Is Niagara Falls, Canada an adventure destination? Many people think so. The massive and breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls offer visitors a chance to get up-close-and-personal with one of the natural world’s greatest, and most powerful, wonders. But that’s not all this well-known Canadian border town has to offer the adventure traveler…
1) Journey Behind the Falls
When tourists first started visiting Niagara Falls more than four centuries ago, the only way to get close to the majesty of the water was to scramble precariously down the slippery, wet, steep bank, climb over massive rocks and boulders, and negotiate crude ladders. Today’s visitors to the Falls have it much easier. In 1889, the first tunnels were cut into the bedrock behind the Falls. Today, visitors can travel through these tunnels in the Journey Behind the Falls attraction, which culminates in an observation platform at the base of the Falls.
Here, you’ll experience firsthand the power of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water rushing past just inches away on the other side of the rock. Don’t forget to peer through the cutaway viewing windows on your way down to the observation platform. You’ll get a souvenir poncho to protect you from the mist, but wear waterproof shoes and consider storing your electronics in a bag to keep them dry.
2) Hornblower Niagara Cruises
The world-famous Hornblower Niagara Cruiseis within walking distance of the best hotels in Niagara Falls, Canada, and it takes you about as close as you can get to the Falls without going over them in a barrel, and adventure stunt that we don’t recommend and which might be illegal, anyway. You haven’t really seen the Falls until you’ve seen them from aboard a boat tour. Hornblower offers a range of cruise options, from the standard 20-minute daytime tour to the evening tour, 40-minute Falls illumination cruise, and 40-minute Falls fireworks cruise. Again, you’ll be given waterproof ponchos, but expect to get wet.
3) The Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail is a 550-mile (890 km) hiking trail that runs along the brink of the Niagara Escarpment, from the Niagara River to Tobermory, Ontario. More than 250 miles (400 km) of side trails connect to the Bruce Trail, including one that comes out near Niagara Falls. The Niagara Escarpment is an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and hikers on this trail will see a number of waterfalls where rivers or streams plunge over the escarpment – Niagara Falls is simply the most famous of these waterfalls. Hikers can also observe a wide range of local flora and fauna, including coniferous trees that have been clinging to the lip of the limestone escarpment for hundreds of years apiece.
It can take several weeks to hike the entirety of the Bruce Trail, but the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) holds regular end-to-ends, or multi-day group hikes in which participants are encouraged to hike an entire section of the trail. End-to-ends are a great way for solo hikers to socialize, and you get a badge of completion at the end to recognize your accomplishment.
The BTC also offers several self-guided day hikes on their website. Designated campground accommodations are available along the length of the trail, and, as the Bruce Trail runs through several communities, bed-and-breakfasts and other less rugged accommodation options are also available.
4) Niagara Glen Nature Preserve
This section of Carolinian forest in Niagara Falls offers guided hiking tours on its 2.5 miles (4 km) of trails, bouldering on many of its rock formations, and a riverside view of the Niagara River Whirlpool. The trails at Niagara Glen are moderate to difficult, and some of them are quite rocky, so dress accordingly. Stop in at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre to ask about guided hiking tours which run twice a day during the summer months, starting in May, or to register for a bouldering permit. Don’t miss the Whirlpool Trail; it’s the Glen’s most difficult trail, but it’s worth it for the view of the Niagara River Whirlpool at the end.
If you’re ready for a day trip from Niagara Falls to a quaint, lakeside Ontario village, Niagara-on-the-Lake is for you. Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for the many wineries that dot the surrounding countryside, as well as historic sites like Fort George, the Mississauga Point Lighthouse, and the Laura Secord house. Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the Shaw Festival, which showcases over a dozen plays on three stages, as well as a number of other activities. Enjoy shopping in the historic downtown, and rest your head in one of the many bed-and-breakfasts that dot this idyllic lakeside community.
If you’re looking to infuse some adventure into your Niagara Falls trip, you’re in luck. From viewing the Falls up close to exploring the natural world of the Niagara Escarpment or touring Niagara wine country, this part of Canada has a lot to offer the adventure tourist – and you might just make some new friends while you’re at it.