Distance hiked: 27.7km
Number of hikes: 2
The Niagara Section marks the start of the Bruce Trail. It spans across 80km from Queenstown to Grimsby. We initially signed up to complete the Niagara End-to-Ends section of the Bruce Trail back in May 2017. This event takes place over three days over the course of the Victoria Day long weekend every year. Rain or shine. We completed the first day but did not return for the second or third because of our lack of preparedness. And the weather? Maybe?
Below is a log of our hikes along the Niagara section.
All maps and kilometer references are based on the 27th edition of the Bruce Trail Maps and Trail Guide.
Hike #1 – May 2017
Map #4 and #5: 55.0 – 80.0km (distance hiked = 25.0km one-way)
We signed up to complete the Niagara End-to-Ends section back in May 2017. Well it turns out 198 other people signed up for the Niagara End-to-Ends as well. And apparently they pulled a United and overbooked the event. But we got a spot on the bus. And they (thankfully) strategically staggered the timing of each bus so all 200 of us didn’t start the hike all at once.
We met at the end of the Niagara section and parked along the road of some side street. We were then shuttled to the start of our hike at Ball’s Falls (what an unfortunate name) Conservation Area. We were the second bus to hit the scene. When we exited all the people who got off before of us were just standing around and getting their stuff together. So we took the opportunity to separate from the herd. Because that’s the worst when you’re behind a swarm of people who hike at a slower pace and there is little opportunity to bypass. Crisis averted. For the first 10km we maintained a pretty brisk pace. We even caught up to a bunch of hikers from the first bus and quickly left them behind. And the hike itself was quite enjoyable. The trail was relatively flat, there were lots of flowers in bloom, and we got to weave around a number of vineyards.
But around 15km in the terrain took a turn for the worst. Rocks everywhere. Rocks up a hill. Rocks down a hill. Always maneuvering over rocks. The Mountainview Conservation Area was the worst. And with 3km left the steepest downhill yet nearly had us in.
We definitely underestimated just how difficult this hike would be. We thought, 25km? How hard can it be? We’re avid hikers. We’ve hiked way longer and more challenging trails than this. But we also didn’t do much prep work beforehand. Sure, we went on a couple of hikes just over 10km long back in April. And we just came back from a week of diving in Bonaire. I guess we’re not as young as we once were.
We started our hike just after 7a.m and finished at 2p.m. But it turns out we missed some side street we were supposed to turn down for the final 100 to 200 hundred metres left of the trail. And when we reached the end the lady who was keeping track of completion rates wasn’t impressed. It’s as if she wanted us to turn around and walk the 100m or so down the actual trail. Listen lady, we’re pretty tired and in our knees and toes are in rough shape. And it’s not as if that part of the trail went through a wooded area or a field. It was along a road portion. Give us a freaking break here. After some awkward pauses she checked our names off the list as having completed the hike.
We did not return for the second or third day.
Hike #2 – March 2021
Map #3: 41.7 – 39.0km-ish (distance hiked = 2.7km one-way, 6.2km roundtrip)
Since travel options are limited (more like non-existent) thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, our goal for 2021 has been to visit as many Ontario provincial parks as we can. With warm weather on the forecast for today, we decided to drive to St. Catherine to hiking through Short Hills Provincial Park. The Bruce Trail runs through here, but 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 parked at Parking Lot B at the western edge of the Short Hills just off of Roland Rd.
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.
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 path eventually leads to a viewpoint of the falls near the end of the trail.
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.
Return here for more of our Bruce Trail adventures.