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Home / North America / Canada / Canadian Nature| Hiking in Hamilton the Heart of the Niagara Escarpment

Canadian Nature| Hiking in Hamilton the Heart of the Niagara Escarpment

Updated: September 18, 2017
By: Ian Yacobucci
Hiking in Hamilton

Hamilton, CA – Sanding overlooking Spencer Gorge in the Websters Falls Conservation area (Ian Yaocbucci/Borderless Travles)

It’s Autumn, the perfect time to go hiking. The spectrum of orange and red coloured leaves are arriving, as the summer is coming to an end, turning the forest into a fiery painters pallet.  The   wonderfully cool hiking weather has arrived so that you can dress comfortably without overheating and Hamilton, Ontario, a short drive from Toronto has some of the best hiking in the area.

“Go right to the edge.  It’ll be perfect.  There’s nothing underneath you except forest!” I yelled across the windy gap, as I snapped a perfect Instagam photo of my wife balancing on the edge of Dundas Peak.

For some it’s easy to smile standing more than 135 ft above the forest on a tiny outcropping that looks out towards a massive valley in the the heart of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest.  For others observing the densely forested Spencer Gorge, outside Hamilton, from the safety of a well-groomed trailhead is adventure enough.

It might come as a surprise to hear that the city of Hamilton, once better known for heavy industry, is home to more than 100 waterfalls and dozens of hiking areas where wildlife and the greatest diversity of Ontario tree species can be found.

More stunning is Hamilton’s scenic section of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the 725 kilometer Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO world biosphere reserve), where the distractions of everyday life can easily fade away as you look upon an epitaph of limestone cliffs that detail the regions natural history and glacial past.

Boundary Falls Hiking

Hamilton, CA – Autmn Hiking at Boundary Falls in Hamilton, Ontario Canada (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Located less than an hour from downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls, makes accessing Hamilton’s natural landscape easy and accessible.

There is no doubt that your first hiking stop in Hamilton will take you back in time with a visit to Webster’s falls in the Spencer Gorge Conservation area.  Showcasing a 78ft cascade of water, Webster’s falls is encased by ancient layers of limestone rock and dominated by hard wood forest along its more than 6 km of trails.

For adventurers, and a little extra exercise, you can venture below the forest canopy to the base of the falls, and along Spencer Creek, via the 123-step metal staircase.  As you descend the stairs towards the river, let the limestone walls of the Spencer Gorge envelop you with a sense of awe as you’re taken back to a time long forgotten.

Forget about all the things on your to do list and breathe in the perfumed air of pine and cedar as you try to spot a tiny yellow warbler fluttering from branch to branch, its neon feathers reflecting like light off a piece of river gold among the dark foliage.

Take a moment to listen to the pileated woodpecker hard at work searching for its afternoon meal, as the waterfall fills the air with the soothing sounds of its cascading water crashing on ancient boulders below.

For hikers, the Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls Conservation area offers 6km of groomed trails.  From Webster’s Falls, hikers can follow the main trail along the valley’s east rim towards the 135ft Tew’s falls (only a few meters shorter than Niagara Falls) and Dundas Peak.

“I didn’t really know that Hamilton had such good hiking trails” say’s Danielle Aniceto of Orangeville, who was visiting a friend in the area.  “It’s kind of like a hidden treasure,” she describes before posing for a picture on the edge of Dundas Peak.

Dundas Peak is a highlight for many visitors who hike Spencer Gorge because of its unobstructed views of Hamilton and Dundas Valley.  Here you can stand on the edge of a cliff that drops more than hundred feet back towards the city on your left, or down the valley along your right.  Make sure you stop to capture a new profile pic picture to show all your friends.

For a more local feel you can hike along the tucked away section of the Bruce Trail only a few kilometers from Highway 403.  Here lies a quiet hike that starts along side the 6m high Boundary falls (named for it’s location on the Hamilton and Burlington city border).

