Griffith Uplands Trail
We’ve been wanting to explore the Griffith Uplands Trail ever since it opened in 2010 as a hiking and snowshoe trail. As the name implies, it travels through the Griffith Uplands, an ANSI, or Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. Seeing the elevation profile in the region and the rugged terrain really pulled us in to take a day on the long weekend to make the 90 min drive north. We were not disappointed.
The trailhead is located just past the Madawaska River at the small town of Griffith. Traveling north on Highway 41, take a left on Hyland Creek Road immediately after passing the bridge, and just a few kilometres (2.2km) on the right you will see the well-marked trailhead. A large sign and map are in the ample parking lot. We were a little concerned when beginning the run as the trail overgrowth on the first kilometer was quite thick. Once crossing a snowmobile trail intersection, the trail improved significantly and was good for the remainder of the loop.
We were surprised with how long and steep some of the climbs were. Once we reached the top of the first climb up Lake Mountain we were treated to incredible views of the of the Madawaska River, Jocko Lake and other mountains below. While calling them ‘mountains’ might be a bit generous, that is what they were referred to and certainly some of the biggest hills/mountains in the area. The terrain reminded us a lot of Vermont.
The trail was well marked with blue blazes and easy to follow. We went off trail shortly a couple of times, but quickly realized our mistakes and got back on track within a few minutes. It meandered up and down, and also through thick stands of pine and oak trees. In abundance were wild sunflowers on the forest floors, as well as very large mushrooms in the darker, moister areas.
The beautiful ridge running sections of flat rock extended for long periods and provided good footing with more great views as it skirted along Buck Mountain and then turned back past the half way point to rise up again along Spring Mountain. Up on these higher, more exposed ridges the trees give way to lower shrubs. In fact, the highlight of the run occurred when we ran through a very large patch of wild blueberries that as luck would have it were in peak season. This mid-run snack was a pleasant surprise with the best blueberries we’ve ever tasted. We enjoyed our share, but left plenty for other trail users or bears to enjoy. We didn't see a bear today until our drive home when one lumbered in front of us.
At the top of the final peak, Godin Mountain, we came across another spectacular view that included a tree with dream catchers and other offerings attached to it. We felt the enduring history of this place and admired the thunderbird rock formation that had been created.
What this loop has in abundance is something we are increasingly valuing - trails which are lightly used. In this entire trail we only saw two other small groups - on a perfect weather day on a holiday weekend. The single-track is lightly traveled, drains well, is narrow and not chewed up by erosion of heavy traffic.
The final few kilometers of the loop were steep downhill that dropped us off of the high ridges and connected back to a snowmobile/ATV trail that featured good footing where we were able to open up our stride a bit. We needed to be alert on this segment though to find the final trail turnoff to take us back to the trailhead. Following the breadcrumb trail on our Suunto Spartan Ultra helped us to not miss the turn.
Finishing the run left us feeling thrilled that we’d found more incredible trail running in this area, but also looking forward to exploring this area further. The Griffith Uplands Trail is listed as 10 km, but we measured it at 8.7 km. With the amount of elevation change on the loop and technical footing it certainly makes for a formidable run for the distance. The option of connecting different other trails, snowmobile trails and peaks in the area, would allow you to extend this run significantly as well.
The Griffith Uplands Trail is a definite must do as a trail run when looking for some of the most beautiful trails and views in this part of the province.