Cherry Hill Gate is one of the trail-heads within the nature sanctuaries of the Royal Botanical Gardens located in Burlington Ontario. There is no entrance fee to use the trails. There is an admission fee to enter the gardens, but you only need to pay for parking to use the 27km trail-system. The Cherry Hill Gate trail is one of my favourites in the GTA due to the abundance of wildlife you encounter as soon as you enter the trail.
After entering Cherry Hill Gate, the first landmark you’ll come across is the main bridge over grindstone creek. The bridge and surrounding boardwalk is one of the best spots for bird-watching.
Annually, over 300 species of birds can be observed on the trails. Hearing them is almost as incredible as seeing the birds up close. Despite the boardwalk attracting crowds, especially in the summer, the rest of the trail is not typically very busy. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy the serene soundtrack of Hendrie Valley, from the bustling creek, to the melody of the birds. Pro Tip: You’re more likely to see Broadwing Hawks in the spring.
Many hikers bring bird-seed to help attract the birds and peanuts to feed the chipmunks. Because of this, once you enter the trail, you’ll likely meet eager chipmunks willing to eat out of your hand if you let them. Elowyn was fascinated by the chipmunks. I was in awe that last summer we visited Cherry Hill Gate and she was just learning to crawl. I wore her in her carrier for the entire hike. I remember she especially enjoyed seeing the ducks from the main bridge; she was laughing and pointing at them as they swam away. This year, Elowyn could be seen running around chasing chipmunks and counting the ducks independently from the same spot on the bridge.
I think raccoons are incredibly cute. I’m the first to volunteer to help release a raccoon from a garbage bin they’ve managed to trap themselves in on one of their innocent quests for food. So you can imagine my excitement and how I jumped at my National Geographic moment to pursue the perfect shot of a raccoon. Was my husband anxiously awaiting nearby hoping I wrapped it up soon? Yes. But that was mostly because he didn’t want me to miss my chance at photographing the elusive woodpecker he had spotted. We also came across a muskrat, a blue heron, and trumpeter swans.
Accessibility and Trip-Planning
Some portions of the trail are wheel-chair and stroller friendly (like the boardwalk system located near the cherry hill gate entrance); the dirt path leading up to them is short and well-maintained. There are inclines and more rigorous sections along the North Bridal trail if you’re looking for something more challenging (pictured below).
If you would like to do a short loop, when entering from Cherry Hill Gate you can start by going up to the North Bridal trail and then connect down to the South Bridal trail which will lead you back to the Cherry Hill Gate parking lot.
I would recommend planning to spend at least 2 hours on this trail-system because the opportunities to view wildlife are incredible. You won’t want to feel rushed. We’ve spent a full-day on the trails before, with a nice picnic to break up the trip, and there were more than enough trails in the area to explore.
The Cherry Hill Gate trail is very family-friendly. There are benches and large rocks for snack breaks and children will love spotting the various birds and animals on their hike. I was surprised how much of the trail Elowyn was able to traverse on her own; the excitement kept her going. Looks like we successfully helped her foster a love of hiking from an early age. Last year, when she was hitting the trails with me, I was carrying her for all of our hikes. Now she’s walking (and sometimes running) by my side. My exuberant newest hiking buddy is in luck because hiking is a top priority for this family.
Check out my video to see the wildlife in action!
I hope I’ve inspired you to visit Cherry Hill Gate trail in the spring. Let me know what your favourite hiking spots are in the comments (=