Devil’s Punchbowl

Sometime ago I decided I was going to dedicate many of my days off in the summer to exploring some of the beautiful hiking trails and small towns in Southern Ontario. The passion for finding beautiful hiking spots, ideally with a water feature, brought us to Devil’s Punchbowl Falls. I am amazed that I have not found this spectacular place before last year, but it seems that shortly after I discovered it as a local gem, it became a place with a lot of news.  Which brings me to my important disclaimer before I rave about the beauty of this location:

This place can be dangerous, as nature is inherently dangerous. There are very steep cliffs, and it is a very long way to the bottom if you go over the edge.

This should be a non-issue. There are barriers, gates, walls, etc. to keep people in their place. There are signs galore warning you that if you get close to the edge, there is risk of death. Still, when we were there as a family, we saw many many people shimmy under the protective railings to take a selfie at the ledge.  Even my kids commented “That’s dangerous!”.  I implore you, if my post inspires you to go and visit this place, don’t be someone who takes stupid risks for a good photo.

Now onto the fun stuff.

Devil’s Punchbowl is located in Hamilton, it is an incredible ribbon waterfall over 37 metres high, and has an escarpment access trail which takes you from a parking lot at the top down to the very base of the falls.

We were there on a gorgeous summer day, and the parking lot maintained by the Hamilton Conservation authority was quite full. We parked at the side of the road instead and followed the crowd to the entrance to the hiking trail.

Along the top of the bowl there is only a little to be seen, the vegetation is pretty thick and you can see the top several layers of the rock strata.

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The hike down is somewhat rigorous. Bring good shoes, and be comfortable with some narrow walkways and steep spots. If you want to get right to the base of the falls you pass across a very narrow ledge about 12 feet from the ground, and then have to climb down a ladder of sorts made of tree roots. On our way down, my husband went first, helped the kids down and then I followed. Right behind us came a family where the dad descended the root-ladder with a baby strapped to his chest and I almost died of anxiety watching him.

The rocky path towards the bottom of the falls

One of the most spectacular sights I’ve experienced while hiking was standing at the bottom of these falls, taking in the water tricking down, and seeing the layers upon layers of rocks.  These guys from McMaster University explain it better than me, but you know looking at this wall of rock that you are looking back at many different geological eras in history.

Quite simply, it’s breathtaking.

When you are done your hike, get back in the car and stop at the Devil’s Punchbowl Bakery. It’s right around the corner from the parking lot for the conservation area and has a really nice flower nursery and the most incredible bakery.

I am a huge sucker for butter tarts, I generally try not to have too many sweets but it’s impossible to visit this place and indulge in a coffee and a tart.The perfect way to end an afternoon spent at the Devil’s Punchbowl.


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