“Keep your eyes on the road” is definitely wise advice for drivers, but when it comes to hiking in Hamilton Halton Brant, casting your gaze on the beauty beyond the trail is highly recommended. Looking a little farther afield while exploring the region’s footpaths is the best way to take in breathtaking Niagara Escarpment views, scenic Grand River shorelines, rushing waterfalls and an incredible assortment of furry and feathered friends. With hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails to choose from, deciding what you’d like to see first is a great way to narrow down your many options. Here are some of our favourite trails categorized by the surrounding sights that await.
I want to see:
Craggy Niagara Escarpment cliffs and cool rock formations
The Nassagaweya Canyon Trail is a 4.6-km path that runs between Crawford Lake Conservation Area and Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area. A roundtrip hike between the two parks will take between four and five hours on a trail that is a combination of hardpacked dirt, gravel, rock, and boardwalk. Make your way carefully along the limestone cliff edge at Rattlesnake Point and you’ll see cedar trees that are believed to be at least a thousand years old.
The Eramosa Karst Conservation Area in Stoney Creek has seven kilometres of trails that showcase some incredibly cool rock formations of the Niagara Escarpment including caves, sink holes, a natural rock amphitheatre and an old quarry.
I want to see:
Rushing waterfalls that don’t feel like touristy hot spots
Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area offers one of the most amazing sights of the Niagara Escarpment. It was created at the end of the last ice age by huge streams that plunged over the Stoney Creek Escarpment and carved out the Punchbowl. The Lower Falls is a 5.5-metre classical waterfall, and the main Upper Falls is a 33.8-metre ribbon waterfall. Head to the lookout at the top for a spectacular view of Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour and then look down into the deep gorge. From the conservation area you can access the 11.5-km Dofasco 2000 Trail, which also connects to The Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath.
Hilton Falls Conservation Area is home to 16 km of hiking trails and, as the name suggests, the 10-metre waterfall you’ll find here are is a definite highlight. The Hilton Falls trail is marked in yellow and at just 4 km is an easy walk for even the inexperienced hiker. Those who want to make a longer trek can tack on the 3-km Red Oak Trail or the 9.5-km Beaver Dam Trail. Bring some birdfeed if you’re hiking in the late fall or winter as the friendly Chickadees here have been known to eat right out of the palms of hikers’ hands!
The Spencer Adventure is an amazing hiking experience that showcases 450 years of history. Along the route you’ll pass Webster Falls and Tew Falls and also be treated to one of the region’s most stunning views at Dundas Peak (search #dundaspeak on Instagram for a preview of the view in your future). Because this is a popular hiking destination, there is now a shuttle service in place to help manage car traffic and parking from May through October. For complete details, check here before you go.
I want to see:
Cool blue Grand River shorelines
Brant Park is nestled in a bend of the Grand River between the historic communities of Brantford and Brant County, and just a few minutes away from the First Nations territories of the Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit. There are grass trails along the river bank that make it easy to spot Grand River wildlife. Just outside the park you can hop on the Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway, which leads to the SC Johnson Trail and Grand Valley Trail for longer hiking options.
The SC Johnson Trail runs 14 kilometres between Paris and Brantford. There are several scenic lookout points with beautiful Grand River views and the trail also takes hikers through farm fields and rare prairie grasslands. A brochure provides a map of the route as well as additional Rail Trails in the area that are great for cycling.
The Grand Valley Trail is a marked footpath that runs 275 km from Lake Erie to all the way to Alton, which is just outside Orangeville. The section that runs through Hamilton Halton Brant is called the Carolinian section in recognition of the rare Carolinian forests found along the trail in this section. Trail guidebooks can be purchased online.
I want to see:
Creatures, critters and winged wonders
With over 27 kilometres of trails, Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington could keep hikers happy for days, but those looking to encounter some wildlife on their walk can opt for an express route by heading straight to Cootes Paradise. For several springs now, bald eagles have nested here. The Marsh Boardwalk is the best point for viewing them. The Cootes Paradise Fishway is another great stop while you’re in the area. Visit in early April to watch perch, pike and trout as they return from their lakeside homes to spawn in the shallows of Cootes Paradise Marsh and Spencer Creek.
Mountsberg Conservation Area’s Wildlife Walkway is a great short hike to introduce smaller children to the fun of a nature walk. It’s only 1.6 km long, and the raptors, bison, goats and horses they’ll encounter along the way will keep those little legs moving with no complaints!
Another great kid-friendly hiking destination with a healthy dose of four-legged fun is Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville. The park has five different trails, all of which are two kilometres or less. There’s also a Children’s Play Barn with friendly farm animals. Visit during the late winter when the sap is running and treat hungry hikers to a pancake breakfast with fresh maple syrup made right on site.