I am incredibly lucky to live along the Niagara Escarpment in the Hamilton Area. As noted on the Bruce Trail website, “[t]he spectacular Niagara Escarpment encompasses farms, recreation areas, sweeping scenic views, 1675 foot cliffs, clear streams, wetlands, pebbled beaches, rolling hills, pristine waterfalls, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities.”
The geography of the Hamilton area means that there are many gorgeous waterfalls, both in the City of Hamilton itself, and within four of the cities and towns that were amalgamated into Hamilton years ago: Waterdown, Dundas, Ancaster, and Stoney Creek.
All of the waterfalls are easily accessible without having to cover too much distance on foot. I’ve been exploring close to home lately, and in the last couple of months (February to April), I have run to all 12 of the waterfalls! Many are on the Bruce Trail main trail (Iroquoia section), others on Bruce Trail side trails or not far away.
The City of Hamilton’s Waterfalls Guide will give you all the information you need to plan your visit. Note that reservations are required during certain times of the year to visit Webster Falls and Tew Falls. In some places, you will need to pay for parking.
February 19: Borer’s Falls
I ran 7k from the Sydenham lookout in Dundas East along the Bruce Trail to Borer’s Falls and beyond (and back).
March 12: Sherman Falls, Tiffany Falls, Canterbury Falls, Hermitage Cascade
I ran 12k from Artaban Road to Sherman Falls and Tiffany Falls along the Bruce Trail and a side trail, and then through Dundas Valley Conservation Area to pick up the Bruce Trail again to see Canterbury Falls and the Hermitage Cascade.
March 29: Webster Falls, Tew Falls, Dundas Peak
I ran 11k from Crook’s Hollow to Webster Falls along a trail beside Spencer Creek, then along the road to Tew Falls, and along the Tew Falls side trail to Dundas Peak (and back).
April 1: Smokey Hollow Falls
I ran through Waterdown to the falls.
April 5: Felker’s Falls, Devil’s Punchbowl, Albion Falls, Buttermilk Falls
I ran 18k, from Mud Street along the Mud Street side trail to the main Bruce Trail East to Felker’s Falls and the Devil’s Punchbowl, then West past where I parked to Albion Falls and Buttermilk Falls.
All of the waterfall pictures were taken with my iPhone – I was running, after all! I guarantee that each one is more spectacular in real life!
Looking for more waterfalls? Here’s an incredible map of the waterfalls and cascades of Hamilton (thanks Mary T for pointing it out!).
This year’s Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer was to be my first time doing the “full” Raid – in previous years, I have always done the “half”. It was also the first time that Rebecca and I would race with Heidi (in preparation for Wilderness Traverse 2020). However, Rebecca was sick on race morning, so our team of 3 became a team of 2, which meant we weren’t able to do the full Raid and be included in the official results. We had two options: 1) full Raid (unranked), or 2) half Raid (ranked). We chose #1!
We picked up our race maps at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton (3 of 4 maps – one would be given out during the race), and planned our route. Given that I ran the Happy Trails The Beav 25k trail race the day before, we planned to run as smart a race as we could, nailing the navigation to make up for my tired legs!
When the race began, Heidi and I took off in different directions. In the Matrix, teammates could stick together or split up to find the 10 checkpoints (A to I). This section could be done at the beginning of the race, at the end of the race, or a mix of the two. We planned to do it at the beginning. We decided that Heidi would do the 4 controls north of Wilson Street, and I would do the 6 to the south, with slightly less running. At these checkpoints, we had to answer a question about the feature that was there (e.g. number on hydro pole, name of person on bench). With the exception of the first one, where I ended up on the wrong side of the creek to start with, I found all of these easily. No compass was required. I was hoping to beat Heidi to our meeting point so that I could rest briefly, but she beat me by less than a minute!
After running along the Bruce Trail over Highway 403, we were onto map 2.
Game of Thorns (CP1 to CP2)
In this section, we needed our compass, and an ability to scour a forest for “a distinct tree”. We found the controls, but none of the trees jumped out at us!
Blackout (CP3 to CP8)
In this section, trails were removed from the map, but we were able to use some anyway to find the controls. Our navigation continued to be bang on!
Gnarly Run and Photo Shoot (CP9)
It was a 3k run along the Bruce Trail to Sherman Falls, where we would be photographed with our teammates (instead of inserting our SI stick into an SI reader).
Dundas Valley Traverse I (CP10 to CP11)
From here we headed into the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, where we found CP10 and then CP11 (the aid station). We each had to show that we were carrying a whistle and an emergency blanket, and then we were given map 4. We grabbed some of the snacks at the aid station, and then studied the map briefly to decide which 5 of the 7 controls we wanted to get.
Scramble (CP12 to CP 18)
We opted for 18 and then 15, which were just off a main trail down steep hills. From there we ran along trails for a short while before crossing a log over a creek. While we managed to stay dry, we found out after the race that at least one person went for an unintentional swim here!
We climbed yet another steep hill to find 14 – in fact, this entire map involved lots of ups and downs. My tired legs were slow on the uphills!
From the time we hit 17 until almost the end of the race, we kept running into the same team at the controls, though we would choose different routes and yet still arrive almost at the same time.
After control 12 we looked for the least steep part of the hill to climb down to the creek, and then climbed up the hills on the other side. We then followed a trail all the way back to the aid station. We handed in our hand-punched map, ate some more aid station goodies, and then went back to map 3.
