Finding the Best Fall Colour Hikes in the Hamilton GTA
Many of the best fall hikes offer the perfect opportunity to experience nature at its finest; cooler temperatures, warmer hues as the maples shimmer in the sunlight, their relinquished leaves creating sunsets on the forest floor. As you can probably tell, it is my favorite season. There’s no real mystery as to why I love autumn so much. As a girl born in the tropics, seeing the leave change colors for the first time in Canada really conceptualize the idea of change to me. Things will not be as it was, it will shift, evolve, and a new beginning will be shaped. Goodbye Khao-I-Dang, hello greener pastures. That was my thought when I first saw autumn as a little girl that only ever saw perpetually green foliage.
Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul… but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.”
― Peggy Toney Horton
October, what a splendid time to explore fall colors in the parks and find the best fall hikes near you. For me specifically, I was able to make time to explore a few hikes in the Hamilton Halton Brant area of Ontario. There’s no shortage of nature destinations, hiking trails, or scenic drives in the area, but since my time was limited, I was only able to enjoy a few perfect fall hikes.
One of the Best Fall Hikes: Forks of the Credit Provincial Park
I have been aware of the Forks of the Credit for years, and even though it’s a close drive for me, I’ve only now enjoyed the trail in person. And, at the best time! It was the second week of October and the colors were at its peak. They had all the splendor, contrast, visual appeal, and certainly the same amount of impact as Muskoka or even Algonquin (which are a couple of hours drive north of Toronto). Although we went there on a weekday in the late afternoon, there were quite a few people still meandering around. I can imagine it being very busy on the weekends, especially during autumn.
Appropriately named, Forks of the Credit Provincial Park marks the area where the Credit River narrows, rushes through a deep gorge and plunges over high cliffs. If you want to explore the waterfall area, it’s better to park off of Mississauga Rd at the Elora Cataract Trailway trailhead entrance, however, if you want a longer more scenic, forested path, you can start from the main trailhead off of McClaren Road.
From the parking lot off McClaren Road, we followed the Meadow Trail leading us toward Kettle Lake, pictured above. A great area to unwind with a picnic basket while appreciating the reds, orange and gold hues of the trees surrounding the lake which was created by glaciers 10,000 years ago. A walk along the bridge, and through the meadow will take you into high forest area of tall mature trees with a closed canopy that surrounds the mouth of this stunning gorge.
The diversity of landscapes in this park makes it a great place to enjoy fall colors in the forest canopy while challenging yourself; either to a climb along the gorge or up the hills. Moving along the Meadow Trail, there will be many signs pointing towards the waterfall. A viewing platform is erected at the end of the trail for you to capture the beauty of Cataract Fall, however, at the moment it is closed off for future re-construction plans.
Direction to the main parking of Forks of the Credit Provincial Park Hike
The main parking lot is off of McLaren Road on the north-east side of the park. You will find a parking meter just past the parking lot before entering the hiking area.
One of the Best Fall Hikes: Spencer Gorge-Webster’s Falls Conservation Area
If you’re in the Hamilton area, a visit to Dundas Peak and Hamilton’s network of waterfalls is a quintessential fall nature experience. Pack some light snacks, bring a thermos full of hot tea and spend the day in Hamilton exploring sights like Tews Falls, Spencer Gorge, and Tiffany’s Fall.
The Spencer Gorge-Webster’s Falls Conservation Area is home to a beautiful wilderness area with 40 kilometers of trails for trekkers or bikers, and Dundas Peak, one of Hamilton’s best views, especially during the autumn season. Nearby are two waterfalls –Webster’s Falls, a 21-meter tiered waterfall, and Tews Falls (pictured below) a plunging waterfall at 41-meter tall.
The Spencer Gorge, which is part of the Dundas Valley, and the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, is a “Y” shaped gorge around 1 km in length, with the depth reaching 100 meters. In contrast to the gently sloping landscape of the nearby area, the walls of the gorge are very steep, and in some areas, unfenced. This gorge was created by the melting streams of the Wisconsin glaciation about 10, 000 years ago, and displays a stratigraphic section featuring many different types of rocks in a variety of shades. A beautiful sight to behold, juxtaposed to the rich fall colors of the surrounding trees.
Hiking the Spencer Gorge-Webster’s Falls Conservation Area
To begin your fall hiking adventure, make your way to Webster’s Fall just off of HWY 8 in Dundas. Although the stairs to the bottom of the fall were officially removed, there’s a viewing area just a short walk from the parking lot. The fall is not very high, however, the width of the falls makes a magnificent cascading curtain of water; it completely covers the rocks as it flows down to Spencer Creek. Although this fall is now available for public viewing pleasure, it was once one of the first hydro-electric generators in Ontario until it was acquired by the Hamilton Conservation Authority in the 1900s.
A two-kilometer hike away will take you to Tew’s Falls. An Upper and lower viewing platform provides a great spot to view the long streaming ribbon of Logie’s Creek as it tumbles over the steep escarpment into the gorge below. Its exposed bedrock with layers of sandstone, limestone, and shale provides a striking backdrop to the water.
Past Tew’s Fall, the trail continues a few kilometers towards the picturesque Dundas Peak which overlooks Hamilton to the right, and Lake Ontario to the left. The 101 meters escarpment highlights how the city is built around its natural elements, making this a great area to sit near the edge of the peak while enjoying a long break or picnic.
After gaining a decent amount of energy, wander off the beaten path and follow the Glen Ferguson Side Trail to head back up to Tew’s Falls. From here, you can hike down to the three Sydenham Falls. Depending on your energy level, you can hike another seven kilometers to make your way to Christie Lake. If you’re planning to spend a whole day outdoor, the quaint streets of downtown Dundas is only a short trip away, where inviting patios and ice cream parlors are available to finish off your adventure.
Some Important Pieces of information:
- There’s a parking fee of $10/car. There are two parking lots – one at Webster’s Falls and a much larger one at Tews Falls (607 Harvest Rd, Dundas, ON L9H 5K7). Don’t park on the side of the road; you will be ticketed and towed.
- Unfortunately, the stairs to get to the bottom are officially taken down. There’s no safe way to get to the base, and most areas leading down is blocked off.
- There’s a shuttle service that will run between large parking areas just outside Dundas and Spencer Gorge/Webster Falls Conservation Area. During the fall weekend, when it’s most busy, it is better to use the shuttle service as parking space is limited.