Take a deep breath and smell the forest. You’ve left the rat race of the city behind you and all you can hear are the sounds of the chickadees chirping away in the hopes of finding a mate and the roar of a raging river. Where am I? Thirty minutes by car Northwest of the Burlington waterfront is the Hilton Falls Conservation Area. Part of Halton Parks it is one of eight natural playgrounds. Last Spring I hiked Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake so with a visit to Hilton Falls I am just shy of visiting half of the Halton Parks and I can’t wait to experience them all. Hike, bike or run the choice is yours. For me, it is a hike by myself. The perfect way to start my weekend morning. A cup of coffee in one hand, nature all around me and rewarding sights and sounds everywhere I look. Who wants to see a waterfall?
Being less than an hour from downtown Toronto I am surprised more people aren’t here. Well, maybe this is a good thing. The parking lot isn’t huge but it is big enough to hold about 100 cars so maybe that is a great way to manage the number of visitors at any time. Entrance fee to Hilton Falls is $6.75 per adult and is good for all eight of the Halton Parks in the same day.
Once you’ve paid and parked, remember don’t leave your valuables in the car, make a quick pit stop at the washrooms and then check out the map to plan your hike. I’m doing the 4 km hike to Hilton Falls today but there is a 9.5 km hike to Beaver Dam Trail and a shorter one to the Hilton Falls Reservoir. It would be easy to do them all in a day if you so chose. Just pack a lunch and some water to keep fueled and hydrated.
All the Halton Park trails are colour coded so make sure to know your trail colour and follow the coloured markers along the trail. Do this and you won’t get lost.
The Hilton Falls trail map says it is 1.5 hours, but I did it in under 45 minutes. Maybe I’m a power walker. The pace is completely up to you. It is an easy hike on a wide well maintained path. At the halfway point there is a porta potty just in case nature calls.
I think springtime is the best time to visit a waterfall because the rivers and creeks are bursting with the melting snow run off and as a result, you’ll get the biggest ROAR for your buck. There are also moments where you see the first signs of life emerge from the dead of winter.
At Hilton Falls there is also the added benefit of visiting a Vernal Pool. What is a vernal pool? I didn’t know either so I had to check the signage. Vernal Pools or Ponds are temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. Maybe you’ll get lucky and spot a frog or a salamander.
The big payday for this particular hike is, of course, Hilton Falls itself. Pack a lunch or a snack as there are picnic tables and fire pits for a BBQ. You can see the falls from both the top and the bottom. You can also see the remnants of a sawmill on the other side of the river. Bring your camera the view is spectacular from both the top of the falls and the bottom.
Please be responsible and respect the park fences and boundaries they are there for your safety and to protect the falls themselves. Human erosion can do more damage over time than nature itself.
This makes three out of eight of the Halton Parks for me. I can’t wait to explore them all!