Hell Holes Nature Trails and Caves: Visiting This Little Known Gem Near Kingston

Hell Holes Nature Trails and Caves

Visit the Hell Holes Nature Trails and Hell Hole Cave…if you dare! A long while ago, I saw a sign at the side of the highway that read, Hell Holes Nature Trail. I knew nothing about it, but it sounded pretty darn cool. That name stuck with me for a while. Finally, Justin and I decided to embark on a road trip from Toronto to discover the Hell Hole Cave for ourselves.

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Visiting the Hell Holes Nature Trails

Hell Holes Nature Trails, caves and ravines in Napanee Ontario

When you arrive, your first stop will be the nature center where you’ll pay a small fee to enter the property, as Hell Hole Nature Trails is privately owned and operated. It costs $7 to access the trails for adults ($5 for children and youth, age 5 and under is free). They only accept cash. The employee behind the counter handed us a printed map and described the sights we’d see along our journey.

There are two things that you must bring with you: A flashlight, and bug spray. Well, a nice pair of hiking boots would work well, too. Here are all the things you need to pack for a day hike to help you plan your trip. We brought a flashlight to visit the cave, but we didn’t even think about bug spray (we weren’t this foolish again in the future!).

Thankfully, there was a can of bug spray on the counter of the nature center, and we were allowed to borrow it. The employee seemed to think we were naive, city dwellers for not bringing our own bug spray. She was right.

Hell Holes Hiking Trails near Kingston Ontario - Caves near Kingston
Caves in Napanee, Ontario - Hiking Trails in Kingston

The forest at the Hell Holes Nature Trails are absolutely gorgeous. Everything is just so green. The sun emerged from behind the clouds and was peeking through the leaves. Bright green moss grows on all of the rocks. The tree roots wrap around the boulders and the trees extend up to the sky. It was very peaceful and there was not another person in sight.

Hell Holes Cave and Nature Trails in Napanee, Ontario
Hell Hole Trail and Hell Hole Cave, east of Toronto Ontario
Hiking Trails near Kingston Ontario

Exploring the Caves

At Hell Holes Nature Trails, there are a couple of caves to explore that are both very different from one another. These are the best caves near Kingston, Ontario, and some of the best caves near Toronto. As you hike along the Hell Hole Trail, you’ll eventually come across these intriguing caves that are the main attractions in this forest.

Devil’s Horse Stable Cave

Devil's Horse Stable Cave

Visitors cannot enter the Devil’s Horse Stable Cave. Legends say that Satan used to stable his horses here, hence the name. It used to be a cavern that descended deep into the Earth’s surface, but it collapsed in the early 1900s and has been permanently closed for safety reasons. It was still a neat place to stop and admire the shapes of the rocks.

Devil's Horse Stable Cave - Caves near Kingston and Toronto Ontario
Devil's Horse Stable Cave - Caves near Kingston and Toronto Ontario

Hell Hole Cave

Hell Holes Cave - Napanee, Ontario

Continuing along the Hell Hole Trail, you’ll reach the main reason for visiting, the Hell Hole Cave. It’s only a short walk away from the Devil’s Horse Stable Cave. You can’t miss it. There’s a hole in the ground with a ladder sticking out of it.

I have to admit, I felt a little bit on edge. The ladder descended into this small hole in the ground. I peered down into the Hell Hole Cave and only saw darkness. Who knew what was down there?

Within moments, we heard voices coming up from down in the hole…the voices of young kids! A family with three young children were already down in the cave. Shortly after we arrived, they came back up. Two young boys and a girl absolutely loved the adventure of being down inside the cave. 

I told the kids that I was a little bit scared, and they told me that I had no reason to be scared. I figured….well, if these little kids aren’t afraid, then I shouldn’t be either. Needless to say, I still made Justin head down into the cave first.

Justin descending into the Hell Hole Cave
Lauren descending into the Hell Hole Cave

Down into the Hell Holes

We descended 7.5 meters into the cave and reached the bottom. At first, it seemed a little bit narrow, but the cave eventually opens up into a larger cavern. We were very glad that we brought the flashlight or else we wouldn’t have seen a thing. Don’t visit here without bringing a flashlight!

In the larger room, there is a thermometer that showed just how cool it was down there. Even when it’s a humid, summer day outside, it’s a whole other story down in the caves. Down below, it’s only about 8 degrees Celsius. Good thing we brought our sweaters!

