Dundas Valley Conservation Area is one of the southern Ontario’s most spectacular natural areas. It offers great hiking opportunities along a small section of the Bruce Trail and few other side trails that weave through the forest along Niagara Escarpment.
Being part of a large glacial valley from about 10,000 years ago that spreads into Lake Ontario, this conservation is actually famous for its 1,200 ha of lush Carolinian forests, a rich and unique ecosystem found in southern Ontario.
There are few parking options, but no matter where you park, you can find some interconnecting trails heading where you want. Our purpose was to stop by all four waterfalls in the area. The google map didn’t direct us to the fifth one, and unfortunately, we missed the Hermitage and Gatehouse Museum, located just off the Main Loop. Nevertheless, it was a hot and humid day, and we wanted to make progress on the trails as much as possible. The shaded forest gave us a nice breeze for awhile, but then the humidity hit us from all directions, urging us to get sooner to the highlights of the day.
Designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO since 1990, Niagara Escarpment is renown for its rich natural environment, the greatest topographic variability in southern Ontario, along its 725 km stretching from Lake Ontario (near Niagara Falls) to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
We weren’t ready to hike all 40 km trails found in Dundas Valley CA, but rather to have some fun chasing the waterfalls.
Parking the car at the end of Lions Club Road, we looked for the first stop at Canterbury Falls. From the parking lot, google map got us on an unmarked trail up to the Bruce Trail and less than 1 km we reached shortly Canterbury Falls.
We could hear it before we saw it. With its 9 metres in height and 4 metres in width, Canterbury Falls is classified as a terraced ribbon cascade. Sulphur Creek splashes the sides of the valley, dashing drops glittering in the shy patches of sunlight. We found a better viewing spot after crossing the wooden bridge; however, the second drop of the water was no longer visible from here, nor we desired to climb down to the stream.
After a very short break, we continued on Bruce Trail, and turned to the left on Heritage Trail. Before we reached Old Dundas Rd, we actually found the parking lot where we could have parked the car for free. The Mills Falls is right across the street, a high complex classic waterfall, 7 metres the upper falls, and 6 metres the lower falls. They are located on the ground of the old mill at Ancaster, on private property, however the access was free.
The historic town of Ancaster was quickly developed after a wooden gristmill and sawmill were built here in 1791-1792, the first mills at the head of Lake Ontario. Shortly after, the commercial activity expanded in this area, also due to its location at the junction of historic indigenous trading routes. There is evidence of several mills and factories in vicinity, from 19th century, including a woolen mill, a threshing machine factory, and a knitting mill.
One more km took us to the Sherman Falls, along the Old Dundas Rd, another beautiful waterfall located on private land. Although most of that area is marked as a private property, the access to this most beautiful waterfall is given due to the owner courtesy. This scenic 17-metre-high waterfall is beautifully cascading over a certain number of crests. Ancaster creek tumbles with some speed over a brow of Niagara Escarpment, smoothing over the rocky walls, finding its path down the valley.
Known under many names in the past, the current name of Sherman Falls comes from Sherman family, a well-known family in the local community: two American brothers founded one of Canada’s largest steel producing companies in 1912, the one that has become ArcelorMittal Dofasco today.
Although many waterfalls are similar in essence, they are so different from each other! The cool mist of Sherman Falls was a blessing in a such hot day. After getting few pictures around, I got a spot for myself to sit down and enjoy the coolness of the forest, and the soothing sound of the waterfall. I tuned out all the chatty people from the trail who were coming and going, and got my little moment in the middle of the nature.
Crossing the Old Dundas Rd at the intersection with Lions Club Rd got us right at the tip of the Bruce Trail section that is heading to Tiffany Falls. Most of the 1.3 km-trail is pretty straight forward through the edge of a forested area, only some rocky portions had us looking carefully on the ground. Google map played some trick on us, telling us we need to walk through a pedestrian tunnel to get on the other side of the street, where Tiffany Falls was located. With big doubts in my heart, we continued the path, and started laughing when we saw the Side trail sign and the wooden stairs heading to the street level. Crossing Wilson Street is on your own risk, as whole area has narrow winding streets.
Tiffany Falls is 22 metres high and 6 metres wide, and it’s classified as a ribbon waterfall, meaning its height is notably greater than its crest width, forming in this way a thin “ribbon” of water.
Tiffany Falls was named after the first known physician in Ancaster area, Dr Oliver Tiffany, who practiced for more than 40 years here. His name has perpetuated till today, as both Tiffany Creek and Tiffany Falls were on his property.
By the time we reached this area, the sun was high on the sky, and the excessive humidity created a hazy view of the falls. I wasn’t impressed same way as I was when we visited a couple of years ago, but during the winter time. The frozen waterfall looked so much more spectacular and imposing, but definitely, the best timing to visit waterfall is the early spring, as it tends to dry up in the summer months.
From Tiffany Falls we went straight back to the parking lot, about 2.5 km. The heat hit us at the end, and the humidity drenched us a little bit, but we ended up our little tour happy as I was finally able to see them all.
If you like waterfalls, then you might like:
Tip(s) of the day:
- Wear proper footwear, and watch your steps, as some trails can be muddy, especially after a rainfall;
- Free parking can be found on the Old Dundas Rd, either in Ancaster Mill Parking, or down the road, across Millcreek Ct;
- All other parking lots are under Hamilton Authority, and it cost $11 per entry, or per day, depends on the lot. Exception is the parking at Tiffany Falls, where maximum 1 hour parking is allowed;
- Getting a map with you might be advisable, as cell phone reception is not great in all areas, nor maps of the trails could be found in the parking lots – except at Tiffany Falls.
~ visited in July 2021