5 Ways to Get the Most out of the Ranch Property During a Retreat

By Elisa Dorman

Dozens of retreat groups come through the doors of Circle Square Ranch every year. From schools to ladies’ retreats, youth and young adult groups to choirs, leadership camps to prayer meetings, we get to host a lot of amazing people! As a retreat host, I get to see lots of creative programming, powerful bonding moments and great leadership. I also have walked almost every inch of our 350 acres of forest, lake and barn. So here are some tips to make the best use of this beautiful retreat center!


Take a hike

We have trail maps and offered guided hikes for those who want to be absolutely sure that they won’t go off the path.
High ropes trail is a great place to start. About 1.5 kilometers round trip, it winds through an old growth forest, passes tree houses (yes, you can go in!), jaunts through a stunning grove of Ironwood trees and then winds past “Big Rock” – an neat little lookout and climbing spot. The old growth forest is particularly stunning in winter when snow sticks to the trees.
If you are really up for an adventure, try Loping Trail. Named because there are long enough stretches for horses to lope (run quickly), this trail is the longest and goes deepest into the beautiful Frontenac forest. Beginning at the barn, hikers pass through a couple of lovely valleys and even hop rocks to get across a stream. Be ready for some mud if it’s rainy!
In winter, borrow some snow shoes and go for any of the same routes!

Do some animal loving

You don’t need to be signed up to go on a trail rise to enjoy the company of horses. Head up to the barn during your free time and meet some of our 26 horses along the fence of the horse paddocks. Watch the chickens peck about (the tail-less hen named Gretchen loves people). Then head over to the bunny pen and snuggle the bunnies. If you are lucky, you’ll be here in time to hold some little bay bunnies too. Before you go, be sure to give a scratch to our friendly barn cats, Lenny and Jerry.

Go to the lake at sunrise

The lake is pretty anytime of day, especially in summer and fall, but although the sun doesn’t rise over the water, sunrise draws up the mist over the water creating a breathtaking stillness that you will want to take in. On the way over, take the lower road and admire the incredible spider’s webs in the field beside the lower road (don’t worry, you shouldn’t encounter any spiders) and stop for a deep breath by the misty willow tree before the front gate.

Use the Upper Room

We have 3 main common rooms – the dining hall, the rec hall and the upper room. While most groups use the rec hall for main sessions because of it’s slightly larger capacity, if your group can fit, the upper room has lots of windows and is bright and beautiful.

Spring Creek Hopping

Should you arrive during the spring, there are a few creeks on property that are very peaceful and well worth putting on some rain boots and walking along. My favorite creek runs beside the archery pit towards the lake. To get there you follow the trail that is across from the beach and climb down the slope on your left, then walk along the brook itself.

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