Canada Ontario

Canada: DeCew Falls

Bruce Trail Waterfalls

Hiking DeCew Falls

“Oh, I didn’t notice that before!” Like most distracted individuals, I am guilty of walking past people, objects, life and not realizing what was in front of me. “Life,” you say? I’m not sure why I never really explored much of Ontario. Perhaps it’s because Ontario has been my home province for the majority of my life? Or that I didn’t take the time to notice nature’s beauty in my own backyard?

Nevertheless, I’ve come into some free time lately, not exactly by choice but enough time to reflect on how unhappy I was with where I was and with who I had in my life. Going back to my explorer roots, I reached out to my friend Aisha and decided a hike of DeCew Falls was in order!

Part of the Niagara Escarpment, the picturesque DeCew Falls is located in St. Catherines, Ontario. The 22 metre plunging Upper DeCew Falls cascades down from the restored water-powered Morningstar Mill. Free parking is adjacent to the Morningstar Mill Living Museum, Miller’s House and Blacksmith shop where donations of your choice can be left. If you want to see the falls in all of its glory, you will need to make your way to the Bruce Trail.

Decew falls parking

Getting to the Base of DeCew Falls

As you walk towards the Miller House – still not sure if someone lives in it – there is a small gate with “push” written on it as you proceed through it this is the start of the Bruce Trail.

We made our way down in a rush to beat a family with small children (yes, I like children just not hiking behind them!) The initial path while straight-forward, eventually became a bit less as you needed to make decisions on whether to go down steep pathways (short-cut) or carry on going forward (longer path), we decided on the later. Eventually, we made the descent – with small children this can be a bit difficult as it was quite steep so be aware. At the bottom of the trail was the swimming hole, with a makeshift platform and swing rope. We decided to skip swimming here as we wanted to swim in the falls but it did look enticing! The family with the small children ended up staying there. **Note: since being there I’ve been informed that this has been removed and private property which is not part of the provincial park, so please do not swim there**

Recommendation: Wear either water or running shoes for this hike. While flip-flops are adequate for the initial portion of the hike, the swimming hole itself is quite rocky. The rest of the trail became increasingly rocky and muddy.

Trail to DeCew Falls

With my Keen hiking boots on and Aisha in Nike running shoes, we followed the trail along the riverside, weaving in and out of fallen trees, climbing over rocks and stomping through muddy paths. We ascended upon the secret gem of the long trail the 7 metre plunging Lower DeCew Falls. Time for a photo-op.

Hiking to Decew falls

A steep incline later, we were on the final stretch to the base of the Upper DeCew Falls. The backdrop of the falls couldn’t be any more picturesque with the Morningstar Mill towering over.

Decew falls and morningstar mill

We quickly undressed, leaving our shoes on as we waded into the greenish-blue waters. My waterproof Keen hiking boots were no longer waterproof after swimming in them! Some of my favourite waterfalls are those that allow you the 360 view, as in you can walk behind it which we recommend you try.

Going behind a waterfall

The DeCew Falls Short-Cut

Now you’ve made it all that way, experienced the beauty of both falls and frankly, are a bit tired. A short walk back down the trail you will come across a rope, which in your mind you will say “NOPE,” this is more of a rock climber kind of rope. If you walk a bit further, you will come across a second rope which is definitely a more achievable climb. It’s about a 5 min walk back from there once at the top.

Climbing to Decew falls

Things to Know Before You Go

  • Wear either running and/or water shoes – you won’t regret it!
  • Bring water – a no-brainer, but it’s important
  • Swimming wear – don’t miss out on the opportunity to swim under the waterfalls
  • Take your garbage with you – common sense but apparently not, as the bin near the falls was overflowing and people still left their garbage.

Total Cost = FREE

For more hikes in Ontario, check out the blog post: Rouge National Urban Park

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