Some people will tell you that autumn is the best season for hiking. The days are warm, but not too warm, the air is crisp and skies are blue. Landscapes have turned a cornucopia of rich hues, so what better way to get out and enjoy them than on a hike? Milton, located along the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, is certainly lovely in autumn, but the hikes available in the area are great at just about any point in the year. Spring, summer, fall or winter, here are 6 great hikes to enjoy in Milton.
6. Rattlesnake Point
Rattlesnake Point is perhaps the best-known of Milton’s hiking options. Although the name might seem offputting, the conservation area is actually named for the snake-like path that was cut into the side of the escarpment by glaciers. As such, Rattlesnake Point is home to many beautiful caves and craggy cliffs, which offer prime lookout points. Popular with cyclists, hikers and climbers, the park offers 12.7 kilometers of trails, with 4 loops. Part of the Bruce Trail cuts through the park, and you can actually hike from Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake, a trek of approximately 7 kilometers that will take you roughly an hour and a half. For a shorter, yet challenging hike, try the 3-kilometer Buffalo Crag loop. This trail will take you past some fantastic lookout points and challenge you to climb some steep hills—a workout indeed.
Mountsberg isn’t exactly known for its trails. In fact, residents will more readily tell you about Mountsberg’s raptor center, which is home to a number of birds of prey. Nonetheless, Mountsberg is tucked away in Escarpment country and features 16 kilometers of trails. There are ample opportunities for bird-watching along the trails, and you might even spot the park’s resident bison herd along the Wildlife Walkway. The Walkway and the Sugar Bush Trail both clock in around 1.5 kilometers, making them great choices for families looking to get outdoors. Mountsberg’s other features also make the park a great educational choice—kids and adults alike will learn something new, whether out on the trails or at the raptor center. More serious hikers will find the 5.6-kilometer Lakeshore Lookout and 6.5-kilometer Pioneer Creek trails more challenging.
Nominally, Kelso conservation area has just 16 kilometers of hiking trails, but 22 kilometers of marked trail actually exist in the area. Unlike some of the other parks on this list, the trails at Kelso are marked for varying use: some are hiking-only, some are bike-only and others still are mixed-use trails. Trails are rated from easy to extremely difficult. Like most of the parks on this list, Kelso is located along the Niagara Escarpment, which means that many of the trails wind along some steep cliffs and offer some amazing lookout points. A boardwalk encompasses part of Kelso Lake, offering more scenic views along the Escarpment and the beach. Part of the Bruce Trail cuts through the park as well, offering more adventurous hikers access to even longer, more challenging hikes through the Escarpment region.
3. Crawford Lake
Crawford Lake is probably more renowned as a learning center about Aboriginal peoples, thanks to historic evidence that the site was home to an Iroquoian (Wendat) village. The park features a re-created longhouse and offers educational opportunities for visitors. The lake itself is meromictic, meaning layers of water do not intermix, which made the historical analysis of the area possible. The park is also part of the Niagara Escarpment. Crawford Lake also has 19 kilometers of mixed-use trails, perfect for hiking and winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Four looping trails take you around the lake, along the Escarpment and through the deep woods. Trails range from 1 kilometer in length to almost 4 kilometers. A lookout on the Escarpment and a boardwalk around the lake round out the conservation area’s features. The park also connects to Rattlesnake Point along the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail.
2. Hilton Falls
Hilton Falls, not far from Rattlesnake Point, has the most trails in the Milton region, with 33.5 kilometers dedicated to hiking and biking. About 16 kilometers is mixed-use trails, perfect for hiking, biking, cross-country ski or even horseback riding. The trails wind around streams, beaver ponds and the reservoir, along with the remnants of an old mill, the ruins of which can still be seen in the park. The Red Oak Trail will take you on a 3-kilometer hike around the reservoir itself. The Beaver Dam Trail, which is 10 kilometers in length, heads out into the back country of the park and runs across the Bruce Trail. The park’s namesake Hilton Falls Trail takes you to the 10-meter waterfall and viewing areas around it. The trek is about 4 kilometers, through thick woods and along the Escarpment.
1. Nassagaweya Trail
The Nassagaweya Trail is a trail running between 2 of the parks already mentioned: Crawford Lake and Rattlesnake Point. The trail crosses the Nassagaweya Canyon and Limestone Creek, traveling just over 7 kilometers either way between the 2 parks. The trail also forms part of the Bruce Trail, which makes its way through most of the parks in the Milton area. A hike along this natural earthen trail will take you about 2.5 hours one way; a round trip will take 4 to 5 hours. The trail offers excellent views of Escarpment country and allows you to see the best of both Rattlesnake Point, with its outlooks, and Crawford Lake and its reconstructed Iroquoian village in one trip. This hike also offers a chance to see some of the unique features of the Niagara Escarpment.