On The Trails Highlights

The trails burst first with fall colours as the leaves turn to vibrant reds, yellows and purples. October is also the heart of fall bird migration, and Royal Botanical Gardens sanctuaries are in the middle of transcontinental bird migration routes. Over 250 species can be encountered over the course of the fall season and every trail hosts special. In our waters, spawning salmon of Lake Ontario are finding their ways into both Spencer and Grindstone Creeks.

Fall colours are anticipated to come earlier than average years, a result of the dry summer. With over 70 species of trees in our Carolinian forests and our varied landscape, these colours will last longer with trails of the escarpment uplands reaching their peak up to two weeks earlier than those down at Cootes Paradise Marsh. Look for the brilliant orange leaves of sassafras and serviceberries, the reds of maples and sumac, the yellows of walnut and hickory, and the uniquely purple leaves of Fraxinus americana (white ash).

Migratory birds reach numbers in the thousands on many days. Raptors are centered at Burlington Heights, waterbirds are focused around the rivermouth deltas of Spencer (Cootes Paradise) and Grindstone Creeks (Hendrie Valley), and song birds are heard through the wooded shorelines surrounding the wetlands. Ideal destinations are trails with observation platforms, accessed through either the Cootes Paradise north shore trails or Hendrie Valley and are located next to our Special Protection Areas.

You can experience the season through one of the many public programs for kids or adults, with field ID pocket guides available at Shop @ The Gardens, and great lunch time dining available at The Gardens’ Café. If you’re looking for a guided hike try the Walking into Nature (WIN) walk in Hendrie Valley, or one of our weekly free Sunday Back to Nature walks also listed in our public programs calendar. Walks rotate between four locations, one for each week of the month and are provided by RBG volunteers.

Trail User Notes: All parking lots are open.

There are five main trailhead locations, Princess Point, Westdale, the Arboretum, Cherry Hill Gate, and Rock Chapel, as well as two canoe launch sites (Princess Point & Valley Inn). These lead to 27km of trails within the sanctuaries as well as links to multiple other regional trails. A fee of $1/hour is required at all trailheads and $3/hour at the Arboretum, excluding the Arboretum based Migration Festival were kiosk and regular garden admission rates will apply. An RBG membership provides free parking at the trailheads.