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Hamilton’s Hottest Hiking Trails

Posted in #MyHamilton, Nature

Judging by how busy some of Hamilton’s trails have become, it’s obvious many are discovering the magic of this area that many of us have known about all along. There is a LOT of green space. And that means trails—for hiking, biking and even horseback riding. Some of them even take you past the city’s 100+ waterfalls. And with many of the routes being managed by organizations, like the Royal Botanical Garden, the Bruce Trail Conservancy and the Hamilton Conservation authority, it’s easy to find maps and suggested itineraries. Whether you’re hiking in time for spring blooms or the changing of the fall leaves, keep this list handy to help guide your Hamilton trails adventure.


 

Christie Lake

Christie Lake is basically a giant outdoor playground with a beach and disc golf, and great hiking trails. There is also a special area through the pine forest for mountain biking that was developed by the Hamilton Cycling Club with input from IMBA (the International Mountain Biking Association). There are about five kilometres of trails that range from beginner to intermediate.Christie Lake Trails
Trail map: http://conservationhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/03/CLCA-Brochure-2016.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Some doubletrack trails with gravel or dirt. Bike trails are a clay/dirt surface with a few rocks and roots and range in difficultry from easy to intermediate.
Length: There are 10 km of multi-use trails
Highlights: There is a bakery directly across the street from the conservation area entrance—The Tiny Bakery—with fantastic pies, Belgian cookies and other post-ride or post-hike snacks.
Map to parking lot 
Parking: $10 per vehicle and driver, free for Hamilton Conservation Authority pass holders


 

Devil’s Punch Bowl

The most popular feature of this hiking area, located in Stoney Creek, is the colourful, rocky gorge that is part of the Stoney Creek escarpment. It shows off over 40 million years of history with its layers of Queenston Formation red shale, grey shale and limestone and shale dolomite that were formed by inland seas. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls features the Upper Falls (a 33.8-metre ribbon waterfall) and the Lower Falls (a 5.5-metre classical waterfall).

Devils Punch Bowl Hamilton Waterfall
Trail map: http://www.waterfalls.hamilton.ca/Walks_PDF/DevilsPunchbowlBattlefieldCreekWalk.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Difficult—expect dirt, grass, wooden stairways and bridges.
Length: The trail is 2.5 km one way. You can also get on the 11.5-km Dofasco 2000 Trail through upper Stoney Creek that features a boardwalk through Vinemount Swamp Forest.
Highlights: Be sure to stop at the lookout for views of Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour. The Punch Bowl Market & Bakery is a great place to stop for fresh baked treats both sweet and savoury.
Map to parking lot
Parking: $2/hour per car or free for Hamilton Conservation Authority pass holders
Bus route: 5 – Delaware


 

Eramosa Karst

The word “karst” isn’t one you hear often, but there happens to be one that you can visit in Hamilton. According to Merriam-Webster, a karst is “an irregular limestone region with sinkholes, underground streams and caverns.” The first time visiting this conservation area in Stoney Creek, it’s fun to be on the lookout for the caves this area is known for that are scattered along the trails—it features the longest in Ontario at 335 metres. However do be careful going off-trail as many caves are underground and can fill with water after heavy rains.

Nexus Cave Eramosa Karst Hamilton

Photo provided by the Hamilton Conservation Authority

Trail map: http://conservationhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/03/EramosaKarstBrochurWeb.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: The terrain here is fairly flat, but watch your footing in some uneven areas.
Length: There are just over four kilometres of trails
Highlights: While in the area, check out the beautiful Albion Falls just a few minutes away. The cascading falls, flow down the Niagara Escarpment into the Red Hill Valley. And don’t miss the stunning views of the city from Mountain Brow Boulevard. Nearby restaurants and movie theatres are located at the Winterberry Plaza on Paramount Drive. Visitors looking for an overnight stay, can visit the beautiful C Hotel by Carmen’s.
Map to parking lot
Parking: $2/hour per car or free for Hamilton Conservation Authority pass holders


 

The Dundas Valley trail system

The Dundas Valley is a lush, hilly 1,200 hectares of forest featuring deciduous Carolinian trees, streams and a 40-kilometre trail system. The Main Loop Trail is a popular one, with several offshoot trails. The Bruce Trail and the 32-kilometre Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail also intersects the valley and runs past the main trail centre, with its covered pavilion. Take the Main Loop Trail to see the restored Hermitage Ruins and the Heritage Trail that leads to Canterbury Falls.

