A Trail With A View


A Trail With A View

(Published in "Sideroads of Haliburton, fall 2008)


          Circuit of Five Viewpoints: now isn't that an interesting name for a trail? And the history of this hiking trail is just as interesting, just as layered, in how the stunning panoramas of the Five Viewpoints came to be melded into one very inviting hike on a cool autumn day - or at any time of year, really. We have even walked this trail on snowshoes in mid-winter.

          The seeds of a trail dream had their beginnings when the James Cooper trail on the North Shore Road was donated to Stanhope Township. Then, in the year 2000, the old Alvin Ferguson ski trail was linked to the James Cooper Trail to make a hiking trail, but a shorter one. The year 2001 saw these two opening to a newly carved out trail going several kilometers north towards Little Hawk Lake, and the first hike on the old Ridge Trail close to Little Hawk Lake Road took place in 2002. A Trail Head for CFV was established at the parking lot for Little Hawk Lake itself.  Not much later, when Dan and Dawn Muir allowed the extension of the trail to include the Crests of the Kennisis viewpoint which borders on their property, the complete circuit could be completed, and the Crests of the Kennisis Trail was opened as the final piece of this magnificent walk. Good boots are recommended.

          Who, you might ask, would have such a vision of the possibilities for this near wildness, the hills and valleys overgrown and thick with forest? And who would then undertake the daunting task and significant time needed to carve these trails through the bush?  Those of us who so love and use the CFV trail owe our deep gratitude to Peter and Margaret Brogden, Keith and Mary Waggett and Stu Bain, who together undertook to open and maintain these trails. Peter is the source of this history, and - sadly - also  pointed out to me that the Memorial Bench overlooking the Crests of the Kennissis is in memory of Keith Waggett and Stu Bain, both of whom have passed away since the task was completed.

          And now for the experience. In the summer that I moved to Halls Lake, 2003, this trail system had its formal opening at the trail head close to Little Hawk Lake. Though this happened only a couple of weeks after the move, and surrounded by boxes as we were, I was drawn to attend, having read the announcement in the Minden Times.

A small group was gathered - now I know that perhaps most were the people named above - and a few stragglers like myself who love hiking and were excited by the opening of a new trail. Declaring the trails open was no less solemn a moment, and we set off up to the top of the rock face with a peculiar freedom and joy and perhaps some awe at the accomplishment.

          Since that time, the whole trail has become familiar to me. One Thanksgiving weekend we began at the North Shore Road and took about five hours, meandering, eating, photographing and examining everything in fine detail, to reach the Little Hawk Trail Head. The variations of the trails mean that they are never boring: up hill and down dale, surrounded by a rich plethora of growth that varies with every kilometer. It's a nature photographer's paradise, no matter what the season.

          Three years ago, after the tornado passed though the Halls/Little Hawk Lakes area, the hiking trail was devastated. Tall pines were pitched around like pick-up sticks, making many parts of the trail impassable. Since we live close to the trail, we biked to it every day, going as far as we could. Amazingly, within three or four days, the trail was mostly cleared and definitely passable. The dedication of Peter and company was wondrous. To the sides of the trail, however, even today, you can see the blow-down caused by the tornado still quite visible even after these intervening years. Seeing it causes the imagination to picture the devastation that was visible the day after - it was considerable.

           Having the Circuit of Five Viewpoints Trail within walking distance of where we live is an unexpected bonus of living on the Little Kennissis River. There are so many variations to be explored, and short or long hikes to suit your schedule, that only in the deep snow and cold of late January and February would we consider not going. The trail is a staple activity for every other season of the year.

          From an entrance close to the Hawk Lake Landfill, you can climb to one of the viewpoints in about 20 minutes, surveying Halls Lake and all the surrounding countryside. Just below you the Little Kennissis winds through trees and marshes. In autumn it is wordlessly beautiful, but equally so in other seasons, I have discovered. Or - if you begin at the Historic Log Chute, in about two hours you'll reach the lookout mentioned above. That two hours is to me the most stupendous part of the trail, and perhaps the most strenuous. Called "Crests of the Kennissis", it takes the hiker up and down, along gigantic outcroppings of granite, multiple caves, dripping moss, rainforest shade, resting places many and needed. The silence that only deep forest contains is prevalent in these rich valleys, while the high lookout points give miles of vision and whatever winds prevail. Good binoculars definitely add to the experience of these vistas, and you might be amazed at what you can see. Or you can enter along a skidoo trail, through the gravel pits from Braeloch road, and climb quickly to see another panorama altogether, and continue for a different two hours, again rising and falling with the land, until you come out close to the Trail Head at little Hawk Lake.

          A good map of the whole system is available from the Trails and Tours office in Carnarvon. And the whole or parts of this Hiking Trail will be offered for guided hikes in the Hike Haliburton Festival during the weekend of October 17-19, 2008.


          Leave your usual world behind for an hour or two and treat yourself to the banquet of nature that awaits you anywhere along the Circuit of Five Viewpoints Hiking Trail. Come north from Carnarvon on Highway 35 and turn right onto Little Hawk Lake Road until you come to the Trail Head at the Lake itself. Or start at the North Shore Road and end at one of the viewpoints (a car at both ends would help.) These trails await with wonder and variety and spectacular scenery.