Despite the clouds it was a beautiful day in the Niagara area on Monday. Nathan had the day off so I decided to put the business aside so we could take a family hike in Short Hills. For anyone unfamiliar with the area Short Hills is a 660 hectare provincial park located on the southern side of the Niagara Escarpment bordering St. Catherines and Pelham. It is home to many types of wildlife including White-Tailed Deer, Meadow Vole, and Coyote. It is also home to plants that are rarely found in other areas of Canada including Pawpaw, and Sweet Chestnut.
The park has seven trails and we decided to hike the “Black Walnut Trail” which can be accessed at the Pelham road entrance and is roughly a 3.3 mile hike. Once we parked the car, Jack excitedly jumped out ready to get on his new adventure! The three of us happily loped through the entrance, and down the first trail only to find that it was covered in mud. And I mean COVERED! We tried to find the easiest path through but even with hiking boots, we were pretty much skating! We were able to stick to the sides of the path, using the grass and leaves for traction. We were quite happy to find that there were many small bridges, and pieces of wood covering the mud along the remainder of the trail.
Jack was quite happy to get as muddy as possible, but once the humans were done being wusses about that mud the path was fairly easy to walk, and actually had a great deal of beautiful scenery. We walked along hilltop paths, sat overtop of gorgeous waterfalls, and were greeted at the end of our journey by a chorus of the loudest crickets I have ever heard!
Off Leash: Zero tail wags: It would be an ok trail off leash trail for dogs with good recall. There is a lot of fun scents, and the trails and topography offer few dangers with the exception of the occasional road to cross, or waterfall. Unfortunately this is a protected area, with wild-life conservation officers visiting regularly. Off leash walking is not recommended and there are hefty fines attached to it.
On Leash: Four tail wags during dry times, two tail wags during wet times: The trails are quite wide and offer comfortable walking space for both you and your dog, unfortunately when it is wet you may be easily pulled over or slip, especially if your dog is not an expert leash walker yet!
Accessibility: Five Tail Wags: Like any provincial park it’s well marked with many maps and signs throughout the park to help you on your journey! You should have no problem navigating one of any of the available trails, and there’s quite a few to try!
Human Friendly: Three Tail Wags: It is a fairly wide path, with a lot of great scenery but may not be appropriate for you depending on your fitness level. We tracked our 3.3 mile hike on my fitbit as being hilly to the equivalent of 40 flights of stairs. It is also important to note that during wet season it requires some creative walking to get around the particularly muddy bits.
Water Dogs: Two Tail Wags: There is some fairly nice areas that dogs can go swimming, however as previously noted the park is not off leach friendly so it may not be appropriate for dogs with poor recall or dogs that are distracted well by animals as there is plenty of wildlife throughout the park. It also may not be good for dogs that are not strong swimmers as there is some rough parts. The water is also quite muddy in some spots and you may not want your dog to try to drink it.
Overall: Three Tail Wags: The park is easily accessible, and a beautiful area that can be a lot of fun for you and your pooch! However this particular trail may not be an appropriate hiking level for everyone, and the mud may annoy some. We had a great time, and a fantastic family afternoon! I think if you are up for the adventure it could be great exercise for you and Fido!
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