Commentary

Go Explore Hamilton's Trails

Far too few Hamiltonians take full advantage of the Niagara Escarpment, which winds through Hamilton along its meandering course across the landscape and provides a rich marbling of forest paths.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 16, 2016

One of the great under-counted blessings of living in Hamilton is having access to the remarkable network of trails connecting every part of the city. Far too few Hamiltonians take full advantage of the Niagara Escarpment, which winds through Hamilton along its meandering course across the landscape and provides a rich marbling of forest paths. The most gorgeous time to enjoy the city's trails is arguably in mid-fall when the leaves change colour, but late spring has to be a close second.

The Escarpment Trail wakes up
The Escarpment Trail wakes up

All the trees, shrubs and bushes that lay dormant all winter have exploded back into brilliant colour - vivid greens plus a rainbow of dazzling blooms.

Purple flowering raspberry on the Escarpment Trail
Purple flowering raspberry on the Escarpment Trail

I recently learned to my chagrin that some of the flowering plants are invasive species - like the pretty dame's purse lining the Rail Trail through Dundas Valley - but we're still allowed to think they look nice, right?

Dame's purse beside the Rail Trail in Dundas Valley
Dame's purse beside the Rail Trail in Dundas Valley

You also get to enjoy varied local wildlife: mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, deer, and dozens of species of birds.

Rabbit on the Rail Trail
Rabbit on the Rail Trail

Getting made by the deer on the right
Getting made by the deer on the right

Sometimes you even encounter horses, although they usually have a rider.

Multi-purpose yield sign on Spring Creek Trail, Dundas Valley
Multi-purpose yield sign on Spring Creek Trail, Dundas Valley

Some trails are literally feet away from city streets, like the start of the Desjardins Recreational Trail at the entrance to Kay Drage Park off Macklin Street North.

Desjardins Recreational Trail
Desjardins Recreational Trail

That connects with the Waterfront Trail, which takes you between Princess Point and Bayfront Park.

Waterfront Trail
Waterfront Trail

Just a very short walk from downtown Dundas, you can find yourself crossing a charming wooden bridge over Sydenham Creek just below the Sydenham Falls.

Wooden Bridge near Sydenham Falls
Wooden Bridge near Sydenham Falls

Follow that trail and you can continue to Webster's Falls and farther on to Tews Falls up in Greensville. Or you can stay below the escarpment and come out on Highway 8 at the bottom of the hill.

From anywhere in Dundas, you're never that far from the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and the remarkable network of trails running all through it.

Spring Creek Trail, Dundas Valley
Spring Creek Trail, Dundas Valley

The crown jewel of Hamilton's trail system is the Bruce Trail, which runs 800 kilometres from Niagara to Tobermory and winds through severals parts of Hamilton.

Bruce Trail sign and blaze on Radial Trail
Bruce Trail sign and blaze on Radial Trail

Bruce Trail between Claremont Access and Beckett Drive
Bruce Trail between Claremont Access and Beckett Drive

Iroquoia Heights Side Trail, Ancaster
Iroquoia Heights Side Trail, Ancaster

Iroquoia Heights Side Trail, Ancaster
Iroquoia Heights Side Trail, Ancaster

Side trail off the Escarpment Trail east of the Wentworth Stairs
Side trail off the Escarpment Trail east of the Wentworth Stairs

Farther east, the Red Hill Valley Trail follows the course of the more well-known parkway between Confederation Park and the top of Mount Albion Road, where it intersects the Escarpment Rail trail.

Red Hill Valley Trail
Red Hill Valley Trail

Don't underestimate how far you can make it during lunch hour - the Red Hill Trail is literally a bike ride away. You can even Hamilton Bike Share if you're anywhere between Dundas and the east end.

This is just a small sampling of some of the places you can explore. Go to the City of Hamilton website for a more complete list of trails. It doesn't have to be an epic trek. Start by getting in the habit of going out and exploring your own neighbourhood. Discover the little trails and desire paths that serve as local social infrastructure but have not been promoted to official status.

You might even find something to sweeten the deal.

Black raspberries on side trail in Dundas (from 2015)
Black raspberries on side trail in Dundas (from 2015)

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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[ - ]

By trails? (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:49:55

again the trails, & missing all the good stuff on tv

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[ - ]

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2016 at 13:34:11

WALKING TRALS??!?!!? ITS HAMILTON WAR ON CARS AGAIN!

ahem

I mean ... I really like that yield sign :)

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2016 at 15:18:52

Great post.... this is one of the amazing things about life here. I've long wished that the city would develop a connected, safe bike/ped path route city-wide so that residents can have safe, easy access to our amazing trail network. Our city is geographically small enough to make this possible. Just need the political will/vison

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2016 at 15:20:24

One of my favourites is the trail from Tom St park, just west of Dundurn St, down the hill and over the rail tracks to Kay Drage Park. Would be awesome to see a ped bridge over the tracks eventually, but in the meantime this is a well-worn path with locals heading to Kay Drage or Cootes Paradise.

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By enjoying coyotes? (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2016 at 19:24:04

Enjoying coyotes is like enjoying raccoons or skunks

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