Hikes in Niagara
Packed full of beautiful waterfalls set along the length of the Niagara Escarpment, the Niagara region can be found within the Golden Horseshoe, an area along the western shores of Lake Ontario that is highly developed, but also features some striking scenery. Here, you will find beautiful forests, peaceful swathes of farmland, breathtaking waterfalls, and charming vineyards that effortlessly combine to form an exciting area for exploring the outdoors. Whether your next adventure is focussed on leisure or strenuous exercise, you can rest assured that a trip to Niagara/Hamilton will produce some amazing memories.
From the torrenting, world-famous waters of Niagara Falls to the 100+ smaller waterfalls surrounding the city of Hamilton, dramatic scenery abounds in this charming region. Easily accessible from the Greater Toronto Area, there are plenty of options to explore the wonderful landscapes here that range from cycling tours through picturesque vineyards, to rock climbing along the escarpment, and everything in between. You don’t need to be a seasoned adventurer to explore the terrain of southeastern Ontario; all you need is the willingness to step out of your comfort zone and experience all that this amazing region has to offer.
10 Epic Hikes In Niagara
A hiking trip through the Niagara region can take many forms; however, the Niagara Escarpment - a geological feature that was formed during the last ice age and dominates the southern part of the province - will likely be a prominent landmark throughout many of your adventures. The elevated and rocky terrain of the escarpment creates a stark contrast to the flat farmland and forests that can also be found in the region, making for a nice variety of terrain that offers a good amount of options when it comes to hiking trails. Thanks to this variety, both experienced hikers and beginners will feel right at home on the trails, and with plenty of beautiful and dramatic scenery, your next trek in the area is sure to be a memorable one. Check out this list of ten amazing hikes in Niagara/Hamilton that we’ve put together below:
- Niagara Whirlpool Trail: This quick adventure offers hikers the chance to check out the naturally occurring Niagara Whirlpool, formed over 4000 years ago and located just downstream of the famous Niagara Falls. Featuring charming forest scenery, this route descends some steep terrain into the Niagara Gorge for absolutely amazing views over the water.
- Ball's Falls Loop: One of the more commonly hiked routes in Niagara, this fantastic trail features charming historical buildings and an easy to navigate path. Remnants of old 19th century mining operations can be found throughout the area, complete with a village that can be explored by curious hikers. This is a wonderful hike for the whole family.
- Decew Falls Loop: Another route with great historical elements, the Decew Falls Loop will take you past a 19th century grain mill for views of a scenic waterfall. A quick and easy hike with plenty of beautiful scenery, this is a great adventure for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels and interests.
- Canterbury, Sherman, and Washboard Falls Hike: This awesome hike near Hamilton will truly show why it is known as the city of waterfalls. After making your way through a lovely bit of forest, you will pass by three stunning waterfalls set along the Niagara Escarpment, offering a great way to escape from the chaos of the outside world.
- Queenston Heights via Bruce Trail: A charming stretch of trail that sets out from Queenston Heights Park in Niagara, this hike will take you along the escarpment for some beautiful views and a good amount of exercise.
- Mount Nemo Loop: Located just outside of Burlington, this is another fantastic hike along the Niagara Escarpment that takes you uphill for stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Easy terrain and well-maintained paths make this a popular route for families to get out and explore nature.
- Scarlet Tanager to Hemlock Valley Hike: A lovely hike through Short Hills Provincial Park, this route will lead you across undulating hills and through beautiful swathes of forest, serving as the perfect means to escape the hustle and bustle of the city to reconnect with the natural world.
- Niagara River Recreational Trail: A busy but visually stunning route in Niagara, this trail will expose you to some of the most beautiful scenery along the length of the Niagara River, including the iconic Horseshoe Falls. This is a lengthy route; however, you can turn back at any time as it is an out-and-back format.
- Black Walnut and Swayze Falls Loop: Another beautiful hike through Short Hills Provincial Park, this time, you will pass through the charming forests on a loop that will bring you to a series of stunning waterfalls. There is a bit of steep terrain along this route; however, it is more than suitable for beginners that are looking for a challenge.
- Woodend Conservation Area Loop: This is a fantastic family-friendly hike that will take you through the wonderfully atmospheric forests along the Niagara Escarpment. While out on the trail, you will be surrounded by charming mature trees and massive pieces of rock that make up the escarpment, serving as a great way to get acquainted with the geology of the area.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Niagara?
Thanks to its location between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the Niagara and Hamilton regions generally experience milder winter weather than other parts of the province. This has the effect of lengthening the hiking season, creating reasonably favourable trail conditions from April through to November. While the height of summer will always be the time of year when trails are the busiest, hiking during the shoulder seasons is a great way to experience the beauty of the area without the throngs of other hikers and tourists. This also has the added bonus of more dramatic waterfall scenery in the spring and the lovely changing of foliage colours that comes with autumn.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Niagara Region
In addition to hiking, there are a number of activities on offer in the Niagara/Hamilton regions to keep you busy and enjoying the outdoors. Rock climbing along the escarpment, mountain biking, canoeing/kayaking, boating, and fishing are all popular summer activities, as are cycling tours through the many vineyards that can be found here. For winter sports enthusiasts, skiing (downhill and cross-country), snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice climbing on frozen waterfalls are great options to take advantage of the beautiful landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions About Niagara
Is Niagara Falls in Canada or the United States?
