When you're feeling ready to venture out for some fresh air and wide-open spaces, there are plenty of ways to plan a perfect outdoor adventure in Hamilton this summer.
The city's not shy about owning its industrial past, but it can also confidently brag about its incredible green spaces.
Set between the trails of the Niagara Escarpment and shores of Lake Ontario, the city's surrounded by breathtaking nature on all sides, with lush forest walks, world-class gardens, and endless waterfront -all within easy reach and minutes from the downtown core.
1. See More on Two Wheels
The rolling hills and country roads throughout Hamilton attract road cyclists to the area for group rides and training. Clara Hughes trained for the Olympics on the infamous Sydenham Road, with views of the Dundas Valley.
If off-roading is more your style, hit Christie Lake and mountain bike the 10 kilometres of groomed single-track before hitting the beach to cool off and relax.
Check it out! Treat yourself post-ride with a stop at nearby Detour Cafe in historic downtown Dundas for a perfectly roasted coffee with a side of freshly baked pastry or to-go lunch. Find out where to grab more picnic items nearby with our Dundas neighbourhood guide.
2. Down by the bay, where Hamilton's waterfront grows
Big things are in store for Hamilton's West Harbour, but in the meantime, come experience the beauty that's already there, from a scenic walk along the Hamilton Waterfront Trail to roller skating at the Pier 8 outdoor waterfront rink (with rentals closed for now, you’ll have to dig up your own vintage rollerskates). Then grab a table at William’s Fresh Cafe and watch the boats sail by.
Check it Out! Nearby Bayfront Park is a short walk or drive away and a must visit. The vast greenspace surrounded by a waterfront walking loop is a perfect summer escape for lounging, people watching, ball throwing, kite flying and chill summer hangs with loved ones. It's also a prime picnic locale. Grab some delicious grub from Hutch's famous for its burgers, fish n' chips, milkshakes and huge cones.
3. Take a Hike to See the Sights
Hamilton is a hotspot for hikers who come from near and far to tackle different sections of the Bruce Trail, which winds along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Many of these also connect to scenic trail networks through areas like the Dundas Valley and Red Hill Valley.
The beauty of Hamilton's many trails - is that they're all close to the city, which means easy to reach post-hike snacks and attractions!
Check it out! After you've worked up a thirst, reward yourself with a visit to one of Hamilton's many new breweries. Check ahead to see which patios are welcoming beer-loving patrons or grab a growler or case to go.
6. Blooms for Days at RBG
You don't need to have a green thumb to appreciate the manicured and wild beauty of Canada's largest botanical garden. Royal Botanical Gardens manages multiple locations, featuring both gardens and hiking trails. From Veggie Village at Hendrie Park to potential bald eagle viewing in Cootes Paradise, there is something for every nature lover.
Check it out! The Rock Garden is one of several jaw dropping gardens here. This one is steeped in so much Hamilton history, it was even designated a National Historic Site. Built in 1932 using rocks from the Niagara Escarpment, the garden is considered the birthplace of the RBG. Lose yourself in the quiet tranquility of winding paths in this bowl-shaped garden.
5. Swing into Summer
Soar above a forest canopy in Binbrook Conservation Area as you travel from tree to tree at Hamilton's newest outdoor attraction. Treetop Trekking offers up amazing courses and zip lines for every skill level and age along the shores of picturesque Lake Niapenco. Avoid disappointment and be sure to reserve online before you arrive.
Check it out! From way up high to back on solid ground (or in the water), Binbrook Conservation Area is now reopened for much of its regular recreational programming. Think fishing, beach hangs, paddling (bring your own non-motorized watercraft since still no rentals), and a splashpad for kids.
6. Get Your Nature On
There are 11 conservation areas in Hamilton, open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Each one offers unique topography, trails and activities, from the rehabilitated quarry of Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve to the 80-hectare Fifty Point on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Check it out! Plan to make multiple visits to Hamilton conservation areas? Consider purchasing an HCA pass to cover your parking and entry.
7. Check a Few Waterfalls Off Your List
Hamilton has become renowned for its super-scenic waterfall settings.
Surrounded by recreational trails, and some within hiking distance of each other (like Webster and Tew Falls or Felker's and Albion Falls), you can piece together a pretty nice day trip on foot or by bike.
* Do use caution when visiting the area's waterfalls. They are often located in environmentally sensitive areas, so avoid leaving marked trails and respect any closure signs.
8. Enjoy Country Life
Did you know Hamilton is almost 80 per cent rural? And many of the surrounding farms are open to the public, like Puddicombe Farms with its train tour of the estate. Throughout the summer and fall, look for pick-your-own programs, like Jerry's Berries in Copetown and multiple apple orchards.
Check it out! Get a behind the scenes look at the inner-workings of local farms with these full-day summer tours offered by Farmcrawl Hamilton.
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 Instagram @tara_e. Her blogs reveal 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.