Half an hour from bustling Buffalo, the majestic Niagara Falls attracts visitors, amateur photographers and people in ponchos by the busload. But the area has a lot more to offer away from the tourist trail”¦ if you’re willing to walk for it. Take a look at our guide to hiking the Niagara Gorge.
Niagara Gorge, carved out by the Niagara River at the base of the famous falls, has beautiful trails to explore, which you can walk, run, or cycle through – depending on how energetic you feel.
A good place to start would be at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center’s Trailhead Center, which prides itself on being the “gateway” to lots of great hiking trails in the area (and offers guided hikes, should your map reading not be up to snuff). But we’ve also put together a list of some of the best trails to plan for and get excited about. So grab some sturdy footwear, a bottle of water, and get ready – you’re about to find what hiking the Niagara Gorge is all about.
The Trailhead Center
Taking roughly an hour, the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Trail in Niagara Falls State Park is a great way to get your hiking legs. Plus, as the name suggests, it’s a scenic way to take in some of the best of the area on an easy, hour-long hike.
Also pretty easy for those less used to hiking or, for that matter, walking up and down gorges, the Upper Great Gorge trail offers great views of the river without the physical demands of some of the other trails in the area. And, should you have any train spotters among your walking party, they might be tickled to know that this route follows that of a 19th century railroad.
Whirlpool State Park
Increasing the difficulty a bit, this hike takes in the Whirlpool rapids – as well as treating you to some rock scrambling. Head down into the lower gorge from the main Whirlpool State Park area (there’s a staircase) to join the Whirlpool Rapids Trail at the bottom and then hike upstream towards the whirlpool, as well as the swirling, rushing rapids, admiring the view along the way.
To leave the gorge, you can just retrace your steps back to the staircase. However, if you get a second wind when you get there, and want to continue hiking the Niagara Gorge, you can carry on downstream and join the Devil’s Hole Trail, another great hike in the area, which will lead you back to the Devil’s Hole staircase and up to the Devil’s Hole Park.
40 minutes from Buffalo, the lush, green Niagara Glen is the perfect escape from the city and a popular starting point for those hiking the Niagara Gorge. In fact, set in the Great Gorge, the trail at this Nature Reserve takes you through the forest (an amazing example of Southern Ontario’s original Carolinian forest), past wildlife, wild flowers, and prehistoric geological formations, letting you stretch your legs and breathe some fresh air in peace and quiet. The trail does get a bit steeper as the route goes on, but it’s manageable – you can take it all in on a moderately gentle walk. Found on the Canadian side of the gorge, you can also view and access the Whirlpool via the trails.
Header image: Family hiking in the Niagara Gorge © Fuse/iStock/Thinkstock
Thanks to our partnership with Delta, it’s never been easier to get to Buffalo, New York State’s second biggest city and the perfect base from which to explore the Niagara Gorge.
Thinking of hiking the Niagara Gorge? Already conquered these trails? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Written by Giverny Tattersfield