Hiking Belfountain Conservation Area: Chasing Salamanders
One of my favourite areas to hike in Ontario is in the Caledon Area. One of the biggest draws is the Belfountain Conservation Area. But the entire area is home to great trails, like the Bruce Trail, amazing sights like the Cheltenham Badlands, and the charming village of Belfountain.
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Belfountain Conservation Area
The Belfountain Conservation Area covers nearly 20 acres (8 hectares) and was once owned by inventor Charles Mack. Here, in the early 1900’s he created his version of a mini Niagara Falls and Yellowstone Cave. He also built the suspension bridge that crosses the river and the picturesque fountain, with its bell on top to honour the village of Belfountain.
A friend and I headed down to Belfountain early one weekend in the fall. We arrived to discover the park closed for the season. But determined to explore we parked at the church around the corner, and walked over. I’m guessing they close of the park during the winter season due to lack of maintenance. There are sections, like the bridge and other boardwalks, which could be dangerous to traverse while snow covered. But our visit was in late fall, with not a speck of snow in sight. So, I thought it would be safe.
As soon as we entered and rounded the large, still pond I thought this would be a great place in the fall. But alas, most of the leaves had already fallen. But they still carpeted the trails in an array of beautiful colours. And while the sun was hidden behind a fog of grey skies, it was still a nice day for a hike. The air was fresh and crisp, a welcome change from the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer.
Before we hit the trails we wanted to explore the main attractions of the park. First up was the old swing bridge that stretches over the incredible mini Niagara Falls. On the other side we met the historic fountain. Covered in an air of mist and green moss, it was perfect in its history, meaning and so photogenic.
Just off to the side was the park’s strangest sight, the Yellowstone Cave. Built by Charles Mack, and inspired by Yellowstone National Park’s caves, Belfountain’s Cave is nothing less than eerie. While it was closed during our visit, I later learned that within the cave he created man-made stalactites, and other strange features. With the bars to keep us out, it looked more like an ancient jail opposed to a cave system.
We decided to take the Trimble trail that runs steeply along the river banks. Some sections are quite steep and the path narrow at times. So, proper footwear is a must. It’s strange to know that in the late 1800’s the area was once a quarry. It even produced the stone that makes up Toronto’s Ontario Legislation building and Old City Hall.
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Another main reason I wanted to visit the Belfountain Conservation Area is its wealth of wildlife. The area is a hot spot for salamanders. So much so they even have a Salamander Festival every September. All along the trail we delicately over turned logs and rocks in search of these special little creatures. And I was blown away by how many we found. While all of the salamanders we found were Eastern red-backed, it was still an amazing find.
We retraced our path along the Trimble Trail back into the park and crossed another bridge across the Credit River. Here we passed an old rockslide and headed up the Niagara Escarpment, along the Gorge Loop Trail. This trail was mostly made up of boardwalk, making the trail wider and smoother, and leads back to the main entrance.
Belfountain Conservation Area is a fabulous place to explore any time of year. Plus it’s a treasure trove of great sights, wildlife and good trails.
If you’re looking to refresh after your hike I highly recommend a stop in at Higher Ground Coffee Co. They’ve got a flair for urban artsy meets rugged outdoors design, and offer delicious treats and great coffees. But be prepared for traffic, especially in the summer, as it’s a hub for bicyclists passing through!
Difficulty – Easy to Moderate
Time – 1 – 2 hours
Trails – Trimble Trail (1.5km), Gorge Loop Trail (0.7km)
Parking – On site for a fee