The Dundas Peak, Ontario is one of my favorite places to visit. First, it’s one of the prettiest places in Hamilton and dare I say, all of Ontario. It also holds a special meaning for me. I grew up in the town of Dundas (now part of the city of Hamilton), and I’ve always loved the Dundas Peak hike. While I have seen this space grow in popularity over the years, I can totally understand why everyone wants to visit. It’s beautiful!
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I’ve visited the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area since I was a kid. The Spencer Gorge is the scenic space made famous by Websters Falls, Tews Falls, and the Dundas Peak. While the Dundas Peak lookout is famous on its own, there are two amazing waterfalls just a short walk away from it. These hiking trails are gorgeous all year long, but fall is a special season in the Dundas Valley. The treetops gleam gold, amber, copper, and rust.
Visiting the Dundas Peak: Then and Now
I have so many memories of exploring the trails and waterfalls of Dundas while growing up there. We’d sway from makeshift rope swings at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, flying through the air and rolling into piles of leaves. I remember taking class hiking trips to Webster’s Falls right from my middle school, formerly known as Dundas District (now known as the District Lofts, as the school was transformed into condo units).
Could you imagine going to school right beneath the escarpment, moments away from the Dundas Peak trail and these epic waterfalls? I’m not even sure that I fully appreciated it back then. On one of those hikes in my pre-teen days, I recall walking along the path, headphones in my ears, listening to the Alanis Morrisette Jagged Little Pill CD on my Discman. A teacher confiscated the album due to its profane lyrics. Ah, the memories.
Nowadays, I live a few cities away from Dundas, but I find myself continually returning to the Dundas Peak in Hamilton. Dundas is where I’ll always feel most at home. Is there a place in the world that gives you that feeling?
Even though much has changed, I’m happy to show off my little hometown to everyone and anyone I know. Especially you, my lovely blog readers. Before the days of the Internet and forums and social media and blogs, the Dundas Peak (just known as “The Peak” to us) and its waterfalls were our little secret.
Now, I’m overjoyed that so many people from around the world visit my hometown because it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve witnessed. While the Dundas Peak trail is more popular than ever, I’m proud that this space that I find so important can be shared by so many.
Dundas Peak Update (Fall 2020)
Due to the current circumstances of the world, the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area, Webster’s Falls, Tews Falls, and the Dundas Peak Hamilton were closed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority for many months. Finally, these spaces have reopened to the public. We can all experience the Dundas Peak lookout and waterfalls once again.
You’ll need to make reservations in advance and you are limited to a two hour visit. All visitors, including HCA pass holders, will need to make a reservation. This will help manage visitor numbers to make it safe for everyone at the Dundas Peak, Webster’s Falls and Tews Falls.
As the Dundas Peak, Tews Falls, and Webster’s Falls are no longer linked by one singular hiking trail, they are split into two different experiences. You’ll need to either visit Webster’s Falls and its surrounding hiking trails OR the Dundas Peak and Tews Falls (as they’re on the same hiking trail). You will be able to visit either spot for two hours at a time. If you want to visit both, you’ll need to make separate reservations.
The reservation fees are as follows: $10 per online registration fee, $10 for each car, and $5 per person. If you have an HCA pass, you do not need to pay for parking or admission, but you will still need to reserve your space ahead of time and pay the online registration fee. Make your reservation here.
Fence Around the Peak
Please note that there is a large, black fence around the edge of the Dundas Peak. You can no longer go to the edge of the cliffs to take photos or admire the views. You will have to keep behind the fence that lines the entire Peak. It’s so unfortunate that there is now a fence there. This area has truly changed over the years, and I feel as though this is the largest (and worst) transformation. I will update this blog post with new photos of the fence when I return.
Dundas Peak Parking (Updated)
Back in the day, I used to park for free at Webster’s Falls, Tews Falls, and the Dundas Peak. However, Hamilton’s tourism campaign promoting the city as the waterfall capital of the world was a resounding success (I’ve also called it the frozen waterfall capital of the world!). With a huge influx of visitors, the Hamilton Conservation Authority started to charge a parking fee to deter some visitors.
