While Niagara enjoys a stellar reputation for its natural wonders — namely, it’s waterfalls — not nearly enough people know about or take advantage of its excellent hiking, which is a shame. From city parks and conservation areas to Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, there are stunning options for nearly every skill, age, and fitness level. Add to the wealth of options, the fall foliage, and spending some time in Niagara for the express purpose of getting outdoors and moving your body just may start to shape up as one of the best vacation ideas you’ve ever had. Here are just a handful of the many wonderful autumn hiking options that abound in Niagara.
1. Burgoyne Woods Trail
Perfect for beginners or people for whom traditional mobility can be a challenge, Burgoyne Woods is a 49-hectare park located in the southern part of St. Catharines. With a paved front loop that’s wheelchair accessible, the back loop is surfaced with everything from woods chips and tar to simple, exposed earth. There is some steepness to the back portion of the woods that will get your heart rate up, but even if you aren’t as fit as you once were, breathing hard will do nothing to distract you from the changing colors of the trees.
2. Niagara Glen Nature Reserve
Located in the Great Gorge, the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve is where you can take a more rugged hike that’s still only two and a half miles long. Follow the stairs into a beautiful bit of unsullied Carolinian Forest that’s stunning any time of year — but especially in autumn. The elevation change of this small trail is substantial—200 feet—and you’ll need to wear rugged shoes to traverse it without fear, but it’s worth it: The forest is altogether camera-worthy.
3. Woodend Conservation Area
This 45-hectare conservation area is just outside of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Plenty of hiking trails weave in and out of its mostly Carolinian Forest, including trees like the sugar maple, black cherry, and black oak. The trails throughout Woodend also afford hikers the opportunity to step out into meadows where they can take in impressive views of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. When the foliage is at its peak, these more open views of the landscape can be breathtaking. Woodend is also a great site for bird watching, so be sure to pack your binoculars.
4. White Water Walk
While you’ll have to pay to have this particular hiking experience, it’s especially well-suited to small children, folks who don’t do well on uneven ground, and anyone for whom a true hike isn’t an option. The White Water Walk lets you wander along a quarter-mile boardwalk that’s been built above a stretch of the ever-churning Niagara River. To access the walk, purchase a ticket. From there, you’ll take an elevator down to a tunnel. The boardwalk sits atop Class 6 rapids that are some of the fastest moving and largest in all of North America. It provides a great view of the Niagara Gorge, and you’ll also get a great chance to see the changing trees that line the rocky cliffs along the river.
Autumn hiking in Niagara is fantastic. Whether you’re young or old, fit or frail, get outside and take in the foliage this fall.