Falling into nature at Nottawasaga Bluffs

Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area has been on my microadventures list for quite some time. But with one and a half hour drive, there never seemed to be enough time to go. Last Saturday, inspired by beautiful weather and lured by the promise of fall foliage, we finally made the trip.

view from Nottawasaga Bluffs

The view from Nottawasaga Bluffs is spectacular in its fall attire

fall foliage

Beautiful fall foliage glowing in the sun

Nottawasaga Bluffs are located just south of Collingwood along the Niagara Escarpment. A section of Bruce Trail runs through the park offering beautiful views of the woods and farmland down below. Our favourite part, however, was the Keyhole side trail less than a kilometre long.

Bruce trail sign at Nottawasaga Bluffs conservation area

Bruce Trail runs though Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

With a trip to the farmers market in the morning, a stop for lunch and a long drive, we didn’t arrive in the park until three. That left us about four hours to explore. Not too bad. There is a small parking lot at the Sideroad 15 and 16 entrance with payment by phone only. Good thing we brought one with us because we often leave all electronics at home. After paying for parking, we made a quick stop by the map to chart the route where we got attacked by ladybugs. Never knew they can bite.

map at Nottawasaga Bluffs CA

The map of the conservation area was guarded by ladybugs

Chased away by cute spotted bugs, we decided to take the path to our right. The first part of the trail followed the Escarpment. We could see its signature limestone cliffs through thick cedars and occasional hardwoods.

views along Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs

Escarpment peeking through the forest

The trail then veered into fields and meadows. That’s where the fun started. There was a lot of mud skipping. Plus the smell of manure was overpowering. But there were also cottony milkweed plants swaying in the light breeze and endless soya fields glowing in the afternoon sun, open meadows and scrunched up apples on swinging on branches.

Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Part of the trail ran through fileds and meadows

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Across boardwalks and through groves

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Sometimes it veered onto private property

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     single apple on a branch

We came across quite a few  apple trees, remanants of old farms

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

There was also lots of mud and strong smell of manure

soya bean field in the fall near Nottawasaga Bluffs   milkweed

But soya fields and milkweed looked so pretty

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Still we were happy when we finally got back into the forest and what a beautiful forest it was! Golden canopy above, golden carpet under our feet. Such a welcome sight after still mostly green trees in Toronto. We met a large group of hikers coming from the opposite direction. Their clean and dry footwear signaled that our muddy adventures were over.

hardwood forest at Nottawasaga Bluffs conservation area

Beautiful October forest wrapped in gold

looking at the map at Nattawasaga Bluffs conservation area

Where should we go next?

We parted ways with Bruce Trail for the moment and followed blue markers to the Keyhole Trail. The landscape started to change. We were back in the kingdom of twisted cedars, moss-covered rocks and crags.

Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Magic land of moss and cedars

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area      hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Into the bowels of the Escarpment

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Taking a break along the Keyhole Trail

We eventually descended into one of the crevices and found ourselves in front of a hole with a blue arrow pointing down at it. I guess it meant we had to crawl through it.

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area   hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

This is where the Keyhole Trail gets its name

On the other side we found more cracks and fissures. As we continued deeper into the maze, temperature dropped, walls moved closer together and a strip of sky became narrower. It was a cool place, in every sense of the word.

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

We crawled through a hole and found ourselves in a maze

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Twisty, moss-covered crevises

view from a crevice while hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Sky peeking through a crack

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

The walls kept moving closer together

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

The adventure was a lot of fun

After some twisting, turning, climbing and squeezing through openings, we arrived at the end of the maze. We then retraced our steps back to the trail where we met another large group, this time mostly young adults. Some looked positively freaked out about descending into the bowels of the Escarpment, others were clearly in awe. One guy looked up the mossy wall, whistled and proclaimed: “So this is nature! I like it.”

moss

“So this is nature! I like it,” said one of the kids we ran into on the trail

After we left the maze, we quickly reunited with the Bruce and proceeded to the Bluffs Lookout. There, we ran into another group of teenagers camping along the trail. We could smell their dinner before we even saw them.

looking at the map at Nottawasaga Bluffs CA

Where are we?

hiking Keyhole Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

To the Bluffs Lookout

kids camping at Nottawasaga Bluffs CA

We were invited to share the dinner — too bad they had no vegetarian options

That delicious aroma whetted our appetite so we decided to stop at the lookout to enjoy the view and have a snack.

enjoying the view from Nottawasaga Bluffs

Enjoying the view from Nottawasaga Bluffs

After that we followed Bruce and Betty Carter trails through the golden forest, past fields and meadows, back to the parking lot. We capped our microadventure with a yummy dinner at Open House Pub in Creemore.

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Bruce Trail is a beauty in the fall

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Some parts of the trail were mysteriously foggy

hiking Bruce Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Some were cheerfully open

hiking Betty Carter Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area     hiking Betty Carter Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Betty Carter side trail took us back to the parking lot

hiking Betty Carter Trail at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

Apparently we missed some of the park’s landmarks, like Best Caves and Freedom Rock. But we received a good dose of autumn and Vitamin N. As for the caves and the rock, there is always another time.

fall foliage

Fall — perfect time to fall into nature

3 thoughts on “Falling into nature at Nottawasaga Bluffs

  1. Pingback: The Best of 2017 | Gone Camping

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