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Frequently Asked Questions

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Your Conservation Area visit should be a fun and memorable experience. Here, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you make the most out of your visit.

Conservation Areas are open year-round or seasonally from early spring to late fall. You can visit seven days a week, however, we encourage you to check the website before your visit for operating hours or service interruptions.

Want to get to your favourite Conservation Area safely and quickly – let Waze or Google Maps be your guide.

Want to visit a Conservation Area, but you don’t drive or have access to a car? Let Park Bus take care of your transportation needs to select Conservation Areas.

Online reservations are required at all Conservation Halton Parks throughout the year. During peak times online reservations are required at select Credit Valley Conservation, Hamilton Conservation Authority, and Grand River Conservation Authority Conservation Areas.

Secure your campsite! Online reservations are required to book campsites at Conservation Areas.

We’re happy to share that admission to many Conservation Areas is FREE! The small cost for entry at some Conservation Areas goes towards maintaining and protecting these natural ecological spaces and the creation of activities, programs, and services.

A Park Pass is not available to access all Conservation Areas that require an admission fee. However, you can purchase an Individual, Family, or Senior annual pass from many Conservation Areas.

The Credit Valley Conservation Parks Pass also gives access to Toronto and Region Conservation Authority parks thanks to their Conservation Parks partnership.

For your safety and the health of the environment, stay on marked trails when visiting Conservation Areas – don’t trample habitat. Access is only permitted on marked trails and trail surfaces provided. Staying on the trail will also reduce your exposure to poisonous plants and ticks and protect our native plants and animals.

Respect the privacy of our Conservation Area neighbours along trails by staying on marked trails and avoiding excessive noise. Off-trail use is not permitted. Do not climb fences or take shortcuts. Obey all posted signage. Give the right of way to smaller and slower users, and cyclists should follow dismounting signage. Stay right when approaching oncoming users.

Visits to Conservation Areas are on a steady increase with more and more people wanting to experience nature, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. But, sometimes with more people, comes more problems such as litter, invasive species, and trail erosion. Some things to keep in mind when planning your next visit:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare for the weather
  2. Travel and camp on marked trails and campsites
  3. Dispose of waste in garbage bins or if it’s full do us a favour and dispose of it at home
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts by buying firewood at Conservation Areas
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

When barriers are removed, Ontarians with disabilities can participate fully in society. This helps our communities thrive and leaves no one behind. Let’s explore how Conservation Areas are making nature more accessible and inclusive for visitors. Find accessible Conservation Areas on our interactive map by using the filter function. 

In 2020, TRCA assessed 80km of trails for accessibility using the High-Efficiency Trail Assessment Process. HETAP is an inventory process that provides objective information about trail conditions (e.g. grade, cross slope, width). The information obtained through an assessment can be used by trail managers to enhance the safety and enjoyment of all trail users. HETAP provides accurate, objective information about trail conditions, monitor environmental impacts on the trail, prepares budgets, develops maintenance and construction plans, and identifies potential access barriers.

Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) is rolling out the welcome mat for people of all abilities. The heavy-duty accessible beach mats, at Baxter and Rideau Ferry Conservation Areas, will help people with mobility devices like wheelchairs, walkers and strollers access the Rideau River without worrying about getting stuck in the sand. These mats are part of a suite of accessibility tools and upgrades the RVCA has introduced to make its Conservation Areas more inclusive.

Sunny days ahead on the water! The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority has installed an accessible dock at Wildwood Conservation Area. This dock provides a stable, safe way to enter and exit your kayak or canoe at Wildwood Reservoir. The accessible dock features:

  • Guide rails for easy access in and out of the water
  • Launch rollers for easy movement of the watercraft
  • A floating platform that adjusts to changing water level

Equipment such as kayaks, canoes, and life jackets are available for rent at some Conservation Areas. Please check the list of conservation areas that offer rentals.

The sun’s rays are the strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Seek shade: Relax under a tree at a Conservation Area, take an umbrella to the beach, eat at a covered picnic table. TIP: If your shadow is shorter than you, this means the sun’s rays are at their strongest.

Cover Up: You don’t need to bare all to stay cool! Clothing can protect you from sun exposure – cover up as much skin as you can with clothing that is made of tightly-woven fabric or buy clothing labeled with a UPF (UV protection factor). And, don’t forget your hat!

Wear Sunglasses: Sunglasses make a great addition to any look, but make sure you choose close-fitting ones with UVA and UVB protection in a wraparound style.

Use Sunscreen: Lather up! Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to any uncovered skin. Sunscreen absorbs UV rays and prevents them from penetrating the skin. Wear water-resistant sunscreen or reapply if you’re going in the water.

