Last weekend we paid a visit to the city of Hamilton. For anyone not in the know, Hamilton is home to plenty of waterfalls, and is arguably one of the most important places in Canada, as it was home to the very first Tim Hortons!
Hamilton is bounded by the Niagara Escarpment, which starts in upstate New York, passes through Ontario and along the Bruce Peninsula, before arcing round into Michigan and down into Wisconsin, before ending northwest of Chicago. That’s a long escarpment! Along the way, the Niagara Falls flow over, and, whilst not quite as impressive, the waterfalls around Hamilton also cascade over the escarpment.
On the day we visited, the traffic out of Toronto was slow, and so upon arriving in the small and very pleasant town of Dundas, we wisely decided to stop for some lunch at the great The V Spot. We’ll add this to the list, along with Barrie’s Avocobar, the UK’s Wahaca, and Switzerland’s Tibits, of eateries we’d like to see come to Toronto!
Our first stop after lunch was the Spencer Adventure Trail, which follows the Spencer Creek as it passes by Webster’s and Tew’s waterfalls, as well as Dundas Peak. The Spencer Adventure Trail is managed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), who charge entrance fees of $10 per vehicle and $5 per person (under 5s are free). If you don’t fancy paying this much, then some nearby side streets appear to offer the opportunity to either park for free, or, to temporarily put as many people as possible in the trunk/boot of your car before you enter the car park!
Whilst the HCA clearly needs funds to maintain and manage their assets, the fees do seem a bit of a rip off, especially when compared to Ontario Provincial Parks. Algonquin Provincial Park for example, which is so big it’s larger than some countries, recently cost us (one car and 4 adults) $17 to enter!
From the car park, it was only a short walk to the lookout point over Tew’s Falls. At 41 metres high, the falls are only 10 metres shorter than the Niagara Falls. But whereas the Niagara Falls are along the Niagara River, which drains one Great Lake into another, here the source is just a small river. Nevertheless, Tew’s Falls are still a great sight, with the plunging water having carved out a curved rock face that nestles in a valley of green.
Departing from Tew’s Falls, the Spencer Adventure follows the edge of the valley up to Dundas Peak. An exposed, rocky outcrop, the views are great, looking down on the town of Dundas, and towards downtown Hamilton. Looking back to where Tew’s Falls are, you can see nothing but a sea of green, as you look at the tree canopy along the valley below.
On our return from Dundas Peak, we took the Glen Ferguson Side Trail, so as not to retrace our steps too much. This was totally worth it. Not only were there less people, but the vegetation and sights were so much different. Pockets of small purple flowers bloomed in openings in the trees, and we passed from trees with tropical looking leaves through to coniferous pines.
We passed by Tew’s Falls, and continued past the car park to Webster’s Falls. For a short length, the trail passes through private land. A new and modern house sits overlooking the trail, and they have even gone to the length of hiring a security guard with a stick to stand where their garden meets the trail. Yes, a stick. This is Canada, where you don’t need to arm your security guards with guns, a stick will do just fine.
Webster’s Falls weren’t as spectacular the day we visited as Tew’s Falls, and neither can you see their end as they plunge down below. However, upstream is a pleasant stone bridge, and beyond that open spaces where families can play games and enjoy picnics.
Unfortunately, you could previously descend steps to the base of Webster’s Falls, but these are now closed. However, plenty of people are still found a way down, and not just here, but at Tew’s Falls too.
From the Spencer Adventure we headed off to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall. Along the way we drove along a partially paved, windy and hilly road – it was slightly reminiscent of our adventures in Yosemite or the Rockies! Arriving at the Devil’s Punchbowl we were disappointed, as someone had clearly forgotten to turn the waterfall on that day!
However, high up on the Niagara Escarpment here, you also get fantastic views. Down below is Hamilton (and its ‘attractive’ steel works), and to the north, you can see the continuation of the Niagara Escarpment. Follow the line of Lake Ontario around to the east, and not only can you see the skyline of Mississauga, but also that of Toronto. From this perspective, you really get a greater appreciation of just how many towers Toronto is home to.
So, if you live in that mass of towers, and fancy a day away from the big city, then Hamilton’s waterfalls are for you!