What Travel Writers Say
The Bruce Trail: Hiking the Thin Ribbon of Nature© By Hans Tammemagi
I love to hike the Bruce Trail. Walking into the peaceful, cool greens of the forest is like entering a majestic cathedral. Trees sweep upward reaching toward the sky like vast organ pipes. Ancient boulders lie scattered along the long slope, and waterfalls tumble delicately over limestone crags. The Bruce Trail meanders along the Niagara Escarpment for 773 kilometres from Queenston Heights to Tobermory. But the escarpment puts on its finest display in the Niagara Peninsula.
The Bruce Trail can be enjoyed all year; however, my favourite time is in the spring when wildflowers in dazzling quantities spread on the forest floor like magnificent carpets. A cairn at Queenston Heights is the beginning of the Bruce Trail. Worry and stress disappear as you hike. You pass magnificent views of the plain below with orchards, vineyards, and tilled fields stretching to Lake Ontario. Many signs of historic quarrying operations are evident including the foundations of a worker's village built in 1897s. A delightful glade is strewn with moss-covered rectangular boulders that remain from quarrying over 150 years ago, when Scottish masons cut stones and rolled them over the edge of the escarpment to wagons waiting below.
The Bruce Trail passes through many parks and conservation areas. Woodend Conservation Area, for example, is located on a narrow promontory of the escarpment just above the Niagara College campus. It features an historic stone house and a lovely Carolinian forest.
At DeCew Falls in St. Catharines, you can stand behind a waterfall, enveloped by flying mist. In winter, the falls turn into a massive ice sculpture and the gorge walls are adorned with giant gleaming icicles. The historic Morningstar Mill (1872) perches on the lip of the falls.
Rockway Falls is one of several spectacular waterfalls that few Niagara residents know about, in spite of their close proximity. Ball's Falls near Jordan is a pearl suspended on the string of the Bruce Trail. Once an early 19th century industrial hamlet, this site has a restored mill, two waterfalls, numerous historic buildings, and lovely nature trails.
Each spring, the Beamer Conservation Area near Grimsby attracts birdwatchers from across North America, gazing through binoculars at the annual migration of peregrine falcons.
As the world becomes more crowded and impersonal, the Bruce Trail offers a place to escape from the stress and crush of humanity, a place where the spirit can soar. So start hiking.
Hans Tammemagi has written two travel books: Exploring Niagara - The Complete Guide to Niagara Falls & Vicinity and Exploring the Hill - A Guide to Canada's Parliament Past & Present. He is the environment columnist for the Vancouver Sun.
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