Hell Holes Cave and Nature Trails in Napanee, Ontario
Hell Holes Cave and Nature Trails in Napanee, Ontario
Hell Holes Cave and Nature Trails in Napanee, Ontario
Hell Holes Cave and Nature Trails in Napanee, Ontario
A ladder up to the surface from these caves near Kingston Ontario

Walking Down the Hell Hole Trail

We climbed back up to the surface after spending some time down in the cave. Then, Justin and I continued to hike along the Hell Hole Trail in the forest towards a natural stone bridge. After crossing it, we descended down into a valley.

Hiking trails in Napanee and hiking trails near Kingston Ontario
Hell Hole Trail in Ontario Canada

The forest is surrounded by giant limestone boulders covered in lush moss. Ferns poked out between the rocks and it’s almost like being in a tropical rainforest. There are massive layers of rocks stacked one on top of the other.  Nature is so incredible.

Pillar Rock

Pillar Rock, Ontario, Canada

Pillar Rock is a really interesting rock formation, unlike any that we’ve ever seen. Larger parts of the boulder balances on top of columns of rock. There are a lot of different angles to observe and wander around Pillar Rock.

Caves and rock formations near Kingston and Toronto Ontario
Caves and rock formations near Kingston and Toronto Ontario

Pack the Bug Spray

Trust me on this one. As we descended down into the valley, the bug population seemed to increase. We sprayed ourselves with the bug spray from the office, but maybe some of it had worn off or we didn’t spray enough of it. Maybe it’s better to bring it along with you to reapply.

They were everywhere. The bugs loved Justin’s dark hoodie and clung to his back like crazy. We were constantly swatting the bugs away while we were walking.

At one point, I made the mistake of informing Justin that there were at least 30 bugs stuck to his back, and he took off running down the trail, hoping to get rid of them. It was pretty entertaining to see him flailing his arms all around. We tried our best to ignore these annoying little creatures and made the best of the rest of the walk.

Hell Holes Nature Trails and Caves - pack the bug spray
Inukshuk at Hell Hole Trail
A giant Inukshuk we saw near the end of the hike.

Plan Your Trip

The physical address of Hell Holes Nature Trails is 420 Barrett Road, Centreville, Ontario (near Napanee, 45 minutes west of Kingston, and 2.5 hours east of Toronto). It opens on weekends starting Victoria Day (May 24 long weekend) until Father’s Day. Then, it’s open daily from Father’s Day until Labour Day. Finally, it’s back to weekends only from Labour Day until it starts to snow.

UPDATE: Please note that Hell Holes Nature Trails will NOT open in 2020. Hopefully they will open in 2021.

Travel to Hell Holes Caves and Kingston

Stand up paddle boarding in Kingston Ontario

Looking for somewhere to visit on your way? It’s always good to plan in advance, especially during busier summer months. We recommend making a little overnight trip of it. Visit Hell Hole Nature Trails on your road trip from Toronto or Ottawa. Then, drive from Napanee to Kingston to spend the night there.

Kingston is an excellent addition to your trip. We went stand-up paddleboarding on the St. Lawrence River at Kingston’s waterfront and had a really fun time. If you have another extra day, go hiking at the 1000 Islands National Park (especially at hiking at Landon Bay!) or go kayaking at the 1000 Islands. If you’re visiting in the fall, be sure to check out Pumpkinferno, an annual Halloween lantern festival.

Stay at Hotel Belvedere in Kingston

Hotel Belvedere in Kingston

We’ve stayed overnight in Kingston before at the historic Hotel Belvedere. It’s a charming, beautiful old home filled with antiques. The location is amazing and you can walk anywhere to the waterfront and to downtown Kingston. Book your stay at Hotel Belvedere or read more reviews of Hotel Belvedere.

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What are your favorite hiking trails with caves?

5 Responses

  1. Steven
    |

    Great post! Very Nice. Thanks for share!

  2. Beth Camp
    |

    Hello, Lauren. What a neat photo essay about a hike into the bowels of the earth! Wow! Your pictures and story made me wonder about this history of this place, who discovered it (and when), and how the caves got their name. I hope you have many such great adventures ahead.

  3. Doug
    |

    Hi Lauren
    It is great to meet you here on #blogboost. I drive through Kingston, Nepean about four times a year. I have stopped at the “Big Apple” once. I did not know about the Hell Hole. I will ask some people to make a day trip this summer to check them out. Thanks for telling us about them. I look forward to reading more about your travel adventures and seeing your wonderful pictures.

  4. Ben
    |

    Those trees look gorgeous. I’d be a bit apprehensive about going into a he’ll hole too especially after seeing where Satan parks his horse.

    I’d like to go see this but I hate the cold weather so I’ve avoided heading north from the states.

    Maybe if I go I’ll get the Winchester brothers to come with me lol. If you don’t get the reference watch supernatural…hehe

  5. Miranda and Dylan
    |

    Looks like loads of fun!