On the Trails
Nature Trails at Royal Botanical Gardens
RBG’s nature sanctuaries feature more than 27 km of nature trails in Burlington & Hamilton. There are four main trailheads, as well as two canoe launch sites.
October 22 to 24: Cherry Hill Gate closes at 4 p.m. for a special event.
Due to COVID-19, some amenities and FAQ's listed on this page may be inaccurate. As we move through our phased re-opening, updated information can be found on our COVID-19 Policies and Procedures notice. Before joining us, please read through this full notice for important information regarding your visit.
Find your route and learn more about the three major nature sanctuaries with pdf trail guides.
Trail User Notes
Updated October, 2020
- The Bridle Trail Loop in Hendrie Valley is a one directional walk due to social distancing limitations of narrow sections. Signage is located at key intersections to indicate the one-way loop
- Princess Point trail loop in the Oak Savanah area will be subject to periodic access interruptions as the trail system is upgraded to repair and protect the integrity of the site as well as improve 4 season access.
- The Ray Lowes side trail connection from Rock Chapel ends at York Rd and does not connect to Cootes Paradise.
Please be aware ticks, including some ticks with Lyme Disease are found throughout the Hamilton Burlington Region. Protect yourself by staying on marked trails. RBG does not accept ticks for testing. For inquiries regarding ticks, please contact the City of Hamilton Public Health.
Admission & Parking
RBG General Admission fees do not apply to trail users, except for the Arboretum trail heads during peak bloom season (May and June).
Trail users arriving by car are required to pay for parking by using the parking meters available at all trailhead parking lots. Day parking passes are available as part of your RBG General Admission. RBG Members receive a year-long parking pass to be used at all RBG trailheads. Proceeds from the parking fees go directly toward the maintenance of these lots as well as stewardship of the natural areas.
Hiking the trails is free, but maintaining them isn’t
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the largest botanical garden in Canada, a National Historic Site, and registered charitable organization with a mandate to bring together people, plants and nature.
Trail celebrating Indigenous Plants
Native plants provided indigenous peoples with almost all of life’s essentials. Starting in the Arboretum near the Nature Interpretive Centre, this new trail explores plants used by the Anishinaabe peoples, and their connections to culture, language, ecology and history.
Plan Your Hike
Find interactive maps from GeoTrail! View trail lengths, terrain, lookout points, elevation, photos and more!
Featured Hiking Loops
Not sure where to start? Join Jackson for a virtual guided hike with our “Take a Hike” videos!
Trail User Etiquette
Trail User’s Code
Upon entering the nature trails you are making a pledge to respect the environment and fellow visitors. These lands are Canada’s biodiversity hotspot, set aside at the head of Lake Ontario for environmental protection, open for environmental education and passive recreation only. While walking our trails, it is important to remember that you are a visitor in someone else’s home, and that your impact will be multiplied over by 200,000 other visitors. Environmental protection bylaws are posted at each trailhead. Please follow them and play a role in protecting and restoring the area for future generations.
Special Protection Areas
While the property spans 900 hectares, urban encroachment has left few true sanctuary areas for sensitive wildlife and bird species. To ensure that all species have an opportunity to persist 20 percent of the property remains without trails. For the visitor, next to these areas there are observation points and interpretive signage to help you appreciate the significance of these unique spaces.
Royal Botanical Gardens assumes no responsibility for loss of, or damage to property, personal injury or mishap, all activities are at the risk of the participant. Trail structures and adjacent trees are inspected regularly for visitor safety. Parking lots are not monitored, please do not leave any valuables in your car.
Trail Use Bylaw Restrictions
- Runners are not permitted
- Pets must remain leashed at all times. Please clean up after your dogs and leave waste trailhead garbage receptacle.
- Bicycles are prohibited.
- Motorized vehicles are prohibited.
- Horseback riding is prohibited.
- Picking or collecting plants or wildlife is prohibited.
- Feeding the wildlife/birds is not permitted.
- Cross-country skiing is prohibited due to the hilly topography.
- Ice skating is restricted to Cootes Paradise in the area adjacent to Princess Point.
The 5 main trailheads provide access to a combination of wider walking trails and narrow earthen backwoods footpaths. Surfaces include packed earth, crushed stone, asphalt and boardwalks; many sections are steep and hilly. Ice builds up on hills and floodplains during winter and can make trails slippery, “icers” are recommended. During spring thaws and after rains earthen trails become muddy.
For Those Afloat
Experience the area by canoe or kayak on your own, or as part of our organized canoe tours. Princess Point is the best place from which to launch your craft. Please remember that paddling is prohibited in posted areas during the nesting season (May and June) to protect vulnerable wildlife. Motorized boats are prohibited at all times, excluding for Gardens’ research purposes.
