There are so many amazing places to hike in Ontario. While the province may not have the Rocky Mountains or either of the oceans, Ontario is still full of beautiful charms. One of them lies 20 minutes from downtown Hamilton – the Dundas Peak Trail. Visiting a number of times over the past few years, let this local Ontario gal share with you this epic spot everyone should visit!
What is Dundas Peak & Where Is It?
Dundas Peak is a beautiful lookout nestled in Hamilton’s Spencer Gorge Conservation Area. This viewpoint is now considered one of the most popular spots in Hamilton. From atop of this Niagara Escarpment section you can enjoy breathtaking views of the town of Dundas, the Dundas Valley as well as a glimpse of “The Hammer”.
Hiking Dundas Peak & The Spencer Gorge Conservation Area
This south-facing piece of the Niagara Escarpment is aptly named for the Spencer Gorge, the main feature of the area. This y-shaped valley has over 10 bowl-shaped basins stacked on top of each other. They show earlier positions of waterfalls in the gorge and their size decreases as you move upstream. The largest basins are the oldest, measuring from 190 to over 350 metres – akin to the ever amazing Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario!
Within the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area, you’ll find a number of great hiking trails. Ontario’s famous Bruce Trail runs through this area and is guaranteed to be a great adventure. If you’ve never hiked the Bruce Trail before, I highly recommend tackling some of this 900km long trail. I’ve done different sections of the trail and always have an amazing time! There are also some side trails along with the Spencer Adventure Trail which connects to additional Hamilton Conservation Areas including Crooks Hollow and Christie Lake.
Looking for More Adventures Along the Bruce Trail? Check These Out!
Hiking Indian Head Cove, Tobermory Grotto & More in BPNP
The Essential Guide to the Best Waterfalls in Hamilton, Ontario
Hiking Hamilton’s Borer’s Falls
Belfountain Conservation Area & the Cheltenham Badlands
How to Get to the Dundas Peak Lookout
The most common way to access the Dundas Peak hike is by starting at Tews Falls and taking the aptly named Tews Falls Side Tail. You’ll begin at Tew’s Falls where Logie’s Creek descends 41 metres to the earth below. She may not have the same flow but Tew’s Falls is comparable to Niagara Falls and is just 11 metres short of her height! The best time to see Tew’s Falls in full force is after the spring thaw or heavy rainfall. She can be reduced to a trickle if it’s a hot summer! My favourite time to visit is in the winter. The icicle formations are absolutely breathtaking!
Dundas Peak Waterfalls to Check Out
Waterfall lovers such as myself will be delighted as this area is also home to Tews Falls and Websters Falls, two of Hamilton’s best waterfalls.
Tews Falls is the smaller of the falls but more elegant than her counterpart. This ribbon waterfall is 41 metres tall and just 9 metres wide. Watch as the water from Logie’s Creek tumbles over the escarpment into the valley below. She’s easily accessible as there’s a great lookout platform to admire her from. Officially there is no access to the base of Tew Falls, however one could theoretically clamour upstream, though I wouldn’t recommend it. When visiting the area, I suggest starting here and then making your way to Websters Falls. Otherwise she’ll be dwarfed and you won’t fully appreciate her beauty!
Websters Falls is a classic plunge waterfall which sits 22 metres tall and is 30 metres wide. It’s one of the largest in the region and often the main reason for people visiting the Spencer Gorge Area. Back in the day, there used to be a trail which led to the base of Webster Falls. From here you could take a staircase as an alternative way to the top. I’ve heard tales of locals fondly reminiscing about how they would swim at the base of the falls. Unfortunately this is no longer the case and there is no clear path to reach the base any longer.
Both of these waterfalls are gorgeous all year round, so the best time to visit is really up to you. If you’re looking to see them shrouded in fall colours, late September or early October is the best time to visit. Visiting Dundas Peak in the spring will ensure a heavy flow so you can see them both at full force. Personally, my favourite time to visit is in the middle of winter. That way you can see all the beautiful ice formations which change each year!
Can I Get to Webster’s Falls from Tew’s Falls?
The short answer? No. The long answer? A few years back the Bruce Trail ran through a piece of private property, connecting the two waterfalls. What you may not know about the Bruce Trail is that a lot of its route is available to hikers thanks to agreements with property owners. Unfortunately, not everyone respects this and takes advantage of what we have. This is one case where that disrespect has ruined it for everyone as the owners have revoked access.
In order to get from Tew’s Falls to Webster’s Falls, you’ll have to head for Harvest Road. Take a left onto Short Road, and another left onto the well-named Fallsview Road. You’ll arrive at the front gate – meaning you’ll have to pay an entrance fee.
Is There Parking at Dundas Peak?
The closest parking lot to Dundas Peak is at the Webster’s Falls access. While you used to be able to park here no problem, parking is now prohibited during the summer months. You can try, but you’ll find no parking signs on every side street.
