Whirlpool Trail – Niagara Falls

What do you do on a damp day in Niagara Falls? Check out some of the great shorter trails near the waterfront. Getting to the trailhead was simple – just a few km away from our AirBnB down the Niagara Parkway, and we pulled into the parking spot away from the main entrance where the whirlpool actually was. Figured it may be easier – just pay at the kiosk for parking, and off we went to immediately descend into the escarpment to the whirlpool portion of the Niagara River. The trail is well marked, and has a groovy spiral purple marker to keep you on track. The descent is also easy, as there are large staircases built into the ground, or wooden staircases to help get you down to the waterfront. Popular place for fishermen as well, as we passed multiple small groups heading back to their cars. Damp spots were also crossed with short bridges.

At the bottom, you arrive at The Whirlpool – and impressive gully of water that swirls off from the main flow of the Niagara River – which is moving along at quite a clip. Unfortunately, there seemed to be some signage around that seemed to indicate the trail was not available. We thought we would move along the waterfront a bit to get a better view, and see what any obstacle may be.

We soon came to parts of the trail that were a bit rocky, but still very passable with a bit of care. Definately not for a casual hiker, or family with kids. With the water moving at our side, we moved cautiously, especially as it has been raining for most of the day, and the trail was a bit damp with slippery rocks, trees, and mud. The rock features along the waterfront were, in fact, quite spectacular – and very managable.

This kept up for a few hundred meters, though we shortly came to some flat rocks that provided a good and simple viewpoint. As well, there seemed to be some anglers using flyrods for some fine fishes in the rapid and clear moving water. Not sure if these were Lake Trout, Steelhead or salmon, though the fishes need to be a reasonable size to manage the fast current we were seeing downstream from Niagara Falls.

Moving along the trail some more, we quickly got to some fine downstream rapids – probably a solid class-3 run, with high volume of water. An impressive site. We also started to notice more signs along the trail, warning folks not to go for a swim – really! We followed the trail around to various vantage points, though mostly obstructed by trees.

It was quite impressive especially with the canyon wall on the far side of the river – which is actually the USA porton of Niagara Falls. We kept to the trails that made there way away from the water a bit more – and picked up the trail that brought us along the rapids section. The trail did stay a bit more inland, and was still spectacular this time of year. We also started to notice some of the rock faces definitely had signs of folks bouldering in this area, with white chalk marks on some of the tiny fingerholds.

Time to ascend up the Niagara Escarpment, and we made our way along that segment of the trail. We did notice many fine rock formations along the way – and the signage did indicate these limestone ridges did contain tribulate fossils. Being inside a park, the signage also discouraged you from damaging anything you noticed as well! The final portion of the trail got us to the top of the escarpment via a 6-story metal staircase. As it was still raining today, no sign of other folks along the trail, and the staircase was ours to ascend.

On top of the escarpment, there is a fine park, with signage and safety railings along the edge. It would be quite a drop if you went over, and you would definitely break something on the way down if you took a tumble. Looks like a popular spot, and the trails here seem to be marked with a direction, due to C19 protocols. Not seeing anyone here on this damp day, it did not really matter when we were on the trail, though we can see by the size of the parking lot this must be a very popular spot in the summer here! Looking over the Niagara River from here, we can also see some USA Water Works and a dam off in the distance.

From here, the trek back to the car was about 2km along the top of the escarpment on a nice paved trail. There are some picnic sites, as well as a ranger hut with bathrooms here as well, so hopping place in the summer we are sure! The stroll along the rim of the escarpment did offer us some nice views in the drizzle. We also walked through an ‘adventure park’, that did appear to be open – though in the damp rain off season, there were no participants. There’s also a cable car that seems to come across the Niagara River here as well to give you good views of the Whirlpool, as well as the rapids. With the drizzle being continuous, we just got out the umbrella, and strolled to our vehicle to wrap up this very nice short hike – probably not more than a 6km loop, with an 80-100m ascent of the escarpment.

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