Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area


A little teaser from Day Hikes of Ontario Vol. II. Scheduled release late 2017. Be sure to check out;

and Ed's Amazon Author Page

Total distance about 10km.

Time; about 4 hours

Difficulty ⭐️⭐️⭐️☆☆

Moderate - Suitable for people of most ages in good physical condition who have hiking/trekking experience. Preparation required. Notable elevation gains. Way-finding likely necessary, but trails well-marked and usually well defined. Trail surface variable. Trail length usually 3-8km taking 3-5 hours to complete, with fair weather. Walking time varies with weather and trail conditions.

*Walk-in overnight camping only. No vehicle access.

The conservation area is some 160ha right on the Niagara Escarpment. It’s a fascinating area, if only for the numerous crevice caves and canyons that you can hike through and explore. Dark, cool, green and mossy these caves area a pleasure to explore and present fabulous photo opportunities. There may even be snow in some of the deeper canyons even into June. But the caves are only the beginning; there’s great views from the top of the escarpment and local settler history to explore. Lime kilns are still in evidence as is one of the original stagecoach roads that ran through the area 100 years ago, but now only making an appearance to the keen eye.

Our last visit to the Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area was May of 2017. It was an overcast day with temperatures ranging from 10C in the morning to 14C by 2pm. It had rained the previous day, and so there was quite a bit of groundwater on the trails and the streams were flowing happily. We arrived about 10am and were off the trails by 2pm.

Special caution; some sections of this hike are over very uneven ground, strewn with rocks. Good hiking boots are recommended, or you’ll have to be very careful with your footing to avoid twisting an ankle. Texting while hiking should be avoided.

From the parking area and trailhead, we started out west along the white blazed Bruce Trail. The path winds its way down the face of the escarpment and you can see large rock outcroppings on your right as you descent the trail. Before long you’ll come to an area where the ground is white. A. This area used to be a lime kiln, in which limestone was heated to tremendous temperatures at which point a chemical reaction took place and the material calcinated. The resulting output was known as quicklime and was used extensively in mortar and cement production as well as basic steel making. In this area it was likely used as a stabilizing agent in the clay soil through which the roads passed, increasing their load-carrying ability.

Depending on the time of year and recent weather, you’ll pass a pond on your left. B. This area was quite buggy on our most recent trip, so we didn’t spend too much time in this area.

C. Eventually the trail makes a turn to the left (south) and descends down a short, grassy hill. At the bottom of this hill on the right, are the ruins of one of the original settlement houses in this area.

Continue southward along the boardwalk, over the swampy area to eventually emerge onto an old road where the trail then veers left to head back east. D After walking through the forest, you’ll eventually come to a field with a trail sign that indicates you are about to enter private property. Continue along the white-blazed trail, respecting the land over which you are passing.

Before long, the trail dives back into the forest to the left and you’ll come to a direction kiosk with map at E. The white-blazed Bruce Trail continues south, but we now turn onto the blue-blazed Nottawasaga Bluffs Lookout Side Trail.

Down the hill we went to a footbridge at the bottom of the vale. We continued northward to a fork in the trail at F. To the right the Nottawasaga Bluffs Lookout Side Trail continued, but we went on the left fork towards the blue-blazed Keyhole Side Trail.

Before long we were clambering in and out of deep crevice caves, under low passageways that you could only get through by crouching and maybe removing your pack. These were great photo opportunities. This early in May, there were a number of places where slippery snow and ice were still on the ground, so we had to be careful of our footing. We could have followed the blue blazes of the trail, but we went on a few detours and explored a bit, before carrying on up the slope and out the top to another section of white-blazed Bruce Trail. G

At this juncture we turned right (south) and followed the trail out to the main lookout. H Once there we spent some time enjoying the view taking photos and exploring the rock caves and crevices.

Special Caution; Be careful around the cliff edge, especially with children and pets. There are no protective barriers and It’s quite a drop.

We continued eastward along the white-blazed trail, as it winds its way along the edge of the cliff.

Don’t venture too far off the trail at any given location, as there are numerous deep crevices

along this route and falling into them is a real possibility.

Soon you’ll come to an old farm road that cuts across the trail and continues south, down the hill. Don’t follow this road, but continue across it and carry on along the fence. The trail will turn northwards and take you along the edge of a field.

I. Just as you enter the forest on the far side of the field you’ll come to a three way trail intersection. The white-blazed Bruce Trail continues east and the blue-blazed Hamilton Bros. Side Trail continues northward. You don’t want either of those.

We turned left (westward) and followed the blue-blazed, Betty Carter Side Trail for about 1km back to the main white-blazed Bruce Trail at point J on the map. Turn right (northward) at this point and it’s about 800m back to the parking lot.

How to Get There

Take highway 410 north. Eventually it turns into highway 10. Continue north, through Orangeville all the way to Primrose at highway 89. Turn left (west) onto 89 and travel about 4km to County Road 124. Turn right (north) onto 124 and follow all the way to Singhampton, about 30km. When you get to Singhampton, turn right (east) onto Mill Town Road. Follow Mill Town Rd. through town to where it swings left. Almost immediately after the left, turn right onto Ewing Road. Following Ewing Rd. to the intersection of Nottawasage Sideroad 17/18. Turn left and follow 17/18 until it swings right and becomes Sidereal 10. Follow 10 about 1.6km to the conservation area. Total driving distance about 100km from 410 and 401. There is a small pay parking area. Payment via smartphone at site or via computer before leaving home via MacKay Pay.

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