Back to Nature Hikes
September through May: 2 p.m.
June through August: 10 a.m.
Each Sunday of the month our volunteer Back to Nature hike leaders offer free hikes through the vast ecosystems of RBG’s lands, allowing people to familiarize themselves with the area so they can continue to explore with their friends and family. Every Sunday (including holiday weekends), September through May, 2 p.m.; June through August, 10 a.m. at the locations noted below.
FREE to participate! Donations accepted. Parking charges apply.
The route and meeting point for these guided Sunday hikes rotate each week; see the guide below for where to find this week’s hike, or visit rbg.ca/events for a schedule of everything going on at RBG.
- 1st Sunday of every month: Hendrie Valley; meet at Cherry Hill Gate parking lot
- 2nd: Princess Point; meet at the Princess Point parking lot
- 3rd: Cootes North Shore; meet at the Nature Interpretive Centre (at the Arboretum)
- 4th: Cootes South Shore; meet at the Aviary parking lot on Oak Knoll Drive, Hamilton
- 5th: Rock Chapel; meet at the Rock Chapel trailhead parking lot
About Back to Nature Hikes
Walks are typically 1.5 to 2 hours in length. Our trails are rocky and muddy and not suitable for most standard strollers, except those meant for off-sidewalk use. In the event of inclement weather (high winds, ice, extreme windchill, heavy rain, thunderstorms or hazardous driving conditions), call our Program Update Line at 905-527-1158 ext. 404 one to two hours before the start time to see if the walk has been cancelled. Updates are also posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Quiet, well-behaved, leashed dogs are permitted to attend these walks. Any pets found disrupting the hike or other guests may be asked to leave.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are the trails free to access?
Trail access points are varied as are the costs. Many access points are walk in and accessible by bike or transit and as a result are free. Parking charges do apply at metered lots for those arriving by car. Single-day parking passes are available as part of your General Admission, or get a year-long parking pass issued with an RBG Membership. Proceeds from the memberships and parking fees go towards the maintenance of these access locations as well as stewardship of the natural areas.
NOTE: General Admission applies to access the Arboretum during bloom season (May and June)
Though hiking the trails is free, maintaining them and the nature sanctuaries (home to over 1,000 species) requires significant investment. Please consider support RBG’s conservation efforts with a donation. Learn more at rbg.ca/donate
Can I bring my dog on the trails?
Dogs are welcome in the nature sanctuaries so long as they remain on-leash, on-trail, and are cleaned up after.
Keep the nature sanctuaries fun and safe for everyone, comply with local bylaws, and help with our conservation efforts by keeping your dog leashed. If you see someone with an off-leash dog on the trails or at the arboretum, call Animal Services to report the incident to the by-law enforcement branch.
- Hamilton: 905-574-3433
- Burlington: 905-335-3030
Are bikes permitted on the trails?
For safety, maintenance, and conservation reasons, biking is not permitted on RBG’s trail systems. Many of RBG’s main trailheads include bike racks for your convenience.
Which trails are the most accessible / stroller-friendly?
Each Trailhead includes a stroller friendly trail route as a subset of the individual areas nature trail system.
Do you have canoes available for rent?
RBG does not lease out the canoes used in our camps and programs. Check with your local outdoor equipment provider for rentals or sign up for our Paddling in Paradise programs available in the summer months. Learn more at rbg.ca/paddle
What do I do if I find a distressed animal?
As RBG is not a wildlife handing organization, should you find an injured or distressed animal in the nature sanctuaries, please contact the appropriate animal control authority (Hamilton: (905) 574-3433, Burlington: (905) 335-3030). They may request that you stay with the animal to keep eyes on its whereabouts until help arrives, and may contact RBG for access assistance.
Young animals such as Fawns (Young Deer): If you encounter a young animal such as a fawn alone in any natural space, rest assured they are likely not abandoned. Mothers leave their little ones hidden while in search of food. Give them space, its mother will be back within the next day ready to move to a new spot. If the fawn has not moved in several days and its ears are curled down due to dehydration, contact your local animal control authority.
Can I fish on RBG’s properties?
Fishing is permitted at trail access points to the water as well as by boat. However as the area largely used by spawning fish it is subject to seasons articulated in the OMNRF fishing regulations. Remember the lands along the water contain many sensitive plant species.
Is ice skating available in the winter?
Princess Point provides access to a skating area across Cootes Paradise. Ice is measured each Friday (before end of day), and updated at the on-site signage, here, and on our Facebook page. Please note: weather changes quickly, and so upon arrival the ice may not be in the same condition as listed. Please use caution, take time to read the signage, and follow the listed guidelines. Check the “Trail User Notes” section at rbg.ca/onthetrails in the winter for posted ice thickness / safety notes.