When I was little, there was nothing quite like waking up on a sunny Saturday morning to my dad making his famous pancakes, and telling me we would be heading to the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area.
We lived in the South End of town, so we went often. I never got tired of the well-travelled trails that led over mossy black rocks, past tall pines, and wound around small lakes and marshes, rich with life.
My memories of growing up in Sudbury are very different than my parents’.
My mother and her siblings talk about playing on the bleak, black rocks in the late 1960s with the stink of sulfur in the air. They talk about treeless skylines, and a landscape used to mimic the moon for astronaut training.
When my father came to town in the early 1970s, the city was barren, damaged by decades of forestry and mining.
Thanks to serious reforestation efforts since the 1970s, I grew up in a city much greener than they did, and the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area embodies Sudbury’s commitment to re-greening.
The most difficult decision I have when I get to the conservation area is choosing which way to go. There are numerous self-guided but well-marked trails to choose from, and each of them its benefits.
On the west side, some of the trails seem to go straight up into the steep rocks—these offer some of the most stunning panoramic views in town. When we were young and hyperactive, our parents would bring us on the Point Trails, which were sure to tucker us out, but still manageable for us once we were about 10 years old.
I find the vertical character of these trails do make some of them more difficult, so if you’re travelling with anyone who may find that an issue, there are some more accessible options on the east side.
Short but sweet, most people will find the Chickadee Loop and its off-shoot Red-Winged Blackbird Trail fairly easy to navigate and perfect for a short visit. There is some wheelchair access, so almost everyone can see at least a part of it.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you’ll be happy to know there are some serious offerings. The Lake Laurentian Loop is a 10km jaunt that takes three to four hours, and completely circles the lake. There are two bridges with viewing decks, and several scenic lookouts to rest up at.
The TransCanada Trail even makes an appearance, cutting through the conservation area in a 7km stretch that features a 360 view from Flag Hill and a variety of terrain.
If you continue past the main entrance along South Bay Road, there are even more trails. These days, I prefer these northeastern routes.
After crossing a charming wooden bridge, you can take the not-too-long, not-too-hard 3km Beaver Pond Loop or Mount Ramsey Trail. They are often a bit quieter than the main trails.
All in all, there are over 23 kilometers of hiking, biking, and jogging trails—and in the winter there are numerous ski and snowshoe trails. While the conservation area is beautiful in summer the bugs can be challenging, especially at dawn and dusk. So bring repellent or come in the bug off-season, roughly September through May.
Another note of importance, there are only official restrooms at the two entrances of the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area trails!
As soon as you’re actually on the trails, it’s hard to believe you’re just a 10-minute drive from the downtown.
For entertainment close to the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area, Science North is just a five minute drive away, and a great follow-up to the trails.
In terms of fueling yourself before or after your visit, there are numerous restaurants along Regent and Paris Street which are close by. Tony V’s Pizza & Restaurant or Di Gustos for good Italian fare—the former is more casual than the latter. Taphouse Northern Grill & Pub has something for everyone, including your pub favourites and a built in wood-fired pizza oven. For something a little different, Roseapple is a cute, locally-owned shop with Asian style noodles with everything from Pad Thai to pho.
Don’t be surprised if you want to go back on day two of your visit to see more of the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area. It’s a lot to take in but you can do a lot in just a short visit. I know my family and I certainly never tired of it. I hope you won’t either.
By: Ella Myers