In his diary, Lewis Carroll famously referred to days of special significance as “white stone days.” The day my five-year-old self moved from the city to a rambling, rented farmhouse in a hilltop meadow in Hillsborough - that was a white stone day. The day I moved back to Hillsborough, some forty-odd years and a fresh start later…also a white stone day.
Then again, in Albert County, every day is a white stone day. Literally. The hills that surround my house are full of gypsum, that chalky rock used in plaster and drywall. The dirt roads and paths are white with it. The brooks and streams are lined with it. The knolls and bluffs wear skirts of white scree.
As kids, the white rocks were a pervasive part of our daily adventures. We would scratch them from the earth while pretending to excavate dinosaur bones, pirate bones or giants’ bones. Bicycle baskets and windbreaker pockets were filled with the whitest of the white rocks, which were then used to build dams in ditches for corralling tadpoles, or for scratching hopscotches onto driveways. Sometimes the rocks would scratch back. Our skinned knees and elbows (proudly displayed badges of derring-do) more often than not featured ground-in flakes of gypsum.
The Hillsborough hills, with their abandoned gypsum mines, overgrown quarries, hidden meadows, sinkholes, caves, gullies and streams - all cloaked within a storybook forest - were the ultimate playground. With bikes and dogs, on foot and on horseback, we ranged along dirt roads, grassed-in wagon tracks, footpaths, and barely-there game trails. If we stumbled across a new trail, we followed it. Naturally. (I mean, that’s what trails are for, right?)
I grew up. Went to school. Moved to the opposite coast. I explored trails and forests very different from the ones I’d grown up with. I saw amazing landscapes and breathtaking coastlines. And I missed my white hills.
Whoever said you can’t go home again, clearly, was not from Albert County. The white rock hills have welcomed me back with all the rumpled warmth of an unmade bed. Not surprisingly, in the years since I’ve been gone, there have been some changes. A dirt track where we rode our bikes is now a street with houses. There’s a golf course. The trails in the hills have been mapped and named (including one named Viagra ?! Um, okay…). There are many new trails, routes and loops too, courtesy of the dedicated efforts of volunteers and local cycling groups. So I find myself exploring the same old hills with fresh eyes, their comfortable familiarity mixed with the promise of new discoveries and adventures. And every day is a white stone day.
Which is, of course, how I know that I’m finally home.
No matter what the season, the White Rock Recreation Area offers outdoor adventure opportunities for every activity level. Whether you enjoy a relaxed ramble, an exhilarating scramble, or an adrenaline-pumping mountain bike run, you’re sure to find a path that’s just right for you.
Walking, Hiking & Trail Running The trail system includes a variety of trail types that include dirt roads, wide trails, and woodland paths of varying difficulty and elevations. Take the family for a leisurely country ramble or lace up for a challenging cross-country run. Some trails – like Roots– have a black diamond rating (for mountain biking) and feature steep inclines, sudden changes in elevation, sharp twists and turns, and precarious footing (it’s called ‘Roots’ for a reason!), so check the legend on your trail map to ascertain the difficulty and length of your chosen route. (Tip: Take a photo of the Trail Map at the Area entrance.)
Mountain Biking The White Rock Recreation Area has been described as one of the best places to mountain bike in New Brunswick. The trails are maintained by the Codiac Cycling Club. You can check trail conditions and ratings on the Trailforks website/app.
Fat Biking & Snowshoeing No need to hibernate - winter is one of the best times to explore the White Rock Recreation Area. Groomed trails make it ideal for snowshoeing and fat biking. The snowy beauty of this place is dazzling, so don’t forget your camera!
Orienteering Diverse terrain, varying elevations, and unique topographical features combined with an extensive trail network to make the White Rock Recreation Area a world-class orienteering venue. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, test your navigational skills on a course at your level. Check with Orienteering New Brunswick for upcoming clinics and details about their annual Mastodon run.
Geocaching Explore with a purpose. Get the kids involved in an outdoor treasure hunt. Use GPS to discover caches hidden along trails. (Hint: you might find something around the Mastodon site.)
Nature Watching Name that flora and fauna! Grab your camera, binoculars and field guides…the White Rock Recreation Area is rich in wildlife, birds and foliage. How many can you spot and identify?
White Rock Recreation Area - Fast Facts
What: Multi-use, shared trail system.
Where: Golf Club Road, Hillsborough, NB
Trail type: Cross-country/mixed forest/varied terrain
Distinctive Features: Wooded, hilly terrain featuring white gypsum deposits, sinkholes, streams, lagoons, gullies and abandoned quarries.
Number of trails: 57
Total Distance: Approx. 40 km.
Difficulty: Easy to very challenging.
Dog-friendly: Yes. Please bring a leash and pick up after your pooch.
Motorized Vehicles: Restricted access. ATVs, dirt bikes permitted on designated trail sections.
Popular activities: Mountain biking, fat biking, orienteering, hiking, snowshoeing, trail running.
For more information on Trails, see Exploring Our Trails.