Hiking with kids in Hamilton and Halton is a perfect way to soak up some vitamin D and enjoy the calmness (and social distancing) that nature brings. Any excuse to get outdoors is a great excuse!
My kids were long over the mundane neighbourhood walks a few weeks into the provincial stay-at-home orders, so once nature opened back up we jumped at the chance to get outside and enjoy the fresh air again. Hikes and nature walks have been a super simple and inexpensive way to be active, be together and also be socially distanced from others. Here are a few of our favourite locations for walking and hiking with kids in Hamilton and Halton, and why we love each of them.
Upper Mt Albion Rd, Stoney Creek | website
Part of the Hamilton Conservation group of areas, Eramosa Karst is one of the most under-rated conservation areas in my opinion. I had never heard of it before, and attendance never seems to max out. Once I saw pictures of it I knew I had to plan a visit. From Hamilton Conservation: “Karsts are geological formations including underground drainage, caves and passages caused by dissolving rock, found in limestone formations like the Niagara Escarpment. The Eramosa Karst contains examples of 16 different karst features and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources designated the Eramosa Karst lands as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest in 2003.”
In addition to the karsts, the walking trails are excellent for any age and ability. They’re even stroller-friendly! There is a HUGE old tree 🌳 that has split in three and provides great climbing
. Be sure to take a few minutes to check out the natural spring and the views from the bench.
Hilton Falls Conservation Area
4985 Campbellville Rd, Burlington | website
Hilton Falls is another hidden gem that was new to us this year. It’s a little more out of the city centre, so I expected it to be a bit less crowded, and it was. As a Halton Conservation Area, you need to pre-register your visit currently. Any measures that work as crowd control and also ensure I won’t be turned away when I get there are fine by me! Hilton Falls is a great spot for hiking with kids because the terrain is a little rocky and rooty which makes it challenging for them. Ideal for balancing and working those large muscles! I did see folks manoeuvring their strollers, but some parts were rocky and had a lot of tree roots, so prepare for that. Dogs on leashes are welcome, too!
The waterfalls and small ruins are very cool and picture-worthy. The rock formations are always stunning. When times are back to normal, you can gather at the fire pit at the end of the trail by the waterfall, so be sure to bring hotdogs or marshmallows to cook over the fire! Ideally, visit in the fall so you can see a rushing waterfall. Keep your eyes peeled for bugs, frogs, snakes and small fish. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can mountain bike the trails in the nice weather, or cross-country ski in the winter!
Bronte Creek Provincial Park
1219 Burloak Drive, Oakville | website
We love the diversity of Bronte Creek. Trails start at the parking lot and, ranging in length from 1 km to almost 3 km, wind along the top of Bronte Creek (always be careful when hiking and biking!) to cover all of the grounds. Bronte has a great trail to have your family dog off-leash, going through a little forest and along a stream, where, in season, you can fish for trout and salmon, among other fish. You’re sure to see little creatures like frogs, small snakes and bugs and also the Bronte Creek cows are always grazing in the fields. Follow the signs for the Gnome Trail where you will wander down a shaded path to the cutest community of painted gnome homes you ever did see. Bored of walking? Bring a frisbee and play some disc golf. Hopefully, you’re better at it than I am! With a wheelchair and stroller accessible trail, this is truly a family-friendly destination sure to please everyone
Crawford Lake, Halton Conservation
3115 Conservation Road, Milton | website
Crawford Lake is as full of great history as it is full of hiking trails. No matter what season you visit in, you’re sure to love your experience. We like to visit the Longhouse Village (reopening on August 4, 2020) and take in some history. From Conservation Halton: “Visit the reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian village, and explore local history. From 1973 to 1987, excavations uncovered 11 longhouses on the site and over 10 000 artefacts from day-to-day lives of the Iroquoian people who once lived in the village. Three of the longhouses have been reconstructed based on the archaeological findings. Wander around the village and learn about what daily life was like over 600 years ago through Interpretive programs, including simulated digs and fire-starting demonstrations. The state-of-the-art Deer Clan Longhouse features seasonal exhibits that explore contemporary Indigenous art and culture.”
