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On the Trails: December 2023

November 30, 2023

Arctic water birds, frost and ice are the themes for December. Winter is attempting to arrive with Cootes Paradise Marsh frozen/unfrozen in late November. The open water areas host concentrations of northern waterfowl wintering in the area, highlighted by Bufflehead, Goldeneye, and Hooded Merganser. The best trails to catch a glimpse of the birds are the Marshwalk Trail, (open waters of Spencer Creek), Princess Point Trail and the Waterfront Trail (open waters near the Fishway).

Water levels are a few centimeters below average for this time of the year exposing large sections of the marsh bottom. Resident birds such as the Bald Eagles, various hawk species, and the Pileated Woodpeckers are also much easier to spot. With the leaves now off the trees, extensive landscape views are now possible from places such as the George North Tower at Cootes Paradise or from Rock Chapel.

The view from Rock Chapel provides a vista of the last undeveloped land between Lake Ontario (Cootes Paradise) and the Niagara Escarpment. Borers Falls, a 5-minute walk from the Rock Chapel parking lot, is also in fine form with higher water flows in December. The Rock Chapel parking lot will be closed for the season as of Thursday, December 21 and will reopen in the spring.

Trail User Notes

RBG will be closed on December 25, 26, and January 1. The parking lot gates to Princess Point and the Arboretum will remain closed for these days.

Escarpment Trails:

  • The Rock Chapel parking lot will be closed for the season as of Thursday, December 21.
  • The Bruce Trail roadside link to Borers Falls is currently being updated and as such for a period, trail visitors will need to climb over the roadside guard rail until modifications are completed to provide an access opening. This project is undertaken by Bruce Trail Conservancy and City of Hamilton.
  • The Ray Lowes side trail connection from Rock Chapel to Arboretum ends at York Rd and does not connect to Cootes Paradise.

Hendrie Valley:

  • Grindstone Marsh Trail Boardwalk will experience periodic interruptions as deck boards are replaced
  • 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.

Cootes Paradise:

  • Arboretum Winter Hours: effective December 11, the Arboretum is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for trail users

For Your Safety

  • While our nature trails remain open to the public, please note that all use is at your own risk. Most of our trails are hilly and the trail surfaces are natural soil. Consider your footwear as during winter surfaces can be icy or muddy depending on the weather.
  • Please stay on the marked trails to avoid trampling regenerating shrubs and trees or buried roots of understory plants such as trilliums.
  • The nature trail system is considered closed during extreme weather event notifications from Environment Canada.
  • Mountain bikes/fat bikes are not allowed as our trails are not designed to accommodate these activities.
  • Please be aware ticks, including those carrying Lyme Disease, are found throughout the Hamilton/Burlington area and are active at temperatures above 0°C. Protect yourself by staying on marked trails. RBG does not accept ticks for testing. For inquiries regarding ticks, please contact the Region of Halton or City of Hamilton Public Health.

Explore RBG’s Trails

RBG’s nature sanctuaries feature more than 27 km of nature trails! Find maps, guided hike schedule, and more.