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.
The view from Nottawasaga Bluffs is spectacular in its fall attire
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 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.
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.
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.
Part of the trail ran through fileds and meadows
Across boardwalks and through groves
Sometimes it veered onto private property
We came across quite a few apple trees, remanants of old farms
There was also lots of mud and strong smell of manure
But soya fields and milkweed looked so pretty
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.
Beautiful October forest wrapped in gold
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.
Magic land of moss and cedars
Into the bowels of the Escarpment
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.
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.
We crawled through a hole and found ourselves in a maze
Twisty, moss-covered crevises
Sky peeking through a crack
The walls kept moving closer together
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.”
“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.
Where are we?
To the Bluffs Lookout
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
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.
Bruce Trail is a beauty in the fall
Some parts of the trail were mysteriously foggy
Some were cheerfully open
Betty Carter side trail took us back to the parking lot
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 — perfect time to fall into nature