Discovering Scenic Caves – Collingwood, Ontario

by GO GlobeHopper

One of the best ways to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air north of Toronto is to explore the Scenic Caves in Collingwood.

The Scenic Caves date back to 1850 when an unidentified traveler climbed into the cave now known as Fern Cavern and left his initials carved on the wall.  Today, the area is owned by Rob Thorburn, who has turned the caves and surrounding area into an adventure park serving all seasons.

The Nature Adventure is aptly named as visitors can hike up the steep and rocky hillside, through a maze of natural caves and then across an impressive 420-foot suspension bridge that overlooks Collingwood and features outstanding views of the valley floor 25 meters below and of Georgian Bay in the distance.  It’s the longest suspension footbridge in Ontario, with a handrail and wire fencing for safety purposes, wide enough to allow two visitors to walk side by side. Although the bridge shuts down during high winds, it is still flexible enough that it experiences sway and movement from a good breeze as well as from the weight of people crossing.  So if you’re the type to easily lose your balance, it’s advised that you hold the rail as you cross.

Running shoes are a MUST for this hike.  As a matter of fact, tourists are not permitted into the park without proper footwear.  And there’s a very good reason for that – it’s steep, it’s jagged, and manmade steps, bridges, and handrails are few and far between.  After rain and with falling autumn leaves creating a thick and slick ground cover, the trek can prove to be a bit slippery and/or difficult to see where to step.  As such, the park is not considered disability-friendly.  And even those that are not considered disabled should at least be sure-footed.

For tourists looking for something a little more daring than the hike, Scenic Caves offers an Eco Adventure, boasting treetop trekking across the highest point of the escarpment.  While hooked onto zipping cable for guiding purposes, trekkers can stay safe while learning about First Nation tribes that originally inhabited the area, as well as caves that were created millions of years ago as a result of glacier ice.

Still not daring enough?  Need more of a thrill? Then how about soaring through the air on Canada’s longest Twin Zip Line, which stretches half a mile.  While traversing the forest and the 287-foot drop, riders are capable of controlling speeds but daredevils can reach up to 70 kilometers per hour.  Depending on personal preference for speed, the ride can last anywhere from 45 seconds to a few minutes.  But make sure to slow down before your reach the landing because the impact can cause injuries, not to mention that high speeds make it difficult for the Scenic Caves team member to catch and unhook you from the apparatus.  This particular attraction is seasonal, running from spring to fall.  Winter months can cause cables to freeze, therefore deeming the zip line unsafe.

From our personal experience, the cooler months of spring and fall are preferable, especially as the hike to the zip line is heart pumping and hot, through a thick forest where there is little breeze.  Additionally, line-ups are long so they grow even longer as tourism increases in the summer months.

Back on the ground, there is a trout pond and picnic area to enjoy, along with a kiddie train to explore the grounds, random wood carvings to see, and a gift shop and snack bar to visit if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat.

However, just because Scenic Caves, Collingwood is most well known for its seasonal activities, doesn’t mean tourists should count it out during the winter months because the adventure continues with guided snowshoe hikes and nighttime cross country skiing for a specified time. So be sure to check it out!

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