Hermitage Ruins Hamilton
Trail map: http://conservationhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2014/11/Dundas-Valley-Brochure-2016.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Moderate to difficult: Some parts are rooty and hilly, while others are fairly flat and even.
Length: Main Loop: 3.4 km; Heritage Trail 1.8 km.
Highlights: Plan to picnic at The Dundas Valley Trail Centre. It features outdoor tables and washroom facilities (when its open). Or, head right into Dundas and stop for drinks at Grupetto, Shawn & Ed Brewing Co., Detour (where there are hanging racks), etc.
There are a few places to park, but the main lot is here.  Map to parking lot
Parking: Check out this link as there are different fees for parking a horse trailer vs. a car. http://conservationhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/12/DVCA.pdf
Bus route: https://www.hamilton.ca/hsr-bus-schedules-fares


 

Sassafras Point Trail in Churchill Park

Venture into Hamilton’s Westdale neighbourhood of shops and restaurants and it might not be apparent that behind it, lies a forest with a few different hikeable loops. These trails are part of what’s known as Cootes Paradise, an 840-hectare sanctuary for animals, birds, and marine and plant life that’s managed by the Royal Botanical Garden. There are 27 kilometres of trails to explore. A popular one is the Ravine Road/Sassafras Trail, which you can access from McMaster campus, or park by the aviary and hike up Caleb’s Walk to Ravine Road Trail, which turns into Sassafras Point Trail. At the end, there will be views of Princess Point.

Sassafras - rbg-markzelinski.com-159
Trail map: http://www.rbg.ca/files/pdf/gardenareas/trails/CootsParadiseTrailMap.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Moderate, with a couple of short-but-steep hills
Length: 3.4 km – about one hour out and back.
Highlights: This is a great area for families given its proximity to the restaurant, shops and café’s in Westdale neighbourhood. You can also see if there are any birds out at the Aviary or head to the Churchill Park playground. You also get an insider’s view of Cootes Paradise from the tip looking towards the York Boulevard bridge.
Map to parking lot
Parking: There is metered parking on Oak Knoll Drive in Westdale, which is free to Royal Botanical Garden members.
Bus route: 51 University, 5 Delaware


 

The Escarpment Rail Trail to Albion Falls

This path that leads from downtown Hamilton up above Albion Falls was established in 1993 on an old CN rail line. It is also part of the Trans Canada trail network. The main route is paved and on a gradual slope, which makes it perfect for families on foot and with bikes.  Visitors are asked to stay on marked paths and avoid entering prohibited areas.

Rail Trail Hamilton

Trail map: https://www.hamilton.ca/sites/default/files/media/browser/2014-11-25/bike-routes-escarpment-rail-trail.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Easy to moderate—Paved with some tar/chip surface and a gradual slope
Length: 9 km
Highlights: From here, you can also get onto the Bruce Trail which follows follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, one of the thirteen UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada.
Map to parking lot (you can get on the trail at Corktown Park):
Parking: Corktown Park at Ferguson Ave / Young St
Bus route: Several HSR routes go past the park.


 

Albion Falls/King’s Forest Walk to Red Hill Valley Recreational Trail

If you want to make a day of it, you can keep going once you get to Albion Falls from The Escarpment Rail Trail (see above). Or, you can park and set off on a fresh hike, starting at Buttermilk Falls with a side trip to Albion Falls and then heading out on the Bruce Trail.

Albion-Falls-Hamilton

Trail map: http://www.waterfalls.hamilton.ca/Walks_PDF/AlbionFallsKingsForestWaterfallWalk.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Mix of gravel, soil, boardwalk, etc. Quite hilly in the King’s Forest section.
Length: 6.2 km (Red Hill Valley Recreational Trail is 10.5 km)
Highlights: Be sure to check out the stunning views of the city from the top of the escarpment ridge along Mountain Brow Boulevard. There are lots of benches with great lookouts along the route. Nearby restaurants and movie theatres are located at the Winterberry Plaza on Paramount Drive. Visitors looking for an overnight stay, can visit the beautiful C Hotel by Carmen’s.
Map to parking lot
Several parking lots available to visitors including off Mountain Brow Blvd. and Arbour Road. See map link above.
Bus route: 21 Upper Kenilworth


 

Webster Falls and Tew’s Falls, Dundas

This area is probably THE hiking hotspot in Hamilton (it’s not uncommon to see a bus dropping people off). This congestion is the reason why parking has now been restricted for the busy summer season (see below). For this reason, you may want to come during the week. Also, since a part of the Bruce Trail was closed, you now have to take the road to get between two of Hamilton’s more popular waterfalls: Webster Falls and Tew’s. It’s from this latter ribbon waterfall that you can make your way up to the Dundas Peak. At the top you’ll be rewarded with a pretty spectacular view of the Dundas Valley. Come in the fall to take in the magnificent colour of the leaves.

Websters Falls Hamilton
Trail map: http://conservationhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/06/Spencer-Gorge-Brochure-2016.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: Moderate
Length: 1.3 km from Tew Falls to the Dundas Peak
Highlights and tips: Check out this Spencer Adventure map, a longer route that was created to combine history and nature. Head into Dundas for refreshments (see Dundas Valley).
http://conservationhamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/06/Spencer-Gorge-Brochure-2016.pdf
Map to parking lot
Important note about parking: May 6 to Oct. 29, on weekends and holidays, all parking for Spencer Gorge/Webster Falls Conservation area is at Mizener’s Antiques and Fleamarket, located at 367 Highway 5 West (the regular parking areas are closed, with the exception of Webster Falls parking, which is only available to those with accessible parking permits). A shuttle will take visitors to Greensville Optimist Park where you can go to Webster Falls and Tew’s Falls (to get to the Dundas Peak). There is no trail access between these two trail systems. Wristbands will be distributed to those who pay at Mizener’s—$10 per car for parking and $5 per person admission. HCA passholders receive two walk-in admissions per pass, but the parking fee will still apply. The wristband gets you in to other Hamilton Conservation Authority sites, as well, except Confederation Park.

