Hiking in Elora and the Elora Gorge Conservation Area was on my list for quite some time. I’m happy that we finally had a couple of days to devote towards visiting Elora, Ontario. We spent most of our weekend in Elora wandering around town, eating lots of delicious food, and relaxing at our posh Airbnb. Of course, the best place to visit in Elora is the Elora Gorge itself.
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There are many ways to see the Elora Gorge, and I’ll outline a few of them in this article. If you’re looking for a way to go hiking in Elora, I suggest that you head over to the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. It’s about a 5km loop hike with a couple of interesting features on the way.
However, if you’re expecting to see the most amazing views of the Elora Gorge, you won’t find them at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. It’s a lovely hike, but there is a fence that keeps you from getting close to the cliffs in any way (I totally get it, it’s for safety purposes).
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Elora Gorge Conservation Area Trail Map
I wasn’t able to really find a clear trail map online, so I’ve created my own. A lot of the information from other places was not accurate. For instance, you can’t hike from downtown Elora straight into the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. It is considered private property, and the only way to enter is by paying the admission at the main gates. Therefore, it’s best to drive to the park rather than try to walk.
There is a loop trail component of the walk. Once you cross the bridge to the other side, you’ll mostly stick to the paved road as the “trail” that follows the fence on this side is really overgrown and not maintained. Once you cross back over to the other side of the river (the side where your car is parked, the Hole in the Rock, etc), you’ll be able to hike on the trail along the fence again.
Do you want to save this map for future reference? If you click the star beside the map title, it will be saved to your Google Maps account. Then, you can access it while hiking from your own Google Maps app (it will be listed under “your places” and then “maps”).
Hiking at Elora Gorge Conservation Area
The hiking trails at Elora Gorge Conservation Area are pretty easy and fun for the whole family. You can bring kids without much difficulty, and these are also dog-friendly hiking trails. If you’d like to hike the entire loop, it is a little over 5km in length. You may opt to do a shorter hike along the southern edge of the Grand River, from the Hole in the Rock to the bridge and back. Those are the most scenic and interesting parts of the hike.
Elora Gorge Conservation Area: Hole in the Rock
It won’t take long until you reach the Hole in the Rock, which is exactly what it sounds like. There’s a staircase circling down through a space in a massive boulder that takes you to a lower section of the gorge. There weren’t too many amazing gorge or river views down there (mostly obstructed by trees).
But, there is a really interesting tree with sprawling, exposed roots across another boulder that’s really cool looking. The surrounding cliffs and trees are also really fascinating. Don’t skip over the Hole in the Rock when you visit the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.
Lookout Points and Crossing the Grand River
The hiking trails follow a fairly flat trail through the woods alongside a fence that follows the edge of the gorge and river. The trail is a pretty easy hike with a few short inclines and declines here and there. There’s one scenic lookout point where you’ll take a big set of stairs down to the bottom. At this point, you’ll be closest to the Grand River and you’ll be able to catch some glimpses of both the rushing waters and the rugged cliffs.
Eventually, you’ll reach a short bridge with scenery of the gorge on either side. At the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, this is the best vantage point of the cliffs and the river. I’m going to tell you about some better places in town where you can view the gorge later in the article. From the bridge, continue across the river and follow the paved road up and to the left. You’ll travel southwest in a loop that will take you back across the river, and back around to the car.
More Activities at Elora Gorge Conservation Area
If you’re visiting the Elora Gorge specifically for the hiking trails, they might leave you feeling a little bit disappointed if you were looking for something more scenic. While you can see over the fence, it does obstruct the views of the cliffs and the river as you hike. The hike itself has some scenic stretches through the forest, and other parts that are less scenic (when you’re walking down a mostly paved path, for instance). There’s also a fee of $7.50 per person to visit the conservation area, and we were able to view the gorge from other places (arguably, much better views, too!) for free.
Spending time at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area is definitely worthwhile if you incorporate some other activities into your trip. For example, you can go camping at this conservation area. The biggest draw, however, is tubing. You can rent a tube (or bring your own) and go tubing at the Elora Gorge down the Grand River. You’ll find all of the details at the official website.
Seeing the Gorge and the Grand River
The Elora Gorge Conservation Area is NOT the best place to see the gorge! There are so many better places to view the gorge…and for free! If you’re going to be in town for a couple of days and you love to hike, check out the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. If you’re only taking a day trip to Elora and want to experience the gorge, here are the other places you’ll want to visit first.
Victoria Park is a public park in the middle of downtown Elora. You can park your car for free on the street there. Walk down a path into an area with lots of trees. Then, continue walking to your right along the fence until you reach the first lookout point.
After admiring the scenery from the lookout, continue walking and you’ll reach a big staircase heading down into the gorge itself. At the bottom, you can take a stroll in the river itself or view the gorge from the shore.
Bissell Park has a cute little boardwalk that follows the Grand River. There are some benches and picnic tables where you can rest and enjoy the view. While you won’t catch too many views of the gorge from here, it’s a nice, little walk and I’m a sucker for boardwalks. On Saturday mornings, you can visit the Elora Farmers Market here, too.
I suggest walking all over downtown Elora to see even more scenery of the Elora Gorge. There are beautiful views of the Grand River and the gorge on several bridges and streets in the village. One of the most iconic views of Elora features the Grand River and the Elora Mill hotel and spa perched on the edge of the waterfront.
Plan Your Visit
You’ll need a car or a bike to reach the Elora Gorge Conservation Area as it’s a little too far to walk from the village on foot. When you arrive, expect to pay an entrance fee of $7.50 per person. From there, there are multiple parking lots near the trails. There are restroom facilities, picnic tables, pavilions, and places to go camping.
If you decide to go tubing, there is an additional fee and you need to book this activity in advance. They can provide you with the tube and helmet, but there is no shuttle service. The tubing river run is about 2km long down the Grand River. Once you reach the end, you’ll need to walk back to the conservation area to return to your vehicle, return your inner tube, etc.
More Hiking Trails in Elora and Beyond
Other than the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, you can also go hiking on the Elora Cataract Trail. It’s a 47km trail that begins in Elora and meanders through the countryside and nearby villages: Fergus, Bellwood, Hillsburgh, Erin, and Cataract.
While I haven’t gone hiking too much in Huron, Perth, Waterloo, and Wellington counties, I’m working on it! Here are the hikes that I’ve done so far in this area of Ontario:
- West Thames Nature Trail & West Perth Wetlands (Mitchell, Ontario)
- Huron Natural Area (Kitchener)
- Rockwood Conservation Area (Guelph)
- T.J Dolan Natural Area (Stratford)
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