Finally, I’ve hit the trails again! It’s been way too long. That isn’t to say that I haven’t been hiking in a while, but it’s been a year and a half since I hiked the Bruce Trail. I have the goal of hiking the Bruce Trail in its entirety, from Niagara to Tobermory. That’s almost 900 km of connected hiking trails that spans one end of southern Ontario to the other. This will take years and years and I will happily slowly savor the journey. Some people choose to hike the Bruce Trail as fast as they can or to trek the trail over a month’s time. For my busy lifestyle, I think it’s more realistic to go for walks and hikes whenever I can now and again.
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Bruce Trail Niagara Club
I started walking the Bruce Trail in the Niagara region because it’s closest to home. The Bruce Trail is divided up into several clubs or sections. The Bruce Trail Niagara Club’s trails meander from Queenston to Grimbsy. All in all, there are 80 km of hiking trails in the Bruce Trail Niagara section, meaning I’m more than halfway done.
When you complete a section of the trail or the entire Bruce Trail end to end, you can request trail badges from the Bruce Trail Conservancy. Hopefully it will only be a few more hikes and I can request my Niagara End to End badge! Once I start earning more badges, I’m sure I’ll have a section on the blog devoted to them. Until then, I’m working hard to earn my very first trail badge.
Map of the Bruce Trail: Hike #9
I like to visually post photos of maps of the Bruce Trail to show my hiking trip. I track my hikes through the Bruce Trail reference guide. However, I’ve also downloaded the app (for Android), and it’s also available at the Apple Store for iPhone. You can see updated to the Bruce Trail reference book online, but it’s even easier with the app that updates on its own. My hike started at Rockway Conservation Area, traveled through Louth Conservation Area, and ended right before reaching Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. This meant that I walked through the end of Map 3 (Short Hills, Niagara Club) and onto Map 4 (Ball’s Falls, Niagara Club).
The Bruce Trail Hike Starts at Rockway Conservation Area
I started my hike at the entrance to Rockway Conservation Area, precisely where I ended my last trek. There’s a large parking lot at the Rockway Community Centre where day trippers and hikers park their cars to hit the trails. The Bruce Trail winds through a lot of Ontario Conservation Areas, so it’s wonderful to visit green spaces in the province that I might otherwise not have visited.
Once you enter the path, you’ll see a rocky gorge to your left. It’s a little tricky to see with so many trees in the way. During times of higher rainfall, I’m sure there will be some water trickling over the edge. On this hot, summer day, there wasn’t any inkling of a waterfall. Even at some points on the journey where there was to be a small creek, the water had completely dried up.
Rockway Conservation Area and Getting Lost
It’s really easy to hike around Rockway Conservation Area by taking the Rockway Falls Side Trail. The Rockway Falls Side Trail branches off the main Bruce Trail path and does a full loop back to the Bruce Trail. However, if you want to keep following the Bruce Trail, you must follow the white blazes and not the blue blazes.
This is where it gets a little bit confusing. I figured that the two white blazes in the photo above meant to veer straight ahead, which was to the left of the tree? Wrong. That’s actually following the blue blaze that’s above it. Silly me! I hiked along a good portion of the Rockway Falls Side Trail until I realized that I was no longer seeing any white marks on the trees. I backtracked and sorted out where I went wrong. The main Bruce Trail path becomes quite small, but you can see some white marks on skinny trees beside the path.
Do you hear gun shots?
Right from the start of hiking the Bruce Trail that day, I heard sounds off in the distance. Boom! What the heck was that? Boom! Was it fireworks? Boom! But, it was the middle of the day. It almost sounds like…gun shots.
After looking on Google maps on my phone, I discovered that the Maple Leaf Marksmen Rifle & Revolver Club was right near the Rockway Conservation Area. Were those sounds possibly coming from the nearby gun club?
I kept hearing them all the way to Louth Conservation Area and nearly to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. That’s a little far from the rifle club. Since I first wrote this article, I shared it with the members of the Bruce Trail Facebook group, and I learned that the sounds were likely air cannons at the nearby wineries used to scare away birds.
Little Wooden Bridges
On this Bruce Trail Niagara club hike, there were several small wooden bridges that pass over creeks and running water. You can see that there isn’t any water here in the middle of the summer. The riverbed has completely dried up. I’m sure that isn’t the case during the spring thaw.
Hiking to Louth Conservation Area
Once I walked through the remaining parts of Rockway Conservation Area, I had to cross a road to the next area between Rockway and Louth Conservation Areas. The Bruce Trail gets quite overgrown here. I don’t imagine that this section of the trail is very popular. In fact, even on a sunny and beautiful Sunday afternoon in the summer, I didn’t encounter a single other hiker!
At times, it was difficult to see the path as it was overgrown with plants. While wearing sunscreen is something I’d recommend for many parts of the trail, I highly recommend spraying any exposed skin with bug spray before hiking here. There’s always a potential for ticks to be present in the forest. This section of trail involves walking through denser trails with plants rubbing up against your arms and legs at times. It’s better to be safe! And while we’re talking about things to bring when you go hiking, don’t forget to bring a water bottle!
