Dufferin County offers some of the best hiking in Southern Ontario. Rural still rules in Ontario’s youngest county so you can get seriously away from it all while enjoying deeply incised forested valleys, soaring vistas and long stretches of peace and quiet.

To research and write Dufferin Hikes: Loops & Lattes, I travelled the majority of the county’s trails and while every loop included in the guide is special, a few stand out.

Best hike longer than 10k: # 25 Rock Hill Loop (Long)
Where else but in Dufferin County can you hike by the former home of a Freak Out Festival? In addition to passing through the hardwood forests and rising up to the spectacular lookouts you might expect in Dufferin, this 11.3k off-road route treats you to the loveliest stone home before leading you into dark, moss-covered rock outcrops.

Best hike under 5k: #30 Upper Credit/Tallgrass Prairie Loop
Deciding which loop to choose for this category was easy measy. Okay, technically it’s in Caledon, but you aren’t going to spill the beans are you? In a too-short 3.6k, entirely off-road loop, you see tallgrass prairie, uncommon rock elms, rare Sprengel’s sedge, a nascent Credit River and evidence of the abandoned Grey, Toronto & Bruce Railway.

Most challenging hike: #20 Mulmur Moan Loop
It was a close call between this loop and the 17.9k Hemlock Ridge Loop, but I went with this 7.1k route because I coined its name. The Mulmur Moan is Dufferin’s version of Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. Neither as long or as steep as its western cousin, the Mulmur Moan nevertheless involves a heart-thumping climb out of the Pine River Valley. You pass by ruins of an old power plant and on a warm day try dipping your toes in the sandy-bottomed stream.

Most unique hike: #32 Vicki Barron Lakeside Loop
I’m infatuated with boardwalks so this 9.3k loop on Orangeville’s doorstep is a standout for me. Built in large part thanks to the Friends of Island Lake, it goes around and sometimes over this 182ha reservoir along gorgeous boardwalks. There is something peaceful about walking alongside and over water, but beware that this is a busy trail, best hiked on weekdays.

Best hike/lunch experience: #12 Inside Grand Valley Loop
People who hike in Dufferin would expect a walk in Mono Cliffs Park followed by lunch at the Mono Cliffs Inn to be the hands-down winner of this category. And maybe it is, but I’m going with a loop through my newest favourite town: Grand Valley. Learn about the tragedy of May 31, 1985, amble down Grand Valley’s main street and meander along the Upper Grand Trailway. Then pick up lunch in town and enjoy it at the immaculate riverside Hereward Park.

Nicola Ross
The winner of numerous writing honours, Nicola is the author seven books, including the popular Loops & Lattes Hiking Guides. Nicola is a columnist with In the Hills magazine. An avid cyclist and hiker, her articles have been published in The Walrus, The Globe and Mail, Explore magazine, Mountain Life, Avenue, Ontario Nature, Alternatives Journal and more.

For more information about Loops & Lattes Hiking Guides, visit her website at www.nicolaross.ca.