I grew up in the Hamilton area (in the town of Dundas), so I spent much of my childhood and teenage years exploring Hamilton hiking trails. Even though I’ve moved away from Dundas, I find myself returning to the Hamilton area quite often for the vast forests and green spaces. Hamilton is the City of Waterfalls, also known as the waterfall capital of the world with over 150 waterfalls. Many of those waterfalls are paired with hiking trails that are equally as impressive.
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Just as there are a ton of waterfalls, there are so many wonderful places to hike in Hamilton. To get you started on your adventures going hiking in Hamilton, I’ve compiled this list of the 10 best hiking trails in Hamilton. These are my favorite hikes and walks in Hamilton that have their own unique features, like waterfalls, gorges, or scenic forest trails.
The Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail is an epic 900km hiking trail that spans a length of southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory. The Iroquoia section of the Bruce Trail makes its way through Hamilton, and there are several points of interest. In fact, many side trails that I mention in this article are right off the trusty ol’ Bruce Trail. And in some instances, you might actually be hiking on the Bruce Trail in several conservation areas in Hamilton. If you see the white trail blazes, you’re likely on the Bruce Trail.
One of the most notable sections of the Bruce Trail in Hamilton is between two brilliant waterfalls: Tiffany Falls and Sherman Falls. The trek to Tiffany Falls is only a short detour off the Bruce Trail. It’s one of those places that offers a big payoff for a very little amount of effort. Tiffany Falls is a 21 metre high ribbon waterfall that looks majestic in all seasons. The last time I went to Tiffany Falls in the winter, it was a frozen wonderland.
Sherman Falls is a 17 metre high curtain waterfall and the water flows all year long from the Ancaster Creek. The waterfall is named for the Sherman family, a prominent family in the local community who used to own the property. In the middle of the forest, Sherman Falls is quite picturesque and only a short distance from the Bruce Trail. The entire trek between Tiffany Falls and Sherman Falls is a little under 4km. There’s a small parking lot near Tiffany Falls (on Wilson Street), and another even smaller lot on Lion’s Club Road at Old Dundas Road (near Sherman Falls).
Eramosa Karst Conservation Area is a significant Area of Scientific Interest in the province, and it also contains some of the best hikes in Hamilton. There are 16 different karstic features and one of the greatest instances of karst topography in Ontario. There are 7km of Hamilton hiking trails at Eramosa Karst, including underground streams, caves, and forests. You’ll find boardwalks, bridges, and interpretive panels that offer an education on the unique characteristics of this region. While there are several trails, you’ll find the most landmarks and gems on the Karst Features Trail.
Dundas Valley Conservation Area
The Dundas Valley Conservation Area is a 1200 hectare conservation area featuring dense Carolinian forests, interesting rock formations, and a variety of plants and wildlife. As part of the Niagara Escarpment, it’s a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The Dundas Valley Conservation Area is pretty in all seasons, but my favourite time of year to visit is the fall. You’ll see all shades of vibrant, fall colours as you embark on one of the best hikes in Hamilton.
The Dundas Valley Trail Centre features a replica of a Victorian train station, complete with a train car on some old railroad tracks. It’s open daily in July and August and on weekends throughout the off-season (September to June). You’ll find displays, maps, brochures, restrooms, and a concession stand inside the trail centre. There are numerous trails at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and I’ll highlight a couple of my personal favourites. Here’s where you can view and download a copy of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area brochure and map.
The Main Loop Trail
The Main Loop Trail starts at the Dundas Valley Trail Centre. It’s a 3.4km loop trail that takes about 90 minutes to walk. It’s one of the best Hamilton hiking trails because you’re in the middle of nature without travelling too far from the city.
The ruins of the Hermitage are one of the most interesting features of the Main Loop Trail. You can wander around the crumbling buildings and structures that used to be a grand estate on 120 acres of property. In 1934, the Hermitage almost completely burned to the ground. The sole occupant, Mrs. Alma Dick-Lauder camped on the grounds and built a smaller house where she lived until her death in 1942. Ever since, the forest has started to reclaim the ruins.
