Many Burlington residents don’t realize that there’s a mountain in their own backyard. But the families who live in the newly developed Alton Village community can’t miss it poised majestically above their homes. And those who live atop this rocky ridge never tire of their expansive view that extends all the way to Toronto.
Over 450 million years ago, a shallow tropical sea covered a vast area of Ontario and beyond. Along the shore stood what we now know as Mount Nemo.
Today, the Mount Nemo Conservation Area provides five kilometers of hiking trails that lead to fantastic vantage points looking over Burlington and all of Halton region from the edge of the escarpment.
Usually, access to Mount Nemo requires an entrance fee which is used to help fund the operation and maintenance of the park. Once a year on “Mount Nemo Day,” however, admission is waved as the community gathers to celebrate the rural beauty at our doorstep.
We attended the third annual Mount Nemo Day organized by a group named Nemo 7G. This committee was created to gather community input and form a 7-generation vision for the Mount Nemo plateau. Another of the group’s objectives is to educate the community, businesses and governments about this “unique, ecologically sensitive and prominent geological feature.” Hosting Mount Nemo Day is one way to do this.
On the way into the park, Nemo 7G and some like-minded community partners had set up informational displays related to the Niagara Escarpment.
We stopped at the trailhead for an introduction to what makes the park unique: soaring turkey vultures, limestone cliffs and ancient cedars.
As we got underway, we found ourselves among many other families enjoying a sunny day on the trails. One group of hikers ahead of us turned off on the Bruce Trail. We decided to stick to Mount Nemo’s two looping trails and continued down the old quarry road to where the trails diverged.
We picked up some suitable hiking sticks and stopped to talk with a nature photographer who alerted us to watch for bats flying about. The mention of bats got our six year old junior scientist, very excited!
As we arrived at the Brock Harris Lookout, the sweeping view from atop the escarpment was revealed. We could see Milton, Brampton, Oakville, Burlington and all the way to Toronto where we picked out the CN Tower in the distance. Thankfully signage helped to confirm what we were looking at and offered up facts and figures that I read aloud. It was at this point I wished I had remembered my binoculars!
Now it was time to decide… do we take the orange North Loop Trail or the yellow South Loop Trail? We agreed on the slightly longer south trail as we hoped it would give us more expansive views of Burlington — we wanted to spot our neighbourhood!
With Baby Burlington happily looking on from his carrier, we set off following the yellow trail markers.
The Mount Nemo website captures perfectly the sights we encountered along the way:
Rich green ferns blanket limestone boulders scattered among old growth forests that are alive with jewel like birds. Crevice caves and ancient cedars, a thousand years old, can be seen all along the meandering cliff edge trail.
Just a few minutes down the path we caught sight of a large Turkey Vulture soaring near the cliff’s edge (just as pictured on our complimentary Mount Nemo map!). And after a few more minutes, we stumbled on a group of chipmunks scrambling back and forth across the trail under rocks and branches.
We came across a massive boulder just off the trail and, figuring we were near the halfway point, decided that it would be the perfect place to stop for a break.
At this point, it seemed we had the forest to ourselves so we rested, enjoying the tranquility of nature. That is, of course, until the boys broke the silence when they started playing King of the Forest.
As we headed back on the path again, we came to the point that the South Trail starts to loop back to the old quarry road returning to the entrance. It was here that we had the best views over Burlington.
We spotted a massive Canadian flag flying off in the distance and realized that was the Walmart flag at the corner of Appleby Line and Dundas near our home in the Orchard neighbourhood. We had fun picking out other Burlington landmarks before continuing on.
The return on the south loop is through an open meadow with fewer sights so we entertained ourselves by playing charades with our hiking sticks. I’m rowing! I’m skiing! I’m kayaking! I’m a moose! I’m an ox! I’m a hobo! Between the six of us we used our hiking sticks as props for about 20 different clues all the while Baby Burlington just kept on smiling in his carrier.
As we headed back to the car, family after family streamed by us while others sat at nearby picnic benches having a bite before starting their hike. We’ll be back again to hike the North Loop Trail in the other direction along the escarpment rim.
To learn more about Mount Nemo, visit Conservation Halton’s website: conservationhalton.ca.