Get more sun safety tips from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Prevention is better than cure! If you love being outdoors, you’ve probably heard of Lyme disease, which is an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites. But, by taking the right precautions you can protect yourself from Lyme disease.

Take these steps to protect your health:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your pants.
  • Check your clothes for ticks – they will climb upwards until they find an area of exposed skin.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.
  • Walk on pathways or trails when possible staying in the middle. Avoid low-lying brush or long grass.
  • Apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing, especially at the openings such as ankle, wrist, and neck.

MYTH: Every person that contracts Lyme develops a “bull’s eye” rash.

TRUTH: Although rashes are fairly common, only 30% of Lyme patients report experiencing a rash, and only 9% develop the classic “bull’s eye” rash.

High-Risk Area For Ticks

  • Wooded areas
  • Nature parks
  • Grassy fields
  • Beaches

Learn more from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.

Campsites are located in natural areas that protect fragile plants and wildlife, and firewood is one of the easiest ways for insects to travel. Dormant insects or eggs can be moved via firewood from infested trees.

Prevent the spread of infestations and disease:

  • Don’t move firewood
  • Buy firewood from the Conservation Area you’re visiting

Being outdoors requires us to share nature with wildlife, including bugs. Most insects mind their business, but mosquitoes, black flies, and ticks can be a nuisance, ruining a good time.

To keep pesky bugs away:

  • Use bug spray
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants (or clothing with insect repellent in the fabric)
  • Light candles and mosquito coils, position strategically
  • Pack mosquito head nets and a screen tent, for when the going gets tough

Dog walking is one of the many activities that Conservation Areas users enjoy. Dogs are welcomed at Conservation Areas, but for the safety of visitors and your pet, they must be kept on a leash at all times, except for designated off-leash areas. Also, please remember to dispose of all pet waste in garbage bins. Help to keep it safe and clean for everyone!

Plan An Enjoyable Experience With Your Pet:

  1. Keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times.
  2. Stay on marked trails to minimize the impacts on our environment.
  3. There are natural risks to your pet from steep drops, encounters with wildlife, and being in unfamiliar surroundings with new smells.
  4. Be aware that there are diseases that naturally affect our native wildlife and can pose a risk to dogs.
  5. Your dog may be friendly, but not all visitors like dogs and some may be afraid of them. Please be respectful of fellow visitors.

You Are Your Child’s Lifeguard

Always watch your children when they are near water or swimming. Drowning can happen in seconds and it is silent. For non-swimmers, have them wear a lifejacket and make sure you are within arm's reach of them. If they are strong swimmers, watch for changes in behavior or if they are struggling. Drowning is silent so they are not likely to call for help. Be their lifeguard. Be attentive. Put your book or phone down and keep your eyes on them at all times.

Always Swim With A Buddy

Even strong swimmers can get into trouble. Never swim alone. Always have someone with you to watch you and be ready to get help if you get into trouble. Drowning is silent and it can happen in seconds.

The Lifesaving Society Water Smart program encourages individuals in high-risk target groups to exercise safe and responsible behaviour in and around water to prevent water-related injuries. While their goal is to prevent drowning among all Ontarians, the two key target groups are parents of children under 5 years of age and men 18-49 years.

Water safety practices can save your life! Learn more from the Lifesaving Society.

Looking for a thrill? You can participate in rock climbing at Old Baldy, Kelso, Mt. Nemo, and Rattlesnake.

Capturing and sharing your favourite moments on social is the norm and we agree Conservation Areas are beautiful and provide the perfect backdrop. But, as you collect memories keep these tips in mind.

Get The Shot Without Disturbing Nature:

  1. Don’t bait and feed wildlife to get their attention
  2. Don’t trample sensitive habitat to get the perfect photo – stay on marked trails
  3. Don’t “dress” nature, it’s beautiful already, photograph as is
  4. Don’t introduce non-native species to Conservation Areas (refer to #3)
  5. Don’t cause traffic jams on roadways to get the perfect shot – it’s unsafe for you, other visitors, and wildlife
  6. Don’t get too close to animals
  7. Don’t use bird call recordings to get birds to come closer

Share your images on social media with #StepIntoNature and #HealthyHikes! Learn how you can Submit a Photo!

Foraging is the act of searching, identifying, and collecting food resources in the wild.

Many people view foraging for mushrooms and other edible plants as a sustainable practice. But the act of removing wildlife from Conservation Areas is prohibited to prevent damage to sensitive habitat, depletion of natural abundance and diversity of species, and over-harvesting. Instead, we challenge you to observe and identify the different species of mushrooms and other wildlife that you encounter with the Seek by iNaturalist app.

