Toronto Section Side Trail Guide
A sampling of loop hikes along the Bruce Trail around Halton Hills
By Maureen Smith and Frances Walker
Map Purchases and Disclaimer
A Trip to Hilton Falls
Speyside South Loop Side Trail
Limehouse Kilns & Black Creek
Todd Bardes Meadowlands Side Trail
Great Esker Loop
Maureen Smith Side Trail
Scotsdale Bennett Heritage Trail Loop
Silver Creek Loop
Terra Cotta Wolf Lake Side Trail
Terra Cotta Vaughan Side Trail
The Heritage Road Loop
Maps of The Trails in this Guidebook
Each of the trail descriptions in this booklet show a small picture of the trail. We recommend downloading the larger maps (map #’’s are indicated in title of hikes below) or app (links below)
Toronto Section – Bruce Trail Maps you can buy for $3 each
Bruce Trail’s Reference Guide for entire 900 km trail – $39.95 non members ; $34.95 members
Free conservation park maps on their websites:
Terra Cotta Hilton Falls
Bruce Trail app:
(or purchase this through the App Store) The app is currently not available as of September 2021 as it is being updated. Check later on this website link.
While the text and maps have been well researched, the TBTC, the Bruce Trail Conservancy or any of the authors of this booklet cannot be held liable for an inaccuracies or trail conditions. Trail routes and parking areas might be changed, closed or opened at any time. Please check the Bruce Trail Conservancy website before you hike.
A Trip To Hilton Falls – Map 11
The highlight of this hike is of course the falls, sawmill ruins, and views. Hilton Falls Conservation Area is a well-maintained park with wide trails, washrooms, and picnic tables. Perfect for group or family outings. This is a 4.5 km hike and will take about 1.5 hours but allow for more time to explore the falls and stop for snacks. Only a small section of this route includes the Bruce Trail Hilton Falls Side Trail. Most of the easy walking will be on the main park trails know as Red Oak and Hilton Falls. Admission is charged.
If coming from Toronto, take Hwy 401 west and get off at the Guelph Line, travelling north. The first road on your right is Campbellville Road – take this eastbound a short distance to Hilton Falls Conservation Area. Look for the sign and it will be on your left.
On arrival, walk up to the park’s main road and turn right as this road becomes the Red Oak Trail going eastward to the Hilton Falls Dam. You will cross the dam, with the reservoir on your left. This trail is a fairly flat, well-maintained roadway which carries you through a mixed forest, streams and beaver ponds. Continue on the Red Oak trail until you intersect with the yellow-marked Hilton Falls trail. Turn right here to go to the waterfalls, sawmill ruins, and 16-mile creek. Stop for a rest on one of picnic tables and take in the views.
You can retrace your steps on the Hilton Falls Trail and head south back to your car if you want a gentler hike back. For a more rocky, scenic and technical return, take the Bruce Trail side trail (blue blazes) which you follow downstream from the falls. You’ll be up on the cliffs overlooking the valley hiking through cedars and a rocky terrain. There is a bronze plaque marking a natural “pothole” caused by glacial water flows some 14,000 years ago. After 15 minutes you’ll come out and meet the red-marked Red OakTrail. Turn right (south) onto this dirt and gravel path. Don’t forget to marvel at the well managed forest canopy. After a short while, you’ll come to another intersection of trails. Turn right onto the Hilton Falls Yellow Trail (south). It’s downhill for the rest of the way, for an easy end to your hike.
Speyside South Loop – Map 12
This route follows the main Bruce Trail from 15 Sideroad to 17 Sideroad, returning on the Cliff Hatch Side Trail for a 5.2 km Loop. Allow about 2 hours. From Toronto, take Hwy 25 north from the 401 until you reach 15 Sideroad. Turn right for a half kilometre and the trail is on your left (look for two big rocks at the start). There is ample parking on either side of the road.
You’ll start on the main trail (white blazes) and almost immediately on your right, the Speyside South Side Trail begins (blue blazes). Stay on the main trail, hiking through an early growth forest. After about 15 minutes you’ll walk through a large and picturesque canopy of mature Sumac trees for about 20 metres. Stay on the main trail where you’ll enter a young forest of maples and a wider path. You’ll come to a Y intersection with the Cliff Hatch Side Trail on your right. Continue straight on the main trail. The route from here to the 17 Sideroad becomes narrower and more rocky and continues through some swampy, lowland areas and cedar groves. Stay to your left on the main trail. After about 45 minutes you’ll come to a sign for the 17 Sideroad Side Trail. Take this path (blue blazes) for 720 metres to the parking lot. It parallels and sometimes follows a cart path and you pass over 3 footbridges.