Private Property on the Bruce Trail
On some occasions the Bruce Trail path travels through Ontario conservation areas and land owned by the Bruce Trail Conservancy. In order to connect this path from Niagara to Tobermory, the trail sometimes goes through private property. It’s up to the landowners whether or not to allow hikers to trek through their property. On many occasions, there are no incidents and the property owners have no issues with hikers. But, if people cause trouble on their land, they might revoke the rights for hikers to set foot on their land. In these cases, the Bruce Trail must be rerouted through other land. Many times, this means hiking on far less scenic areas like country roads.
On this stretch of private land, I came across a sign with a picture of a dog on it. I suppose that there must be a dog living nearby that likes to run around through the forest. If you encounter this dog named Bogey, he has an intense sounding bark but he’s actually quite sweet. Their only request? That you don’t feed Bogey as he’s on a diet!
Reroutes of the Bruce Trail
It’s always a good idea to follow the white blazes on the path. The Bruce Trail guidebook and app do make this easier, although I know that my Bruce Trail reference guide is a little out of date. On many occasions, there are reroutes of the Bruce Trail due to ecological reasons or private property owners revoking the rights for hikers to use them. The blazes are completely up to date on this section of the trail, although there are little reminders that the trail has been rerouted.
Louth Conservation Area
You will know when you reach the Louth Conservation Area. The trail becomes much wider and groomed. There aren’t as many plants growing into the path, and you’ll have lots of space to stretch out on the trail. The Louth Conservation Area doesn’t have a lot of hiking trails, but you can take the Louth Side Trail to extend your hike. Otherwise, feel free to stick to the Bruce Trail to continue on your way.
A main feature of Louth Conservation Area is Louth Falls. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there wasn’t a waterfall there when I visited at the end of August. Louth Falls almost completely dried up, though I could see some damp patches on the rocks. I’m sure this waterfall looks quite brilliant in the spring. If you’re seeking waterfalls on the Bruce Trail, spring and early summer could be the best times to visit.
Plants, Mushrooms and Wild Flowers
I saw quite a bit of interesting flora on this Bruce Trail hike. There were many mushrooms growing all around. I also saw lots of different wildflowers and berries growing. Please be kind to the natural environment and don’t pick anything. And definitely don’t eat anything! Leave no trace when you hike, simply take photos and admire.
Seventeenth Street and Hiking by Vineyards
Eventually, you’ll come out to a clearing and a road by some farms. I soon discovered that this was actually a vineyard: the Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. While I didn’t stop for any wine tastings, I had no idea that this winery was there. I’d love to pop by in the future to try it!
The next section is a walk up Seventeenth Street, which is essentially a country road. This road can get a little bit busy, so make sure you’re well off to the side of the road when you’re hiking. You’ll walk past the Shangri-La Niagara Family Campground and eventually will see a sign denoting the Bruce Trail on the right side of the road. The entrance to the next wooded path is on your left.
From Seventeenth Street to Glen Road
There’s another green space that you’ll hike through here, along with another opportunity to take a side trail for even more hiking. If you feel like veering off the Bruce Trail, feel free to explore the Jim Rainforth Side Trail. This trail used to be called the Jordan Side Trail, and it used to wind through different land. Please see the Bruce Trail website for the current path of the Jim Rainforth Side Trail.
Crossing Nineteenth Street
There’s one more street crossing that you’ll make before reaching Glen Road, the place where I stopped hiking for the day. You’ll have to be on the lookout for the white blazes to find where the Bruce Trail continues.
Finishing the Hike at Glen Road
I always complete my hikes where there’s a parking lot. That’s where I’ll park my car at the start of the next hike. There’s room for a few cars here at Glen Road. This marks an eastern entrance to the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. I’ve never been there before, and I’ve heard that the waterfall is gorgeous. I’m really looking forward to this for Bruce Trail Hike #10, hopefully coming soon!
So, how did I get back to my car without hiking all the way back? Thankfully, Uber is available in this area. I requested an Uber, and it took about 15 minutes for my car to arrive. Please note that Uber might not always be available here. I didn’t have any trouble getting picked up, but my driver informed me that it’s too far for some Uber drivers to travel and they’ll cancel the ride. Ubers are also difficult to order here at night, so please take that into consideration.
The Bruce Trail: My Hiking Journey
Here are the stats for my Bruce Trail hikes. Here’s how far I’ve hiked and how far I have to go on my goal to hike the Bruce Trail in its entirety. This also serves as a trail log of my treks. If you’re interested in reading about my past hikes, please check out my Bruce Trail Hiking Page.
|Date||August 25, 2019|
|Location||Map 03 (Short Hills) and Map 04 (Ball’s Falls)|
|Total Trail Distance||53.7 km (840.3 km remaining)|
|Start||Rockway Road Parking Lot|
|Finish||53.7 Glen Road Parking Lot|
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