You guys. I have a lot on my plate. And I know you do too. I’m really trying to be mindful about how hanging out on my phone doesn’t serve me when I’m feeling overwhelmed and burdened by my to-do list. I already know that there’s little else that works better for me when I’m feeling stressed out than getting out in nature, so what am I doing scrolling Instagram when I’m feeling that way anyways? When I first moved to Hamilton I had lots of free time on my hands and so I spent it getting to know the access points to nature in our fair city and I feel determined to get outside this summer as much as I used to.
Here are my top three spots for getting into nature without leaving the city:
Why: Princess Point is an easy to access part of Cootes’ Paradise Nature Reserve with trails that meander along marshlands and tracts of Oak Savannah, an ecology unique in Canada to this part of Ontario. If you’ve got a canoe (maybe you do!), it’s a great place to go for a paddle. Princess Point is considered a “Nationally Important Bird Area” (that’s an official title!) and if you make it to Sassafras Point by taking the Wild Ginger Trail, you can nibble on the end of a sassafras leaf, one of the original ingredients for root beer.
When: If you’re into birds, go first thing in the morning.
Getting there: Walk from Westdale north on either Macklin or Longwood to the end of the street. Take the 06 Aberdeen bus to the Princess Point Loop if you’re taking HSR. Ample parking available.
Cost: Parking is $1-2/hr, otherwise it’s free free free.
Christie Lake Conservation Authority
Why: Part of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), this is where Spencer Creek widens in the Christie Reservoir and the swimming is excellent! The water is much warmer than Lake Ontario but because it’s a creek there’s a flow to the water that keeps things feeling nice and fresh. Add to that inexpensive canoe/kayak rentals, mountain biking, hiking, and a nice long beach - why aren’t you there right now?
When: Weekend daytime can be nuts, but evenings and weekdays tend to fairly empty. It’s just a 12 minute drive from James St. N., which makes it a lovely spot for a mid-week early evening summer hang.
Getting there: Most will want to drive. The adventuresome might choose to bike.
Cost: Free if you have a HCA membership ($115/12 months), $10/car + $5/person.
Smokey Hollow Waterfall
Where: Off Mill St. S. in Waterdown
Why: There are bigger waterfalls in Hamilton but this has got to be one of the most beautiful. Grindstone Creek flows into a fast flowing fall that tumbles into the most lovely meandering stream alongside a gorgeous section of the Bruce Trail. Walk along the path to the left of the waterfall down the escarpment past big jutting rocks until you reach the valley floor. The forest opens up and the trail is flat for much of the next few kilometres.
When: The parking lot is small so you may want to go on a weekday or weekend morning/evening.
Getting there: Besides driving, the Aldershot GO bus #18 passes right by or ride your bike along York Blvd and Snake Rd.