Fall Leave

Hamilton, CA – Hiking in Hamilton, Ontario Canada an Autumn leaf on a log at Boundry Falls (Ian Yacobucci, Borderless Travels)

Autumn is a great time to visit Boundary Falls along Great Smokey Hollow Walk, although this waterfall is best to visit during the wetter months of the year.  As a ribbon waterfall Boundary Falls cascades into snake falls and eventually meets with Grindstone Creek.

It’s along Grindstone Creek that you’ll find yourself in the heart of Hamilton’s section of the Bruce Trail.  Great Smokey Hollow walk offers visitors 5 km of trails to explore.  Here the trail snakes its way along the quiet creek where you’ll find yourself deep in a forested valley with the remnants of an old limestone structure, wooden bridges with benches to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest, and absolutely stunning nature located only minutes from the highway.

Plan to visit early morning or late afternoon so you can make a quick food stop along Main Street Waterdown, just down the road from the falls.  The quaint shops and restaurants here are a great place to enjoy a well deserved drink and a bite to eat before heading out feeling refreshed and stress free after your hike.

So take some time to explore nature by taking a day trip to Hamilton and revisit a city with some of the best hiking in the Toronto Niagara corridor.  Forget about the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with Ontario’s most spectacular geologic formation, the Niagara Escarpment.

 Getting to Hamilton’s Best Hikes

Finding Spencer Gorge (Tew’s Falls) Webster’s Falls Conservation Area

From Toronto: Take Highway 403 to Highway 6 North; turn left onto Hwy.5West. Turn left onto Brock Road. Turn left at the flashing light, onto Harvest Road. Turn right onto Short Road and left onto Fallsview Road and follow the signs for the parking lot. For Dundas Peak and Tew’s Falls lookout parking, follow Harvest Road further down until you see the signs.

Finding Great Smokey Hollow / Boundary Falls

From Toronto take Highway 403 and exit on Highway 6 North (Guelph).  Turn right onto Highway 5 (Dundas St. E).  Turn right onto Mill St.  and park in the Smokey Hollow Resource management Area parking just past the overhead railway bridge on your right.

More Information on these hikes an others visit http://www.waterfalls.hamilton.ca/

Enjoyed these hikes, have more hiking information for us, share your comments below to let know what you discovered hiking in Hamilton!

Home / North America / Canada / Niagara Falls Top 10 | Tour guide tips to exploring the best of Niagara

Niagara Falls Top 10 | Tour guide tips to exploring the best of Niagara

Updated: June 29, 2016
By: Ian Yacobucci
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, CA – view of Horseshoe falls (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Niagara Falls Canada is home to one of Canada’s most iconic natural wonders. Visitors to Niagara Falls get to experience the power of one of the worlds greatest waterfalls as the equivalent of one million bathtubs flows at nearly 50 km per hour over the edge of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls.

More than just a waterfall, the city of Niagara Falls and its surroundings offer visitors to this region an opportunity to experience Canadian culture, the natural beauty of the Niagara region, and so much more.

As an educational tour guide working in Niagara Falls and other Canadian cities over the past decade I’ve had the privilege of building an intimate relationship with the Niagara Region. That’s why, as one of the more than 8 million visitors to Niagara Falls, Expedia.ca asked me to create this guide that will give you an itinerary based on my touring experience in the city!

Day 1 – Niagara Falls

 Visit Niagara Falls at Table Rock

You can literally stand beside Niagara Falls! Less than a meter from the water you’ll get to see how powerful and mighty Canada’s greatest waterfall is. Take a selfie then head into the Table Rock centre for a famous Tim Horton’s coffee before continuing your journey.

Walk the promenade along the Niagara Gorge

Walk from Niagara Falls (Table Rock) to Clifton Hill. It only takes about 30 minutes to walk from Niagara Falls to Clifton Hill. Along the way you’ll get to experience the magnificence of Niagara Falls by walking along the gorge it created over millennia. It’s one of the most impressive walks where you’ll get to see the American falls on the other side of the Niagara River as well as the natural beauty of the Niagara Gorge.

