We spend the whole summer “putting things on ice” and then when winter arrives, many of us shy away from the cold and hide indoors. But in Hamilton, there are a lot of fun things to do outside if you embrace the cold-weather months. The city’s many wilderness areas are transformed into a veritable winter wonderland that is ripe for exploring on two wheels, two skis, two snowshoes—you get the idea. The key is to layer up—best be overdressed than underdressed! So, choose the activity that’s going to get you out the front door and try one (or all) of these wintry made-in-Hamilton adventures.
1. Pedal through the snow on a fat bike
Over the last few years you might have seen the odd fatty (as they’re often called) pass you on the trails. However fat biking is quickly becoming a bonafide winter sport. These two-wheeled beasts, with their extra-wide tires, power through snow and slush and allow cyclists of all abilities to continue to ride throughout the winter while their road or mountain bikes enjoy hibernation. And there are ample places to try them out for yourself around the city.
Downtown Bike Hounds also has a couple of fat bikes to rent. From that shop you can ride up John Street to the escarpment and hit all the trails around Chedoke Golf Course and if you’re so inclined, hook up to the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail.
2. Float through fresh powder in snowshoes
There’s nothing better than that feeling of being the first on a trail after—or during— a fresh snowfall. Snowshoes get you out walking in the woods without it feeling like a slog when the snow is especially deep. Head down to Cootes Paradise and along the Waterfront Trail (before it’s been cleared) or choose to explore a section of the Bruce Trail, which winds its way throughout the Hamilton area.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Adventure Attic in downtown Dundas throughout the winter.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, wait for a new snowfall and head out at night. Bring a headlamp, but it’s likely the snow will be bright enough to light the way!
3. Glide through the woods on cross-country skis
Christie Lake Conservation Area is a great place to bring your cross-country skis for a little trail action. Routes are multi-use and self-set. After working up an appetite, you can hit The Tiny Shop Bakery directly across the street from the gates for some well-earned, freshly baked goodies to take home.
Valens Lake Conservation Area offers 10 kilometres of cross-country trails and, if you are REALLY into winter, they offer winter camping from January 1 to April 30!
The Dundas Valley Rail Trail is another great place to cross-country ski because it just keeps going and going… Technically you can glide all the way to Paris!
MEC Burlington offers cross-country ski rentals. They are also holding a couple of rental days throughout the winter right at Christie Lake and Valens.
4. Climb a frozen waterfall
Yes, you read that right. Once Tiffany Falls in Ancaster freezes, members of the Alpine Club of Canada and those taking a course with the adventure company OneAxe Pursuits are allowed to scale it.
5. Practice your figure eights at an outdoor rink
Hamilton has over 30 outdoor rinks that are run by community volunteer committees, as well as the Hamilton Waterfront Outdoor Rink at Pier 8 where skate rentals are available.
And brand new this year is a picturesque 425-metre-long outdoor skating loop running through the forest in the Cedar Loop of Valens Lake campground. How’s that for a winter wonderland?
Even if you’re not up for something too athletic, you can still enjoy the outdoors in Hamilton by taking a winter walk (or hike, depending on the route you choose). Opt for an amble along one of the Royal Botanical Garden’s 27 kilometres of nature trails, which are open to passive recreation only (meaning no cross country skiing or biking). Another great option is to visit one of the area’s spectacular frozen waterfalls.
No matter which wintertime activity you choose to partake in, be sure to make hot chocolate a mandatory part of the itinerary!
Tara 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.