Written by: Alex Pennington-Little
Badgers, the warmth and sun of Niagara is on its way out for another winter season, but the colours on the trees have yet to change! Why not make the most of the next couple of weeks of T-shirt temperatures and get outside and explore the beautiful escarpment?
There are a dozen or more hiking trails that can take you out of the Brock bubble and into the nature of the Niagara region. Below are some suggestions for places to visit to squeeze the daylight out of the last bit of summer weather.
1. MOUNTAIN LOCKS TRAIL
This one is right in the neighbourhood, easy to get to by bus on routes 4 or 18 at the Mountain Plaza stop.
This is a small, self-contained, and totally free area to explore. The Mountain Locks park is nestled in behind the Keg building on Glendale ave. There is an open park space with benches and picnicking area, but if you explore along the treeline you will find several trail openings. These trails all join up at random points in the wooded area, and culminate in a meadow of long grass. In these woods you may find a creek, a firepit, and the abandoned and crumbling locks now sitting on a dried riverbed. Rumour has it that these trails have a GeoCache hidden somewhere!
2. DECEW FALLS
Located on Decew Road near the Pelham intersection in West St Catharines, this site is one of the most popular for Brock students.
In the summertime swimming here is an option, but it is open for visits year-round. The falls still hosts the Morningstar Turbine, one of the early power-producing stations for the region standing since the late 1800’s! The upper area of the falls is accessible, but the rest of the trail is very steep and muddy – make sure you’re prepared for the hike you’re in for.
3. NIAGARA GORGE
Entrance near the Butterfly Conservatory on Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls.
This trail gets you up-close and personal with the incredible force coming from Niagara Falls. The gorge itself carved by the Niagara river has been curated to be a more comfortable hike, but don’t go into the trail lightly. The inclines are steep and the head of the trail is a ways from the riverside. The trip is worth it to see the whirlpools and the rocky gorge. While it is beautiful in the summer, autumn will show you amazing scenery with the changing colours, and luckily this trail is open year round, for free!
4. BALL’S FALLS
Niagara is a world of waterfalls. This Conservation ares used to be the site of the Glen Elgin community, a town planned to settle where the mills at Ball’s Falls were taking advantage of the power if the waterways. The town never came to be, but many of the buildings still stand as part of the conservation effort. Ruins of the original mills are found along the walking trails to the falls with informational plaques giving you a little background on the area. This hike is one of the easier ones, with more level trails and an emphasis on natural preservation.
There is a fee to park here, depending on the season it can be $18 or
$14 per car for the day, or $5/person – but the regional history found here is worth a visit.
5. ROCKWAY TRAIL
Located a short drive from Pelham Road in West St Catharines, the Rockway Conservation Trail is an access point in Vineland to the Bruce Trail. You can park for free at the Conservation building and enter the trail straight from the parking lot. This hike can be quite steep as it takes you into the forest, and to the Rockway Falls. Besides the waterfall you can follow the waterline through a series of rapids, and rumour has it that there is a salt spring bringing natural salts to the Niagara community for hundreds of years! This is a great trail for enjoying the changing foliage we have to look forward to, before the world ices over.
Not far from the Rockway Trail is the Pelham Road entrance to Short Hills, an official Provincial Park of Ontario that is curated and maintained year-round. Short Hills is perfect for anyone looking for some mountain biking, and has many different trails for different levels of hikers. This is a great park to explore and since it is maintained by the Ontario government, it is made accessible and enjoyable for many types of users including a picnic area, flat and semi-paved trails, mountain biking trails and deeper forest hiking routes. Short Hills can be an afternoon visit or a day-long event, and is free to use!
Make the most of what’s left of the warm weather and your running shoes – enjoy the Niagara escarpment in all its natural glory!