Ball’s Falls Conservation Area is a beautiful place to go for a day hike in the Niagara Region that also has plenty of amazing surprises. Did you know that there’s not one, but two waterfalls? How about that the region is a ghost town, formerly known as Glen Elgin, established by the Ball family for which the conservation area and waterfalls are named? This preserved park, operated by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, offers beautiful natural scenes, hiking trails, and a history lesson all in one memorable place. Here’s why you need to visit Ball’s Falls Conservation Area in Lincoln, Ontario.
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Ball’s Falls Hiking Trails
There are five hiking trails at Ball’s Falls to explore: the Village Trail (to Lower Falls), the Cataract Trail (to Upper Falls), Switchback Trail, Forest Frolic Trail, and the Bruce Trail. When I visited, I was hiking the Bruce Trail from where I left off last at Glen Road. Starting at Glen Road, I hiked the Bruce Trail to Ball’s Falls, took the Village Trail to the Lower Falls lookout, and then hiked the Cataract Trail to the Upper Falls.
Of course, then I ended up hiking back on all three trails to my car on Glen Road. This round trip journey took about three hours. If you’re planning to visit Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, you can choose to park your car on site and hike only the trails within the park, adding on the Bruce Trail if you have more time.
Village Trail to Lower Falls
The Village Trail is 1.3km long and it’s an easy hike on paved paths. It travels through the heritage village to a lookout where you can admire the Lower Falls. This trail crosses 6th Avenue and a pedestrian bridge over Twenty Mile Creek to connect with the Switchback Trail and the Cataract Trail.
If you park in the main parking lot, you’ll likely walk down the Switchback Trail to reach the Village Trail. Admiring the old buildings in the heritage village, once known as Glen Elgin, as well as going to the Lower Falls lookout is one of the main things to do at Ball’s Falls. This is the most popular Ball’s Falls hiking trail because it is accessible for families with kids of all ages. It’s a beautiful and scenic spot in the park that’s easy to reach.
Cataract Trail to Upper Falls
Out of all the Ball’s Falls trails that you need to experience, the Cataract Trail is it. The Cataract Trail is a 1.7km hiking trail following Twenty Mile Creek through the forest, leading to the Upper Falls. On your way towards the Upper Falls, you’ll see old stone ruins that used to be a woolen mill. Keep hiking along the path until you reach the end of the trail. This is where you’ll find the Upper Falls.
There’s a stone wall that is intended to keep hikers away from the edge of the Upper Falls. However, most people climb around or over the wall for a closer view. Be extremely careful if you decide to do this. The rocks can be slippery and it’s a long way down! When I visited, there wasn’t much water flowing from the top of the waterfall, so I was able to walk across it.
When you hike back on the Cataract Trail towards the beginning, you’ll notice a secondary trail branch off down towards the creek. If you walk on this trail, you’ll eventually reach the base of the Upper Falls. Please note that the trail beside the creek gets really rocky and eventually turns into mostly rocks with very little trail. Exercise caution here.
The Switchback Trail connects the parking lot to the other hiking trails. It’s only 600 metres long, and you’ll need to navigate your way up or down a hill. The Switchback Trail also connects the other hiking trails to the Forest Frolic Trail. It is rated as an easy hike.
Forest Frolic Trail
The Forest Frolic Trail is a 850 metre loop trail, rated as easy to moderate. It will only take you about 20 minutes to hike around this trail. I didn’t end up walking around the Forest Frolic Trail because I was hiking the Bruce Trail. If you are staying within the boundaries of Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, feel free to add on this little jaunt through the forest. As an easier hike, it’s a good one for the kids, too.
The Bruce Trail is rated as difficult by the trail map at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, but I’d rate it as a moderate difficulty. You’ll have to walk up or down a big flight of stairs at one point. This portion of the Bruce Trail travels through the Twenty Valley Gorge. It’s a very pretty and scenic area, and you’ll catch glimpses of Twenty Mile Creek on the way.
Please take care on this hiking trail. While I didn’t find it to be terribly difficult, it is very rocky and there are lots of big tree roots on the path. With many tripping hazards on the way (and a potentially big fall to the bottom of the gorge!), take care when you’re on the trail and pay attention to every step. Otherwise, it’s a fun jaunt through the forest on a relatively wide path. You can read more about this section of the Bruce Trail over on my blog post dedicated to the Bruce Trail between Glen Road and Ball’s Falls at Justin Plus Lauren. I write about all of my Bruce Trail hikes there. Here’s a record of all of my Bruce Trail hikes as I am slowly attempting to walk the entire trail.
