Length of stay: 1 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.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here
50 thoughts on “Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in the Winter”
Another scenic trail in beautiful sunshine. I can just imagine how slippery that long wooden staircase would have been but it must have been worthwhile for the views.
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.
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
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.
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 🙂
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.
I hiked part of the Niagara escarpment many years ago at Bruce Peninsula (if I recall correctly), but in the summer. It’s neat to see it in the winter!
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.
I’m still amazed that you hike in snow. Proud of you, but left in wonderment!!!!
Aww thanks. Prior to the pandemic we never really hiked during the winter. Now I’ve come to really enjoy it. It’s one of the few reasons we leave our apartment these days. We also figure that the parks are only going to get busier as the weather becomes warmer, so might as well visit some of the popular ones before the crowds take over.
You must have good boots!!
Oh yes. Warm and waterproof. We really should buy some microspikes to strap onto our winter hiking boots to give us more traction on the ice. It’ll have to wait until next year since all our snow is now gone.
Another one of your hikes with a scenic trail L! Hope you had a good time.
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.
Glad you had another beautiful hike in the snow!
For sure. Hiking in the snow can be a bit more challenging, but the trails are usually less busy, there are no bugs, and sometimes the views are better since there are no leaves getting in the way. Now that Spring is here, all our snow has melted and the trails have become sodden and muddy (and crowded!). I much prefer the snow over mud.
So, you have a Canadian slush fund going on right? Lol
Yes, but not nearly as bad as what you have in Calgary! Our snow mostly melts during the day and then freezes overnight, but at least no new stuff is being added!
Gotcha. Weather is weird!
That it is. Being so close to the mountains, your weather is weirder than most! With climate change I imagine it’s going to get even weirder.
I think you’re right!
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!
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.
We’ve visited this park before in the summer, but it’s amazing how different it looked in the winter when the forest is covered in snow. It’s a great area to hike and many of the trails are connected, so you can scale up or down depending on whether you want to go for a shorter or longer hike.
What a beautiful spot, and more so with the snow.
Agreed, it’s incredible how the snow can just transform the trails and landscape. The views overlooking the valley are probably better in the winter as there are no leaves on the trees.
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!
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.
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! 👍
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.
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!!!
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!
Looks like a great hike! I was wondering what mono cliffs would be like in winter and now I know 🙂
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.
One more nice post from you! Via your posts, I am always amazed how well organised and signed are the trails in Canada.
And of course, is really great to see all this snow 🙂
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.
The trails in the snow look so beautiful 🙂
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.
Yet another one of your posts that brings me back to my days in Ontario. I’ve only been to Mono Cliffs in summer. Your winter wanderings there look beautiful.
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!!
Another provincial park I have to visit…thanks
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.
I love that lookout point, what a great view.
Thanks, the lookout point was a great reward for hiking to the top of the cliff. It was especially scenic in the winter when the valley below was covered in snow and there were no leaves obstructing our views. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.
How beautiful. Would love to visit. My pleasure – love reading your blog!
Thanks for your kind words. The one benefit to the pandemic is that we’re able to explore more of the parks and trails in our own backyard, which has been a lot of fun. Take care.
Looking forward to your future posts and adventures!
Awww thanks. That’s very kind of you to say.