Fun and lunch on Clifton Hill 

Clifton Hill is the entertainment centre of Niagara Falls. About a 30 minute walk along the impressive Niagara Gorge you find yourself surrounded by the carnival like street filled with restaurants, mini golf, bowling, a Ferris wheel, Ripleys Belive it or Not, Guiness Book of World Records, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and so much more!!

It’s the perfect place to grab a quick lunch before your next adventure or a place to enjoy an evening of fun!

Take a Niagara Falls Boat tour

If you think Niagara Falls is impressive from the edge of the falls you’ll be blown away looking up at it from the Niagara River. Boat tours like the Hornblower Niagara take visitors along the Niagara River where they learn stories about Niagara Falls daredevils and experience the beauty of Niagara Falls from both the American and Canadian falls.

Skylon Tower buffet dinner

A classic dinner spot, I like the Skylon Tower for the buffet’s variety and the fact that it boasts a 365 degree view of Niagara Falls. Although it’s a little bit out of the way from the main drag of Clifton Hill, I’d recommend a visit for lunch or dinner if you want to see a unique view of the falls and enjoy a decent meal.

American Falls

Niagara Falls, CA – View of american falls from the Maid of the Mist now called Hornblower Niagara (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Day 2 – Niagara Region – Day Trip to Niagara on the Lake

Drive the Niagara Parkway

Described by Sir Winston Churchhill as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world” the Niagara parkway that leads from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake should be on everyone’s itinerary. Along the way is an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and culture of the Niagara region.

Botanical Gardens & Floral Clock

The botanical garden’s is a great place to spend an early morning walking through the nearly 100 acres of manicured gardens. If you’re pressed for time, or gardens aren’t something you’re interested in, you can stop off at Niagara Parks famous floral clock made up of 16, 000 plants to quickly to snap a picture.

Lunch and shopping in Niagara on the Lake

 Niagara on the Lake is a quaint lake side town that brings the uniqueness of colonial architecture along with with fine dining, quaint shops, and delicious café’s where you can sample local wines and experience small town Canada. It’s a great lunch stop where you will also find unique craft gifts and local Niagara wines to bring home for family and friends.

Embark on an afternoon Wine Tour in Niagara

The Niagara region, best known for its ice wine, hosts dozens of wineries that are a great way to spend an afternoon. You can book wine tours through local companies or plan your own visits. Ice wine is a favourite for visitors to try but the wineries host a wide range of local wines to sample.

Fallsview Casino for entertainment and/or buffet dinner

What would a visit to Niagara Falls be without a visit to one of its Casinos. If you’re not a gambler that’s okay, the Fallsview Casino is a great place to enjoy a dinner buffet as well as to enjoy some entertainment. You can check them out online to find out more about what shows are on and when.

Niagara Falls has so much to do and see that there’s simply not enough room to share it all. These are just a few suggestions of the best way to spend your time in Niagara Falls to make sure you get to experience all that Niagara has to offer. As a tour guide in the region these are my top recommendations and the best way to spend an enjoyable visit to Niagara Falls!

Useful links for planning your next Niagara Falls trip

https://www.niagarafallstourism.com/
http://www.niagaraparks.com/
http://winecountryontario.ca/

Home / Travel Photography / Beyond the lens / Travel Photo| Most beautiful lake in Canada

Travel Photo| Most beautiful lake in Canada

Updated: October 27, 2014
By: Ian Yacobucci
Moraine Lake

BANFF, AB – Tourists on Moraine Lake in Banff National Park Canada (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Moraine Lake:

Arguably the most beautiful lake in Canada, Moraine lake is a natural Canadian icon that has filled traveler’s photo albums for decades.  Located in Banff National Park the bright cerulean blue waters reflect the natural wonders of valley of the 10 peaks that watch over it.

The incredible iridescent blue-green colour is a result of the sun’s reflection on rock flour (fine-grained rock particles created by glacial grinding  and brought into the lake via glacial melt water).   In the light of the day the majesty of the lake, its colour, and the enormous mountains that surround it are irresistible and hard to leave.