At the parking lot you’re halfway through your hike and this is a large open spot to stop for a snack or lunch. On the homeward stretch you will connect to the Cliff Hatch and Speyside South Side Trails for a change of scenery. Retrace your steps on the 17 Sideroad Side Trail and main trail until you see the signs for the Cliff Hatch trail (blue blazes). Look for some beautiful tall birch trees through this section. After about 10 minutes you’ll come to a cart path and turn right, following the blue blazes through a flat section. This will take you to another Y intersection, where there is a large rock, so keep right through a mixed forest of young and more mature trees. You’ll connect back to the main trail for a short time – but be sure to go left (going south) at the Y intersection. When you see the sign for the Speyside South Side Trail, take this route back to your car. You’ll go through the Sumac forest, a meadow and a mostly flat trail. At the end, the side trail parallels 15 Sideroad.
Limehouse – Kilns & Black Creek Side Trail – Map 12
This is a 3.2 km looped trail you can access from the village of Limehouse, established in 1857. It is a popular trail, featuring a wide and fairly flat path, the ruins of a 75-year-old lime kiln operation and large limestone rock crevices caused by erosion. Starting out, take Hwy 7 west from Georgetown and turn left at 22nd Sideroad. You’ll travel 2 km to Limehouse where you will see parking on the left for the Limehouse Conservation Area (opposite Limehouse School). Go over the one-lane bridge and the trail is on your left.
At the beginning of the trail, you’ll see signage explaining the history of Limehouse and description of the lime kilns. Explore the powder house and 16-metre lime kiln before crossing Black Creek to view the Mill ruins and archway. Follow the path for a short distance until you come to an intersection. Go left and take the Black Creek Side Trail (blue blazes) which forms a 2.8 loop with the main Bruce Trail. You’ll enter a denser forest of cedars, pines and maples, descending into the Black Creek valley and following the creek, you will eventually ascend to the top of the valley. Marvel at the views of the valley below and the large white pine trees. After about a half hour, you’ll head further uphill and away from the valley, coming to an intersection. Follow the blue blazes and continue uphill for 100 metres.
At the top of the hill, you will come to a “T” intersection. Turn right, joining the main Bruce Trail (white blazes) to take you back to your car. You’ll begin to see the sinkholes, crevices and caves, caused by erosion of the limestone rocks. Continue on the main Bruce Trail and watch your feet for there are two places where you have to jump over these rock crevices! The trail turns right down into these caves so watch for the blazes as you descend a 6-step and a 9-step ladder. You are now in the “Hole-in-the-Wall” famous for its rock archway over the trail. Go down the rocky path of cedar trees and turn right to stay on the main trail (white blazes). Shortly you’ll cross a boardwalk and pass by two, 4 ft high rocks. At this juncture, turn left on the main trail to return to your car. Make another left 400 metres as the main trail will return you to the lime kiln ruins and your car. Total walking time is about 1.5 hours.
Todd Bardes Meadowland Side Trail – Map 12
Here is a fairly flat, 4.2 km hike through a mixed forest, farmlands and reforested areas. One of the highlights is the Todd Barnes Side Trail which features a meadow of prairie grass, butterflies and many species of birds and wildflowers. There is a bench in the meadow which is a perfect spot to stop for lunch or birdwatching. You can hike most of the trail as a loop for a leisurely 1.5-hour walk. In 2016 the side trail was opened, named after Todd who joined the Bruce Trail Conservancy in 1994 and was involved at the club level as president and as a land steward.
Starting out, take Hwy 7 west from Georgetown and turn left at 22nd Sideroad. You will travel 2 km to Limehouse where you will see parking on the left for the Limehouse Conservation Area (opposite Limehouse School).
