Where nature beats tech - Hamilton City Magazine Skip to main content
Celebrating all things Hamilton / Welcome Message
City Life

Where nature beats tech

Summer is almost here, so parents, here are some great places to get outside with your kids that are fun and don’t include a device.

Summer break is almost here for thousands of public and separate school students, and if you’re like us, a slow panic is starting to set in about what you’re going to do with your school-aged child over the summer that doesn’t involve a device.

This summer, we struck out on summer camps, and finding one-on-one care has proved impossible, so we’re going to make the best of it. Our son Sam is getting a nature-filled summer courtesy of hanging with mom and dad while we juggle work and fun.

Maybe we’ll see you out there, at the beach, on a trail, or (Sam’s absolute favourite) throwing rocks in a stream. To make sure we bump into each other, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite nature-themed getaways for kids in Hamilton to help you pry the screens out of your kids’ hands this summer.

Confederation Park

This is probably Sam’s favourite natural space in the city. He calls it “the ocean” and on a slightly hazy day it’s easy to imagine there isn’t Canada’s largest city just on the other side. Get there early in the day and bring snacks, plenty of water and a shelter of some kind (unless you manage to get a coveted shady spot). 

We tend to go to the waterfront trail parking lot, where there are no facilities. Like none. So be prepared for that, and make sure everyone uses the restroom before they go or teach your kids the fine art of peeing in the woods/tall grass. If you park further east in the main lot there is a restroom there. It’s also much busier at that end. Parking in the lots is free, which is a bonus, and the #56 HSR bus will take you there, if that’s how you get around.

Also be warned, until August or so the water can be quite cold. If you don’t mind a shock, go for it, otherwise maybe wait a bit until it warms up.

Sam at his favourite place – Confederation Park. PHOTO: Jason Allen

Throwing rocks in a creek

This is a two-fer for you. Our two favourite streams for throwing rocks in the water both require a bit of a walk. The first is most easily accessed from Cherry Hill Gate (Hendrie Valley) just across from the Royal Botanical Gardens’ main building. Head down the hill and turn right just before the boardwalk. Halfway around the loop there is a trail that goes off to the right that almost nobody ever takes. 

Take it. Go over the bridge and just a little ways further and there is a perfect place under a huge overhanging tree to stop and catch tiny frogs and crayfish, and toss rocks in the water, and just enjoy an afternoon in the water. No facilities here either. Sensing a theme? Parking is $10 for the RBG, and this spot is also accessibly by transit. From downtown you can catch the #1 Burlington Transit bus that will drop you off just across the street from the Cherry Hill parking lot.

The second amazing spot to play in a river is located at Crook’s Hollow Conservation Area. A short (10-15 minute) walk from the parking lot along the trail that goes east from the parking lot will get you to yet another beautiful spot, shaded by overhanging trees, with tiny frogs, and crayfish, and enormous buzzing dragonflies eating their weight in mosquitos. It’s glorious. Just bring bug spray of some kind as the hike there can be a little buggy. Parking is also $10 at the parking lot, but the Hamilton Conservation Authority is doing good work, so don’t by shy about ponying up.

Crook’s Hollow Conservation Area is an amazing spot to play in a river. PHOTO: Jason Allen

Cool hidden things and ruins

The best place hands down to find cool old things in the city is the Bruce Trail on either side of Hwy 6. Park at the dead end at the end of Old Guelph Road where it hits the highway, and hike in either direction. If you go down the concrete steps under the highway and follow the white blazes of the Bruce Trail on the other side you’ll come to the ruins of an old house. 

It is predictably graffitied, and there is the odd beer bottle around, but generally it’s a pretty cool place to explore. Keep going along the trail for some amazing views of the city. This is a “there and back” trip versus a loop, but it’s still nice and shaded on a hot day. 

The real gem of this trail, though, is in the other direction. Go up the steep stairs up the side of the escarpment and head south west along the ridge until you get to the abandoned skateboard park. Yes, that’s right. It’s a bit of a hidden gem among boarders in the city (I am anticipating hate mail for telling you about it), but it’s a cool hidden spot. Bring a skateboard or a scooter and be prepared to hang out for a bit. If you get to the stairs going back down the escarpment you’ve gone too far.

In all, there are lots of wonderful places to explore in the city to get out of the house and have adventures large and small. Hopefully you’ll be able to take part in some of the fun and fascinating natural spaces our city has to offer.

Jason Allen is the host of The Environmental Urbanist, Tuesdays at 1 p.m. on 93.3 CFMU, and has been encouraging Hamiltonians to explore the outdoors for almost two decades.