IMPORTANT: With the current state of affairs, a reservation is now in place for those looking to visit Dundas Peak, Tew’s Falls and Webster’s Falls between September 19th and November 15th, 2020. Both visitors and Hamilton Conservation Authority passholders will require to book a reservation online prior to visiting. Reservations cost $10 are in addition to entry fees to the area. It should also be noted that Dundas Peak and Tew’s Falls are SEPARATE from Webster’s Falls, therefore you’ll need separate reservations for each.
Previously from May to October, you’ll have to park at the Christie Lake Conservation Area and take the Dundas Peak shuttle. The parking fee for this is $10 per vehicle. Here you will also be charged a $5 entry fee per person. There are two stops on the shuttle route – the first drops you off 150m from Tews Falls and a 1.5km hike to Dundas Peak. The second is 600m away from Webster’s Falls. If you’d rather not take the shuttle back, you can follow the Spencer Adventure Trail back to Christie Lake. The trip should take you less than 30 minutes. It’s uncertain if this will return but I will update this post as developments happen!
Free Parking at Dundas Peak
Yes, there is free parking at Dundas Peak – but you’ll have to work for it! You’ll be starting at the base of the escarpment and working your way up. Though I have to say, I’m a fan of getting the hard part over and done with. It makes you feel like you’ve earned the views! …right? That’s what I tell myself anyway!
Head to Livingstone Drive where you’ll find free parking in front of Cascades Park. If this fills up, many of the side streets close by offer free parking. It just might mean a longer trek, but that’s what you’re here for! Get ready to tackle the Tews Falls Side Trail in almost its entirety. Head to the back right corner where you’ll find a break in the fence. This leads right to the Bruce Side Trail!
SOMETHING TO NOTE: With the new restrictions in place, it’s uncertain if this route will be accessible so be prepared to pay if you’re travelling to visit Dundas Peak!
The Best Dundas Peak Trail Route
Hands down that would be taking the route from Cascades Park. While this does tack on a little extra to this Dundas Peak trail, I promise it’s worth your while… especially in the wintertime. By taking the Tews Falls Side Trail, you’ll come across Lower Syndenham Falls. Instead of following the blue blazes to the left, walk onto the old railway tracks. Face the railway bridge and admire this little waterfall!
Once you’re done admiring her, hop back onto the trail and continue to follow it until you see the blazes turn to the right. The trail forks here and if you continue straight, you’ll be going the wrong way! This is where you’ll find signs stating the Websters Falls stairs are closed. However as I mentioned, some people have trekked upstream to get to the base but it’s strongly advised not to do so.
Once you’ve made the turn, keep following the blazes as you scale the Niagara Escarpment. This trail is mainly uphill with some uneven terrain and plenty of stairs. Take your time and watch your step, especially in the winter. It will level out at times so enjoy it as there always seems to be another uphill section coming your way!
In about 500m, take a sharp right to stay on the Tews Falls Side Trail. Here comes the tricky part as this is the longest uphill stretch. Be prepared to be out of breath by the top and don’t hesitate to take a break when you need it! Just follow the blue blazes as it winds through the trees until the trail widens. Here you’ll find Dundas Peak, which gives you a fantastic view over Dundas, Ontario as well as a glimpse of Hamilton. You’ll love the view whether you visit in spring, summer, fall or winter!
A little unsure of where to go for this epic trail? This map of Dundas shows the route and should help keep you on track!
Best Time to Visit Dundas Peak
No matter what time of the year you visit Dundas Peak, you’ll be blown away by the beautiful views. I’ve visited in every season and I have to say I’m torn.
Autumn is the best time to visit if your favourite fall activity is leaf-peeping. These vistas are absolutely incredible when sprinkled with amber and ruby leaves! While fall fluctuates each year, usually the best time to see the colours in full force is mid to late October. However, you’ll be contending with huge crowds – especially on weekends. Dundas Peak has only continued to grow in popularity. I visited on a random Thursday afternoon and was surprised to have 40+ people at the lookout as well!
If the thought of crowds makes you cringe, then a winter visit is best for you. This is honestly my favourite time to hike and I guarantee you’ll only have to share the lookout with a handful of people. The views are just as magical when sprinkled with snow! You’ll also get a better glimpse of Lower Sydenham Falls thanks to the beautiful ice formations that come with freezing temperatures.
No matter when you hike the Dundas Peak trail, you’ll love the views from the trail. Plus the sunsets are always incredible from here! It’s a great hike to do with friends, as a family and even solo. It really is a destination for all seasons! Aren’t the Dundas Peak fall colours just incredible?
