Sydenham Hiking Guides

Secrets of Sydenham

30 Hikes and explorations for Secret Codes

Hikers often pass right through land that has been secured and protected by the Bruce Trail Conservancy without knowing they are on a protected reserve. Ron Savage has written a new book describing why you should add these unique reserves to your bucket list of trails to explore. The manuscript includes maps and trail descriptions.

To add “treasure hunt fun” to your hiking exploration is a quest to find a secret code number hidden along the trail on each of the properties. At the end of each chapter are clues on how to find the codes. Both young and old will enjoy reading this captivating book and exploring Bruce Trail Conservancy’s nature reserves in Sydenham.

You can find Secrets of Sydenham at these bookstores:

  • Owen Sound: Ginger Press, Coles Book Store, Grey Roots Museum

  • Meaford: Stuff to Read

  • Williamsford: Williamsford Mill

  • Rockford: Rockford Restaurant

  • Southampton: Thorncrest Outfitters

To earn your badge please check our Badges page.

Note: Trail re-route on #14 Rock Springs Nature Reserve: The KOA campground is closed seasonally, and hikers are not allowed to enter the property during this time (cannot complete the long loop). Continue to use Sideroad 15 to access the Rock Springs Nature Reserve year-round. You'll find both "secrets" on the Nature Reserve property.

Sydenham End to End

Tales about the Sydenham section of the Bruce Trail

Woven into the fabric of the trails through the Sydenham section is a hidden collage of geology, history, tales of interesting landowners and personal stories. Ron Savage, a dedicated Sydenham Trail Director, has brought these stories to life in his second book. His knowledge of the Sydenham section of the Bruce Trail is extensive. His writing displays a deep love for the Niagara Escarpment and its protection. His stories about the Bruce Trail are full of humor, always intriguing, and quickly captivate a reader’s interest.

All of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the BTC for further land acquisition along the Niagara Escarpment.

Available for purchase through the Bruce Trail Conservancy Website and local book stores in the Owen Sound area.

Looping Through Sydenham

25 Short Walks and Hikes

In celebration of our 50th Anniversary in 2012, the Sydenham Club has released the 2nd edition of its highly regarded loop and short hike guide. Now updated and expanded to include 25 enjoyable walks with maps, notes and narratives. A handy, pocket sized reference available through the club.

Each hike description includes key details such as the trail length, the estimated time of completion, the degree of difficulty, access routes, and parking. And beyond that, it explores the human and natural history of the area, such as nineteenth century grist mills, and the flora, fauna, ferns, and fossils found along the way.

All proceeds from the book will support the Bruce Trail Conservancy in its mission to secure in perpetuity a conservation corridor and public footpath along the Niagara Escarpment.

There are limited copies of the book still available as it is now out of print, but you may be able to find a copy in bookstores in the Owen Sound area.

Earn the new “Looping Sydenham 25 Challenge” badge, by completing all 25 24 hikes in this book. (hike #8, Laycock Caves loop is no longer open)

Ross Mclean's Top Ten in Sydenham

What follows is a subjective list but it includes the best hikes in Sydenham to which Ross McLean would recommend to take visitors to showcase the natural beauty of the area.

For further details about each, consult the Bruce Trail Reference Map & Trail Guide.


  1. Walter’s Falls: The 4.5 km loop provides an interesting blend of the scenic and the historic. The second half of the 19th century saw the area develop into a thriving community, built around the water power of Walter Creek. At the start, take in the view of the Falls and valley from the observation platform, and then after completing the loop, quench your thirst at the Inn. Other resources: Walter's Falls Loop Map | Coordinates 44.488844,-80.710927 | Walter's Creek Management Area 44.497669,-80.722865.

  2. Bognor Marsh: The Bognor Marsh is an amazingly diverse area. One moment you will be standing on the brow of the Niagara Escarpment and soon afterwards you will be searching the quiet waters of the marsh for aquatic creatures. The 5.1 km Bognor Marsh Loop is a good introduction, but for those with time, there are 11.9 km of trails. Other resources: Bognor Marsh Management Area website| Coordinates 44.53833,-80.7819 | Google Maps

  3. Woodford Trails: To the east of the hamlet of Woodford , the loop trail features a number of fascinating geological treasures: a giant pothole converted by a 19th century pioneer into a lime kiln; and a “disappearing stream” that for all except two weeks during spring runoff vanishes into the fractured dolostone bedrock. Further on the Trail explores crevices formed when the blocks of dolostone loosened from the main face of the Escarpment.

