The Hastings Heritage Trail – an old railway bed – is dotted with ghost towns, remnants of a bygone era fueled by the promise of gold strikes. The Trail is now one of the most unique four-seasons, multi-use recreational trails in Canada. It’s even inspired new adult lifestyle communities like The Preserve at Bancroft Ridge, which offers entry points to the Trail at the doorsteps of every new model home.

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There’s gold in them there hills!

In 1866, rumours abounded about prosperous gold strikes in Hastings County. Upon hearing the news, people migrated to the area in significant numbers, inspiring the building of hotels, bars, boarding houses and stores. Soon the Central Ontario Railway was built to service small villages such as Millbridge, Eldorado and Quadville. The story goes the infamous gangster Al Capone hid from US authorities in one of these towns. 

A 156-km ribbon of land stretching from Glen Ross to Lake St. Peter, the Hastings Heritage Trail connects to the Trent Canal System in the south and the edge of Algonquin Park in the north. Every year it attracts thousands of avid hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, snowmobilers and ATV riders.

Traversing the trail is a fascinating journey. Naturally, it’s a wonderland of waterfalls, wetlands, flora and fauna. What makes it unique are the remnants of old railway stations and trestle bridges that are stark reminders of settlements in the late 1880s. Marvel at the relics of ghost towns like Brinklow. Check out historical buildings such as Hogan’s Hotel, built back in 1862. There are also impressive mineral collection sites along the way, especially in Bancroft, rightly dubbed the “Mineral Capital of Canada”.

An experience as good as gold

The Trail is open year-round and boasts a number of parking lots and access points along the route. Moving forward, the North Hastings Economic Development Committee is studying a possible plan to further develop under-utilized trails for non-motorized uses.

The mines and railways are gone. The Hastings Heritage Trail experience is still as good as gold.