Walk across the street and go north on Fifth Line and after a 2-minute walk you will see the entrance (white blazes and small wood bridge over a culvert). Climb up the hill, entering a mixed growth forest. Further on you’ll see a reforested field of pine tress and some large sumac trees. After 1 km, turn right from the main trail onto the Todd Bardes Side Trail (blue blazes) into the meadow. This trail is 540 metres and winds through a beautiful open field with wildflowers, milkweed plants and butterfly way stations.
You will intersect with the main trail (white blazes) after you leave the meadow. Turn right and continue through a sparsely treed section. Before too long you will see the Ridge Side Trail (blue blazes) which is 650 metres long. Take this side trail through a new growth forest until you come to a farmer’s field. Turn left and stay on the side trail path, which dissects through two working fields. Follow the ridge through a mix of cedar and maple trees.
When the side trail ends, you will rejoin the main trail (white blazes). Turn left and follow the main trail back to your starting point. The trail dissects between two plots of farmland and turns left where on a clear day you can see the cityscapes to the south. You’ll descend further into a valley and meet up with the start of the Ridge Side Trail and Todd Barnes Side Trail. Stay on the main trail and continue through an early growth forest and meadow. Retrace your steps the rest of the way back to the trail’s entrance.
The Great Esker Trail Loop – Map 13
Here’s a loop that is interesting for the variety of terrain it passes through. It is accessed by driving north from Georgetown on Hwy 7 towards Acton. Stay in the right-hand lane as the right turn at the Esso/Tim Hortons (22nd Side Road) comes quickly. Then turn left onto the 8th Line which becomes a dirt road and descends a steep hill. Watch for a blue side trail sign on your left. Park on the shoulder here.
Follow the blue blazes up the hill. The track curves to the left at the top of the hill. Watch for blue blazes to your left and right but take the left blazes to enter the woods. You will briefly get back on the track and then re-enter the woods. The path leads along the edge of the Esker and then descends and enters a regenerating field. Continuing across the meadow you will notice a busy highway ahead. This is Hwy 7. At a large tree the trail turns right and parallels the highway, then turns right and climbs into another field. At a junction between two fields the trail turns left and crosses to the far side. Here the trail turns left again and then right to enter the woods. There is a wet area here that requires some care to avoid soggy shoes. The trail proceeds sharply upwards over rocks and then turns right.
The next 2 km of trail involves climbing up and down a lot. There is a swampy section that is crossed on a boardwalk. The trail climbs to higher ground and then ends at the main Bruce Trail. Continue to your right on the main trail (white blazes) for about .5 km. On your right you will see an entrance with blue blazes. Pick up the Great Esker Side Trail again and you will soon come out on the track. Turn left and return to your car.
The 8th Line north of Georgetown is difficult in winter and is not maintained beyond the place where you park. The loop distance is about 4.7 km., and you should allow 2 hours
Scotsdale Loop, Bennett Heritage Trail – Map 13
This walk is at Scotsdale Farm is a favourite of many local hikers and involves a loop of 6.4 km over easy terrain. You can get to this trail off Trafalgar Road north of Hwy 7. As you proceed north on Trafalgar Road, you will pass 27th Sideroad on your right. The entrance to the farm is about 1 km further north and is a right turn at a sign for Scotsdale Farm. You may park your car in the parking lot in front of the farmhouse. Scotsdale Farm was left to the people of Ontario by the Bennett family and is now administered by the Ontario Heritage Trust. Follow the blue side trail blazes along a laneway past the farm buildings and over Snow’s Creek.
The Bennett Heritage Trail crosses 8th Line and continues on a farmer’s laneway. You will cross Owl Creek and walk along its banks. In the spring the banks of the creek are covered with Trillium and the floodplain with Marsh Marigold. You will come to the 27th Sideroad. The side trail continues across the road into a field, but you should turn right and walk along 27th Sideroad for about .5 km to the intersection with 8th Line. Cross the road, look for a Scotsdale sign, follow the path and you will soon be on the main Bruce Trail with white blazes. The main Trail also goes off to your left to Terra Cotta – so don’t take it! Continue straight ahead and follow the blazes as you skirt pastures and cross streams. You will eventually approach Trafalgar Road. Look for the blue blazes again, turning off to your right. The main Trail turns left and parallels Trafalgar Road going south but you will head north up a hill to follow the side trail back to the parking lot for a total distance of 7 km. Allow 2 hours for this walk.