Healthy ecosystems and healthy people are our priority. Some Conservation Authorities are leading the way and have adopted outdoor smoking policies. Please plan your Conservation Area visits accordingly.

If you do get lost, remember: S-T-O-P!

  • Stop and do your best to stay calm.
  • Think about when you last recognized where you were.
  • Observe your surroundings. Look around for signs of something familiar. Listen for other people or activities you recognize. Maybe you can smell a campfire or some cooking in the wind.
  • Plan your next move. (e.g., Use your phone if you can, make noise or blow a whistle to alert others that you are lost).

If a member of your group has gone missing on a Conservation Area property, notify park staff immediately. If the person is lost after hours or in an unmanaged natural area, call 911.

  1. If you or someone in your group is experiencing a medical emergency while at a Conservation Area, call 911.
  2. Notify park staff of your emergency.

The weather is finally warming up and you can’t wait to go on your first hike of the season. You have your comfy hiking boots, a water bottle to stay hydrated, cool sunglasses to keep the rays at bay, and most importantly your phone – you’re all set and ready to hit the trails.

But, wait a minute! This is a good start, but we think you might be missing some other essentials to help make your hike even safer and more enjoyable. Learn how to stay comfortable and healthy on your next hot weather hike.

Here is some spot-on advice from REI Coop:

  • Avoid the hottest time of day, the noon to 3 p.m. window: Get an early start and end your hike by early afternoon, or head out sometime after 3 p.m. If you can’t avoid hiking during the warmest hours, try to plan your trip so you’ll be in the shade or near a body of water during that time.
  • Stay in the shade: Hike in the shade of trees rather than be exposed directly to the sun.
  • Hike near water: Hike near a lake or river and enjoy the breeze off the water and cooler temperature. You can also cool down by splashing your face and body with water.
  • Choose light colours: Wearing light colours that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them (as dark colors can) helps keep you cool. Look for shirts, shorts, and pants in white, tan, or khaki.
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing: Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that breathes well will help your body regulate temperature. Nylon and polyester are good choices.
  • Cotton can be OK: You’ve heard it before: cotton kills. Cotton has a bad reputation in the outdoors because it absorbs lots of moisture and dries very slowly, which can create an uncomfortable and dangerous situation on wet and/or cold days. But in hot and dry conditions, the moisture can feel good against your skin, and as it evaporates it will leave you feeling cool. You must be careful when wearing cotton though. Make sure you’re OK with the feel of wet cotton next to your skin (some people just don’t like it) and that it won’t cause chafing if it rubs against your skin. More importantly, if there’s any chance you’ll be out when the temperature dip in the evening, carry a change of clothes or choose to wear synthetics instead of cotton.
  • Open vents: Some shirts, shorts, and pants designed for hiking incorporate vents. Opening these up on a hot day helps improve airflow.
  • Choose UPF-rated clothing: All clothing blocks the sun’s rays to a certain extent, but clothing that has a UPF rating is guaranteed to provide protection. Common ratings include UPF 15, UPF 30, and UPF 50+.
  • Cover up: It may seem counter-intuitive to put extra clothes on in hot weather, but the added coverage can provide necessary protection from UV rays, especially for people with sensitive skin. A lightweight long-sleeve shirt, sun sleeves, and a neck gaiter can provide effective protection.
  • Put a hat on: A hat provides essential protection from the sun for your face and neck. A baseball cap provides OK shade, but a sun hat with a brim that goes all the way around is even better.
  • Cool your neck: A bandana, sun-protective neck gaiter, or other lightweight cloth can be dunked in water and worn over your head or around your neck to keep the back of your neck cool and covered while the water evaporates. Special polymer-crystal-filled neck scarves maintain moisture for even longer periods.
  • Wear the right socks: Never wear cotton socks (choose wool or synthetic instead) and make sure they fit well. Socks that are too big can have wrinkles that rub and socks that are too small can create pressure points and sock slippage.
  • Carry a hydration pack: It might seem like a small difference, but having a sip tube always at the ready will make you more likely to hydrate frequently than if you have to reach for a water bottle.
  • Bring a squirt bottle: When the going gets rough, plan a sneak water attack on your hiking buddies, oruse the mist setting to create a cooling cloud whenever you need it.
  • We’ve shared these tips to help you plan your first hike, but always remember to do and wear what works best for you. Conservation Areas are judgment-free zones. Happy trails!

Have more questions?

Use Our Online Map To Plan Your Trip

Use our Conservation Areas map to locate more than 300 Conservation Areas across Ontario. Plan your trip based on Location, Activity, Facilities, Accessibility, and more.

Download our FREE Conservation Areas Guide

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