  4. Bayview Escarpment Nature Reserve: This reserve is located on an extensive dolostone-capped Escarpment promontory with almost eight kilometres of environmentally sensitive slopes and cliffs. Close to the edge of the Escarpment are deep moss-filled crevices and dramatic outlier rock formations. In the reserve, hikers will find colonies of ferns, including rare varieties such as Hart’s Tongue and Walking Fern. Other resources: Coordinates 44.636842,-80.710816 | A Guide to the Ferns of Grey & Bruce Counties

  5. The Palisades Loop: The Palisades is a rugged corridor that was purchased by the Bruce Trail Conservancy in 2008. It contains about 1000 m of spectacular talus slope with the magnificent beauty of the cliffs towering above. The name comes from the 19th century when the Sydenham Valley was clear-cut of trees. The cliffs seemed like a protective wall to the early settlers who called it “The Palisades.” To reach the summit of the Escarpment, take the blue-blazed lookout trail, called Raven’s Nest, and also explore the nearby “Devil’s Playhouse” hidden behind rock walls. Other resource: Paslisades Side Trail Map.

  6. The Sydenham River Valley: Hikes in this area range from short walks at Inglis Falls Conservation Area to a lengthy loop hike north to the Centennial Tower (44.557826,-80.925852 ) and back along the Rail Trail to the east. At Inglis Falls, the 18 metre high cascade is spectacular. Here in the 19th century was a four-storey mill that served the pioneers from Lion’s Head to Dundalk. Short trails near the Falls reveal the natural wonders of the area; for example, explore the Pothole Trail or the Fern Trail. A side trail to Harrison Park leads to beautiful old landscapes and walking paths. The Centennial Tower to the north is built on the ruins of a lime kiln and quarry that date back to 1887.

  7. The Glen: Opened in 2012, the Ron Savage Side Trail reveals the diversity of this natural area. Over one hundred years ago it saw intense logging activity. Then much of the land was cleared for pastures and fields. Today The Glen is comprised of conservation lands. Unexpected discoveries include “Savage Wells”, a series of small (seemingly innocent) puddles of water. They are about 5 metres deep, and are probably the legacy of an underground stream and cavern system. Upon leaving the valley floor and climbing the Escarpment, notice the fossils, including thousands of brachiopods. Other resources: Google Maps Street View of entrance | coordinates of entrance 44.642208,-81.000396.

  8. The Ross McLean Loop: The Sydenham Bruce Trail Director has referred to this loop as a “jewel” among the many trails established by the club in recent years. The most intriguing part of the loop is the incredible crevice-cave network found less than ten minutes from the parking area along the white-blazed trail. The blue-blazed side trail drops below the scarp edge to Bass Lake, a finger lake carved by glaciation more than 10,000 years ago. The trail then follows the shoreline to the northeast above a marshland where both birdlife and wildflower sightings will tempt the naturalist. Other resource: Ross McLean Side Trail Map.

  9. Kemble Mountain: This promontory is a headland carved out by glaciers and then shaped when the waters of Georgian Bay were much higher. It is a naturalist’s paradise, offering a variety of ecosystems. More than twenty species of ferns can be found here, and in the spring, ephemerals bring colour to the forest floor. The Nels Maher and Edmunstone loops provide a good introductory hike of less than 3 km. Other options present longer loops from 4 to over 12 km. Other resources: Kemble Mountain Loop Map | Google Maps.

  10. Overlooking Colpoy’s Bay: As described elsewhere on this website, this hike is often considered “the gem” of the Sydenham Section trails, because of the “many spectacular lookouts over Colpoy’s Bay and the many great spots for a picnic lunch.” In the 1990’s, an American travel magazine called the area one of “the world’s nineteen greatest hikes”, and it was the only Canadian hike listed. If time allows, also include a hike to Bruce’s Caves. These spectacular wave-cut caves represents shoreline erosion by the high waters immediately after glacial melting about 11,000 years ago. It is a classic example of the power of erosion in shaping the Niagara Escarpment, and it is well worth a visit. Other resources: Bruce's Caves Conservation Area Website | Google Maps