Crawford Lake Conservation Area: Hiking Trails And a Fascinating History

Crawford Lake Conservation Area

Crawford Lake Conservation Area is such an interesting place to go hiking in Ontario. I love exploring the parks of Ontario so much because they’re all so unique and lovely in their own way. There’s an elevated boardwalk that wraps completely around a rare lake that reveals secrets from centuries long ago.

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Not only are there almost twenty kilometres of hiking trails, but you can also explore all year long through hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. There’s a reconstructed 15th century Indigenous village modeled on the remnants of one that once existed at this very site. Alright, so what are we waiting for? Let me show you why Crawford Lake Conservation Area is a very special place to visit.

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Crawford Lake Hiking Trails

Crawford Lake Conservation Area boasts 19km of hiking trails on five separate paths. Four Crawford Lake trails stay within the boundaries of the park, and one meanders outside of the park for a lengthier journey.

In addition to the five Crawford Lake hiking paths, the Bruce Trail winds through the property, joining with the Nassagaweya Trail on the outskirts of the conservation area. Here are all of the Crawford Lake hiking trails that you’ll encounter on a visit to the park.

Crawford Lake Trail Map

Here’s a Crawford Lake trail map where you can see all of the hiking trails displayed visually. As you can see, there are several hiking trails around the lake and beyond, plus a snowshoe trail. There are other key areas of interest that I’ll discuss later in this article. You can also download the PDF of the Crawford Lake Conservation Area trail map and bring it along for your trip.

Crawford Lake Trail Map

Crawford Lake Trail

The Crawford Lake Trail is the main hiking path that everyone needs to experience when visiting the park. There’s an elevated wooden boardwalk around the entire perimetre of the meromictic lake with lots of signage on the way. It’s a very peaceful and easy stroll, and it’s a great opportunity to learn about the region. The entire distance of the loop trail is 1.4km, and it’s an easy trek for the whole family.

Crawford Lake Conservation Area - a rare meromictic lake
Walking the boardwalk at Crawford Lake

Woodland Trail

The Woodland Trail is a breezy trip through the forest. When we visited in the spring, lots of little flowers were beginning to pop up from the ground. Even though it was a gorgeous day outside with balmy spring weather, there weren’t many other hikers on the trails. It was nice to have the path almost entirely to ourselves. The Woodland Trail is an easy hike that’s a 1.5km loop. It connects to several other trails (Escarpment Trail, Crawford Lake Trail, Pine Ridge Trail).

Crawford Lake Hiking Trails
Flowers along the Woodland Trail at Crawford Lake

Escarpment Trail

Beyond the Woodland Trail, we continued hiking on the Escarpment Trail to the scenic lookout point. We were treated to a beautiful view overlooking the Nassagaweya Canyon. Gazing above, there were dozens of turkey vultures soaring across the sky. You’ll continue your hike along the edge of the escarpment for more scenic views along the way. It’s rated a moderate hike, and the Escarpment Trail is a 2.4km loop.

Nassagaweya Canyon, Ontario, Canada
Crawford Lake Hiking at Crawford Lake Conservation Area
Crawford Lake Hiking at Crawford Lake Conservation Area
Turkey vultures in Ontario Canada

Pine Ridge Trail

While we didn’t have time to venture out to the Pine Ridge Trail, I’m sure that it’s an equally lovely trek through the dense forest. This is a lengthier loop trail of 3.6km with a moderate rating. The Pine Ridge Trail is also open for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Nassagaweya Trail

The Nassagaweya Trail is a one way hiking trail that connects Crawford Lake and Rattlesnake Point. It’s also part of the Bruce Trail (a portion of the Bruce Trail passes through Crawford Lake Conservation Area, too). If you’re interested in making a round trip hike between Crawford Lake and Rattlesnake Point, give yourself a full day (at least four to five hours, if not longer). The hike between the conservation areas is 4.7km one way.

Discover the Meromictic Lake

A rare Meromictic Lake in Ontario, Canada

What’s a meromictic lake? I had no idea until I visited Crawford Lake. As it turns out, it’s an extremely rare and unique kind of lake, although you’d never know by a cursory glance. A meromictic lake is one where the lake is deeper than its surface area, meaning that the bottom of the lake is rarely disrupted. Very little oxygen reaches the bottom of the lake, so it’s free of bacteria. Any organic matter at the bottom is well preserved. You can discover a lot about the history of the region by exploring the depths of the lake.

When scientists and researchers looked at the sediment from the bottom of the lake, they found samples of corn, bean, and squash pollen dating back to the 1300s to 1600s. This led to the discovery of a nearby ancient Indigenous village buried for years and years.

Please note that swimming and fishing is not allowed at the lake. You may not disturb its waters, as this is a Regionally Environmentally Sensitive Area, a Provincial Area of Natural and Scientific Interest, and part of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve (Niagara Escarpment).

Visit the Iroquoian Village

Visit the Iroquoian Village
By Alex Laney – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

At Crawford Lake Conservation Area, you can also see glimpses into 15th century Indigenous life at the Iroquois Village. Between 1973 and 1987, excavations revealed 11 longhouses and over 10,000 centuries-old artifacts belonging to the Iroquoian people. Based on this archaeological survey, a portion of the 15th century Iroquoian village was reconstructed, including three longhouses.

You’ll be able to wander around the village to discover interpretive programs, excavation simulations, and various demonstrations that vary by season. There are seasonal exhibits in the Deer Clean Longhouse displaying contemporary Indigenous art and culture. You can take a tour of the longhouses on weekdays at 2:15pm (May 1st to June 30th, and September 5th to November 30th).

Plan Your Visit

The daily park entrance fee is $7.75 for an adult ($6.75 for seniors, $5.50 for children, kids four and under are free). You can also buy an annual family membership to all of the Conservation Halton parks for $135.50. An individual annual pass is $62.00. This is a great option if you plan to visit often.

All of the Conservation Halton parks have parking lots where you can leave your car before hitting the trails. There are also restroom facilities and places to have a picnic by the lake at Crawford Lake Conservation Area.

What to Bring on a Hike

A proper pair of hiking shoes is an absolute must. It’s also a good idea to bring sunscreen and lots of water, too. My water bottle of choice is the GRAYL Purifier because you can drink ANY water from any source, no matter what. Water from lakes, streams, rivers, public restrooms, you name it. It’s the world’s fastest portable purifier. Get your hands on one ASAP!

Don’t forget to pack some bug spray because there can be biting bugs depending on the time of year. Even if there aren’t any signs, it’s safe to assume that ticks are all over Ontario hiking trails. Protect yourself against ticks by reading our guide to avoiding ticks on the trails.

Explore More Halton Parks

There are several conservation areas and parks associated with Halton Parks. Explore new ones or revisit your old favorites. There are numerous Halton hiking trails within these Conservation Halton parks:

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2 thoughts on “Crawford Lake Conservation Area: Hiking Trails And a Fascinating History

  1. IRENE JOANNIE CRAWFORD says:

    My husband and I are looking forward to this hiking experience. Is/are there restrooms on the trails? I know of the restrooms in the picnic area.

    • Lauren says:

      I don’t recall seeing any restrooms on the trails themselves, but I could be wrong. I believe the park itself has restrooms, but it’s possible that there is only one near the main entrance. Please let me know if you find any other information. Thanks! 🙂

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