As a mental health professional in St. Catharines (and a physical fitness enthusiast), I highly recommend getting out into the fresh air and nature and enjoying a brisk walk/hike. Even a short 10-to-20-minute walk has been proven to have health and wellness benefits and can provide a wonderful mental break from school, work (or work from home), or child care.
If you have children, taking them out for a nice walk is great for the whole family to enjoy and has the added side benefit of promoting healthy sleep habits (for both you and the kids!). Even if you just have that quick 20 minutes to take a loop around your own neighbourhood, make sure you get out daily for some fresh air and free exercise.
If you have the time to enjoy a longer, more leisurely walk (and maybe even a nice outdoor picnic with takeout from a restaurant in St. Catharines), here are my top 10 recommended walking trails in St. Catharines.
I moved to Niagara and opened up my practice at Cameron Counselling in March, during the height of the COVID lockdowns, and going for a weekly hike or two has really been a highlight for me of moving to the “Garden City” and getting to enjoy nature in the great outdoors.
Information on more trails in the Niagara Region is listed here in this handy guide: https://www.niagararegion.ca/exploring/trails.aspx#SC
The 10 Best Walking Trails in St. Catharines, Ontario
1. Rotary Park:
Located off of Pelham Road in Western Hill along the Twelve Mile Creek valley. Fun fact: this beautiful 800 metre track, park, gardens, and picnic area, are all located on top of the former city dump which was rehabilitated into a great outdoor space, made possible in part by a “Canada 150” grant of $50,000.
There is parking available and the track connects to many longer bike and walking trails if you are feeling more adventurous. Please do note that many people jog, bike, and dog walk at this trail and it can get very busy in the summer months. So, if you are looking for a quiet space to contemplate nature, this is probably not your best bet.
However, it does feature stunning views of the Niagara Escarpment and is a wonderful place to view the changing leaves in fall.
More information and directions located at: https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/facilities/Detail.aspx?CategoryIds=&FacilityTypeIds=&Keywords=&Page=9&CloseMap=false&Scroll=true&id=f00687ba-de34-4064-b8e4-e2e4aa45822e
2. Green Ribbon Trail:
Shorter than the other trails on this list, this 1km trail located off of Martindale Road is a great place to start out for beginners (or little ones). The trail itself is paved and runs through the scenic Martindale Marsh with lots of greenery on display (and the occasional Canadian Goose marking their territory).
During the nesting season it does pay to be cautious of the geese as they can get a bit aggressive if you accidentally get close to their nest.
More information and directions located at: https://takeahikeniagara.wordpress.com/tag/martindale-road/
3. Twelve Trail:
This trail runs along the Twelve Mile Creek from just south of downtown until it reaches a climb at “hydro hill” and continues along through the woods. This trail is not suitable for beginners with both the length and the incline considered. You can also enter the trail off of Glendale Road where there is parking, to make for a bit of a shorter hike.
This trail is not ideal after dark (or alone at dusk) as there are occasional encampments along the banks of the Twelve Mile Creek.
More information and directions located at: https://trailpeak.com/trails/Twelve-Trail-near-St-Catherines-ON-3302
4. Shorthills Provincial Park:
Shorthills Provincial Park is a gem in the Niagara Region; however, it is currently completely closed due to COVID. In better days, it offered a variety of different outdoors activities, including: hiking, camping, canoeing, and bird-watching.
This area is generally very busy in the warmer months, but is still worth checking out when it reopens (especially in the off-season).
More information on park facilities and amenities (including whether they have reopened) and directions located at: https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/shorthills
5. Port Dalhousie Harbour Walkway Trail:
Located in Port Dalhousie, a quaint old neighbourhood of St. Catharines, this 3km trail is one you definitely want to check out. The entryway is located off of Main St. in Port Dalhousie, but you can also park at the beach and walk over that way.
Note that parking is definitely “at a premium” in the summer months as people flock to the pier and the beach. See the local swans from the footbridge over Henley Island Rowing Course (site of the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta since 1903). The pathway winds along the shoreline before cutting through Jaycee Park.
It is primarily flat with some moderate inclines and is a great place for walkers of all ages. If you’re walking with kids, there are great spots available for ice-cream or treats, and post-COVID a ride on the Carousel.
More information and directions located at: https://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/index.php?url=trails/view/harbour-walkway-trail
6. Waterfront Trail:
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail spans the shores of Lake Ontario, a 40 km section of which runs between St. Catharines and Niagara on the Lake connecting Port Dalhousie, Port Weller, and Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm.
Highly recommend parking near Happy Rolph’s and taking a stroll through the animal sanctuary to see the adorable creatures (with or without children, this is very enjoyable) before heading along the lakeshore for a nice walk with incredible scenery of Lake Ontario and willow trees. I don’t recommend trying to walk the entire trail in one go, but you can choose a different section to enjoy each week!
This trail can tend to get very congested during the tourist season in Niagara (May – October) but is still great to visit at off hours.
More info and directions available at: https://waterfronttrail.org/places/communities/st-catharines/
7. Burgoyne Woods Loop:
Located on Edgedale Road (off of Glenridge Avenue) behind the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club and near the Pen Centre and Dennis Morris Highschool; Burgoyne Woods Park features a great 2.1 km trail, picnic tables, and space to enjoy nature while visiting (or have a nice picnic).
The trail is paved and good for runners, bikers, or hikers to use. It is suitable for all skill levels as it does not feature any difficult terrain and is accessible being paved instead of gravel. There is also a sizeable parking lot for those looking to drive in for a hike.
More information and directions available at: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/ontario/burgoyne-woods-loop
8. Decew Falls Loop:
This area was a hot topic in the news over the summer of 2020 during COVID, as over 11 emergency rescues took place when out-of-town visitors tried to do this trail in improper clothing and shoes and ended up diverging from the posted trail. This 2.3km trail can become very busy during summer months, as it is a popular tourist (photo) destination.
It is currently closed during COVID as well. The off-trail areas are very dangerous and there is a sharp drop from a waterfall, so it is very important to pay attention to the posted signs. This is not a trail for beginners. The Morningstar Mill and adjacent Decew House both offer fairly sizeable lots for parking.
More information and directions available at: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/ontario/decew-falls-loop
9. Merritt Trail:
Located along the Welland Canal (Locks 1-3), this trail starts at Bradley St. and continues to Martindale Rd. where it connects with the previously mentioned Green Ribbon Trail. It is a vast 45km in length, so this is another one where it may be best to take 1 chunk at a time as you explore it for the first time.
It does feature gravel as well as soil sections with various difficulty levels, as well as some picnic areas if you are looking for a quick snack stop.
For directions or more info visit: https://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails/view/merritt-trail
10. Participark Trail (Glendale & St. Paul Crescent):
This trail is 2km in length, comprised of stone dust, and runs along the banks of the Twelve Mile Creek between St. Paul Crescent and Glendale Avenue in Western Hill, St. Catharines. It is also wheelchair accessible (so would also be good for pushing a stroller along).
It is a great beginner trail due to its length and the fact that it is mostly flat. Not a huge amount of scenery at this location, but it is good for a short stroll (double the length to 4km by walking out and back to your car!).
More info and directions at: https://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails/view/participark-trail
Overall, I highly recommend checking out these or other trails in our area. St. Catharines is called the Garden City for a reason and there is beautiful local scenery to check out, while also getting some great exercise for your mind and body.
Take a break today and check out one of these trails, you will be happy you did.
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