Thanks to a tip from a family of Journeys Ontario fans, we were led to this amazing hiking trail in Burlington. The Royal Botanical Gardens supports a number of conservation projects in the greater Hamilton area (and beyond), including this 247 acre spread of forest and wetland. As a matter of fact, about 90% of the RBG’s property is nature sanctuary. There are four major sanctuaries under their care: Hendrie Valley, Cootes Paradise, Rock Chapel and Berry Tract).
We entered the Hendrie Valley Trails from the end of Valley Inn Road , where there is road-side parking, as well as a very small parking lot. The lot borders a wetland that is a seemingly a year-round home for geese and ducks that decided not to make the migration to a warmer climate. The trailhead is marked by an information post and stone pillars. You’ll also notice some bird feeders at the onset of the trail and no matter how many birds are partaking of some seed, it’s just a sampling of the number of birds you’ll see along the trails!
The shallow marsh waters of Hendrie Valley are home to a variety of birds and other forms of wildlife, including an array of native fish that spawn in a protected area of this wetland. Like Kilally Meadows in the London area, Hendrie Valley has been hailed as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI)
and the creek has been listed as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). When hiking along the creek or even along the raised boardwalks, please treat this area and its inhabitants with the respect they so deserve. If you do so, you may be graced with a feathered visitor or two, close enough to feed them or to get a good look at the intense blend of colours they boast.
On the afternoon of our hike, we were fortunate enough to stop and chat with a local family who had the foresight to bring some bird seed along with them. They offered us a few handfuls and told us what they had seen along the trail that day: cardinals, chickadees, mourning doves, a jack rabbit and some downy woodpeckers. Apparently, the chickadees were feeling the most social that day. Even as we made our way along the initial stretch of paved pathway, we were greeted by swooping chickadees. They were also most playful and curious when we decided to take a trek through the tall common reeds that tower over the edge of Grindstone Creek. Much like walking through a cornstalk maze, you need to make your way through the roughly trampled out reeds, sometimes over or under fallen tree branches, as the chickadees glide in and out of the reedy brush. This section of the trail (about 15 minutes from the trailhead) must be paradise for children—even we found it to provide a nostalgic rush!
If you are quiet enough as you walk along the raised boardwalk that glides over the marsh, you’ll be able to get some great pictures of an array of birds. We recommend stopping, waiting and watching for your best chance at an up-close encounter. The cardinals like to stay at a distance but the woodpeckers seem to be slightly braver and landed within a meter of where we were crouched. The doves would land on the railings of the walkway and munch on the seed piles left by other hikers and then fly back up into the trees once hikers were on the approach. Rob went back a few days later, in the early morning hours, and found the birds to be even more lively and approachable. They landed near and on his hand, to chow down on some seed.
Truly, this valley is a bird watcher and nature-lovers paradise. With about 30 km of trails in the greater area that is home to an abundance of wildlife, you can easily spend a day exploring. Pack a lunch, some binoculars, your camera and maybe even some bird seed! This trail is rated as moderate in difficulty so make sure to slip on some supportive footwear and come prepared for the elements. The trail can be quite slippery in the wet and winter months (just ask Nancy how she knows 😉 ) The Hendrie Valley is a great hike for visitors of all ages.
Back to Hendrie Valley Trail.
This is fast becoming my favorite place to go for hiking or animal watching. There is a huge assortment of animals, and if you have some time and patience, they will let you get close enough for a great picture.
While up at Algonquin Park shooting moose, I had rented a 70-200 lens and a 2X teleconverter. (changes the lens into a 140-400 MM). I decided to stop in at Hendrie Valley trail and see if I could get some shots of some animals. I wasn’t disappointed!