Near our home, we have access to an expansive waterfall chain. This large set of waterfalls is in Hamilton and is an offshoot of the well-known Bruce Trail in Ontario! Along this waterfall chain, hikers set out to reach several falls (namely, the upper falls)—and get the opportunity to walk up a rocky riverbed to reach them. Griffin and I have hiked this chain a few times but never in the summer. So, this weekend, we decided to try it out!
"WEATHER APPROPRIATE EXTRAS"
Equipped with sunscreen, bathing suits, a microfibre travel towel, baseball caps, cloth masks, and sunglasses, we were ready to go!! I honestly had such a fun time: I am a sucker for hot weather. It was a real scorcher though, and by 9 am, it was whopping 27 °C. Griffin wore pants and was a little overheated but trudging through the river was seriously the perfect way to help keep us cool.
As always, we wore our hiking boots. We also made sure to bring an extra set of shoes to switch out of once we were done our hike. Comfy feet are happy feet. (TIP: do not purchase hiking boots if they are not waterproof; even if you are not river hiking specifically, there’s always a chance of encountering wet weather or terrain.) Check out Kaitlyn's blog post on packing for a day hike for more info on what to bring with you on your adventures!
We got up early to beat some of the crowds and some of the heat. Avoiding both things meant that we did not have to wear our thick cloth masks in the beaming sun. Like I said, it was a real scorcher this weekend. I have found that changing the timing of some of my outdoor activities has helped me to avoid coming into contact with other people in the midst of this global health crisis—and will probably help us tremendously as we move into the more popular summer months.
Part of Bruce Trail runs through a golf course in Hamilton. The trailhead for the waterfall chain sits just adjacent to one of the course’s holes and is extremely easy to find once you have walked this portion of Bruce Trail once or twice (via Chedoke Radial Trail). There was ample parking for us at the clubhouse, despite all the early morning golfers, and we were even able to snag a spot for our car closer to the trail head.
A beautiful meadow sits just before the path leading down to the riverbed and helps to mark the beginning of your trek. Once you can locate the path down to the river, you will find yourself in a canyon-like area. In this canyon, Griffin and I realized just how hot the hike would be and got to moving through the very shallow water ASAP!
After only a couple minutes of river “walking,” the trail then opens to some more serious boulders. To get to the pools of the lower falls, you must climb these rocks. There is no other option. It is quite easy, but if it is not what one was expecting, I could see a lot of people turning around at this point. There is another trail that takes hikers up above the canyon for a bird’s eye view of each of the falls, and I think that works well as an alternative to those unable or unwilling to climb up through the riverbed itself.
However, these ginormous rocks were a blast to climb! The entire hike boasts tiny waterfalls, so even at the very beginning of the hike, the views are stunning. Before the lower falls, there are about two sets of these rock mounds to climb, with another shallow stretch of river to trek through, before you can access the pools.
It takes about half an hour (give or take) in total to get to the first waterfall. Griffin and I took a water break (read: photo op!) as we were climbing the first set of boulders and took a nice long snack break at the first set of falls.
Remaining on our journey, after our snack and water break, we climbed up the side of the canyon with the help of a rope and some sturdier tree roots. After peering down on the lower falls, we continued for about a kilometer “along” the river (and by “along,” I mean “in” the river).
The trek continues for about a kilometer through the river before you reach the upper falls. This being the longest portion of our hike, we took many water breaks, reapplied sunscreen, and were so thankful for the cool, shallow, and slow-rushing water beneath us.
I would say this long river-walking portion of the hike is incredibly fun but can also be extremely grueling and dangerous. It takes probably about three times as long to “walk” this kilometer than a normal hiking-km would take. In the blazing heat, we were glad to have packed extra clothes (plus, bathing suits!) and lots of drinking water. And safe to say, we were ecstatic when we finally reached the upper falls to find lots of shade!
We hung out at the upper falls for a while and then looped our way back to the trailhead. Despite the reduced incline, the trip back was no less difficult or slow-moving. We were incredibly careful as we came back to the top of the lower falls and climbed back down the side of the canyon using that same rope.
As we were making our way out of the riverbed and back to the larger Bruce Trail, we noticed a few families with young kids hanging around near the lower falls. While I think this is a pretty difficult and dangerous hike for some, I do think waterfall chains like this can work well for a variety of people: one can decide to opt for the easier bird’s eye view hike, one can choose to stay at the lower falls, or if able, one can continue on to the upper falls through some of the more difficult parts of the river hike.
Thanks for following along! We have lots of DLTK's summer activities, and be sure to check out one of our other hiking posts:
- Packing for Chedoke Falls
- Packing for a Day Hike
- Dressing the Family for a Hike
- Hiking Grotto Canyon
- Hiking the Kicking Horse to Amiskwi Trail
- Hiking the Loop Brook Trail
- Peyto Lake Trail
- A Rainy Day in the Mountains
My name is Tasha Guenther. I currently live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada while I finish my PhD in Cultural Studies with a concentration in digital cultures at McMaster University. I enjoy writing short stories and non-fiction pieces for grade school children.
Alongside my learning, studying, and thinking about digital platforms and critical theory, I really appreciate long conversations with close friends, reading poetry, and taking photos of my cat. Learn more about me here or connect with me on my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.