Hendrie Valley Trails
This 100-hectare sanctuary is centered on the Grindstone Creek Valley. The area features forested slopes with towering trees, a 60-hectare river-mouth marsh complex and four creeks. Transferred to RBG in 1941 for ecological protection, it stretches to Carroll’s Point in Hamilton Harbour, and contains an extensive collection of floodplain wetlands, all of which are part of a Great Lakes restoration program.
km of trails
27 kilometres of trail include packed earth, crushed stone, asphalt and boardwalks; some sections are steep and hilly. Trails are not plowed or sandy during the winter. During spring thaws and after rains, earthen trails become muddy. Please take appropriate caution.
Current interruptions and Closures:
- Please note: October 19 to 30. The parking lot at Cherry Hill Gate will be closed to the public as the space is used for the Great Pumpkin Trail. Rock Garden and other trailheads remain open.
- The small parking lot located at Unsworth Ave is permanently closed. Creekside Walk nature trail access remains open and parking is available at Cherry Hill (1101 Plains Rd W.) or Hidden Valley Park.
Major Access Points
RBG Centre is our administrative hub. It features an interactive orientation exhibit and our winter exhibition, plant displays including the children’s Natural Playground, Mediterranean Garden, café, and gift shop.
Cherry Hill Gate
This barrier-free access route leads to the Gardens’ signature boardwalk perched two metres above the floodplain of Grindstone Creek. This trail links Hendrie Park and Laking Garden and provides spectacular views of the valley.
Valley Inn & Laking Garden
At the mouth of Grindstone Creek on Spring Gardens Road, this access point is beside Laking Garden and at the lower end of the Grindstone Marshes Trail. Wetland restoration dominates the area with many projects underway. Laking Garden’s feature collections include irises, peonies and a heritage garden.
Hendrie Valley is home to lots of interesting trails and lookouts! Here are 5 key destinations marked by number on the pdf map.
1. South Pasture Swamp
An oasis for endangered species, this spring-fed oxbow pond is home to beaver, muskrat, Virginia rail and wood duck. Work to restore this site began in 1994 as part of Project Paradise.
2. Grindstone Creek
With three pedestrian bridge crossings and a creek-side trail, the valley provides an intimate connection with the creek. Seasonal fish spawning runs include herring and spottail shiner in the spring and salmon in the fall.
3. Snowberry Island
Halfway along the Grindstone Marshes Boardwalk, Snowberry Island sits five metres high in the floodplain. Named after a species of plant that grows there, the island is a block of uneroded creek valley soil called a knoll.
4. Grindstone Creek Delta
Located at Valley Inn trailhead, it’s both the site of an ambitious restoration project and stop-over point for migratory waterfowl. More than 100,000 Christmas trees form the foundation for the restored river banks of Grindstone Creek — these protect the marsh areas by preventing carp from entering.
5. Valley Inn Hotel
Built in 1820s on the eastern shore of Burlington Heights and standing until 1959, the hotel was a rest spot at the crossroads of the former Desjardins Canal and Hwy 2. The routes are now severed by the rail line and Hwy 403, but a section of road remains on the Grindstone Marshes Trail.
Find Your Hike with Geotrail
Explore our Trails with an interactive map from Geotrail. View trail lengths, see lookouts, compare path elevation, and more.
Canada’s Biodiversity Hotspot
Royal Botanical Gardens’ 1,100 hectares is dominated by nature sanctuaries enveloping the western end of Lake Ontario. These form a Nodal Park within the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO) and the heart of the Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark System. With more than 750 native plant species, 277 types of migratory birds, 37 mammal species, 14 reptile species, 9 amphibian species and 68 species of Lake Ontario fish, the area is an important contributor to ecosystems that span international borders.
About Hendrie Valley
What’s in a Name?
William Hendrie, a Scottish immigrant, purchased land here in the 1870s for his racehorse farm. In 1931 his son George donated the property to Hamilton Parks Board as a memorial to William and his brothers. Ten years later the property became part of RBG.
A number of Indigenous footpaths and water routes converged in Hendrie Valley and served as links between Burlington Bay and the Haudenosaunee villages on the Escarpment. The United Empire Loyalists arrived in the 1790s and expanded these transportation routes into Old Guelph Road and Snake Road. The Desjardins Canal also passed through Valley Inn, as did the original route for Highway 2.
Vegetation and Microclimate
Nestled between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, the area’s flora is characteristic of the more southern deciduous forest region. Soils differ on each side of the valley, resulting in differences in their plant communities, but oaks, hickories and Black Cherry are abundant.
At the inception of Project Paradise in the 1990s practically the entire marshland complex had been destroyed by carp, leaving it a series of shallow muddy ponds. Various small carp barriers and artificially constructed river banks now restrict these invaders, allowing nature to successfully restore the area to a marshland.
Although best known for our display gardens and horticultural conservation work, Royal Botanical Gardens is working hard to preserve and restore the Nature Sanctuaries. Of particular importance is Project Paradise, the largest restoration project of its kind in North America, working to restore the aquatic habitats of Cootes Paradise and Grindstone Creek marshes.
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 fees 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: Time-ticketed parking 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 handling 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.