Before I moved to Toronto, I was as guilty as anyone else: “Toronto is the worst” for being outside. After being here a few month, however, I’ve grown to appreciate the small, natural wonders: the narrow creek weaving its way behind subdivision homes, the secret waterfalls of the Niagara escarpment, the dozens of tiny Ontario Parks protecting hidden gems. So today I want to share one of these gems and tell you about hiking at Rattlesnake Point, an area with short hikes, great climbing and a certain Game of Thrones vibe.
With a view of the Niagara Escarpment from the lookout point, Rattlesnake Point is a conservation area in the Halton Region, located 10 minutes from Milton and an hour from Toronto. The area around the Niagara Escarpment is mostly known for its waterfalls (several of the best waterfalls in southern Ontario are here). But Rattlesnake offers something different entirely – a rocky trail with the opportunity for rock climbing.
Despite its proximity to suburbia, it is possible to step out of the hustle-and-bustle life and find momentary peace on the trails. On either side you’ll see thousand year old cedars, impossible rock formations and, in the spring and early summer, hundreds of Great White Trilliums (Ontario’s provincial flower).
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Getting to Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area
My friends and I drove to Rattlesnake point from Mississauga. One challenge of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is its lack of public transportation – you’ll need a car to reach Rattlesnake Point.
Find “Rattlesnake Point Conversation Area” on Google Maps and follow the route. No surprises here! As you get closer to your destination, you’ll pass by farm land, large houses on larger properties and increasingly dense pockets of forest.
Upon your arrival, you’ll be required to pay an inconsequential park fee before making your way to a parking lot. Now you’re ready for some Rattlesnake Point hiking!
Camping at Rattlesnake Point
Being so close to home, my friends and I did not camp at Rattlesnake Point. However, if this is something you’re interested in, there are 17 campsites available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Rattlesnake Point Hiking
There are two reasons you come to Rattlesnake Point: hiking and climbing. Personally, I came for the hiking. I’m not much of a climber at this time, so I’ll have to come back to Rattlesnake Point when my skills are better! Until then I’m happy to hike.
There are a few trails at Rattlesnake Point. One brings you to Buffalo Craig Lookout Point, a loop that takes about 45 minutes. There’s a second, longer hike which takes you along the Nassagaweya Canyon and is a 4-5 hour return trip.
My friends and I opted for the shorter hike to the lookout. Despite the shorter length, this hike was full of surprises and places to explore. It was adventurously dense, you might say.
Rattlesnake Point Hiking: What to Expect
An abundance of trilliums
The first thing to catch my attention was an abundance of Great White Trilliums. This is the provincial flower of Ontario and is illustrated on our health cards. I’d always thought the flower to be rare, but as it turns out, Great White Trilliums are abundant in the woodlands of southwestern and central-eastern Ontario. If you’re hiking Rattlesnake Point in the spring or early summer, you’re sure to see a plethora of Great White Trilliums!
Rock formations and ancient cedars
As you’re walking to the lookout point, you’ll see a set of stairs going down the cliff edge. Take those stairs down and you’ll be greeted with some interesting rock formations. These stairs also take climbers down to where they can start climbing up. According to the visitors’ book, the rocks are quite old and the cedars in the vicinity can be up to 1000 years old!
Quaint stone walls
Surprisingly, my favourite part of the hike was walking along a stone wall that kept you from falling off the edge. I’m certain that is not the intended purpose – perhaps there was some fortress or large property in the area.
I don’t know the true origins of the wall, however I did come up with some ideas as I hiked. Walking along the stone wall, I imagined myself in Game of Thrones. I leaned over it, peering between trees for a view of the land below. Rest assured, I didn’t see any Lannister men on horseback riding toward us. (Please excuse my Games of Thrones delusions – Season 8 Episode 4 was premiering the next night, so GoT was on my mind).
The hike culminates at a lookout point. While this hike wouldn’t make anyone list’s of the most scenic hikes in the world, I think the view is pretty good for being so close to Toronto. Beyond the stone wall, you can see the farms and fields that stretch all the way to Lake Ontario.
Beautiful fall colours
If you come in the autumn, you’ll see beautiful fall colours contrasted against the white cliffs. Come at golden hour for amazing photos.
To your right, you’ll find the Niagara escarpment, tall in its own right, but reduced to a blip on the horizon from this distance. Following the lookout point, the trail snakes its way through the forest, eventually ending near the campsites and parking spaces. For a quick hit of outdoor adventure, not too far from the city, Rattlesnake Point is a great destination! Have you been to hiking at Rattlesnake Point? Anyone climbed there? Let me know!