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Ring Around the Quarry

When we moved back to Big Smoke, I promised my Bruce Trail neighbors never to divulge the location of our former hiker hideout to anyone, because our little community of friends and cottages thrives at the end of a dirt road leading into thousands of hectares of high country forest, atop the Niagara Escarpment somewhere north of Milton. So in order to keep that promise, I will show you another way to access perhaps the most ruggedly wonderful hiking trail this side of Tobermory.

I have become increasingly familiar with this mammoth quadrant filled with rivers, lakes and limestone quarries over the past 20 years and watched as the Bruce Trail Toronto Club made its inroads, clearing the trail and moving carefully around the natural features with both the White Blazed Main Trail and most recently, the 21K of the Blue Blazed Hilton Falls Side trail, forming a giant loop circumscribing one of the biggest limestone and gravel quarries in Southern Ontario.

If you’ve ever driven up the ‘Sea to Sky Hiway’ running north through the Coast Mountains from Vancouver, toward Whistler’s “Ski Heaven”, you’ll recall the rush you felt seeing the mile high stone wall of Squamish’s “The Chief” for the first time. That’s somewhat the same feeling you’ll get, while driving the 401 West, and coming upon the high green ridges of the Niagara Escarpment’s leaping giant, the Milton Outlier, and her chalky white canyons diving dramatically down into the Nasagawaya Canyon - a truly wondrous outdoor paradise. And if you were to exit the 401 at Hiway 25 north and then turn west on the Campbellville 5 Sideroad, you would drive past the Greystone Golf Club nestled up snug under the mountain, before arriving at the Halton 6th line. And if you were to turn north to the top of the hill, you would see the Halton Golf Club on your left and the stone cave opening to the Bruce Trail on your right, with plenty of parking on the wide right hand shoulder.

The Bruce then takes you east and north through the forest along the high ridge that lets you see Lake Ontario from Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga all the way across the ancient seabed to the skyline of TO’s bank buildings, the Skydome and the CN Tower from 40 miles away. But mind your feet, because the path is quite dangerous: full of loose and large rocky limestone boulder outcroppings. So it’s best to hike carefully, between lookout and rest stops, keeping an eye on your next footfall. Many high lookouts range along the ridge, where the hiker can kick up, have a toke and a coke and see it all: to my mind, the most spectacular Bruce Trail section in Southern Ontario.

The trail of white Blazes spills you out onto a red ‘n rusty steel sky bridge crossing over the Dufferin Aggregates Road where parades of giant dump trucks full of gravel pass dustily underneath, giving the hiker the best view of all.

It’s about an hour’s walk, northeast along the ridge, to the Hilton Falls Side Trail’s Blue Blazes, steering you west into the heavy hilly bush, that’ll take you across the Town Line past the Willowbrook Bed and Breakfast at the bottom of the hill. The pathway then crashes back into the forest for a happy jaunt on an easy trail that nudges you out over the Sixteen Mile Creek and onto the sleepy, never busy 6th line, where you’ll turn left and head south for a half hour’s soft shuffle back down to your car. Count on a good three hours rough and tumble hiking on this Bruce Trail circuit.

One of my little pleasures is to sit in the shade on the stony edge of the golf course and watch the duffers blow their putts, while acting as a gallery of one, with polite applause when one of them actually finds the hole, before jumping into my chariot and heading home. Remember to leave your car windows open a crack before the hike, so you don’t fry your butt upon re-entry.

The Bruce Trail Ring Around the Quarry Hilton Falls Side Trail Loop is a good and strenuous adventure, so take your sturdy rock -friendly boots, your hat and bug spray and plenty of H20 and maybe even a pair of binoculars for the eyeball’s smorgasbord which awaits your viewing pleasure.

For further information about some exotic locations such as the Florida Everglades, Algonquin Park, the Temagami Old Growth Forest, The Gatineau, Basecamp Everest in Nepal - to name a few, eMail HIKER MIKE and he will send you a custom hike for your destination. See his book from Boston Mills Press for more hikes.

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