From May to the end of October on weekends, you can’t park at any official parking lots on site. There is a shuttle service for guests from Christie Lake Conservation Area. To make matters a little more confusing, the shuttle service was cancelled during the current global situation because it isn’t appropriate that everyone cram into a shuttle bus together. Instead, you can now park right on site, but the amount of visitors is limited by the online reservation system.
For the Dundas Peak and Tews Falls reservations, you can park your car at 581 Harvest Road in Dundas (the parking lot address). The Dundas Peak and Tews Falls hike follows a 1.8km loop trail, as I’ll explain briefly. For the Websters Falls reservations, the parking lot is at the Greensville Optimist Park, 277 Brock Road, Dundas. This hike leads you from the parking lot, across a bridge, and into the park where you’ll be able to witness the beauty of Websters Falls from a couple of vantage points.
Dundas Peak Free Parking
If you’re looking for Dundas Peak free parking, you’ll be hard pressed to find it. At the top of the escarpment, every side street is marked with no parking signs. Don’t park on these streets as you’ll surely get a ticket or towed. Please don’t try to park anywhere in Greensville other than the designated lots.
There are loads of places to park down below the escarpment in the Dundas Valley that are free. However, it is now illegal to hike from the base of the escarpment and up through the forest to the Dundas Peak. This involves crossing the CN Rail tracks, which is trespassing.
While you can park down below and walk up using the city streets (up the hill on King Street), you’ll still need to make the reservation and pay admission to enter. As you will be paying for parking and admission, you may as well take advantage of the parking lots. Unlike the years gone by, there is no Dundas Peak free parking. This area is heavily monitored.
Tews Falls, the Dundas Peak Waterfall
The easiest and most popular Dundas Peak trail hike starts at Tews Falls and follows the Tews Falls Lookout Trail (also known as the Spencer Adventure Trail) to the Dundas Peak. You’ll witness the panoramic views of the valley, the stunning Spencer Gorge, and the geological wonders of the Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve).
Right away, you’ll reach Tews Falls, a waterfall that’s 41 metres high, just a few metres short of Niagara Falls. I recommend checking Tews Falls out during the spring and fall months, as the waterfall can nearly dry up in the summer. If you can visit in the autumn just after a rainfall, Tews Falls will shine with the most magnificence.
The Dundas Peak Hike
From Tews Falls, continue hiking to the Dundas Peak. It’s a relatively easy, gentle ascent to the top of the escarpment. You’ll start by climbing a staircase. Then, admire the shady trees all around you, with small glimpses of the Spencer Gorge and beyond.
This hike is lovely all year long, although I’m partial to the autumn. Don’t venture off the trail. Follow the blue markers until you reach the Peak. It’s technically called the “Dundas Lookout Side Trail”, although it’s only a few steps to the lookout itself.
Dundas Peak Lookout
Please note that this area will look differently now from the photos you’ll see here. I took these pictures in October 2018. There is now a four foot black fence around the edge of the Dundas Peak. You won’t be able to get close to the edge or take photos at the edge. You’ll still be able to admire the view from behind the fence.
At the main Dundas Peak lookout, you’ll see the iconic short wall that’s usually spray painted with graffiti (this may no longer be there). From there, enjoy panoramic views of the entire town. I have visited this spot with so many friends over the years, and even on my own.
It was one of the first places I took Justin when we started dating. Back in those days, there were never many other people around and we usually had it to ourselves. Nowadays, it’s a very different space with people taking turns snapping photographs of each other, as well as an unlimited amount of selfies.
Just like everyone else, I was pleased to capture pictures at the Dundas Peak for my own Instagram. While we can wistfully dream of earlier times when the Dundas Peak was left undiscovered by the masses, I’m happy to inspire others to visit this sensational scenery.
You won’t be able to take photos at the edge of the Dundas Peak like I did for many years. There is now a big fence around it. Please do not try to climb over the fence or find an alternate way. It’s extremely dangerous to do so. Over the years, many people have fallen over the edge. There were risky rope rescues, and you’re putting lots of other people in danger if you fall. Plus, you might not survive.
Reaching Webster’s Falls from Tews Falls
Webster’s Falls and Tews Falls are both spectacular waterfalls and relatively close to one another. Once upon a time, we used to be able to hike from one to the next with ease along the Bruce Trail.
