One of my favourite things about living in Oakville, just west of Toronto, is the wide variety of outdoor spaces. Not only is Lake Ontario a literal five-minute walk from my house, but there are also a dozen parks and green spaces surrounding the suburbs, including seven Conservation Halton parks along the Niagara Escarpment. Up until today, I had only visited one of those seven parks. But today, Joe and I worked up the courage to get outdoors (for once) and go hiking at Hilton Falls!
It’s a pretty straightforward drive up to the park. And by straightforward, I mean that the directions are simple, not that the roads themselves are straight. Because they’re not, especially going up the Escarpment. If you’ve ever been up the side of a moderately big cliff, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Hilton Falls, like the rest of Conservation Halton’s parks, has a reasonable entrance fee. To our surprise, though, the fee included a little Ziploc bag of birdseed! Whatever could it be for? (Heavy foreshadowing.)
The park features a number of trails of varying lengths. We chose the one that led to the titular Hilton Falls, about 2 kilometers in. Piece of cake, right? Well… it seemed to have slipped my mind that while Oakville has no snow whatsoever in today’s 8ºC weather, other locations might not be so fortunate. In short, the paths were covered in slush and I was wearing the wrong shoes.
My soaking wet feet put a damper on things, but not for long. Once we reached the top of the first ridge, Joe and I decided to test out the birdseed, first on the ground, and then even from our hands. And wouldn’t you know – it worked!
Needless to say, I was quite thrilled by this discovery. It turns out that feeding the birds is one of the hallmarks of a visit to Hilton Falls. We even met a man halfway down the trail that had been feeding the birds and educating hikers about them for over a decade. He let us know that the birds are most active in winter, so if you want to experience this for yourself, keep that in mind.
Another highlight from our walk was another animal, though not the kind you would expect in a forest: the domestic rabbit! Who knew people take their rabbits hiking?
The falls themselves ended up being mostly obscured by a layer of snow and ice, but you could still see and hear the water flowing beneath. It wasn’t that spectacular, truth be told, but the overall atmosphere was nice. The nearby picnic area and fire pit was a good place to kick back and relax before hiking back to the entrance of the park.
There were also a couple of water features that we saw on our way out, which, I imagine, would be very nice in the spring or summer.
In all, we got two hours of fun, exercise, and new experiences for about the cost of a single movie ticket! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Our next step will be to buy the Conservation Halton membership — and to get me some hiking boots…
What are your favourite hiking spots?