During the summer months Moraine Lake is one of the most popular tourists destinations in the Banff/Lake Louise region so get there early and enjoy a short hike around the main entrance or a more epic journey into the Canadian wilderness.

What I used: ISO 100 – 28mm – F/11 – Sec 1/650

Learn how to hike in Lake Louise and experience Banff, Alberta

Happy shooting,

Ian

 

Home / North America / Canada / What the heck is a press trip and how does it work?

What the heck is a press trip and how does it work?

Updated: July 24, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci
Wonderland coaster

Riding the Leviathan on it’s first run of the day!!

“Welcome to Canada’s Wonderland the roller coaster capital of Canada,” says our guide Matt, the PR manager at the park. “Are you guys ready to ride the Leviathan?”

Fifteen minutes later I was speeding towards the ground face first at 148 km/hr on the first ride of the day at Wonderland’s newest attraction. This was my first press trip.

If you’re wondering what a press trip is let me explain. For travel bloggers, press trips are experiences designed by destination marketing organizations (DMO’s), companies, and tourism boards.

Press trips are used to promote destinations or products by having bloggers experience destinations or use products then getting them to share it with their readers through written posts and social media updates.

After attending TBEX Toronto, tourism organizations in the Toronto region set bloggers up with experiences (press trips) in order to showcase their cities and attractions to promote tourism in the area.

Press trips are, from what I’d heard, jam packed with activities to ensure those participating will see as much as possible. This is done so that everyone gets a good idea of what things visitors can see at the destination while providing them with a variety of things to write about.

Lego Land

Toronto by night at the Lego Land Discovery Centre (build with millions of lego pieces)

Our tour of Central Counties was not an exception to this rule. In fact our itinerary was super packed with awesome places and went something like this.

Day 1: lunch, hike at Albion Hills conservation area, visit Lego Land Discovery Centre (expensive), dinner, accommodation as Aloft Hotel in Vaughan Mills (reasonably priced and swanky as hell), then bed.

Day 2: breakfast, Canada’s Wonderland amusement park (loved it), funnel cake, lunch, Oshawa Tree-Top Adventure Park (AMAZING), dinner, home.

For a two-day itinerary this is a lot to do. For the average tourist visiting the area they’re probably going to do two of these attractions a day, and if they visit Canada’s Wonderland just one.

If you’re on a press trip with other bloggers they’re a great place for professional development. Although press trips like this one can be busy, they’re a place where bloggers can meet each other in person, collaborate, learn, and have fun.

On this particular trip I met a variety of travel bloggers from different niches within the industry. Some were luxury travel bloggers (Dream Travel Magazine), some were family bloggers (Trekaroo, Dude Mom, Kids on a Plane), others were travel/adventure bloggers (Going Nomadic, the Shameless Traveler, & Turnip Seeds Travel), and everyone had a lot to share.

On the trip, while we were driving and during meals, we were always talking. We talked about ourselves, our families, our travel experiences, and our websites.

When it came to professional development, these times were an open forum for us to share social media, blogging, and advertising practices. It was also place to make real connections and discuss future plans in an intimate and meaningful setting.

Tree Top Adventures

Rockin at the Oshawa Treetop Adventure Park with the Shameless Traveler and Trekaroo

On most press trips individuals are expected to share their experiences via social media and blog posts. However, it’s important for you and the company you’re working with to establish these obligations before hand. This way everyone knows their expectations and what needs to be done.

Personally, I didn’t see a great fit between my website (what I write about) and what we experienced with Central Counties, although it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed sharing my experience via social media. I didn’t feel like the activities were a perfect fit for me to share with my readers through blog posts and photographs, which is why I geared my writing towards the press trip experience rather than the attractions.

For this particular press trip there were no expectations set before hand. From what I gathered, the trip was designed for bloggers to experience Central Counties and share it with their readers however they felt comfortable. For Central Counties, it was a great way to showcase some of their attractions to an international network of travel enthusiasts and their readers.