There’s a really fascinating legend behind the Hermitage that I encourage you to read before your visit. I remember going to the Hermitage once at night with some friends in college because there’s rumoured to be a ghost that haunts the grounds (we didn’t have any ghostly encounters).
From the main trail centre, head north and cross Governor’s Road to stay on the McCormack Trail. It’s one of the prettiest walks in Hamilton, and part of the McCormack Trail is also the Bruce Trail. You’ll hike through the lush hills of the Dundas valley while enjoying stunning scenery of the escarpment, the town, and Lake Ontario. It’s 7.5km one way, although the hike loops back around to a portion of the Bruce Trail and doesn’t take as long to walk back to the trail centre. Allow at least 2.5 hours to get to the end of the trail (and then more to walk time to walk back).
Chedoke Radial Trail
The Chedoke Radial Trail is one of the best walks in Hamilton, and it’s also part of the Bruce Trail. The 2.7km path is suitable for both walking and bike riding. An interesting fact: the Chedoke Radial Trail was built on the former railroad track of the Brantford and Hamilton Electric Railway. It’s a pretty easy jaunt along the escarpment, and at one point it crosses a golf course. You can also view several small waterfalls along your journey. The Chedoke Radial Trail links up with the Chedoke Stairs, which lots of people frequent to run up and down as a form of exercise.
Devil’s Punch Bowl
The main highlight at the Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area is the geologic wonder of the gorge and its waterfalls. It formed at the end of the last ice age when massive rivers of melt-water plunged over the escarpment, creating the gorge known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl. You can see layers of different colours of rock that make up the gorge, including Cabot Head grey shale, Queenston Formation red shale, shale dolomite and limestone.
There are two waterfalls at Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area. The Upper Falls is a 33.8 metre ribbon waterfall that directly drops to the ground below. It’s only 3 metres across at its widest, and the best time to view the waterfall is after a rainfall. It does dry up at times to a mere trickle. In the winter, you’re likely to catch glimpses of a completely frozen waterfall. The Lower Falls is a curtain waterfall that’s seven metres wide and seven metres high, steps away from the Upper Falls. You can hike from the top of the Devil’s Punch Bowl down to the bottom. It’s a little bit steep at first, so wear appropriate footwear and be careful.
There’s even more great hiking in Hamilton from the Devil’s Punchbowl parking lot, aside from walking around the waterfall. The Dofasco 2000 Trail is an 11.5km trail that starts at the Devil’s Punch Bowl and links up to the Bruce Trail and the Battlefield House Museum and Park. There’s a boardwalk section over the Vinemount South Swamp, and you’ll walk through the rural countryside of Stoney Creek.
Albion Falls & Buttermilk Falls
The Mountain Brow Side Trail is a 3.7km loop trail with two beautiful waterfalls along the way: Albion Falls and Buttermilk Falls. Unfortunately, there’s no access to the base of Albion Falls any longer and the views of the waterfall are a bit obstructed by chain-link fencing. But, it’s still one of the best Hamilton hiking trails for spotting two (or three!) magnificent waterfalls in one walk.
Even though I only mentioned two waterfalls in the heading, it’s possible to add a hike to Felker’s Falls to your trek. Three waterfalls are better than two, right? You can continue east on the Bruce Trail for a hike to Felker’s Falls. It totals 10.3km in total (with the return trip), and you can choose to start your hike at Felker’s Falls where there’s ample parking. Felker’s Falls is a 22 metre ribbon waterfall over a rocky stepped ledge.
Dundas Peak (Spencer Gorge Conservation Area)
If I had to choose my favourite place to hike in Hamilton, the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area would win, hands down. As I grew up in Dundas, I went hiking around Websters Falls, Tews Falls, and the Dundas Peak for many years (long before days of the Internet and social media!). We used to take school day trips to Websters Falls. I’d hang out with friends at the Peak all the time. Nowadays, it’s a little more complicated to visit the hiking trails there, but I’ve got a full insider’s guide to the Dundas Peak over at my travel blog.
