Words | Cara Williams. Photos | Clay Dolan
Meteorologists predicted our Escarpment fall colours would be especially stunning this year, thanks in part to the weather that made our summer somewhat miserable: cooler temperatures and lots of rain. One of the factors that contribute to vibrant fall foliage is the health of trees heading into the period in which colours change. After this past summer, our trees are unquestionably healthy and the resulting foliage is downright incredible. Hiking trails beckon!
One of my favourite fall hikes is the Cascade Trail to Village Way Trail which begins from Blue Mountain’s South Base Lodge. A well maintained track, this 4.5 kilometre loop weaves through vibrant foliage, alongside a babbling brook, culminating at the top of Blue Mountain Resort where you will enjoy unparalleled views of Georgian Bay and the Escarpment. Fun for the whole family, kids love this hike due to it’s wood bridges, easy to navigate stone slabs and log steps as well as the cascading waterfall near the top (for which the trail was named). Suitable for all fitness levels from young families to marathon hikers, the ascent makes it a great workout and there are plenty of break-worthy stops along the way.
“Our trails have become some of the most popular routes in the area due to the continued maintenance,” explains Blue Mountain Resort’s Manager of Bike and Terrain Parks, Mike Towers. Mike’s crew performs weekly inspections and repairs along the four hiking trails, 16 downhill bike trails and 15 kilometres of cross-country mountain biking or multi-use trails. Blue is also committed to long-term preservation, instituting a planning and protection plan to ensure generations to come are able to enjoy the trails. “As a result of increased hiking activity, the trails and surrounding natural areas are more exposed to various environmental impacts such as litter, soil compaction, the creation of ‘shortcut’ trails, and damage to vegetation,” explains Blue Mountain’s Director of Planning & Environment, Lindsay Ayers. “Earlier this spring, Blue Mountain undertook some trail restoration work along specific sections of Village Way hiking trail as a pilot project. It is the resort’s intention to continue expanding these restoration efforts in future years and also to focus on educating hikers about proper trail etiquette.”
The Cascade hike, which winds between two ski runs also safely intersects with Blue’s downhill mountain biking trails and bridges (my kids love to stop and watch the bikers fly past). Once at the top you’ll enjoy the full scope of the Cascade Waterfall. Turn right and hike north along the Escarpment, at which point the trail merges with a section of the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest marked footpath. Set among high bluffs interspersed with deep, wide valleys, the views of Georgian Bay and the Nottawasaga Lighthouse are unmatched.
Heading north you will pass the remnants of Ontario’s first chair lift, the South Chair, which was built in 1959. Another great spot to stop and take a photo or two.
Up ahead at the Escarpment’s only gondola you can choose to descend via the Village Way Trail, which takes you through more manicured steps and lush forest, or call it a day and download the gondola for additional sightseeing and a bit of a leg rest (the Gondola is open from May long weekend to Oct 15 for a nominal fee).
Continuing on to the Village Way Trail, the descent is well marked and promptly maintained. Crossing over two or three ski runs, you’ll eventually hike past the Ridge Runner Rail Coaster, Blue’s Timber Challenge high ropes course and the Wind Rider Triple Zip Lines.
The trail ends at Blue Mountain Village where you can shop and stroll while taking in an assortment of fall weekend events and live music. What better way to enjoy a beautiful autumn day with friends and family?
Trail etiquette: always stay on marked trails, pack out what you pack in and avoid Blue’s other attractions (especially the mountain biking trails). Proper hiking shoes are imperative as footing can be tricky and the trail tends to stay wet (and slick) for several days after a rainfall. Blue Mountain has a number of posted signs with safety tips and emergency phone numbers in case you need assistance along the hike. Happy hiking! |E|