Of course, this is only one type of press trip, and each one will certainly be different. As a blogger, what’s important to remember is to research of the place you’re visiting and establish the expectations before hand.

Wonderland

Wonderland with Dude Mom, Dream Travel Mag, and the Shameless Traveler

If you’re alone on a press trip, try to meet companies half-way by suggesting things you’d like to do on the trip so that the itinerary will be better balanced. This will guarantee, that as a blogger, you’ll find the story you want to write about and the organizer can showcase their featured attractions.

There’s no perfect press trip, and from what I experienced I still have a lot to learn. For me, my tour of Central Counties, Ontario was a great way to meet and learn from different travel bloggers, check out some awesome attractions like Canada’s Wonderland and Oshawa’s treetop adventures, and gain a better perspective of press trips and how they work.

Until the next trip, happy travels!

 

Yak

 

 

 

 

 

Home / Travel Photography / Beyond the lens / Travel Photo| Lake Minnewanka Banff, Canada

Travel Photo| Lake Minnewanka Banff, Canada

Updated: July 15, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci
Lake Minnewanka in Banff, Canada

Lake Minnewanka in Banff, Canada

Mountain border:

According to our boat cruise tour guide this view shows the place where the Canadian Rockies begin, or end, depending on your perspective.  Lake Minnewanka meaning “Water of Spirits” is a glacial lake high in the Canadian rockies.  Boat tours along the shores of the lake are just a few of the ways you can experience Banff.   A cruise like this are the perfect place to get pictures like this one on a beautiful day.

Home / North America / Canada / How to hike Lake Louise, Alberta in two absolutely incredible days

How to hike Lake Louise, Alberta in two absolutely incredible days

Updated: December 21, 2012
By: Ian Yacobucci

 

Lake Louise View

View of the plains of six glaciers from the front of the Fairmont Lake Louise – Lake Louise, Canada

Lake Louise, located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, is a resort designed to impress. At the foot of the mountains is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise with spectacular hiking just outside its doorstep. If you’re visiting, there are two hikes that you won’t want to miss out on, and both of them are easily accessible day hikes.

Day Hike 1 – Lake Louise, plain of the six glaciers, and so much more

To be perfectly honest these hiking trails in front of the Fairmont Lake Louise are quite easy. While I was hiking I often passed families with young children, people in crocks, and older couples who were meandering up the mountain trails at a leisurely pace. You do not need any experience for these hikes.

To make this a full day hike you can start by walking along Lake Louise towards the Plain of Six Glaciers and one of the famous Lake Louise tea house. The lookout located at 2, 195m offers a spectacular view of the glaciers, is surrounded by waterfalls, and should take you 1.5 to 2 hours to get to depending on your pace.

On your way to the lookout you can stop at the Lake Louise Tea House for a snack or a drink. It’s a popular site and on the main trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers so it’s usually pretty busy. You should also know that they don’t have running water to fill your water bottles however, you can fill up in the creek alongside the tea house if you’re feeling adventurous. I certainly did!

Tea House

Lake Louise Tea House – Lake Louise, Canada

From the Plain of Six Glaciers there’s an uphill trail that will take you to the top of Big Beehive, which overlooks the Fairmont Lake Louise Resort and the surrounding area; a great place to take pictures. From there you can head down to Lake Agnes on your way back to the Fairmont Lake Louise.

six glacier look out

View of the Canadian Rockies and the Fairmont Lake Louise from the Plain of Six Glaciers Look out

At Lake Agnes, I battled the cold water and took a swim. If that’s not your thing you might prefer some lunch at the scenic Lake Agnes Tea House, located at the foot of the lake. Outside there is also a sitting area and benches along Lake Agnes where you can relax and enjoy the view.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake – Lake Louise, Canada

After Lake Agnes you should be ready to head back to Lake Louise. On your way you’ll get a chance to stop off at Mirror Lake where you can enjoy the waterfall that joins Lake Agnes and Mirror Lake.

Depending, this hike should take you between 5-8 hours and should not be missed if you’re visiting Lake Louise.

