Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, one of seven Conservation Halton Parks in the Halton Region west of Toronto, can be visited year-round to explore the trails, enjoy outdoor activities and get your nature fix.
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Please note that Conservation Halton Parks are operating with reduced visitor capacity in June 2021. Trails are for use by members of the same household, individuals who live alone may visit with one other household. Visitors are asked to practice physical distancing and masks are encouraged. Washrooms are available. Visitor centres, programs and rentals are not available at this time. Please check the website for updated guidelines for visitors.
Visiting Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton, Ontario is one of the most beautiful places in Ontario to enjoy time spent in nature at any time of the year. The 261 hectare (644 acres) park opened to the public in 1962 to provide a recreational area and to preserve the unique cliff habitat on the Niagara Escarpment. Today the park is part of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Rattlesnake Point offers a great combination of forest hiking and scenic Escarpment views with 10 kilometres of cliff-edge and forest trails and multiple lookouts. The trails are suitable for hiking with kids and are pet-friendly although dogs must be on leash at all times.
The limestone cliffs of Rattlesnake Point are also one of the most popular natural areas for rock climbing in Ontario. The park has three designated sites for rock climbing where experienced climbers can scale the cliffs and enjoy the incredible views. Reservations are currently required for rock climbing at Rattlesnake Point.
There are geocaches hidden throughout the park which is a fun activity for adults and kids and in summer there are generally planned activities such as Yoga in the Park although it’s not yet clear what will be allowed to take place summer 2021.
Rattlesnake Point also has 17 camping sites available year-round, however, booking is not currently available due to restrictions. Each campsite comes with a firepit and a picnic table.
How Did Rattlesnake Point Get Its Name?
It’s not entirely clear how Rattlesnake Point got its name but there are two reasonable possibilities for the name’s origin. According to one story, sailors in the 1800s would come to this location to watch ships sail away from Hamilton Harbour and named it for the hundreds of Timber Rattlesnakes that they would see sunning themselves on the rocks.
It’s also possible that it was named for the snake-like paths that glaciers cut along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. You can rest assured, however, that you can enjoy a scenic hike at Rattlesnake Point today without any chance of seeing a rattlesnake as the Timber Rattlesnakes haven’t been seen since the 1950s!
How to Get to Rattlesnake Point
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area is located at 7200 Appleby Line south of Highway 401 in Milton, Ontario west of Toronto. The park is open 9:00 am – 8:00 pm May 22 – October 18, 2021. Park hours vary by season – check the Conservation Halton website for details.
Planning a Visit to Rattlesnake Point
Reservations are currently required for visiting Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area and visits are limited to a two hour window. Visits can be reserved online at the Conservation Halton website by choosing a day, time slot and paying the park admission fee. The reservation system also indicates whether the park is busy or not on the day that you plan to visit which is nice information to have. You will receive an e-ticket once you complete your reservation.
When you make your online reservation you will also provide your license plate number. When you arrive at the park, your car’s plate will be scanned to find your reservation and the gate will open. Bring a print-out of your e-ticket or have it available on your phone as well since the attendant will need to scan the barcode if there is any issue with your license plate.
Reservations are rain or shine, however, changes can be made up to 1 hour prior to your scheduled visit. Refunds can be issued up to 48 hours prior to your visit.
During our recent visit, we were able to complete the Buffalo Crag Trail and the Vista Adventure Trail during the 2 hour time frame. The Nassagaweya Canyon Trail to Crawford Lake is currently closed as it would take an estimated 4-5 hours to complete.
Tips for Hiking at Rattlesnake Point:
- When hiking at Rattlesnake Point or anywhere else, arrive suitably prepared for spending time outdoors.
- Be sure to wear appropriate footwear as the trails may have obstacles such as rocks and tree roots and will be affected by recent and current weather conditions.
- Bring water with you. If you’re hiking with kids then you will definitely want to bring along snacks as well even for a short hike.
