About Trails

Trails' "Four Seasons, Four Years, For Life" outdoor program builds confidence through skill development, high school credits, bursaries and mentorship. We challenge and equip vulnerable youth to become contributing members of the community.

Youth Skating

Founded in 1992, Trails has over 500 graduates. It costs $1.3 million a year, all raised through private funding. We foster community, emotional intelligence, and self-knowledge through outdoor experiential education. We focus on growing skills such as conflict resolution, leadership, critical thinking, and reflection. With our focus on transference, participants build a positive engagement with Trails, the outdoors, and their authentic selves. Through equal parts challenge and opportunity, Trails doesn’t aim to just make a difference, we change lives.

How we started

Our History

  1. 1992

    Trails Youth Initiatives became a registered charity with 46 youth enrolled, operating at Kettleby

  2. 1997

    Trails partners with the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority and commits to a lifetime property lease at Trails Lakeside in Stouffville

  3. 1998

    Rotary Club of Toronto Eglinton builds the main lodge

  4. 2000

    Initiated 5th year Leader In Training (LIT) program. Establishment of the Trails Dion Bursary and Wendy Anderson Bursary

  5. 2001

    14 of 20 Trails graduates received the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. Designated as a Privately Inspected School by the Ministry of Education

  6. 2007, 2008, 2010

    Recipient of the Toskan Casales Youth Philanthropy Award

  7. 2010

    Founder, Jim Hayhurst Sr. and Jack Cockwell, Group Chairman at Brookfield Asset Management Inc. form Trails Board of Governors. Became accredited with the Ontario Camping Association

  8. 2013

    Developed the Outreach Program in partnership with York Region District School Board

  9. 2015

    Formalized the Mentoring program for all grade 11 and 12 students

  10. 2017

    Doubled enrolment, recruiting an additional 20 (total 40) year 1 participants. Built Hilltop cabin, Tabins and a lodge addition; developed the Alumni Association, created the FIT program

  11. 2019

    Created the Hurst Legacy Award, first recipient: Warren Clarke. Achieved a 100% efficacy rate for Social and Emotional Skills by the Impact Genome.

  12. 2020

    Recognized as one of Maclean's Best Canadian Charities. In response to COVID-19, the creation of Virtual Trails, Trails City Day Camp and Family Camps

  13. 2021

    Formalization of the FOR LIFE Program and development of FORward Resources

  14. 2026

    Full contingent of completed expansion, 176 youth enrolled annually


Challenge & Equip Youth

  • Mentoring Icon

    Trails provides youth with opportunities to play, learn, and grow in the outdoors.

  • Hiking Icon

    Trails cultivates resilience, leadership, connections and compassion through inspiring and challenging journeys of self-discovery in the natural world.

  • Empower Icon

    Trails levels the field by empowering all children to recognize their potential and realize their dreams.


Our Core Values

Trails was founded with “3 Key Factors to Success” and with the following guiding principles. 

  • Emotional and Physical Safety

  • Fun

  • Roots and Wings

  • Long-Term (4 Years)

  • Consistent (4 Seasons)

  • Big Impact

    A big impact on a few, rather than a small impact on many

Trails recognized as Top Charity in Canada as published by Maclean’s and Moneysense magazines

Macleans Top Charity Top Charity 100 MoneySense Top Charity Top Charity 100