Niagara is full of amazing places to get outside and explore; we are lucky to have conservation areas filled with walkways and wildlife, scenic walking and biking trails, and tons of hiking paths that snake and meander through some of the best scenery this province has to offer.
This is Canada’s oldest and longest footpath, and the Niagara portion of it stretches from Queenston to Beamsville. Planned hikes are available on pre determined days, or you can hike solo whenever you want. Badges are given if you register and then complete the entire Niagara section of the trail. If you are extremely ambitious, you can sign up to hike the entire trail from end to end. To put it in perspective, if you hiked for 8 hours a day, it would take approximately 30 days to finish the entire trail. There is no set time limit for doing an end-to-end hike, you could take thirty days or thirty years, and either way, you still get the coveted badge at the end. Maps are available online from the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
The Waterfront Trail stretches from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Quebec, following the shores of Lake Ontario. The Niagara portion begins in Niagara-on-the-Lake and goes through St. Catharines, Lincoln and
Grimsby. The trail varies between off road paths and streets in residential neigbourhoods. It is a multi use trail and is good for cycling, walking or rollerblading. Trail maps are available online from the Waterfront Trail official website.
St. John’s Conservation Area
There are four different trails here, all marked by different colours. You’ll be able to see the old growth forest, a large collection of Tulip Trees, a large pond with fish, turtles and frogs, and lots of other beautiful scenery. Some of the paths have wheelchair accessibility. Located at 3101 Barron Road, between St. Catharines and Pelham.
Rockway Conservation Area
Protecting a portion of the Niagara Escarpment, this conservation area is a great spot for hiking, as it’s not too busy, and is hidden halfway between Jordan and St. Catharines. Parking is available on 9th Street or Regional Rd 69 at the Rockway Community Centre. You can hike along the 15-mile creek and enjoy the views of many different kinds of trees, as well as two different waterfalls. There is also the remnant of a salt spring that makes the area quite historically significant as the spring was thought to be used as far back as 1792.
Short Hills Provincial Park
Short Hills is a huge 735-acre natural environment park, which covers parts of St. Catharines, Pelham and Thorold. It’s a great place for hiking and mountain biking, and trails are marked according to which activity is permitted on the trail. This is an area where it is extremely important to stay on the marked path, as it’s very easy to get lost in Short Hills (I speak from experience; I have had to be rescued not once, but twice from Short Hills. I didn’t even knowingly leave the marked path, so fellow directionally challenged people beware) Parking is available off Pelham, Roland and Wiley Roads.
This beautiful area set in Twenty Valley got its name from the family that originally lived there. In addition to being able to see the original home, restored church, an operating flour mill, a lime kiln, a black smith shop and carriage shed, there is also a recently opened Centre for Conservation, which has many interactive exhibits and programs. Several trails run through the area, and maps are available online, which will lead you to the various points of interest, as well as the upper and lower falls.
Louth Conservation Area
Located along 16-mile creek in Lincoln County, the trails in this conservation area are lined with rock formations, some impressive waterfalls and if you are lucky, filled with the sound of singing songbirds. There is a small parking lot located on Staff Ave.
These hiking trails run right along the Niagara Gorge, and through four kilometres of Carolinian forest. There are three different trails: white, blue and red, and they are all clearly marked. Some of the trails in this area are on rough terrain, and you’ll find yourself climbing up and down slopes, over trees and around boulders. Be prepared for an elevation change of 200ft, and make sure to stay safe with proper footwear. And though it may seem tempting, especially in the hot summer sun, don’t venture out into the water, as swimming is prohibited. Parking can be found in a lot along the Niagara Parkway, but keep in mind this place can get very busy in the summer time, so if you are looking for solitude while hiking, this might not be your best bet.