Short Hills Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
Visited
March 2021

Short Hills Provincial Park is located near St. Catharines along the Niagara Escarpment. It consists of several short hills and valleys created by the last ice age. It is a non-operating park so there are no visitor facilities or services, however, there are seven trails which are popular for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

We planned to hike along the Swayze Falls Trail (6.2km round trip, rated more difficult) which loops through the forest and open meadows and features a great view of the falls. We arrived just after 9a.m and parked at Parking Lot B at the western edge of the Short Hills just off of Roland Rd. It’s a relatively small parking lot and we managed to snag the last real parking spot. All other visitors would have to park along the side of the road.

From the parking lot, we walked down a short path to get to the trailhead. There’s a map here of all the various trails in the park and a sign to note that Trail #1 (Swayze Falls Trail, yellow) is to the left and Trail #3 (Paleozoic Path, red) is to the right. We veered left and planned to hike counter-clockwise along the Swayze Falls Trail.

We’ve had mild weather for the past couple of weeks and all the snow was now melted. Instead, much of the trail was a muddy mess. The first stretch wasn’t too bad as the ground was partially frozen. However, the sun was shining and quickly warming things up, including the mud. And oh was it muddy. It would only get worse.

The path is marked with yellow markers along the trees. Part of the trail overlaps with the larger Bruce Trail, so this section of the trail was also marked with white blazes.

The Swayze Falls Trail is a multi-use trail and is used to accommodate hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers. While all we saw was other hikers on the trail, there were bike and horse tracks in the mud. There were even a couple of horse stands along the trail for riders to tie up their horses in case they wanted a break.

The mud situation significantly improved on the second half of the trail when the path crosses an open meadow. It was far easier to avoid the mud and walk along the grassy sides.

The path eventually leads to a viewpoint of the falls near the end of the trail. Swayze Falls is also known as Dry Falls. Over the past 200 years the removal of the surrounding forest has changed the runoff pattern of the stream. Runoff now occurs quickly after a rainstorm of when snow melts in the spring. Within a few days the stream flow decreases and may actually disappear. Despite the mud, I guess it was a good thing that we hiked this trail in the spring to enjoy the waterfall before the falls went dry.

From the viewing platform, the trail connects back up with Trail #3, the Paleozoic Path (0.8km round trip). We followed this back to the parking lot since the path looked less muddy. The path is relatively flat and weaves through the forest. There are a few storyboards along the way which provide more information about the landscape and how it was shaped over time.

Thousands of years ago there were several streams that flowed across the landscape. As the water flowed into the buried gorge it began to wash out the post-glacial deposits and carry them into Lake Ontario. Along the edges of the former gorge, waterfalls such as Swayze Falls developed. Remnants of these deposits formed the Short Hills.

Near the end of the trail there’s a sign that provides more information as to how the park was created. This land once belonged to the Swayze family and was used in a variety of ways, including for vineyards, pasture lands, apple orchards, and hay crops. The steep valleys were impractical to plough and left to reforest. Many trees in Short Hills were even used for shipbuilding. In the 1960s, the Government of Ontario started to purchase land for a park. A Park Advisory committee was formed and after extensive public meetings, Short Hills Provincial Park was formed and formally regulated in 1985.

By the time we looped back to the parking lot, there was a long line of cars parked along the side of the road. We made an attempt to get as much mud off our shoes with a stick, before climbing in the car to head out. Despite the mud, it was a beautiful day to go for a hike.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

67 thoughts on “Short Hills Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    Love the horse stands, now if there was only a saloon with bat wing doors. I hear you on the mud situation. We always pack cleats at this time of year as the snowy trails turn to ice, but mud is starting to appear, so maybe some plastic bags and a change of shoes will be in order this week. This looks like a good place to get in a good walk. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We don’t see many horse stands these days, but yes, too bad there was no saloon. It’s surprising to see that even though the trails were muddy, there were a lot of people out hiking. Some of which were wearing terrible footwear for the mud and I’m sure were regretting their decision. Having a good pair of hiking boots and change of shoes afterwards is always a good call. Thanks for reading. Take care.

