White trilliums, The Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

White trilliums, The Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

Happy Valley Forest

White trilliums in Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

White trilliums in Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

The Happy Valley Forest is one of the largest remaining intact upland deciduous forest on Canada's Oak Ridges Moraine. Located in King Township in the northwest of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), this 1,560-acre (631-hectare) area supports more than 110 breeding bird species, and is an outstanding example of the mature sugar maple and beech upland forests that are characteristic of the moraine.

The area's wetlands and upland forest are critical to the survival of nationally significant species such as Acadian flycatcher and cerulean warbler, and provide an ideal home for many other plant and animal species, including a wide range of wildflowers and several salamander species. The area also holds special cultural significance, given its association with the Toronto Carrying Place, a historic portage and travel route.

The Happy Valley Forest is a special area that features all the elements necessary to achieve old growth in the next 50 years, at a scale large enough to allow for natural disturbances such as wildfires, insect outbreaks, disease and severe storms. These events can significantly impact the structure and composition of any landscape.

Because larger landscapes can accommodate the impact of natural disturbances, it is important to protect the Happy Valley Forest at this scale. Nowhere else on the western Moraine or within the GTA is old-growth forest of this extent achievable.

Old-growth forests provide important functions in the ecosystem; they provide important habitat for plants and animals, sequester carbon, protect streams, and more. Essentially, old-growth forests act as a reservoir for biodiversity.

Over the past 30 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has helped protect more than 3,500 acres (1,400 hectares) on the Oak Ridges Moraine, of which almost 737 acres (298 hectares) are in Happy Valley. NCC's long-term goal for the area is to raise enough funds and create partnerships to protect and manage a 700-acre (283-hectare) heritage forest. Under NCC's careful management, the core of the Happy Valley Forest will become a model for old-growth ecology and forest management in eastern North America.

Thanks to donations of land and conservation agreements from local landowners and funding from supporters of the Oak Ridges Moraine, NCC is well on its way to helping realise this dream.

15 comments

  • Anonymous January 18, 2017 - 3:40
    Hi I am currently doing a research project on the restoration of the happy valley horse trail and would love some more information regarding this specifically the area of the trail.

  • NCC Editorial Team January 13, 2017 - 1:40
    Hi there! Yes, you can visit Happy Valley Forest year-round. Happy Snowshoeing!

  • Anonymous January 13, 2017 - 10:16
    I will be in Toronto this coming February and would like to visit Happy Valley with snowshoes. Is it possible to go there during winter?

  • Anonymous October 07, 2016 - 7:49
    WONDERFUL work continues to be done by NCC in the Happy Valley Forest and elsewhere, but it does face obstacles. There are real challenges in overcoming the old 'colonial' and utilitarian attitude that if a forest is 'standing' in its relatively natural and undisturbed state, it is not meeting its human-defined developmental 'potential' -- this is how so many forest types have been degraded or lost in Ontario, across Canada and elsewhere. When forests are fragmented and lost, so go associated indigenous and migratory species, as well as the essential ecological functions/services upon which all life depends. Continuous connected migration corridors must be re-established (because they used to exist), which means planning by governments at the municipal, regional, provincial and federal levels must shift toward recognizing the need for such corridors. NCC is uniquely positioned and qualified to identify these rare and relatively undisturbed natural areas, but their efforts really need people who will speak out in favour of NCC's mandate. This organization deserves support from donors and volunteers -- I'm onboard! :-)

  • Doug June 13, 2016 - 7:11
    What an amazing forest property so close to the GTA. Participated in a NCC tour of the property on the weekend and we learned and saw so much. We were no more than 100 meters down the trail and 2 Barred Owls swooped in to observe us and see who was entering their forest. Did not expect such a large and old growth forest within a few minutes of the 400. Tours are happening weekly all summer - a great educational and outdoor activity for you (and the family).

  • DeeDee September 24, 2015 - 6:23
    How do I make a donation specifically for Happy Valley Forest. When I click on the donate button, it seems to be only for a general donation to Nature Conservancy. Please and thanks.

  • Anonymous September 01, 2015 - 7:18
    I saw the article in the Toronto Star in August about the Happy Valley trail. Do you have another escorted walk taking place soon? Or can I venture there with my family on our own?

  • Bilious Bill October 26, 2014 - 9:01
    In response to Anonymous who asked on 2013-05-15 about trails through NCC lands, one trail (about 3 km) was officially opened on 2014-10-22 in the NCC's Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve at 4093 17th Sideroad, King Township, Ontario. See a related post at http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/i-bought-a-pulaski.html#.VE2kB77yOlc. Another trail opened or about to open is on NCC's Hazel Bird property near Rice Lake. Both trails were constructed with the assistance of volunteers from the Oak Ridges Trail Association.

  • Simard April 13, 2014 - 1:37
    This is such welcome news in this age of destruction. Keep up the tremendous work.

  • GG April 12, 2014 - 5:07
    Keep up the good work on protecting natural areas like Happy Valley from development!

  • Anonymous May 15, 2013 - 1:23
    Are there any trails through the NCC lands in the Oak Ridges Moraine that we can use for hiking? We donated to this project years ago and would like to visit it when we are in the area.

  • NCC web admin December 12, 2012 - 2:42
    Hello, We have tried emailing the address provided in response to the comment left on November 27, but unfortunately that email address does not seem to exist. Our policy is to remove comments that are offensive or that are misplaced or spammy in nature. There was a comment removed from this page because it did not relate to the content on the web page in question. However, should you wish to follow up with our Ontario Region about our Happy Valley Forest project, you are more than welcome to contact our Ontario Region, at Ontario@natureconservancy.ca.

  • Anonymous November 27, 2012 - 9:42
    I'm pretty sure i left a comment here that was then removed. So much for democrocy/freedom of speech.

  • Arul July 04, 2012 - 1:52
    I would like to be a member of this association. Kindly do the needful.

  • Anonymous May 06, 2012 - 9:52
    I loved learning about all the trilliums in Happy Valley. As a child growing up in southern Ontario, we looked forward to going out into our local woods to see trilliums and many other spring flowers. But I'm also happy to say that living here on the BC Gulf Islands, we also see trilliums in our wet, wooded parks. They don't hold the same significance for people in BC who treasure the dogwood as a provincial flower, but they are respected and encouraged through covenants on special places.

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