Exploring Ontario’s Haliburton Forest Reserve

By: Jennifer Merrick

July 3, 2014

Torontonians refer to the Haliburton Highlands as “˜cottage country’. Nine-to-fivers leave work early on Fridays and flee 220 kilometres north of the city, where they find rolling hills, 600-plus lakes, and rugged forests. Paddling, hiking, fishing and drinks on the dock are all on the to-do list in Haliburton. Take a look at our guide to the Haliburton Forest Reserve for the perfect weekend away.

This vast wilderness attracts not only stressed-out city dwellers, but also over 200 species of birds and animals, including a creature that has captured the human imagination, admiration and even terror – the wolf.

At the Wolf Centre in the Haliburton Forest Reserve, an 80,000-acre conservation area, visitors have the chance to observe the dynamics of the pack first-hand.

Wolf sleigh | Exploring Ontario's Haliburton Forest Reserve

One of the many activities on offer on a trip to the reserve © Jennifer Merrick

“It’s all natural,” says Ali Pevler, a biologist and outdoor educator at the centre. “We don’t interfere, only observe.”

Tensions can run high during mating season if social order is being established. Males compete with each other for supremacy, and the chance to impregnate the alpha female, who in turn intimidates other females to ensure she’s the only one to propagate.

Wolf Centre | Exploring Ontario's Haliburton Forest Reserve

Get up close to the pack at the Wolf centre within the reserve © Ontario Tourism

Once the pups are born, however, aggression dissipates and every member co-operates in caring for the young, Pevler explains.

Photos of the wolf pack, past and present, hang on the walls of the observation room, and there’s a thick journal filled with detailed observations. Exhibits explore the themes of wolves in the news, legends, and native wolf art.

But the Wolf Centre is only one part of this remarkable privately owned wilderness reserve. Its roster of all-season activities includes trout fishing, stargazing, dogsledding, canoeing, hiking, biking, skiing and snowmobiling on 350 kilometres of trails.

Canopy Tours | Exploring Ontario's Haliburton Forest Reserve

“Walk in the clouds” via the treetop canopies © Ontario Tourism

For an unforgettable bird’s eye view of the forest, try their “˜Walk in the Clouds’ treetop canopy adventure. It takes participants on a half-kilometre walk along the Pelaw River, a short canoe ride and finally, the highlight – a suspended boardwalk that winds through the treetops, 10 to 20 metres from the ground.

Canopy walk | Exploring Ontario's Haliburton Forest Reserve

Canopy walks and tours offer mesmerising views © Ontario Tourism

Wilderness inspires art


The Haliburton Highlands has one of the highest working artist per capita ratios in the province. Historically, it was the beauty of the wilderness that attracted so many artists to the region, and that tradition continues today with special events like the Forest Festival and the Arts and Crafts Festival, as well as studio tours. To view original Canadian art, visit Rails End Gallery and Art Centre and the Ethel Curry galleries in the nearby town of Haliburton.

Aspiring and established artists can develop their talents at the Haliburton School of the Arts, which has been welcoming students of all ages since 1967. There are more than 350 courses, ranging from weekend photography workshops and week-long beginner’s painting classes to full-time credit art and writing programs.

 Sculpture forest | Exploring Ontario's Haliburton Forest Reserve

One of the artworks at Haliburton Sculpture Forest © Patty Ho/Flickr

Wilderness and art are side by side at the Haliburton Sculpture Forest in Glebe Park. The combination of outdoor sculptures by Canadian and international arts and forest trails, create a calm and contemplative experience that showcases what the Haliburton Highlands are all about.

Enjoy the peace because Monday comes all too early in these parts.

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Have you visited the Haliburton Forest Reserve? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Jennifer Merrick


Jennifer Merrick

Born with itchy feet, Jennifer travels whenever she can with her family, writing about their adventures in numerous publications, including Buffalo News, American Eagle Latitudes, Montreal Families, Washington Times Community and Ontario Magazine. @jenmerrick

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