Growing up in Hamilton, the Ontario Greenbelt has always been close to home. It was a place where my family and I would go berry picking in the summer, get lost in corn mazes in the fall, and snowshoe in the winter. Fortunately, Hamilton is just a short bus or train trip away from my current home in downtown Toronto and thanks to the Greenbelt, its natural wonders are protected for everyone to enjoy.
Hamilton is known as the Waterfall Capital of the World, thanks to the Niagara Escarpment which runs through it. The Escarpment is a UNESCO biosphere reserve that stretches over 800 kilometres from Niagara Falls to the tip of Bruce Peninsula creating perfect conditions for over 100 majestic cascades in the Hamilton area. I decided to see some of these beautiful waterfalls by heading to home to do my favourite Greenbelt hike: the Spencer Gorge Trail.
The trail starts at Webster’s Falls which is in the town of Dundas located in the City of Hamilton. Although not very high, the width of the falls makes it look like a cascading curtain of water covering the rocks and flowing down to Spencer Creek. This waterfall was also one of the first hydro-electric generators in Ontario until it was acquired by the Hamilton Conservation Authority in the 1900s for the public to enjoy.
A two-kilometre hike away took me to Tew’s Falls, which is the tallest of Hamilton’s waterfalls at 41 metres, just 10 metres short of Niagara Falls! The upper and lower viewing platforms provide a great spot to view the long stream of Logie’s Creek as it tumbles over the escarpment into the gorge below. Its exposed bedrock with its layers of shale, sandstone and limestone provides a striking backdrop to the water.
The trail continues a few kilometres down to the picturesque Dundas Peak which overlooks Lake Ontario to the left and West Hamilton to the right. The escarpment rises to 110 metres and highlights how the city is built around its natural features. It’s a great place to take a break, sit near the edge of the peak, and have a snack.
Depending on your energy level, you can wander off the beaten path and follow the Glen Ferguson Side Trail to head back up to Tew’s Falls, hike down to the three Sydenham Falls, or even hike around seven kilometres to make your way to Christie Lake. The quaint streets of downtown Dundas is also a short trip away where inviting patios and ice cream parlours are ready to round out the adventure.
This 2-3 hour hike offers a mix of sights and sounds and is rich with a wide variety of plant and animal life. It provided me with a perfect getaway from my busy downtown Toronto life and helped me appreciate the importance of a protected Greenbelt.
Whether you have half an hour for a short hike or plan on spending the full day outdoors, the Greenbelt has something for you. Make your voice heard and sign our petition to ask the province to strengthen Ontario’s Greenbelt!
Photographs taken by Allen Braude