Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in the Winter

Length of stay1 day
Visited
February 2021

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is situated along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario, which is a ridge of exposed bedrock that forms a great horseshoe that can be traced from Rochester, New York, northward through Ontario to northern Michigan, then down the west side of Lake Michigan and into Wisconsin and Illinois. It is one of 15 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada for its internationally significant ecosystem. Mono Cliffs is open year-round for day-use and features several trails that weave through the forest and provide great views of the cliff from above and below the Escarpment. Many of the trails are shared for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

We received a lot of snow over the week, including a major snowstorm Monday evening. So with nice weather on the forecast for the weekend, we figured what better way to enjoy all the snow than by going for a winter hike. We initially planned to visit Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, except by the time we arrived, the parking lot was completely full. There was even a park ranger at the main entrance who was turning cars away to prevent people from parking along the side of the road. Instead we drove to Mono Cliffs, which was also busy, but at least had some parking spots available.

There are a few parking options for Mono Cliffs. We parked at the main entrance along the 3rd Line EHS, however there are a couple of secondary parking lots on the western and northern edge of the park. From the parking lot we first hiked along the Carriage Trail (red trail), which winds through the forest and leads to a junction. There’s a map of the trail and a signpost to indicate the direction of the other trails that intersect with the Carriage Trail.

From the junction, we headed north along the Spillway Trail (purple trail), which passes a pond and crosses an open meadow.

The path is relatively flat and ends at the Walter Tovell Trail (blue trail) near the base of the cliff. We followed this for a short stretch to get to the Cliff-Top Side Trail (green trail), which overlaps with the larger Bruce Trail (marked with white blazes). From here it’s a steady ascent to the top of the cliff.

As a reward for our efforts, there’s a viewing platform at the top of the cliff that provides an excellent view of the valley below covered in snow. Even though the trails were busy, we had the viewing platform all to ourselves.

The Cliff-Top Side Trail continues along the top of the cliff and eventually meets back up with the Walter Tovell Trail. We followed this for a short stretch and passed a couple of signs that provide more information of the area, including about the early settlers. For thousands of years Mono Cliffs were visited by aboriginal people, but in the early 1800s British and European settlers arrived in this area shortly after the township of Mono was surveyed and used the land for farming. Even then Mono Cliffs were often used for recreational purposes, including picnics.

We took a detour at the set stairs to get back down into the valley and return to the main junction. It was a bit tricky getting down the stairs as many of the steps were covered in a thick layer of ice. We clung to the railings as best as we could and even shimmied down on our butts for a few of the smaller sets of stairs.

The trail continues to descend through the woods, which used to be a great icefield thousands of years ago. As it melted, large amounts of debris were released and some chunks of ice broke off, which formed kettle lakes, or depressions in the ground that were then filled with rainwater.

The stairs lead back to the Carriage Trail, which we followed back to the main junction. There are a few other trails within the park, some of which can be accessed from the main junction, but we headed back to the parking lot since we were getting hungry. And the trails were becoming even more crowded.

By the time we wrapped up our hike the parking lot was completely full. A good sign to head home.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

50 thoughts on “Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in the Winter

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We are sometimes quick to forget just how slippery the trails can be in the winter, especially along a boardwalk or wooden staircases. For a few of the smaller steps, we just slid down on our butts as that seemed like the easiest approach. We certainly got a few laughs from it. But overall it was definitely worth it for the views.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. kagould17 says:

    Lots of snow in your area in Feb for sure. Looks like a great hike with a nice view. I do like this area, but other than Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, have never spent much time there. There appear to be a lot of well marked trails. What kind of lengths are they. Stay well and thanks for sharing. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a decent amount of snow this winter, except it melted earlier than expected. There are some great hiking opportunities along and around the Niagara Escarpment. Many of these trails are also well marked. All the trails in Mono Cliffs PP are relatively short, except for the Bruce Trail, and range in length from 600m to 4.8km. It’s also nice how many of them intersect, so you can hike a shorter or longer loop depending on your preference.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ourcrossings says:

    Yes, I have to agree with you, with cold days and snow blanketing the ground, there is no better way to enjoy all the snow than by going for a winter hike. The weather forecast for Sligo doesn’t look any better – according to Met Eireann, we can expect wintry, blustery showers with hail, sleet and snow, and an ongoing risk of isolated thunderstorms. How is that for spring? Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve come to enjoy hiking in the winter. The trails are generally less busy and there are no bugs. All our snow has melted and many of the trails are now muddy. We’ve had a beautiful start to Spring and have had nothing but blue skies and sun over the past couple of weeks. This weekend is calling for rain though, so we’ll likely stay indoors and get caught up on some household chores. Best of luck with the rain, hail, sleet and snow! Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Bruce Peninsula is such a beautiful area. The terrain is rocky, but the views overlooking Georgian Bay are simply stunning. We’ve been to Mono Cliffs a few times through the different seasons and the winter is probably my favourite time to hike through this area. As with many parks these days, it usually becomes crowded during the weekends, even in the winter.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve hiked here before in the summer, but it was nice to return in the winter to see how the snow has transformed the trail and landscape. It was a lovely day to go for a winter walk in the snow. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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  3. Planet Paul says:

    Thanks for providing a bit of history.

    I always like to convince myself that I’m miles from anybody when hiking. It’s a treat not to see another soul for a couple of hours!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always neat to learn more about the history of an area, including how the landscape was shaped and once used by the early settlers. It’s been great to hike in the winter as we often have the trail to ourselves. Now that the weather has been getting warmer the trails are becoming much more crowded.

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  4. Ab says:

    Looked like a beautiful hike despite of and because the snow! 😊 I’m very tempted to drive out there this weekend for a hike. My classmates got to do the overnight school trips here years ago. We did Cedar Glen instead and just as good too although Mono Cliffs seems to have nicer trails!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Mono Cliffs is a great area to go for a hike. The Bruce Trail runs through the park and there are a variety of other side trails that are all connected so you can scale up or down depending on how long of a hike you want. I would recommend checking their twitter page beforehand (https://twitter.com/MonoCliffsPP) as they often reach full capacity on weekends now. I’ve been to Mono Cliffs several times over the past few years and this is the busiest I’ve ever seen it. And we visited in the winter. It’s crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        Thank you for the tip! We ended up staying home yesterday cuz we were all lazy. 🤣 And today is raining. I can understand and imagine that it’s very busy during the pandemic because are looking for nearby activities to do. I can imagine it being packed next weekend too for Easter! Will keep the Twitter tip in mind! 👍

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We ended up staying home this weekend too. The weather was very blah. I am looking forward to having Friday off for Easter. The weather forecast is looking promising. We’re planning on visiting the cabin for the long weekend and stopping at Sandbanks on the drive up and maybe Presqu’ile on the drive back.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        Fingers crossed for great weather this weekend! Your long weekend plans sound great. It had been years since we visited Sandbanks and it is so beautiful there. Presquile me a lot of it actually so it’s interesting you’re pairing the two parks together. Enjoy!!!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I haven’t been to Sandbanks in forever. It’s become next to impossible to book a campsite there even before COVID-19. We figure we might as well visit Sandbanks and Presqu’ile now because they’re only going to get busier during the summer!

        Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Mono Cliffs is a always good choice regardless of the season. I can’t believe how busy it’s become. They now have a twitter account that they update regularly to indicate when parking has reached capacity … which is almost every weekend now. I wonder if some parks will start requiring people to make a reservation in advance to visit, similar to what the Bruce Peninsula National Park implemented a few years ago.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Aww thanks. And yes, we are very spoiled in terms of how well marked our trails are. I am terrible with navigation, so I appreciate all the signage. It’s been fun hiking through the snow this winter. The trails are usually quieter and we aren’t bothered by any mosquitoes.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That they do. The hiking can be a bit more challenging in the winter with all the snow, but I much prefer it to hiking along muddy trails in the Spring, especially when the mosquitoes are out in full force. Our snow is now long gone. Glad we enjoyed it while we could.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve been to Mono Cliffs a few times over the years. This was the first time we’ve seen the parking lot pretty much completely full. And it was during the winter. I guess this is just a preview for what’s in store this summer!!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The trail network at Mono Cliffs is fantastic. Many of the trails are connected to form a shorter or longer loop depending on how much time you want to spend hiking. It’s especially beautiful in the winter when everything is covered in snow. You get a much better view of the surrounding valley from the lookout point at the top of the cliff. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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