After you’ve visited the Longhouse Village, walk the trail around Crawford Lake’s unique meromictic lake
. With the boardwalk wrapping around the lake, Crawford Lake offers 5 great hikes for any season, ranging in length from 2 km to over 7 km. Stroller friendly, and operating in a one-way direction currently to allow for better distancing. Great for hiking with kids. Learn about species at risk as you follow along with the Hide and Seek Trail and view the enormous wooden carvings. The Hide and Seek Trail is located along the blue Crawford Lake Trail as you head toward the lake.
Dundas Valley, Hamilton Conservation
650 Governors Road, Dundas | website
This trail is a new favourite trial for our family because there is so much to see along the way. The enormous trees offer a ton of shade as you walk, and I’m certain the temperatures were at least 5 degrees cooler in their shady canopy. The trail is smooth ground for the most part, and I saw some families easily pushing their strollers. Along the path we walked, called the main loop, you’ll come across the replica of a Victorian railway station that serves as the area’s Trail Centre. It’s also home to washrooms. Adjacent to it is a remnant of the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway track, with a 1929 executive coach car and a 1931 baggage car donated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Lots of education and photo opportunities.
As we walked on, we were pleasantly surprised to see equestrians – folks on horseback! The beautiful animals were so clam and powerful, my daughter loved it. Dogs on leashes are welcome, too! There were some streams and creeks as we kept making our way to our destination – the Hermitage Ruins. Wow, they did not disappoint. The magnificent stone mansion was built in 1855 by George Gordon Browne Leith, an immigrant from Scotland. The bricks used in it building originated from the Dundas Valley clay; limestone was quarried at the Credit River valley. The Hermitage burned down in 1934. After that, Leith’s daughter built a much smaller house among the ruins and lived there until her death in 1942. To prevent further deterioration, the ruins were stabilized using wooden braces.
Cherry Hill Gate, Royal Botanical Gardens
680 Plains Rd W, Burlington | website
A local family favourite – and also a hidden gem to some – is Cherry Hill Gate. It’s on the border-ish of Burlington and Hamilton and owned by Royal Botanical Gardens
. The trail is relatively smooth, and definitely stroller friendly. The entrance takes you down a steep-ish hill, so if it’s wet out, be warned that it could be slippery. Once you’ve made it down, keep your eyes peeled for the huge upturned tree stump and a ton of chipmunks. As you walk the trail, be on the lookout for beavers, swans, turtles, snakes, spiders, and a variety of birds. Much of the trail is wooden boardwalk so very walkable. There is not much shade along the boardwalk so we try to go in the mornings or evenings to beat the heat. For years this was our favourite location for hiking with kids in Hamilton and Halton. It’s easy terrain and lots for them to see and do.
Chedoke Radial Trail
120 Beddoe Dr, Hamilton, ON L8P 4Z4 | website
This is another new trail for us (and I’m loving all the use I’m getting from the Halton Conservation Pass!) The trail itself is smooth ground and stroller-friendly. We went at about 11:00 am and the trail was a mix of shade and sun. Parts had a great breeze (thankfully) but when you’re walking through the section that has a store wall on one side and the escapement on the other, no air is getting through! It was toasty. The enormous rock wall is kind of awe-inspiring when you think if it’s size. The total incline in roughly 200 meters and the views at the top are beautiful. There are those famous stairs, but zero chance I’m walking up 240+ steps if I don’t have to LOL! There were a few waterfalls that were small in size and volume due to the lack of rain and high temperatures we’ve been having. One waterfall, when rushing after a rainfall, pours down onto the 403! Yikes! There was a lot of opportunity for climbing and balancing, so let the kids explore and adventure. It’s the very best part of hiking with kids! This trail had more mountain bikers than we’d experienced anywhere else. Lots of families of all ages were also enjoying the walk. We parked at the Chedoke Golf Course and went on a Sunday, so the lot was busy with other families and golfers. I am pleased to report that their washrooms were open. The club was even BBQing hot dogs as we left.
Tips for Successful Hiking with Kids
- Bring water. I know it should be a given, but we have been known to forget, too!
- Snacks too. No one wants to get hangry.
- If you’re going during spring and summer, bring bug repellent and sunscreen.
- Make sure everyone has comfy shoes. Flip flops need not apply.
- Know where you’re going. If you want a little one to wander free, choose a location that isn’t a popular mountain biking location as well.
- Choose a less popular spot and discover a hidden gem.
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