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  2. Ab says:

    It looks like a nice hike and I remember those nice mild March days. The muddiness must not have been a lot of fun but at least it got better as you went along. The viewing platform with the falls at the end looked like a nice treat for your walk!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve had pretty decent weather this March, except for last weekend of course. The funny thing was that the falls were located near the trailhead, so we could have dodged the muddy parts entirely if we had turned right instead of left and just turned around after the waterfall. But hey, sometimes it’s about the journey and not the destination. And we did come all this way for a hike. This way we got to save the best part of the hike for last.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        It most certainly is about the journey and not the destination! 🙂 The hike looked like a nice time in nature, in spite of the mud. And this weekend will be even nicer too. Next week is looking like 12+ weather every day!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Awesome!! We’ll have great weather for hiking this weekend. The trees are just starting to bud and the birds are chirping. Ford hinted yesterday that restrictions might be coming and that we shouldn’t make any plans for Easter. Hopefully the parks stay open.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        I’m hoping the parks and outdoor spaces stay open. People need it for their sanity. I’m really dreading the school closures again. I may just go on a hike and not come back. 🤣 Hope we can all go enjoy the trees and birds this weekend!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Yes! So many people, myself included, are just tired of this pandemic and how all the rules and restrictions seem to change every week. So many parents are going to be upset if the schools close yet again. We’ve actually booked a few camping trips in April (because it’s become next to impossible to reserve anything during the summer), so I’m really hoping parks stay open for day-use and camping.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        Agreed. Outdoor spaces are even more vital for everyone’s wellbeing. 🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻 they stay open even during a return to lockdown.

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  3. Boots on the Trail says:

    Ah, yes, snow gives way to mud and the ticks appear. That happens here too, so we have old boots ready for mud season. As for the ticks, well, we use our hiking sticks to fend them off the larger ones. 😉 But we can all start looking forward to leaves and wildflowers. 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve come to enjoy hiking in the winter as we don’t have to deal with mud, mosquitoes or ticks. But now that our snow is gone, the trails have become soggy, sodden and muddy. Thank goodness the bugs aren’t out in full force yet. And yes, signs of Spring are in the air and soon the trees will start budding and wildflowers blooming.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was such a great day to get outside and go for a hike. We made sure to wear our hiking boots as the trails are usually swampy and muddy this time of the year and brought an extra pair of shoes to change in afterwards for the drive home. We couldn’t believe how many people we saw hiking in just running shoes. It’s definitely feeling like Spring over here.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ourcrossings says:

    Looks like another lovely trail 🙂 With Nature slowly waking up, wildflowers beginning to bloom, tiny little leaves sprinkling the trees; early spring can be perfect for hiking. But in Ireland, it means lots and lots of mud due to the never-ending rain. Throw in a five-year-old toddler who would never pass by a puddle without jumping in it and you are set for a very messy hike. Cheers and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh gosh. We passed a couple with a toddler on the trail and they did not look like they were having any fun. The kid must have fallen in the mud and the dad had clearly picked the kid up at one point because his whole front was dirty. Yikes. While it’s nice to see the wildflowers beginning to bloom and trees bud, the trails are usually swampy and muddy this time of the year. Glad we wore our hiking boots instead of running shoes!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Especially after what felt like a really long winter. We don’t leave our apartment much since we’re working and living at home, so we try to go out at least once on the weekend for a hike to get some exercise and fresh air. We’ve had fabulous weather lately and signs of Spring are in the air.

      Liked by 1 person

      • carol hopkins says:

        I am so glad for you, that you are able to get out for a hike now and then. I wonder if people will continue to work from home once this pandemic is under control? It seem the way we work will be forever changed.

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Agreed. I imagine working from home is here to stay in some shape or form. Maybe not every day, but certainly a few times during the week. The vaccine roll-out across Canada is likely going to be delayed with the suspension of the AstraZeneca for people under 55. And now there’s talk that more restrictions are coming in Ontario (and other provinces). All of this is to say that we’ll likely not be returning to the workplace anytime soon!

