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On the Trails: January 2024

December 28, 2023

Ice skating, animal tracks in the snow, raptors, and arctic waterbirds are the themes for January. Ice remains thin and patchy to start January with waterbirds from the north wintering in the unfrozen waters of Lake Ontario including Cootes Paradise. Species include Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Lesser Scaup, and can number in the thousands where water is open. The concentrations of waterbirds draw in a variety of raptor and so expect to spot a Red-tailed Hawk or Bald Eagle soaring overhead. RBG public programs are regularly offered in support of these phenomenon. Open waters usually can be found near the Fishway (via Princess Point). January begins with some of the warmest temperatures on record and little ice cover.

Enjoy the Cootes Paradise landscape and the amazing glacial water carved rolling hills and ravines accented by snow, with long views available from the towers at George North, Bulls Point, and Pine Point Lookouts via the Arboretum, as well as Sassafras Point lookout on the south shore. Along with raptors, resident woodpeckers of many species can be spotted throughout the trails including the largest species the Pileated Woodpecker as well as a variety of other birds, while owls can be heard at dusk.

Skating on Cootes Paradise Marsh at the Princess Point access is limited by low water levels and warm temperatures with thin ice cover and extensive mudflats to start January. When ice is suitable, ice conditions are local to Princess Point posted area for safety of both users and wildlife beyond this area. Thick ice at Princess Pt will be thin ice or open water beyond this area due to river and lake currents. Restricted skating to the 0.5km radius around the point is also critical to protection of the many sensitive and nesting wild species that call Cootes Paradise area home. Information on ice thickness status/safety is available on our skating webpage, social media as well as on a sign at the Princess Point access.

Trail User Notes

January 1: All garden areas, facilities, and parking lots CLOSED.

Cootes Paradise:

  • The Ray Lowes side trail connection from Rock Chapel to Arboretum ends at York Rd and does not connect to Cootes Paradise. This relates to the Bruce Trail Conservancy head office having moved from the Arboretum, now located in Dundas via another side trail from the escarpment.

Hendrie Valley:

  • The Grindstone Marsh Boardwalk will have periodic user interruptions as deck sections are replaced. Notifications will be found at the trail entrances.

Escarpment Properties:

  • Rock Chapel Parking lot is closed for the season; Reopening again in spring.

For Your Safety

  • Please note that all trail 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.