- Stay on the trails at all times.
- Exercise caution (and supervise young children) near the cliffs and and never climb the lookout walls. The cliffs can be hazardous and and the rocks are slippery when wet.
- There are picnic tables available if you want to pack a lunch but you still need to be mindful of the current 2 hour time limit on visits.
Hiking Trails at Rattlesnake Point
There are three hiking trails of varying difficulties at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area and a section of the Bruce Trail, Ontario’s longest footpath, runs through the park as well.
On our recent visit we hiked both the Buffalo Crag Trail and the Vista Adventure Trail. The Nassagaweya Canyon Trail is currently closed due to the constraints of having limited time visits to the park.
The Buffalo Crag Trail
The Buffalo Crag Trail is 3 kilometres in length and has a trail rating of 2 which is a moderate trail. Moderate trails may have steep sections and tight turns with an uneven surface and they may be up to 5 kilometres in length with infrequent rest points.
This trail got its name because there was a herd of bison that could be seen from the trail’s lookout point, however, the bison were moved to Mountsberg Conservation Area in the late 1980s.
The highlight of the trail is the Buffalo Crag Lookout where visitors can enjoy the incredible views over the escarpment. I am looking forward to hiking this trail in the fall when the leaves have changed as I expect that it will be stunning.
Be sure to watch for the turkey vultures soaring over the canyon on updrafts of warm air if you are visiting during the spring and summer. The birds have only been found in the region for the past 70 years or so and migrate south to warmer regions in the winter.
The Vista Adventure Trail
The Vista Adventure Trail is a 1.5 kilometre loop trail that is rated as a difficulty of 1 meaning that it is generally flat and no longer than 2 km. The trail is shorter, however, we didn’t think that there was much difference in terrain between this trail and the Buffalo Crag Trail. Depending on the direction that you are walking, the trail goes from the upper to lower parking lots and there are several lookout spots for views over the canyon.
The Nassagaweya Canyon Trail
The Nassagaweya Canyon was created millions of years ago by rivers carving through the massive sedimentary rock. Today Limestone Creek winds along the bottom of the canyon and when the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail is open hikers are able to descend into the canyon as they travel between Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake.
This trail is not a loop and is 4.7 kilometres in each direction so a round trip of 9.4 km which takes an estimated 4-5 hours to complete. The trail is currently closed due to the current two hour time limit for visits. The trail has a 3 rating which is the most strenuous as it is longer than 5 km and may be uneven with steep sections and narrow places with tight turns.
Halton Conservation Parks
There are seven Conservation Halton Parks: Rattlesnake Point, Hilton Falls, Mount Nemo, Crawford Lake, Robert Edmondson, Mountsberg, and Kelso (including Glen Eden in winter). Reservations are currently required at all of the parks with the exception of Robert Edmondson.
Although I have lived in the region for more than 20 years, I hadn’t visited any of the parks until this past fall. One of my goals during the time that we are limited in our travels is to explore more close to home and take advantage of all the beautiful places in our region including our conservation areas.
Last fall I visited three of the parks (Hilton Falls, Robert Edmondson and Crawford Lake) and this spring we have visited Kelso, Mountsberg, Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo as well as a repeat visit to Crawford Lake. Sunday hiking has become our favourite activity so we’ll continue to explore the parks to get that nature fix that we all need.
The current fee (reduced because of partial reopening) for a two hour day visit to the parks is $6.50 per adult with reduced fees for seniors (65+) and children (ages 5-14). Admission is free for children 4 and under.
There is a Conservation Halton Park Membership available for purchase which includes admission to all 7 of the parks 364 days of the year. Members do still have to make a reservation for their visits at this time and are still limited to a two hour time slot. The cost of a membership is currently $62 for an individual and $135.50 for a family (prices include HST). We decided to purchase the family membership this spring and have already used it five times in just a few weeks so it is definitely economical if you plan frequent visits.
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