Maureen Smith Side Trail – Map 13
This side trail is named after one of the authors, and provides a shorter loop of about 4 km beginning from the Scottsdale Farm parking lot. Start by following the laneway towards the 8th Line, but before you come to it, you will see the blue blaze and signage for the Maureen Smith Side Trail. Turn right and follow for about 1 kilometre, where you will intersect with the main Bruce Trail (white blazes). Turn right at the intersection of the trails and follow the white blazes. After 1.5 km you will approach Trafalgar Road. Look for the blue blazes again and turn right up a hill, to take you back to your car. If you mistakenly turn left and keep on the white blazes, the Trail will eventually lead you to Limehouse! Allow 1 hour for this walk.
Silver Creek Loop – Map 13
Here is a walk about 1.5 hours in length using two side trails and the main trail to form a loop. Take Trafalgar Road north from Hwy 7. Very shortly turn right (east) on to 27th Sideroad. When 27th Sideroad meets 8th Line, it swings left and then right before continuing. Be careful here, or you will end up on 8th Line travelling north! 27th Sideroad continues eastward, crosses Silver Creek over a narrow bridge and ends at Fallbrook Trail in a T junction. Turn right on Fallbrook Trail and park on the right shoulder. You can also park at the Silver Creek Education Centre diagonally across the street, when school is not is season.
Cross the road and there is a large trail signage board so you can get your bearings. Follow the main trail path and turn right on to the Irwin Quarry Side Trail (1.2 km in length). Eventually you will walk between two rocks and find yourself at a T junction. Turn left to follow the trail and watch for the blue side trail blazes. You will see large patches of Vinca growing beside the trail. This plant has escaped from the gardens of houses that used to be nearby. In this next section watch carefully for the blazes as they are many unmarked informal trails.
The side trail ends at the main trail (white blazes). If you turn left on the main trail, you will get back to the car (total length of walk is 1.4 km). If you want to walk further, turn right and continue on the main trail. The trail will climb through a rocky defile with ferns growing out of the rocks. At the top there is a lookout on the right. Further along on the right you will see a number of rock crevices and overhangs. Eventually you will see a sign for the Roberts Side Trail on your left (blue blaze). Take this side trail (1.5 km in length) which is mostly level and easy to walk along. You will pass a picturesque pond and walk over a small boardwalk. A gradual downhill path will take you out to the road where you started.
The walk is not suited for wet or icy conditions.
Terra Cotta – Wolf Lake Side Trail – Map 14
This is a 4.5 km trail through the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, taking in parts of the Bruce Trail and some trails and roads within the park. It loops back to your car for a 1.5-hour trip through a relatively flat and wide pathway. A day permit for entry is required which can be completed online.
Start at the parking area for the Walking Fern Trail (which you can also take for an additional 1.7 km hike) which is on the Tenth Line at trail km marker 38.7. From Terra Cotta, take the 27th Sideroad and turn right onto the Tenth Line, then follow it for 200 metres down a hill. You’ll see the Walking Fern sign and an area for multiple car parking.
Park your car and walk back up the Tenth Line hill where at the top on the left you’ll see a white Bruce Trail marker (and a blue blaze for the Credit Valley Footpath) Take this path and you are now entering the conservation area. Follow the white blazes on a wide tractor path. You’ll pass a park shelter with a large map to get your bearings. Further on your watch for red shale outcroppings caused by soil erosion, similar to the Cheltenham Badlands. As you enter a denser forest, walk up a gradual hill. At the top, go straight and take the Graydon Trail (green sign) which also becomes the Terra Cotta Side Trail (blue blazes). Continue through the mixed forest and wide pathway until you see a long bridge (40 metres long). At the end of the bridge, stay on the Graydon Trail and follow the blue blazes. Soon after you will be a a road intersection, but cross the road continue straight following the blue blazes of the Terra Cotta Side Trail. You’ll walk down a valley to Rogers Creek and then climb a steep incline. The path ends at the A. F Coventry Trail (orange sign), and go left on this trail – no more blue blazes. Walk 1.5 km to a park’s administration building, then turn left at a wood pylon #2, directing you to “Assembly area.” Once there, go out to the road (Terra Cotta Lane) and turn left. Wolf Lake will be on your right
After a five-minute walk, the road forks at a set of benches. Turn left onto Forest Meadow Lane until you see on your right, the signs for Graydon Trail (and return to the blue blazes). Follow this for a 20 minute hike back to your car.