Day 2 – Mount Fairview

Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies from the top of Mount Fairview

A much more technical hike Mount Fairview has one of the best views in the surrounding range and all you need to successfully summit this mountain is time. For an experienced hiker it should take around 1.5 to two hours to summit and close to the same to descend.

The hardest part of this hike is the last quarter where you are climbing up a rocky cliff face. Don’t be discouraged that this hike is too hard. Anyone, who takes his or her time, will be able to make it to the top but be aware that it is not as easy as the Plain of Six Glaciers hike and you need to be cautious.

I planned to eat my lunch when I got to the top of Mount Fairview and enjoyed the view, as I looked across the wooded valley below and the fast expanse of the rocky mountain range that streatched into the distance. One of the most unique things about this place is the view of the glaciers that caress the surrounding mountaintops and are a unique feature of the Rockies.

I hope you enjoy these hikes, have fun, and hike safe.

Yak

 

Home / North America / Canada / 5 incredible ways to experience summer in Banff, Alberta

5 incredible ways to experience summer in Banff, Alberta

Updated: November 17, 2012
By: Ian Yacobucci

 

Banff

View of Banff, Alberta from the top of Sulfur Mountain – Banff, canada

Welcome to Banff, Alberta one of the coolest towns in Canada. If you’re visiting Alberta there’s no excuses for missing this place. Located in a central valley, Banff is surrounded by 2000m peaks, lakes, rivers, and forest with a ton of stuff to do.

Visiting Banff I spent a couple days doing the tourist highlights, and wish I could have stayed longer…maybe even a ski season.  If you’re wondering what the best things to do in Banff are then look no further because here is my top 5 list.

1. Lake Minnewanka - Guided boat trips on Lake Minnewanka have been running for 120 years. As a glacial lace surrounded by mountains guided tours are the only way to experience Lake Minnewanka. Cruising on the lake you get to truly appreciate the immensity of the Rockies as the mountain cliffs surround you. On the tour you also get to see the place where the Rockies either end or begin which is really cool.

Lake Minnewanka

View of Lake Minnewanka from the docks – Banff, Canada

For scuba divers a trip into the depths of Lake Minnewanka’s four degree water will bring you to submerged towns that are more than 100 years old. Make sure you have your cold water and alpine diving certs.

2. Sulphur Mountain Gondola – This gondola trip will bring you to the top of Sulpher mountain at 2281m above sea levels. Historically this mountain was used as a weather and cosmic ray station, but today you can go to the top of the mountain and take in the amazing valleys and towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies. For pictures of Banff and the surrounding area you won’t want to miss this.

Sulphur Mountain

Sulphur Mountain viewing platform overlooking the Rockies- Banff, Canada

3. Hangout Downtown – As a popular tourist destination Banff is a picturesque Canadian town that warrants a little shopping and eating. Cruising along Banff Ave. is the perfect place to grab a quick bite to eat or enjoy a fancy meal at one of the fine dining restaurants before hitting some of the shops. Don’t forget to grab a photo of Cascade Mountain overlooking this picturesque main street.

Banff Ave

Banff Ave with Cascade Mountain in the background – Banff, Canada

4. Johsnton Canyon – Johnston Canyon is one of the most picturesque valleys in the Rockies and a short drive from Banff. This easy hike takes you through an awesome canyon ask you walk along cliff sides looking down into the crystal clear river that flows below. The hike has two main waterfalls and takes about one to two hours.  It’s well worth the drive!

Johnsons Canyon

Water fall at Johnsons Canyon – Banff, Canada

5. Vermillion lakes – Paddleboard, canoe, kayak, or if boating isn’t your thing, go for a hike and explore these three lakes. Surrounded by the Rockies these beautiful lakes are only a few minutes drive outside of Banff.  They’re a great place to spend the day hiking and picnicking.

Bow River

Bow River and Vermillion lakes – Banff, Canada

If you have any other great ideas please feel free to leave a comment and share with other readers your favourite things to do in Banff!!

Now go out and explore the Rockies!

Yak