Hamilton Conservation Authority has full shuttle details here.


 

Hike to Sherman Falls

This hike allows you to see a couple of waterfalls. If you park at Tiffany Falls, it’s a short walk to see the falls (in the winter, this is the waterfall that the ice climbers come to). Then, carefully cross Highway 2 (Wilson St.) to do the Sherman Falls hike, which is part of the Bruce Trail. This will take you the 17-metre-high curtain waterfall that is named after the founder of Dofasco, one of the city’s steel companies. It’s on private property, but along the Bruce Trail, so you can see it.

Sherman Falls Hamilton
Trail map: Tiffany to Sherman Falls hike map
Difficulty/Terrain: Moderate
Length: A short 1.5 km walk from Tiffany to Sherman Falls
Highlights: After your hike, be sure to visit nearby Ancaster village. This historic downtown features Fieldcote Memorial Park & Museum, a cultural heritage centre showcasing local history and natural heritage, and many great restaurants and cafes, including Ancaster Mill, Rousseau House, Coach and Lantern, Cavallo Nero and Caniche French Bakery. Overnight visitors, can lay their head down at the newly opened historic inn Barrack’s Inn.
Map to parking lot: There are a couple of places to park. The Tiffany Falls parking lot will allow you to see both falls or the lot on Arteban Road, which will then allow you to hook up to the Dundas Valley trail system.
Parking: $2/hour


 

Chedoke Radial Trail

The Chedoke Golf Course off Aberdeen is a popular meeting point, not only to hike the Chedoke Radial Trail up the escarpment, but also to work out on the 289 Chedoke Stairs that give you a direct route to the top of the escarpment. The trail is also is part of the Bruce Trail, with side sections that go off the main Rail Trail.

Chedoke Radial Trail Hamilton
Trail map: https://www.hamilton.ca/sites/default/files/media/browser/2014-11-25/bike-routes-chedoke-radial-rail-trail.pdf
Difficulty/Terrain: There is a slight grade as you walk or ride up the escarpment, but rail trail itself is dirt.
Length: 12 km
Highlights: Check out the Lower/Upper Chedoke Falls (there is a new viewing platform at the top on Scenic Dr.).
Map to parking lot
Parking: Most people will park at Chedoke Golf Course and start their hike from there.
Bus route: 6 Aberdeen


 

The Waterfront Trail

Hamilton’s waterfront used to be an industrial zone, but in recent decades, much of it has been revitalized. The Waterfront Trail, for example, is a great place to bring your family on foot, bikes, strollers or rollerblades. Come in the late spring and you’ll see baby swans and ducks along the shores of the bay. Bring a picnic as there is lots of green space where you can eat at Bayfront Park or head to one of the restaurants at nearby Pier 8 or along James Street North. Check the Tourism Hamilton site ahead of your visit to see if it coincides with any summer festivals or events.  (Note: the trail is in the process of being re-opened after heavy rains and high water levels forced its temporary closure this summer).

Bayfront Park Rollerblading

Trail map: https://www.waterfronttrail.org/hamilton#local-map
Difficulty/Terrain: Paved and smooth
Length: 7.5 km
Highlights: A trolley tour is a great option for seniors and families who want to discover the trail from the comfort of an open air trolley ride, narrated by a guide. http://www.hamiltonwaterfront.com/2011/11/01/hamilton-waterfront-trolley/ The HMCS Haida features free admission in 2017 as part of Parks Canada’s Canada 150 program. Food-wise, Williams Fresh Café is a great place to refuel when you’re on a long walk or ride. And don’t miss the rollerskaters, out at Pier 8’s waterfront rink, skating to music on many summer evenings.
Map to parking lot
Parking: There are various free and metered parking lots along the route including Bayfront Park and Princess Point. 
Bus route:  The trail is well serviced by bus routes. Enter your starting address in the HSR Trip Planner for details.

The City of Hamilton encourages all visitors to enjoy the city’s trails and waterfalls safely and has provided following resources:


Tara NolanTara Nolan is a Dundas-based freelance writer with a passion for exploring the outdoors. Tara loves to write about mountain biking, gardening and other active pursuits for a variety of print and online publications. Follow her on Twitter @thattaranolan and Instagra @tara_e. Her blog The Outdoor Explorer reveals Hamilton’s stunning outdoor spaces, from nature trails and waterfalls to conservation areas, farms and gardens. Whether you want to walk, hike, bike or paddle, discover where to seek out your next outdoor adventure – all minutes from the city’s core.

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