You can hike to Websters Falls, Tews Falls, and the Dundas Peak all in one hiking day trip in Dundas. The views of the town of Dundas and beyond are incredible from the Peak. You can look down to the railroad tracks, and then my former middle school, Dundas District (which was turned into condos). The scenery only changes slightly over time, and I love looking down on all of the familiar places from my childhood into adulthood.
You can no longer hike continuously between Tews Falls and Websters Falls as a section of private property on the Bruce Trail was revoked by its landowners. You can hike from Tews Falls to the Dundas Peak and back. Then, you can reach Websters Falls on a separate trail. Tew’s Falls is a gorgeous waterfall that’s 41 metres high, just a few metres shorter than Niagara Falls. The waterfall is named after Johnson Tew who owned the property and the waterfall from 1874 to 1947.
Webster’s Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Hamilton. It’s a classical waterfall that’s 30 metres wide, the largest in the area. It looks sensational in all seasons. The waterfall is named for the Webster family who owned the waterfall and surrounding property in 1819. Please note that there is no access to the bottom of the waterfall from the top. There used to be a set of stairs that are now blocked off. For a complete trail map, please check out this Spencer Gorge brochure.
Christie Lake Conservation Area
On the weekends in the summer, there’s a satellite parking lot for Spencer Gorge hikers at Christie Lake Conservation Area (with shuttle vans transporting hikers back and forth). But, Christie Lake is a fantastic hiking destination in itself. We used to venture to Christie Lake for day trips when I was a kid, either going to the beach or canoeing on the lake.
There are 10km of Hamilton hiking trails at Christie Lake Conservation Area. Some portions of the trails extend through pine forests and you’ll also encounter vast meadows. There’s also a single track mountain biking trail. For hikers, one of the best walks in Hamilton is the Round the Lake trail, a 5.6km loop around Christie Lake. All in all, Christie Lake Conservation Area is a wonderful place to visit with friends and family with opportunities to have picnics, play disc golf, and go swimming (and hiking, of course).
Borer’s Falls Conservation Area
Borer’s Falls Conservation Area is another beauty out of Dundas with a 4.5km trail (2.3km one way). As you ascend up the escarpment, you’ll eventually reach Borer’s Falls, a 15 metre high waterfall. Over 100 years ago, it used to provide water power to the Rock Chapel Village Sawmill, operated by the Borer family. The flow of the water does diminish during the summer months, but you can expect to see a waterfall here all year long.
The Rail Trail
The Rail Trail is an impressive 32km in length, and it’s one of the longer walks in Hamilton that you can take. You can walk on the relatively flat Rail Trail all the way from Hamilton to Brantford. The surface of the trail is completely covered in stone dust, and you can both walk and cycle on the path. The trail connects with the Bruce Trail, the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, the City of Brantford Trails (and the SC Johnson Trail to Paris), and the City of Hamilton trail and bikeway network. It is also part of the Trans Canada trail network.
Some sections of the Rail Trail are relatively scenic and surrounded by forest, and other parts aren’t terribly exciting. It’s one of the top places to hike in Hamilton due to its sheer length, the fact that it connects so many other trails and cities, and that it’s a great place to go for a bike ride. I used to live pretty close to the Rail Trail (and the Dundas Valley Conservation Area), and I have many memories of riding my bike there.
Hamilton Hiking Trails Map
Here’s a map of the top places to hike in Hamilton, as listed above. You’ll see all of the trails displayed for your reference in one place. Feel free to use this map as a guide to planning your walks in Hamilton.
More Hiking City Guides
Looking for more places to hike in nearby cities beyond these Hamilton hiking trails? Check out the following city guides:
- The Top 10 Hikes in Mississauga
- The Top 10 Hikes in Toronto
- Best Parks and Trails in Port Credit (Mississauga)
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