Spring, fall, summer and even a mild Sunday winter afternoon, are the best times to check out the Waterfall Capital of the World with dogs in tow, as we did with both Sasha and Victor last December. And we weren’t alone. Despite on-leash rules (yes, really) we passed at least a dozen others letting the dogs run free, and no wildlife was harmed during the making of this walk.
Hamilton, Ontario is attempting to re-brand itself as ‘The Waterfall City,’ listing more than 100 natural falls within the extended boundaries of a city closely associated with steel production and the Hamilton Tiger Cats CFL football team. But thanks to an enthusiastic marketing effort, more information about scenic opportunities in The City by The Bay are being widely distributed, and this includes a guide, produced by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, featuring ten clearly identified and groomed walking/hiking trails. www.waterfalls.hamilton.ca
Many of these paths overlap or hook up with the well-marked (with white lines on trees) Bruce Trail (a 725-kilometre footpath extending from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and founded by Hamilton’s Ray Lowes). Some trails meander off the beaten path to take walkers past many of the boasted about waterfalls, including Webster’s, Tews (the highest at 41 metres) and the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls. The latter can be driven to from Ridge Road in Hamilton because the 2.5km Battlefield Creek Walk, starting in Stoney Creek, is the only of the ten hikes ranked ‘difficult,’ primarily because it’s largely uphill (though a rewarding accomplishment and the dogs love it). The Devil’s Punchbowl is a 37-metre majestic ribbon of water pouring into a circular stone formation created by the swirling action of glacial melt water thousands of years ago.
Three of the ten hikes – Crooks Hollow Heritage Walk in Flamborough, Scenic Iroquoia Walk in Ancaster and Felker’s Falls on East Hamilton Mountain – are listed as easy, which means the trails include hard-packed earth, pavement and sometimes stairs, and can be easily walked while the dogs lead the way. Although the Ancaster Village Waterfall Walk, which starts near the Ancaster Old Mill Inn, is listed as moderate in difficulty, we easily transversed the hard-packed gravel route along the Heritage Trail from the Old Dundas Road parking lot to Canterbury Falls – which is shallow and slow moving enough for the dogs to wet their feet.
Victor and Sasha, of course, loved the walk along both the Ancaster Village Waterfall trail and uphill to the Devil’s Punchbowl (where Hamilton residents are less intense about rules). Although there are signs at the entrance of each trail indicating dogs should be kept on leash, few are especially the friendly and curious ones. Rocky crags and cool water streams (some waterfalls are little more than trickles during some times of the year) make for great canine exploration. Wooden bridges make crossing over waterways easy for everyone, yet our four-legged buddies opted to scramble under.