With most international travel still on hold, and many of us really needing to go somewhere, I thought it might be fun to do a little exploring and visit some fantastic waterfalls in Southern Ontario. The Niagara escarpment is known for its spectacular falls, and spring is the best time of year to visit them, as the water runs very fast.
First off, I would suggest a decent pair of hiking boots, as some of these destinations are a bit off the beaten path. Many however, are quite accessible, and if the weather is nice, you will not be disappointed. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your camera.
Some of my favourites and not in any particular order, are within an hour or so of Durham. I will start with Tiffany Falls, one of the most elegant waterfalls I have seen. Best of all, it is easily accessed from Wilson Street in Ancaster. It is 21 metres (68 feet) high and is just a few minutes walk from the road. There is even a viewing platform to make this very easy.
There is a creek above the waterfalls to visit Washboard Falls, but I would not recommend it, as the climb is treacherous and you can damage the plant life. If the weather changes, you may get stuck there and have to be rescued.
Next on my list at 19 metres (62 feet) is Albion Falls, one of the most majestic waterfalls in Hamilton thanks to the steep cliff face and tree coverage. The large boulders on the bottom add to its majesty. In summer, many people visit Albion Falls and bask in the sun on the boulders.
In 2017 the City of Hamilton closed access to Albion falls due in part to the number of fatal and nonfatal injuries being suffered by visitors and emergency rescue workers. It has had more rescues than any other waterfalls in Hamilton. In April of last year, the city revealed initial plans for a world class platform, so visitors will once again be able to get an upfront viewing experience.
Albion Falls flows year round into Red Hill Creek, and is joined by a tributary from Buttermilk Falls. It twists, turns and meanders before ending in Lake Ontario.
One of my personal favourites is Webster Falls; the second of two waterfalls that makes its home in Dundas’ Spencer’s Gorge.
At 22 Meters (72 feet) Webster’s Falls is far from the tallest, but it is of incredible beauty. The creek flows over the edge into Spencer Creek and the bridge over Spencer Creek, before the waterfall adds a lot to the charm of Webster’s Falls.
This waterfall has been a favourite for many people to visit for day picnics with family and friends. Hiking in from the bottom can be a bit of a chore, but a fun hike nonetheless.
Smokey Hollow Falls, in Waterdown, is where Grindstone Creek flows over the Niagara Escarpment. This waterfall is also known as Great Falls and Grindstone Falls.
To reach Smokey Hollow Falls, exit the 403 at Hwy 6 and head north west. Turn right onto Hwy 5, and then turn right on Mill Street. The park is on the right as you descend the escarpment. There is a viewing platform. If you follow the Bruce Trail downstream, you can easily get into the gorge and to the base of the falls.
Grindstone Creek appears to have a lot more water than many of the other waterfall producing creeks in the area, making it really worth the trip.
Also in the Niagara escarpment area is Sherman Falls, located where the Ancaster Creek flows over the Niagara Escarpment. This is a surprisingly scenic waterfall hidden away in the middle of town. The creek is spring fed, so this waterfall has a more steady flow than many in the area.
This is a very pretty waterfall. The rock here is much smoother than at most of the waterfalls in the area, and the water slides down the two tiers in a very graceful fashion. Upstream, Ancaster Creek tumbles over a smaller falls at the Old Mill Restaurant.
If you want to head out of town, I would suggest Inglis Falls, in Grey-Bruce. It was on my bucket list for many years and I finally got to see it. Known as “the best waterfall in the area”, Inglis is the most visited, anytime of year. Situated in the heart of the 200-hectare Inglis Falls Conservation Area, Inglis Falls is an 18 metre (60 feet) high cascade, created by the Sydenham River meeting the edge of the Niagara Escarpment.
The power of the water has carved a deep gorge at the base of the falls. On a clear day you can see down the valley into the City of Owen Sound, and out to the Owen Sound harbour. There is something for everybody; a viewing platform for those unable to see over the stone wall, 7 km of trails of various difficulty, access to the Bruce Trail, more than 20 species of ferns, bird watching opportunities, a series of geological potholes and more.
If you head north, about half an hour outside of Huntsville, you will come upon the Oxtongue River and Ragged Falls. The trail is only 1 km long but it offers a great view of the Falls. Its proximity to Algonquin Provincial Park makes this protected waterway almost an Algonquin appendage, but it’s a park in its own right, and for good reason. Oxtongue River - Ragged Falls contains many features of local significance. The small plunge basin at Gravel Falls demonstrates the powerful, erosive force of glacial melt-water. Ragged Falls has been named one of the 10 best waterfalls in Ontario. The rapids are amazing and certainly a photographer’s dream.
It’s great there are so many waterfalls so close to home. Maybe they are not as majestic as Iguaçu, Victoria or Angel Falls, but they are within driving distance and there is after all, a pandemic going on.
Check before you go to make sure parks and the area you want to visit is open for touring. Take a picnic, and it will be family outing with great memories