Unfortunately, many visitors were disrespectful to the nearby landowners who generously allowed the trail to wind through their property. From nude photo shoots to trespassing and intruding around their yard, the property owners revoked the rights for hikers to pass through their land. You’re currently unable to hike between Webster’s Falls and Tews Falls.
Here are a couple of suggestions: you can park at Tews Falls to hike the Dundas Peak trail to see the lookout and the waterfall. Then, you can move your car to the parking lot at the Greensville Optimist Park to see Webster’s Falls. Conversely, you can leave your car at the Tews Falls lot, walk down Harvest Road, Short Road, and then Fallsview Road to the waterfall. Maybe one day there will be another hiking route that will reunite the two waterfalls on the same path. (As of Fall 2020, you do need to make separate reservations at both spots, which includes parking in both lots).
Hiking to the Bottom of Websters Falls
To make matters even more confusing, there isn’t any way to reach the base of Webster’s Falls from the top of it. There used to be a staircase, but it was removed to preserve the ecology of the land.
If you enter the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area to see Webster’s Falls from the top of the escarpment (at Fallsview Road), you’ll catch stunning views of the waterfall cascading over the edge. However, Websters Falls is most brilliantly viewed from the bottom of the waterfall, as seen in our video about Dundas. The official HCA website asks that you do not climb any fences or edges of the gorge to climb to the bottom of the falls.
Unfortunately, there is no longer a way to hike to the base of Webster’s Falls or Tews Falls. There are fences that will block your way if you try to access the hiking trails from down below. I really hope that they open this back up in the future. Hiking to the base of Webster’s Falls was one of the best features of this conservation area.
Webster’s Falls is the winter is equally as beautiful as all the other seasons. When you visit the Tews Falls, Webster’s Falls, and the Dundas Peak in the winter, you won’t find many other visitors there with you. It’s probably the only time of year when you’ll feel like you have the whole place to yourself.
Get out there and see the Spencer Gorge, Dundas Peak, Websters Falls and Tews Falls during any season. I recommend going on a weekday during the fall for the gorgeous autumn colours. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, visit early in the morning where you’ll be sharing the trail with mostly locals walking their dogs.
Even when I visited on a weekday afternoon, it wasn’t terribly crowded. The peak fall colours can happen anywhere from the end of September to mid October. They might peak later in October if the summer heat continues for longer than anticipated.
What to Pack to the Dundas Peak Ontario
I recommend 10 essential items to bring with you for any day hike. These will keep you safe, comfortable, and happy during your hiking trip. These include:
- Sunscreen (that’s also organic, vegan, reef safe and cruelty-free)
- Lip Balm with SPF (vegan, gluten-free, paraben free)
- Waterproof rain jackets for men and for women
- Reusable water bottle to bring lots of water for hiking trips
- Energy bars or granola bars (I personally love these ones)
- Bug spray for mosquitos and ticks (that’s cruelty-free and organic)
- DSLR Camera to capture all of the memories!
More Things to Do in Dundas
There are plenty of things to do in Dundas that will keep you busy all day long. While you’re visiting the Dundas Peak, I suggest venturing into the little main street and downtown core (King Street).
There are lots of little boutique shops (Beanermunky is the local chocolate shop, Records on Wheels is the record store, and the Horn of Plenty is an amazing health food shop), the Detour coffee shop (my fav!), and many restaurants. A few local favorite restaurants in downtown Dundas include:
- Bangkok Spoon Deluxe (Thai restaurant in the old “Deluxe” 50s diner)
- The Thirsty Cactus (Mexican restaurant)
- India Village (Indian restaurant)
- Collins Brewhouse (local pub)
- Little Asia (vegetarian Asian restaurant)
- Taylor’s Tea Room (tea shop and lunch spot)
If you’re in town during the middle of August, you might arrive just in time for the annual Cactus Festival, a local hidden gem with a parade, midway, and a big party. There’s also Busker Fest that happens every year at the beginning of June. Visiting during the holidays? Dundas has lots of Christmas celebrations on weekends during the holidays, and you won’t have to pay for parking during the month of December.