With three separate waterfalls packed into a small geographic area along the Niagara River, Niagara Falls is actually located in both countries. The American and Bridal Veil falls can be found on the American side of the border, while the much larger and more iconic Horseshoe Falls are located on the Canadian side.
Why is Hamilton called the city of Waterfalls?
Thanks to its location along the rocky, elevated terrain of the Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton and the surrounding area features over 100 waterfalls, providing its fairly apt nickname “the city of waterfalls”.
Best Hikes in Niagara
Decew Falls Loop
The Decew Falls Loop is a quick and easy adventure near St. Catherines that features some amazing natural and historic elements, making it appealing to a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts. While out hiking the trail, you will make your way past the site of an old 19th Century grain mill before looping through a serene stretch of forest to visit Decew Falls. Whether you decide to try this hike for the waterfall, the history, or the chance to just reconnect with nature, there is no shortage of fun to be had on the Decew Falls Loop.
Mount Nemo Loop Hike
The Mount Nemo Loop is an awesome adventure just outside of Burlington that will allow you to explore some of the rugged terrain along the Niagara Escarpment. While out on the trail, you will hike through the charming woodland landscape and make your way up the hillside to reach the edge of the escarpment for spectacular views overlooking the surrounding farmland of southern Ontario. This is a fantastic hike with spectacular views and easy to navigate paths, making it a great day excursion for the entire family.
Ball’s Falls Loop
The Ball’s Falls Loop is one of the most popular day-hikes in the Niagara Region due to its compatibility for hikers of all skill levels and fascinating historical buildings. The trail unfolds on the scenic Niagara Escarpment and takes hikers through a rich natural landscape, including waterfalls and the Twenty Mile Creek. Hikers can explore relics of the old milling operations that once thrived here, orchestrated by the prominent “Balls” family that settled the area. A fascinating 19thcentury village is available for hikers to explore, home to the Ball family home, a small church, various mills, a blacksmith shop and more!
Canterbury, Sherman, and Tiffany Falls Hike
Hiking the Canterbury, Sherman, and Tiffany Falls Trail is a fun, family-friendly experience near Ancaster that will take you along a stretch of the Niagara Escarpment to visit a series of waterfalls. While out exploring the trail, you will make your way through a beautiful stretch of woodland terrain, before visiting the Canterbury, Sherman, and Tiffany waterfalls. This hiking route is a perfect escape for when you need to get away from the city and reconnect with the natural world.
Queenston Heights via Bruce Trail
The Queenston Heights via Bruce Trail Hike is a fun adventure in Niagara Falls that will provide a bit of respite from the tourists and allow you to reconnect with nature. The trail sets out from Queenston Heights Park and leads you through a wonderful stretch of woodland terrain along the escarpment. This route is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon outdoors while getting some exercise in a peaceful setting.
Scarlet Tanager to Hemlock Valley Hike
The Scarlet Tanager to Hemlock Valley Hike is a moderate length route near St. Catherines that will lead you through the beautiful terrain of Short Hills Provincial Park. While out on the trail, you will make your way through serene stretches of woodland terrain and traverse some of the short hills that provide the park with its name. This is a quiet trail that is perfect for a weekend stroll to clear your head and reconnect with nature.
Niagara Whirlpool Trail
The Niagara Whirlpool Trail in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is best known for introducing hikers to the spectacular, naturally occurring Niagara Whirlpool. The Whirlpool formed over 4000 years ago and is located in the Niagara Gorge, which unfolds downstream from the world-famous Niagara Falls. The 2.1 km out-and-back trail leads hikers on a steep descent into the plunging depths of the Niagara Gorge, along an undulating trail, toward the Niagara River. Surrounded by beautiful forest scenery, hikers will be beckoned toward the rapids by the sound of the rushing whirlpool, turbulently swirling in the distance.
Niagara River Recreational Trail
Hiking the Niagara River Recreational Trail is a lengthy adventure in Niagara Falls that will take you through the city for some amazing views across the water. While out on the trail, you will head down to a viewpoint overlooking the iconic Horseshoe Falls before walking along the river’s edge to reach Queenston Heights Park. While long, this is a great trail for families looking to explore the beauty of Niagara Falls.
Black Walnut and Swayze Falls Loop
Hiking the Black Walnut and Swayze Falls Loop is a fantastic adventure near St. Catherines that will lead you through the beautifully scenic woodland setting of Short Hills Provincial Park. While out hiking the trail, you will loop through serene stretches of forest and experience views overlooking two charming waterfalls. Although there are a few sections with steep terrain, this is a great route for beginner hikers and families that are looking for a fun intermediate length trail.
Woodend Conservation Area Loop Hike
The Woodend Conservation Area Loop is a family-friendly hiking route in the Niagara region that will lead you through a lovely stretch of woodland terrain on a quick lollipop trail. While out on this hike, you will make your way through the tranquil atmosphere of the forest and traverse the rock strewn landscape of the Niagara Escarpment. Hiking this lovely forest trail is a great way to spend an afternoon escaping the city to reconnect with nature.
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