Dundas Peak Things to Know
According to Google, the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is open from 8:00am until 11:00pm. However, I would suggest tackling these trails in the daylight – sunrise to sunset! There is very little lighting in the area so unless it’s a full moon, visibility will dissipate quickly. Be safe so you can avoid any accidents!
As with any hike, make sure you have proper hiking gear, water, and all that jazz. I’d also recommend checking out the weather for Dundas Ontario as it would be a bummer to drive all the way to Dundas Peak to only be met with rain!
Like I said earlier, Dundas Peak is an extremely popular spot. As such, you’ll run into some large crowds, especially on weekends in the summer and fall. If you’d like to enjoy the area with as little people as possible, mid-week in the winter is your best bet. Otherwise, I suggest aiming for an early morning visit. The early bird gets the worm, after all!
Looking to dodge the crowds of Dundas Peak entirely?
Check out this lesser-known hike that’ll blow you away!
As I mentioned earlier, reservations are now required in order to visit Dundas Peak from September 19th until November 15th 2020. Reservations can be made online and cost $10. Otherwise, the Hamilton Conservation Authority implements a wristband policy for visitors from May until October. This is a $5 per-head entrance fee that is on top of the parking cost as well as a $10 per vehicle fee. If you’re an HCA pass holder, you can enter the conservation area for free but you must still pay the $10 reservation fee. If you’re not an HCA pass holder, this can add up to be a fairly expensive trip. For a family of four, it will cost $40 for a two-hour window at Dundas Peak.
INSIDER TIP: While it’s a downer to have to pay the $10 reservation fee on top of the other fees, if you wish to explore more after your Dundas Peak visit, you can visit the Christie Lake Conservation Area for free! Just bring your reservation receipt and you can enjoy the area for the rest of the day.
Lastly, a PSA from everyone. With a beautiful vista such as this, the selfie game is strong. Since I know many of you (like myself) will want a push-the-limit photo on the edge of the peak, don’t be stupid. This doesn’t mean don’t take a nice photo, it means be aware of your surroundings. Don’t tempt fate! There has been an increase in accidents at many of Hamilton’s waterfalls and conservation areas because of sheer carelessness. Things like visiting after dark or in improper clothing can lead to deadly mistakes. Don’t be part of a Dundas Peak death headline nor a hassle for our brave emergency responders because you wanted that epic photo. Lindsay… you take these photos sometimes. Yes, I do take these photos myself. However, I always make sure I’m in a steady position without the risk of falling. It also helps my terrible vertigo also keeps me in check to avoid any accidents.
How To Get To Dundas Peak
Visitors travel from all over to visit Dundas Peak! If you’re local and/or trying to avoid dealing with parking, public transit is an option. From downtown Hamilton, take the 05 bus to Dundas and get off at the corner of King and Syndenham. From here you can walk up towards Cascades Park and take the Bruce Side Trail leading up to Dundas Peak.
If you’re coming in from out of town, you have a few options. Planning an Ontario road trip? It’s just an hour’s drive from a number of destinations. If you’re driving to Dundas Peak from Toronto, hop on the 403. Take the exit for Highway 6 North and then hang a left onto Highway 5. About 10 minutes down the road you’ll see the Christie Lake Conservation Area on your left. By the way, you might want to stop at Borer’s Falls as you’ll pass right by it!
Coming in from Niagara Falls or St Catharines to visit Dundas Peak? Take the QEW until the 403 west exit, then follow the Toronto directions from there. Are you from Waterloo Region like myself? The most straight forward way is to take Highway 8 past Cambridge until you reach Highway 5. At the roundabout, take the third exit and a few minutes later you’ll see signs for the Christie Lake Conservation area!
SOMETHING TO NOTE: If you’re visiting between September 19th and November 15th, 2020 while the reservation system is in place, you’ll want to park at 581 Harvest Road in Dundas and not the Christie Lake Conservation Area.
Are you not a fan of the parking situation and want to avoid it entirely? Why not give the Parkbus a try! Included in the price, you’ll get a ride to and from downtown Toronto, entrance into the Christie Lake Conservation Area, and your shuttle to and from Webster’s Falls. If you don’t have a car or would rather just make a day of it and not worry about driving, this is the perfect option for you!
If you’re looking to take the free Dundas Peak parking route, use Google to navigate to Cascades Park.
Other Things to Do in Dundas Ontario
There’s more to the area than just the Dundas Peak lookout! What is now a part Hamilton, Dundas is an adorable little town that’s worth visiting as well. Originally known as a “manufacturing village”, it has grown into a stunning town with quaint shops, great eats and more. Take a walk down King Street in the heart of town and you’ll see what I mean.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat or a caffeine boost, I highly recommend Detour Coffee Roasters. This cafe is just as charming as the town its located in! Here you’ll find a variety of coffee blends, teas and more. They also serve some healthy and hearty eats like sandwiches and salads, though I’d say their breakfast options are the best of the menu. Detour is a great place to fuel up before heading up the trail or a great way to start your day when visiting Dundas.