There are no shortage of other places to go hiking in Dundas. The Dundas Valley Conservation Area is one of the best hiking spots in Dundas, and you can also link right up with the Rail Trail that extends between Hamilton and Brantford. Here are more of the best hiking trails in Hamilton that will keep you busy for weeks!
Where to Stay in Dundas and Hamilton
Looking to make a weekend of it? There are a few fantastic accommodations in the Dundas and Hamilton area to upgrade your day hike to a weekend of fantastic memories.
The Osler House in Dundas, ON
While there aren’t very many accommodations in Dundas itself, the Osler House is a beautiful Victorian mansion where you can rest your head at night. It was once the home of the renowned Osler family, and it’s now a boutique and exclusive inn. You’re within walking distance of quaint downtown Dundas where you can browse the shops and have a delicious meal. Book your stay at the Olser House or read more reviews from fellow travelers.
Homewood Suites in Hamilton, ON
If hotels are more your style, you’ll have to venture into the bigger metropolis of Hamilton. I recommend staying at the Homewood Suites in Hamilton. This hotel has fantastic reviews from its guests, and it’s in a really trendy area. Every room also has a kitchenette, a pool, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast. You’ll feel right at home here! Book your stay at the Homewood Suites or read more reviews from fellow travelers.
Airbnbs in Dundas and Hamilton Ontario
Of course, Airbnb is always an option. Find unique homes and apartments to feel right at home during your time in Dundas, Ontario. There are quite a few properties in Dundas on Airbnb. Check them out to compare. Haven’t used Airbnb before? Use my link to save up to $60 on your first stay. Here’s a map of the local Airbnb listings.
I hope you enjoyed this insider’s perspective from a local Dundas gal. This hiking region is my own little slice of paradise and one of my favourite places. Yes, it might be the Dundas Peak Hamilton now, but they always belong to the town of Dundas in my eyes (who else remembers the “Dundas Forever” campaign?). Enjoy your visit and please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions about the waterfalls or Dundas in general as I’m always happy to help.
Dundas Peak Frequently Asked Questions
You might still have a few questions about the Dundas Peak. I’ve received quite a few emails over the years since I first published this article. I’ll try my best to summarize and answer your questions here.
The entire hike between Tews Falls and the Dundas Peak should only take around an hour. You’ll want to spend a longer amount of time in both places to take photos and absorb the beautiful views. I’d allow an hour and a half to two hours in total at the Dundas Peak and Tews Falls.
The best way to hike to the Dundas Peak is by starting at Tews Falls and taking the Tews Falls Side Trail. The path will lead you directly to the Dundas Peak. There are some other hiking paths and routes to get to the Dundas Peak if you live locally. But, the main way to get to the Dundas Peak from the parking lot is by hiking the main Dundas Peak trail, the Tews Falls Side Trail.
Right now, there is a reservation fee of $10, a car parking fee of $10, and a charge of $5 per person. Usually, you do not have to pay for the reservation fee (this is only during the global crisis we’re currently facing).
The Dundas Peak trails are dog friendly. Lots of locals take their dogs for walks on the Tews Falls Side Trail. Please be mindful of your dog once you reach the Dundas Peak itself. Keep your dog on a leash at all times.
The walk to Websters Falls is not too far from the car parking lot. You should be able to reach the waterfall within a 5 to 10 minute walk. If you choose to hike from below the escarpment and up to the base of Webster’s Falls, this hike takes at least an hour.
At its highest point, the Dundas Peak is 110 metres or 360 feet from the base of the escarpment to the top.
Tews Falls is 41 metres high. It is a ribbon waterfall that’s nearly as high as Niagara Falls. Located at the Spencer Gorge in Greensville / Dundas, its water source is Logie’s Creek.
Webster’s Falls is 22 metres high. It is a classic curtain or plunge waterfall. Located at the Spencer Gorge in Greensville / Dundas, its water source is the Spencer Creek.
Tews Falls Side Trail is a rugged hiking trail that is not wheelchair accessible or stroller friendly. There’s also a staircase near the start of the trail. However, Webster’s Falls has paved paths and there are areas that are wheelchair accessible there.