Terra Cotta Vaughan Side Trail – Map 14
The Vaughan Trail is a 4.6 km hike through the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, taking in parts of the Bruce Trail. The trail is an alternative route to the Wolf Lake route also mentioned in this booklet. It loops back to your car for a 1.5-hour trip through a relatively flat and wide pathway. A day permit for entry is required which can be completed online.
Start at the parking area for the Walking Fern Trail which is on the Tenth Line at trail km marker 38.7. From the village of Terra Cotta, take the 27 Sideroad and turn right onto the Tenth Line, then follow it for 200 metres down a hill. You’ll see the Walking Fern sign and an area to park.
Park your car and walk back up the Tenth Line hill where at the top on the left you’ll see a white Bruce Trail marker (and blue blaze for the Credit Valley Footpath) Take this path to enter the conservation area. Follow the white blazes on a wide tractor path. On your left, watch for red shale outcroppings caused by soil erosion, similar to the Cheltenham Badlands. As you enter a denser forest, walk up a gradual hill. You’ll see a signpost “station 20” and here you turn left onto the red-marked Escarpment Trail (also part of the main Bruce Trail). There are a few hills at the start of this hike, but also a picturesque swamp and lovely maples and pine trees. After about 10 minutes you’ll come to an intersection at signpost/station 17.
Turn onto the yellow-marked Vaughan Trail (slightly left) and follow white blazes. Further, at station 16 you’ll see the day camping site for through-hikers. Continue straight along the wide path until you get to station 15 and turn right. (the Bruce Trail goes straight, over a stile). Walking down a gradual hill, you’ll come to station 14 and go right on pink-marked McGregor Trail. In two minutes turn right onto purple-marked Terra Cotta Lane – a very flat road. Keep on this trail, past station 8 and 9 signposts. You’ll see Wolf Lake on your left with benches for viewing the flora and fauna. At station 11, you’ll see an intersection at some benches. Turn slightly right past the benches onto brown-marked Forest Meadow Lane. After five minutes you’ll see station 22 signpost. Turn right onto the green-marked Graydon Trail. Follow this for a 20-minute hike back to your car.
The Heritage Road Loop – Map 14
This walk is a 5.3 km loop just north of the community of Terra Cotta and takes about 2 hours to complete. Go north on Winston Churchill Blvd to Terra Cotta, then turn right on King St (main road through the village). The first intersection after you leave the village is Heritage Rd, where you will turn left (north) for about 1 km. At the top of the hill, you will see on the right a white Bruce Trail blaze. Park on the road beside the entrance.
To do the complete loop, start by walking back down Heritage Rd. for 5 minutes and when you see the blue blaze on the left, take this trail. After about 15 minutes you’ll enter into a more mature forest and descend into a valley and over a creek bed. The trail winds upward so you emerge out of the valley where you’ll intersect with the main Bruce Trail (white blaze). At this junction, if you go straight, the trail will take you back to your car for a ½ hour hike.
To complete the 2-hour loop, turn right and follow the main trail into a mixed forest as you move along the escarpment. You’ll walk through with an open field, flagstone rocks, rock staircase and swampy section. Look up and marvel at the tall maple trees lining the forest canopy. The trail opens up and winds through to a less rocky, reforested area until it reaches a “T” intersection. The distance walked to this point is about 3.5 km. The main trail turns right at this point. The Rockside Side Trail is on the left which you will take and follow the blue blazes to complete your loop.
Soon you will come to the intersection of Rockside and Ballinafad Rds. Turn left at this intersection and follow the side trail south. You’ll walk through a wider path into a lowland area with many cedars and birch tress. After about 15 minutes of gradually walking uphill, you’ll come out at a country laneway which is connected to Heritage Rd. Continue walking down until you reach the paved road and enjoy the view overlooking the Credit River valley. After a 10-minute walk you’ll see your car.
In the springtime, the lowland areas on this trail may be difficult to traverse without proper footwear. Watch for Trilliums on parts of this trail in the spring, you won’t be disappointed. This is a less travelled trail, a good choice for avoiding people on crowded weekends.
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Updated: September 2021
More on The Trail
Toronto Section Side Trail Guide