Waterfalls at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area
There are two waterfalls at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, aptly named the Lower Falls (27 metres high) and the Upper Falls (11 metres high). These are two of the best Bruce Trail waterfalls along the 900km Bruce Trail that stretches across southern Ontario. Both waterfalls are easy to find, and there are a couple of ways to view them.
The easiest way to see the Lower Falls is by walking to the Lower Falls lookout. You’ll be able to admire this classical waterfall and the circular, carved out gorge. I love the various shades and layers of colour in the rocks. Depending on when you visit, the waterfall will be more or less intense. I went on my Ball’s Falls hiking trip in June, so the water didn’t flow as much as it would earlier in the year. It’s pretty all year long (it can freeze in the winter!), and it’s one of the best waterfalls in Niagara region.
There is a way to hike down to the base of the Lower Falls from the Bruce Trail on either side of the creek. On the Bruce Trail, from the bottom of the huge staircase (that leads up to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area), keep walking beyond the staircase instead of walking up. It isn’t a clearly marked path, and you’ll have to take some extra precautions around the creek. I didn’t personally go to the base of the Lower Falls because visiting the base of the Upper Falls is a little more accessible.
The Upper Falls, as I mentioned earlier, is at the end of the Cataract Trail. The Upper Falls has one main flowing waterfall, a cascade plunge, as well as some secondary smaller trickles of water off to the side. When I visited in June, I could walk across the top of the waterfall for some amazing scenery of the falls from above.
The waterfall looks equally as beautiful from the bottom. From the Cataract Trail, you can venture down a secondary dirt path that follows close to the creek. Once you navigate around some boulders and rocks, you’ll reach the base of the Upper Falls. During the summer months, you might see a few people swimming here. I actually saw a couple of boys jump from the top of the Upper Falls down to the water below. I don’t recommend doing this because you could seriously injure yourself!
Discover the Heritage Village
When I went hiking at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, I wasn’t expecting to stumble upon a ghost town! There are actually a few ghost towns in southern Ontario, and you’ll find one of them at Balls Falls. This was once the town of Glen Elgin, and there are some preserved old buildings to discover with informative plaques.
In 1809, John and George Ball (two brothers) built a wooden gristmill on Twenty Mile Creek by the Lower Falls, which allowed its residents to grind their own grain. Up by the Upper Falls, there were saw, wood, and woolen mills set up. Many local residents worked at the five story woolen mill, the largest feature of the property.
By the 1840s, the site was officially known as the village of Glen Elgin and was a thriving industrial town. There was a store, several homes, a barrel maker, two lime kilns, and a blacksmith. Unfortunately, Glen Elgin was abandoned in the 1950s when the tracks for the Great Western Railway were constructed farther north of the town.
In 1962, the land was purchased by the Niagara Region Conservation Authority and they preserved some of the old buildings. You can view the Ball family home, the gristmill, and a lime kiln. Some other historic buildings from the area that date to the mid-1800s were moved to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, including wooden cabins and a stunning wooden church.
Plan Your Visit
Here’s a map of where you’ll find Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. There is a large parking lot. Fees are $8.00 per adult, $6.00 for a student or senior, or a maximum of $24 for a car load. There are picnic tables, washrooms, and a play area for kids. You can even have weddings at Ball’s Falls!
More Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Parks
Looking to explore more parks operated by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority? There are a lot of them! Here’s a complete listing of conservation areas to check out. I will write about more of them as I experience them for myself. You can also view all Niagara region hikes, including Short Hills Provincial Park and the Niagara Glen.
- Ball’s Falls Conservation Area
- Binbrook Conservation Area
- Chippawa Creek Conservation Area
- Long Beach Conservation Area
- Beamer Memorial Conservation Area
- Cave Springs Conservation Area
- EC Brown Conservation Area
- Gord Harry Conservation Trail
- Louth Conservation Area
- Morgan’s Point Conservation Area
- Mountainview Conservation Area
- Mud Lake Conservation Area
- Rockway Conservation Area
- St. Johns Conservation Area
- Stevensville Conservation Area
- Two Mile Creek Conservation Area
- Virgil Dams and Reservoirs Conservation Area
- Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area
- Wainfleet Wetlands
- Woodend Conservation Area
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