The Upper Canada Heritage Trail is fairly well known locally, if for no other reason the easily visible sign at the corner of York Road and Concession 2. Yet this trail is in fact a side trail from the mighty Bruce, and its southern terminus sits at a nondescript junction in the forest of the Niagara Escarpment. If you’re hiking from Queenston through to Tobermory (or, let’s say more realistically, Fireman’s Park in the north end of Niagara Falls), you’ll find the Upper Canada’s starting point on the Escarpment after you descent the steep hill from the Queenston Quarry area, just as you’re turning towards St. Davids.
The Upper Canada follows York Road from this point, climbing down near a built up rock retaining wall and crossing to the familiar sign point. Here other signage pays tribute to the Upper Canada Equestrian Association, who maintain the trail. Fittingly there’s a tie-off for horses here as well.
As you follow the trail it heads north, following a ridge between Concession 2 and Concession 1, then stretching parallel to the latter. This is an old railroad bed. It was operated from the late 1800s through the early 1900s by the Michigan Central Railway, New York Central Railroad, and later the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The land was transfered to the Niagara Region in 1973, with the present day trail established in 1984.
This 14 kilometer span will bring you past orchards, vineyards and other farms. Along the route it passes Frogpond Farm, Niagara’s first organic winery (their `02 Cab Merlot was a favourite of ours, or was that the `05?). You’ll also pass Marynissen Estates, a family run vineyard where grapes have been grown since the 1950s.
As you enter Niagara-on-the-Lake the trail crosses East West Line and Charlotte Street, ending at John Street. From this point you can pick up any number of trails, from the Waterfront Trail to the Greater Niagara Circle Route. If you’re trying to get back to the Bruce a southward turn down the Parkway will bring you to the General Brock side trail and eventually the Southern Terminus of the Bruce back on the Heights.