I have yet to visit myself, but I’m always a fan of supporting the Ontario craft beer scene! If this is up your alley, I recommend a visit to Shawn & Ed Brewing Company. With the tagline “for adventurous mouths”, I’d say this is the perfect reward after tackling the peak!
If you don’t know Dundas because of the peak, you may know it as its home to what was once the longest-running hotel in Ontario. Built in 1841, The Collins Hotel was one of the first buildings in the entire town. Now known as The Collins, it has since been transformed into a brewhouse. You can no longer stay overnight but rather settle in for a pint and a meal.
Dundas Accommodation Options
Thinking of grabbing a hotel in Dundas? Unfortunately there’s no hotel per se but luckily there are a number of fantastic alternative options. The Osler House is a great example. This Georgian-style home was built in the late-1840s. Home to the co-founder of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sir William Osler, plenty of heart and soul has been put into restoring the building. Each room is filled with antiques and old-fashioned furniture. You’ll feel as if you’ve travelled back in time!
Personally, I love having an entire place to myself when I travel and there is no shortage of great Airbnbs in Dundas. I personally love the look of this studio apartment right in the heart of town. You’ll have the run of the lower level in a gorgeous, historic neighbourhood. I’m obsessed with the exposed stonework in the kitchen! If basements aren’t your jam, this second floor apartment has the same level of charm and is also in town. It also has three beds so is better for larger families or even a girls getaway! These are honestly just a taste of the great Airbnb options in Dundas. Click here to take a look yourself and if you’re new to Airbnb, don’t forget to sign up using my referral code and you could save up to $95 on your first booking!
If none of the above options tickle your fancy, I highly recommend heading to a hotel in Hamilton. If you’re not from the area, it really is worth paying Hamilton a visit. The city has plenty to offer! From great indoor attractions to natural wonders, you really don’t want to skip out on it. If you’re a waterfall chaser like myself, Hamilton is known as the waterfall capital. There are so many it can be hard to know where to start so check out this list of the best waterfalls in Hamilton!
Dundas Peak: Summarized
Did you just read through this article and go ‘wow, I’m PSYCHED to visit but what was that thing again…’ or did you go ‘okay this article is too long, just lay down the information for me’? Don’t worry, I’ve got all the details summarized here in a nice, neat little package for you along with some frequently asked questions about visiting Dundas Peak.
Is Dundas Peak Open?
After the madness of this year, I’m thrilled to say it is as of September 19th, 2020! However, it’s a little different in that you must have a reservation to visit until November 15th, 2020. Each slot is two hours long and can be reserved on the Hamilton Conservation Authority website for a cost of $10. Click here to make a reservation.
Where Do I Park for Dundas Peak? Is It Free?
Parking is located at 581 Harvest Road in Dundas. Parking costs $10 and then you will be charged $5 per person within your car. If you are an HCA pass holder, you will only be charged for the reservation fee.
How Do I Hike to Dundas Peak?
Take the Tews Falls Side Trail as it follows the edge of the escarpment which will lead you right to the epic views of Dundas Peak. As of right now, this is a one way trail so once you’re done admiring, you’ll want to take the Glen Ferguson Side Trail back to the parking lot. This Dundas Peak trail map illustrates the route.
Best Time to Visit Dundas Peak?
To enjoy the full effect of its beauty, I recommend an autumn visit when the colours are at their peak. While crowds aren’t as much of an issue this year, I’d still recommend a mid-week visit as conservation areas are always busier on weekends.
Can I Bring My Dog to Dundas Peak?
Dundas Peak is dog-friendly! They must stay on-leash at all times and you must pick up after them.
Is Webster’s Falls Open? Can I Access It?
Webster’s Falls is open, however it requires a separate reservation to experience. If you wish to see both in one day, I’d recommend making a reservation for Dundas Peak and Tews Falls first before heading to Webster’s Falls.
Can I Access the Base of Webster’s Falls or Tews Falls?
No. There used to be a staircase leading down to Webster’s Falls, but it has since been removed along with all trails leading to the base. The Hamilton Conservation Authority has stated that accessing the base of the falls is strictly prohibited. Locals and visitors still do, but be warned that you may be slapped with a hefty fine for doing so.
Ready to Check Out the Dundas Peak Trail?
Whether you’re heading into Hamilton for a few hours or a weekend, I highly recommend visiting Dundas Peak. It’s a great place to escape and enjoy some sightseeing. Plus I guarantee the views from the top will be a highlight of your visit!
Hopefully, my guide to Dundas Peak will help you fully enjoy this beautiful area in Hamilton! If you’re directionally challenged, be sure to check out the Dundas Peak map earlier in this post. Remember, respect the area as nature is a privilege – not a right. That way we’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come!