        Liked by 1 person

      • carol hopkins says:

        No, unfortunately with the new strains of the virus spreading like crazy I’m afraid it will be a long time before it’s under control. Please take good care and stay safe!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s not looking good. Our premier announced yesterday a province-wide lockdown for the next four weeks. The rules are not as strict as the last ones which has us all scratching our heads. Our provincial parks are still open for day-use, no overnight camping though. We’re heading up to the cabin this weekend for some rest and relaxation. Take care as well. Happy Easter.

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      • carol hopkins says:

        I am so sorry for the people of Ontario. It is deplorable that with cases of the new variant rising daily that Ford is not taking more stringent action. Take care of yourself and enjoy the peace at your cabin.

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure, it’s frustrating to see our government not taking the situation more seriously. Unfortunately their actions are always so reactionary. Even then, it’s never enough. I’d rather go into a strict lockdown and nip it in the bud rather than have a pseudo lockdown every 2 to 3 months. I’m glad we have the cabin to escape to every now and then. It was lovely to get away for a few days and we had such fabulous weather. Nothing but blue skies and sun. Hope you had a wonderful Easter too.

        Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The waterfall was a bit of a letdown. We were expecting a heavier flow given that it was the Spring, but I’m glad we saw it before it goes dry. Either way, it was a nice trail (minus the mud) and beautiful day to go for a hike.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, it’s always good to take advantage of blue skies and sun and spend time outdoors. I’m glad we wore our hiking boots and brought a second pair of shoes to change into afterwards! I couldn’t believe how many people we passed that were just wearing regular running shoes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed. Despite the mud, it was still nice to go for a hike and enjoy the Spring weather. We don’t leave our apartment much these days, so we try to go for a hike at least once on the weekend. It’s nice to have something to plan and look forward to. Even if the trails are muddy. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Despite living in Ontario for my entire life, I’ve often overlooked it. The pandemic has really forced me to explore more of my own backyard and I gotta say, I’ve really enjoyed it. Northern Ontario is my favourite. The scenery is incredible and the hiking top notch. I would highly recommend a road trip along the northern part of Lake Superior.

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      • winteroseca says:

        Thanks for the tips! I don’t know yet if we will be able to make it to the eclipse in June in Northern Ontario/Quebec but I hope we can! Also, once the pandemic subsides, I would love to explore more

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Fingers crossed. It’s so hard to plan ahead these days. Even when you do, your plans may change depending on whether new restrictions come into place. We had a few camping trips booked this month, but they’ve all been cancelled since Ontario went back into a province-wide shutdown for the next 4 weeks.

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      • winteroseca says:

        I get it. Plus, even though my Dad has been vaccinated, we don’t know if he can visit Canada yet. Thanks for the heads up. It’s terrible what’s been happening in Ontario. If Alberta isn’t careful, they will go the same way

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Good point. Who knows when the borders are going to open up again for nonessential travel. Probably not anytime soon given that we’re in the third wave. I’ve been reading about how variant cases have been on the rise in Alberta. Hope your province does a better job of controlling the situation than Ontario. Our response has been lacking.

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      • winteroseca says:

        Well, I don’t think Alberta is going to do anything unless they are forced to. I am afraid it will be just like Ontario. It’s funny how you can really tell whether to blame a province (or state in the US) or the federal government

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was our first hike of the year without any snow! Spring is out in full force here in Ontario and hopefully right around the corner for you guys. At least you don’t have to deal with additional restrictions and rising COVID cases!

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  5. Poppy says:

    How funny, I visited this park a couple weekends ago as well. It was one of our hotter days in March and equally a lot of mud. The numerous short hills made for a good workout and the terrain is super interesting for Ontario – I forgot I was in Canada! I enjoyed reading about how the park was formed in your post 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      They don’t call it Short Hills for nothing! It was definitely a good cardio workout with all the hills and trying to (unsuccessfully) dodge the mud. Apparently you can walk down to the base of Swayze Falls, something I only found out about afterwards. Either way, it was a lovely trail. And yes, hard to believe that all of this is in Ontario! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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