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Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

Skip Navigation LinksLake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority > Enjoy the Outdoors > Conservation Areas > Thornton Bales
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Thornton Bales Conservation Area​​​

​Closure Notice: Due to the recent weather system that swept through Southern Ontario on Saturday May 21, 2022, Thorton Bales Conservation Area will be temporarily closed until further notice. We are working diligently on repairs, which include the use of heavy equipment and chains​aws - it is important the public stay away for their own safety and to allow us to do our work. Updates will be provided on social media and on this page when they become available. Your patience as everyone recovers from the storm is appreciated.​​​​​​

​Thornton Bales Conservation Area is famous for its steep slopes and rugged beauty. This Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) is part of the Oak Ridges Moraine, and has an elevation that drops 54 metres from its southwest corner to its northern boundary.​

Nicknamed "The 99 Steps", this conservation area features an accessible lookout to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views at the ridge of the forest. No​w with exactly 99 steps (we dare you to count them) to get you from the top to the bottom of the ridge, visitors will descend to the Red Oak Trail - best suited to people who are in good physical condition and enjoy a challenge. Water bottles and supportive footwear with rugged soles are strongly recommended for hikers targeting these woodland trails. Among the wildlife that can be found in this ravine-like setting are pileated woodpeckers and white tailed deer.

Cyclists on the Greenbelt Route can​ stop, take a break and make minor adjustments to their bicycles at our new bike station, accessed from 19th Sideroad. As bicycles are not permitted on trails, this station also offers a place to secure your bicycle while enjoying the other natural features of the conservation area.

The Koffler-Bales side trail provides access from Thornton Bales Conservation Area to the University of Toronto’s Koffler Scientific Reserve at Joker’s Hill.

Fun fact: The change in vertical elevation from the ​top of the 99 steps to the bottom is a larger change in elevation than the drop over Niagara Falls!​​

Parking at Thornton Bales​

​​​Planning to visit Thornton Bales? With only 8 spots available, the parking lot fills up quickly.

​Because of the increase in visitors and our limited parking availability, we've noticed an increase in illegal parking along 19th Sideroad.

Please note that on-street parking is prohibited. Ticketing and towing are enforced by King Township at all times. If your vehicle has been towed please contact York Regional Police non-emergency line. 

Can't find a spot, try another lot!

A few of our larger conservation areas in York and Simcoe are less than 15 min. away from each ​other. Instead try Scanlon Creek in Bradford or Rogers Reservoir in East Gwillimbury.

Tap to Give

​An easy way to help maintain our greenspaces

​​Introducing tiptap Pay – an easy way to give $5, $10 or $20 to help us maintain and improve the Thornton Bales Conservation Area. 

When you see this sign at the entry kiosk on 19th Sideroad, be sure to tap your phone or card - it's a simple way to donate and help care for this greenspace. 

Donations go directly to the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation. Thank you for donating to a healthier Lake Simcoe watershed.​​

​The Thornton Bales Management Plan is now complete ​

What's a Management Plan? A guide that establishes how we'll care for a property in a way that balances recreation and conservation. Throug​h public consultations, goals and strategies are set to implement enhancements.

Management Plans are reviewed periodically to ensure the special green spaces we know you love stay healthy and accessible. View the final ​plan here​​!