Map 3 (continued)
Dundas Valley Traverse II (CP20 to 24)
To get to CP 20, we opted to run a longer distance along trails, because bushwhacking directly there would have involved significant ups and downs, and more potential to get lost. From there, we again set out on trails, but planned to bushwhack a couple of times on our way to CP 21, down a steep hill, through a creek, up the steep bank on the other side, and then later, following a contour line and keeping a creek in sight. It worked!
Then it was a trail run to the “brawn” or “brain” section, where we had to choose which CP22 to do (climb all the way up the hill for an easy to find control, or half way up for a harder to find one). We chose the latter.
At this point, we knew that we had just 2 more controls to find before a 2k run to the finish line.
After CP23, we spotted the race photographer at CP24, and then it was a final push to the finish line!
Unfortunately, the 2k run back was a net uphill. My legs were pretty tired at this point, 26k into the race, so I had to take some walking breaks!
But after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, Heidi and I crossed the finish line! We had covered 28k, and 1400m of elevation gain.
We worked really well together, and our navigation was near perfect! It was super fun! I’m looking forward to racing with Heidi again. And look out Tree Huggers, we’re coming for you!!
After the race, it was time for some well deserved food! Yum!
Placing: Unranked, since we were a team of 2, but had we been a team of 3 females, we would have been 2nd! Woot!
At some point last year, my husband Alasdair decided to run the entire Bruce Trail, so I thought it would be fun to take on the challenge too, knowing that it would take us several years, and that we would do some parts together, and some parts separately. We each downloaded the Bruce Trail app, and started tracking our runs.
What’s the Bruce Trail? According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website, the Bruce Trail is “Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Running along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail spans more than 890 km of main Trail and over 400 km of associated side trails.”
There are 9 sections of the trail. I live in the Iroquoia section just 2 km from the trail – lucky me! You can learn more about all the sections here:
I was strictly a road runner until a couple of years ago when I started orienteering, which got me running on and off trail looking for controls (checkpoints) in the woods. However, it wasn’t until I started this end to end goal that I became a regular trail runner! I love it. It is so much more peaceful than running on the road, and way more scenic. I’m hooked.
I had previously hiked many different short bits of the trail over the years, but I’ve been enjoying rediscovering sections that I’ve been on before, and running on sections that are completely new to me. So far, I love the waterfalls along the trail the most.
As the parts of the trail that I need to cover get further and further away from home, things will get more complicated, and will definitely require some overnight trips. For now though, I’ve started close to home!
Started the Iroquoia section: October 27, 2018
Finished the Iroquoia section: December 26, 2018
Note: While I completed the Iroquoia section, the part of the trail that runs through Kelso Conservation Area in Milton was closed, so I ran the rerouted section along Appleby Line instead. I’ll go back in the spring to do the Kelso section.
October 27, 2018 – Rockcliffe Road, Waterdown to Borer’s Falls, Dundas – 14.3k
October 28, 2018 – Rockcliffe Road, Waterdown to Grindstone Falls, Waterdown – 5.7k
November 2, 2018 – Borer’s Falls, Dundas to Davidson Boulevard, Dundas (with a side trip to Tews Falls) – 22k
November 4, 2018 – Mount Nemo/Walker’s Line, Burlington to No. 8 Sideroad, Burlington – 10.8k
November 14, 2018 – Grindstone Falls, Waterdown to Highway 5, Burlington – 12.4k
November 24, 2018 – Highway 5, Burlington to Mount Nemo/Walker’s Line, Burlington – 10.2k
December 1, 2018 – No. 8 Sideroad, Burlington to Crawford Lake, Milton – 11.8k
December 8, 2018 – Crawford Lake, Milton to Hilton Falls, Milton – 13k (northern end of the Iroquoia section)
December 14 – Davidson Boulevard, Dundas to Filman Road, Ancaster – 12k
December 16, 2018 – Filman Road, Ancaster to King’s Forest Golf Course, Hamilton – 16.2k
December 22, 2018 – King’s Forest Golf Course, Hamilton to Millen Road, Stoney Creek – 19.5k
December 26, 2018 – Millen Road, Stoney Creek to Elm Street, Grimsby – 19.7k (southern end of the Iroquoia section)
# runs: 12
# solo runs: 5
# runs with my husband Alasdair: 6
# runs with friends: 1 (Laura – yay to having similar running paces!)
shortest run: 5.7k
longest run: 22k
average length of run: 14k
Hardest section to run: between Millen Road in Stoney Creek and Elm Street in Grimsby, because of the abundance of wet and loose rocks
Most waterfalls: between King’s Forest Golf Course in Hamilton and Millen Road in Stoney Creek – Albion Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Felkers Falls, and the Devil’s Punchbowl
Most scenic: see most waterfalls!
Scariest moment: while running through the Royal Botanical Gardens in Dundas, I encountered an illegal hunter in full camouflage carrying a bow and arrow, standing just off the trail and looking down the hill into the woods – I said to him, “Whatever you do, please don’t shoot me!” to which he replied, “I won’t.” (I made a report to the police, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and through a friend, to the RBG.)
Wildlife sightings: 2 close-up raccoons (separate runs), and a salamander at Crawford Lake, which my husband nearly stepped on as he ran – we placed it gently in mud close to a log, covered it in leaves, and wished it well!
Favourite run: the waterfall run!
Most memorable encounter with other hikers/runners: a little girl hiking with her parents, who said as I passed, “She runs so FAST!”; a couple carrying pruning shears and a saw to do trail maintenance; the hunter