Anyone interested in volunteering on this committee, contact us at