Bruce Trail hike - Hilton Falls Conservation Area


This is a very long hike if you do the entire thing. It took me just over 7 hours, with only reasonable stops to admire the sights along the way. You could cut the hike in roughly half by walking along the road in the middle of the hike but the road is about 3km long itself, and not all that interesting.

It is a good hike to take the time to think about how 'progress' is affecting the Bruce Trail (and all 'natural' settings). The sounds of the trucks in the quarry and the small area left for the trail remind you of this. To be fair, however, I'm sure a lot of the stone from the quarry went to building the 401 and other highways which I took to GET to the trail in the first place.

(I've designed this page to be simple with no pictures on it so that you can print a copy and take it with you. The pictures are linked at each stage, with a camera icon and are all contained on the pictures of Hilton Falls Conservation Area page. Please send us any comments/corrections to brucetrail [at] Click here to return to the main page,) or grab your hiking shoes, compass, GPS, and camera and take a hike!

Location and details of the hike:

General Location:Just north of the 401 at Lake Kelso
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Bruce Trail Reference 20.0StartMap #11 Kelso
Iroquoia and Toronto Club
 Total Bruce Trail Distance5.9 km
(km 1.8 to km 7.7)
 Hilton Falls Side Trail Distance14 km

Directions to the starting point of the hike:

  • Take the 401 West from Toronto to Hwy 25 north (exit 320 - 50 km from Avenue Road).
  • Follow Hwy 25 north to Hwy 9 Campbellville Road (about 1.5 km).
  • Turn left (west) on Hwy 9, through Tremaine Road for about 3.6 km.
  • Turn right (north) on 6th line
  • I parked in the small parking area farther along the road (about 4 km) on the left side.
    My GPS indicated this was N43 32.480' W079 59.116'
  • Hike details

    As I said, this was a very long hike, around 20 km. For the most part is is pretty level, with a fair amount of time on fire roads. I decided to walk counter clockwise, but it doesn't make much difference.

    Leave the car, cross the road, and head north west. Remember that you're on the Hilton Falls side trail, not the main trail, so the path is marked with blue blazes. It won't be long before you reach the 1st foot bridge over a small river with rapids close by and a swampy area just down river.

    This part of the trail through (just north of?) the Coxe Tract is very nice; heading past open meadows, rocky outcrops, then after about an hour's hike from the car a still pond with the sound of running water nearby.

    About 10 minutes later, after crossing a small creek just above some small rapids you come to Vanderlech Side Trail. This is not shown on map 11 as it is at the very northern end, but it is shown on map 12. This spot is at N 43 33.884' W 079 58.744'.

    Continue east along the Hilton Falls Side trail. You'll take a small bridge over very still water, and about two hours after leaving the car you'll reach the north end of the side trail at the Bruce Trail itself (km 7.7, at N 43 33.294' W 079 57.543').

    Turn to your right (south) and follow the main trail along the escarpment. There are many views to the east over the Esquesing Conservation Area, and interesting rock formations. You'll eventually have a view down the escarpment to a golf course, and the sounds of trucks backing up will become clearer and clearer (they were there on Friday, I don't know when or if they work on the weekends).

    About 45 minutes after starting on the main trail you'll come to the Dufferin Quarry Bridge (km 5.2), and a clear view of the trucks. The bridge, funded by private and corporate sponsors, crosses the 40-metre gap. You can see this gap and bridge from the 401, not too far to the south east.

    Continue south, and at km 3.2 you'll reach the 6th line (the car is parked about 3km to the north west; to your right). Across the street is a golf course, the Hilton Country Club and Inn. The rest of the loop took me just over three and a half hours from here, but this includes the Hilton Falls themselves. This spot is at N 43 31.262' W 079 57.377'

    The path skirts the golf course then goes through a set of rocks down the escarpment edge and along the 6th line. Not far from here is a good view across the 401 and Lake Kelso to Rattlesnake Point.

    You'll come to the southern end of the Hilton Falls Side trail at km 1.8 of the main trail, about two hours after leaving the northern end, and about 4 hours after leaving the car. This junction was at N 43 30.696' W 79 57.619'.

    Turn to your right (west) along the side trail (following the blue blazes again). The trail follows a single lane access road with the sound of running water, which runs under the road and then down to the rapids.

    About half an hour after leaving the main trail you'll come to a lookout over the Hilton Falls reservoir. After leaving the escarpment edge the trail follows fire roads for about twenty-five minutes before returning to the bush. You're in the Hilton Falls Conservation area.

    About ten minutes after leaving the fire road you come upon a large pothole. The Pothole was once in the river bed itself. The smooth sides of the pothole were dug out as the river rushed over a crack filled with small stones and sand. As the pothole got bigger, larger stones would fall in and accelerate the process. There are many exposed potholes on the Niagara Escarpment, see for more details. I marked the location of the pot hole as N 43 30.526' W 079 58.673'

    Just minutes along the path is Hilton Falls. There is a good lookout point at the top, as well as stairs down to the bottom. There are a number of interpretive displays describing the history of the falls and the various sawmills on the site (earliest was 1835, latest was 1863). There is still a raceway arch across the river from the stairs. The falls are at N 43 30.555' W 079 58.742'.

    The parking lot is about an hour and forty-five minutes north of here. You'll spend a fair amount of time on the fire roads, as well as hike through a wonderful patch of forest. The trail passes a dam and pond to the left (west), as well crosses over a small bridge across a wide creek. This is the Brittain Tract.

    While the trail passes the southern parking lot on 6th line, I didn't notice it as I passed by. About 7 hours after leaving the car you should arrive back at the start.