Hiking Elora Gorge
Hiking Elora Gorge has been on my list all summer. But after seeing friends photos of their visits there this summer, among crowds, I was leery. A couple of weeks ago, in the heart of the fall season, a friend and I made our way to Elora. I was ecstatic I waited. Fall means more comfortable temperatures and far less visitors.
We arrived in Elora early and while I was eager to go hiking Elora Gorge, I was immediately charmed by the picturesque main street. I was excited to explore it after our hike. Venturing out of the main downtown we found ourselves crossing a bridge that gave us our first glimpse of the gorge. The early morning light shining into the gorge made everything from the water to the limestone cliffs sparkle. After speaking with a few locals, they helped us find the trail and we plunged ourselves into the forest that flanks the gorge.
The Elora Gorge Trail takes you along a fenced lined path through the forest, on both sides of the gorge. Our hike began on the northwest side of the gorge. We didn’t see another soul for over an hour. Just us, the rustle of the leaves beneath our feet and the crisp fall air refreshing our lungs.
We found a set of metal stairs that took us down into the gorge. At the bottom I clambered over rocks towards the river and stood there speechless. Standing centre stage among 72 foot high limestone cliffs and with the Grand River rushing past I had to keep telling myself I was in Ontario’s wilds – not Iceland! Looking up I could see a delicate waterfall wetting the cliff side. And everywhere trees seem to cling to the cliff’s edge. Their roots with a mind of their own looked like tentacles reaching out.
Hiking Elora Gorge was made even more magical by the sheer lack of people. We had this magnificent Ontario gem to ourselves. Our only guests were the occasional crows in the tree tops, a lone vulture soaring overhead and a grey heron stalking the river’s edge.
After awhile we tore ourselves from the peaceful and dramatic gorge. Heading back up the metal stairs we continued on into the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. Here we met a paved trail taking us to another bridge crossing the gorge. Nowhere above the gorge was more beautiful than this bridge. Leaves of red, brunt orange and the yellow blanketed the ground. And yet many of the surrounding trees still held their leaves – all creating a perfect fall sight. And photo-op!
Crossing the bridge we were met with a choice, continue down or head back up the opposite side of the gorge. Realizing we’d already been hiking and exploring for a couple of hours, so we opted to head along the opposite side of the gorge from whence we’d hiked. This would eventually take us back into town. We realized just how lucky we were to have started out when we did as we began running into more visitors on this trail.
The southeast side of the Elora Gorge Trail has a few highlights, including a few lookout points over the gorge. But nothing compares to being deep, down in it, feeling dwarfed by its grandness. Along this side of the trail you’ll find the ‘Hole in the Wall’. This is where you walk over a piece of the limestone cliff that has a hole in it. Walking over the hole the trail enters the hole, with stairs descending to a plateau just above the gorge. Here a cliff side stands tall with a few more holes etched out. But what captured me was this tree towering above me with giant, endless roots that were like a piece of living art.
Our bellies growled, so we quickened out pace. After leaving the Elora Gorge Conservation Area we stumbled upon another trail that we thought might take us back into town quicker. Little did we know where it would take us…
A large construction site was at the end of the trail. But to our left I noticed a sloping trail leading down to the river. Food would have to wait! We carefully made our way down. And before I even reached the bottom my mouth dropped. There before us was an incredible oasis. The gorge’s limestone cliffs seemed to hug the river here, and the trees nearly blocked out the light. A stone-like beach took us back into the gorge once again. But here there was an extremely intimate feeling. All I kept thinking was – this would be the best meditation spot. Quiet, dark and so Zen.
But alas our grumbling bellies awoke us and we tore ourselves away. Back on the quaint little downtown strip of Elora we couldn’t help but wander down in search of the best place to eat. After a brief chat with a few local gals we decided upon one of their recommendations. But, we still had to wait a little while longer, as it didn’t open until noon.
Browsing Elora’s amazing selection of shops helped keep our minds off food. But as soon as Shepherd’s Pub cracked it’s brilliant blue door we pounced. This traditional pub has all the workings for a great place to dine. Great food, with varied options, huge portions, and a view over the Grand River.
And with our bellies full we had to say goodbye to Elora and head to the next charming town, Fergus.
I adored hiking Elora Gorge, with all its hidden treasures. And Elora herself warmed my heart with her sweet charm.
Level of Difficulty – Moderate
Time – 2.5 hours +
Parking – Free parking in town, or for a fee in Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Facilities – Washrooms
Safety tip – Stay away from cliff edges
Other activities – Tubing available in summer months, Camping, & all year Zip-lining
Have you gone hiking Elora Gorge?
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