The Crawford Lake Conservation Area is a gorgeous destination for a leisurely walk - or a heftier hike. Here's everything you need to know!
Knowing that we had to really prioritize which few parks / areas we’d visit before it gets too hot for me, we decided to go for a longer walk today.
After seriously considering a trip to Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, we decided that we’d head to the Crawford Lake area today.
The park is part of the stunning Niagara Escarpment, an area of historical and scientific interest, and known for its rare lake, boardwalks, AND sculptures.
It hit a few points of interest on our “things to see” map, so decided it was only efficient to make it our destination of the day!
I booked our reservation on the Conservation Halton Parks site, and off we went!
About The Park
Crawford Lake Conservation Area is 468 hectare park just north of Burlington. As a part of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve, it’s considered an environmentally sensitive area.
It is ripe with natural attractions, outdoor activities, and learning opportunities.
Sections of the trails feature amazing wood carvings of local species of wildlife, including the Jefferson Salamander, the Hooded Warbler, Butterflies, Snakes, and more.
A large section of the park serves as a reconstruction of the history of the area, including seasonal exhibits, an education program, and events.
In the winter, some of its trails are used as cross country ski trails, and it’s a destination for snowshoe hikes.
Apparently they even rent our snow shoes, and have a regular moonlight snowshoe hike throughout the winter months!
I should really try cross-country skiing again sometime. We went on a cross country skiing trip in Jr High and I LOVED it - apparently figure skating was a big help to picking THAT up!
The Hiking Trails
Crawford Lake Trail - 1.4 km
Woodland Trail - 1.5 km
Escarpment Trail - 2.4 km
Pine Ridge Trail - 3.6 km
Nassagaweya Canyon Trail - 4.7 km
Aside from the Nassagawega trail, these are all loop trails.
The Pine Ridge trail is a loop off another loop (Woodland Trail).
The Nassagaweya trail links Crawford Lake with Rattlesnake Point - it’s part of the Bruce Trail.
It would make a great day hike, when I’m a bit more recovered from Fluoroquinolone Toxicity, and the TWO YEARS of disability it left me with.
We’re also looking forward to checking out the Escarpment Trail when the weather cools down. THAT one is known for turkey vultures flying overhead, and scenic views over the canyon.
This trail starts at an open area overlooking the lake, with rocks arranged in what looks to be a seating arrangement. Not sure if this was decorative, or if they give presentations here?
It went the whole way around the lake, offering several scenic views of it along the way.
We were enthralled with the boardwalk system - I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a long and extensive boardwalk!
There were several viewing platforms and little outlets along the way, just beautiful!
I enjoyed seeing the weird ways that some of the trees grew - some twisting in bizarre contortions, others just growing over / around boulders:
The Woodland Trail was a really nice, easy loop that was right next to the first trail we walked. This one went through the forest, ending with even more sculptures as we approached the end of the trail.
... I suppose it could also “start off with” those sculptures, depending on where you’re hitting the trail!
Anyway, there was a fair amount of evidence of the storm from the other day. (Was it yesterday? What is time anymore? I have no idea!)
Several large trees had either been knocked right over or split from their base. On the main trail, we had to walk around or over 2 large trees, and we could see another on one of the side trails - I’m assuming it was the Pine Ridge Trail.
While you wouldn’t necessarily notice anything different by looking at it, the lake at the heart of this conservation area is a rare meromictic lake.
As a lake that is deeper than its surface area, it has layers of water that don’t mix - one of the unique qualities of a meromictic lake.
The deep waters of this lake mean that very little oxygen reaches the lowest levels of the lake bed, allowing for unusually well preserved sediment of the lake.
It’s a prime site for geochemical studies, as a result.
Geochemical analysis of sediment cores - and pollen analysis - contributed to a lot of the current knowledge of the natural history of the area.
Fun fact: The ancient corn pollen turned up by those helped piece together the history of the Iroquoian people that lived and farmed the area, hundreds of years ago!
As we approached the main parking lot, we noticed the 15th century reconstructed Iroquoian Village and heritage site off to the side.
I wasn’t sure how long my feet were going to hold up, but we definitely planned to take a tour of the longhouses if I was still able to walk by the end of our hike.
Happily, I was still mobile, and we were able to stroll among the rustic longhouses. It was a crisp, cool day, and the smell of smell of smoke coming from the fire pit really set a mood, you know?
This Iroquoian longhouse village was dedicated to sharing the local history of the first peoples, and there were signs about the educational programs and events they offered.
At least a few of the historic longhouses were open and had displays about local first nations history. We poked our heads in to the Deer Clan longhouse to get a quick peek, but decided to hold off until the pandemic is over.
By this point, my right foot was pretty much giving up, anyway!
Very cool area, though!
Plan Your Visit
Crawford Lake Conservation Area is located at 3115 Conservation Road, Milton, ON L9T 2X3, just off Guelph Line South.
It’s open year round. According to Google, it’s open 9am-7pm each day, but the reservations system seems to go from 8:55 am to 9pm.
As for the longhouses, they’re open daily in the summer June 1-Labour Day), and on weekends/holidays for the rest of the year. The hours for that part of the park are 10 am - 4pm.
Permits / Tickets / Booking Ahead
Reservations are required for this park, and can be booked online - in 3 hour blocks - on the Conservation Halton Parks Reservations site.
Park admission fees are charged per-person:
Children (5-14): $6.50
Children (under 5
... plus HST, of course.): Free
There are multiple parking lots in the park, we parked pretty close to the visitor centre.
The cost was included in our reservation - you provide your driver’s license as part of the reservation, and it’s scanned as you drive in.
There were indoor washrooms in the visitor building, and signs for washrooms on the other side of the parking lot, to the right of the Iroquois village.
The indoor washrooms were down a set of stairs from the main entrance, but were also “ground level” from the back of the building.
You have to take steps to get down there, either way.
We didn’t see any other washroom facilities on the trails, and are no other washrooms, according to the map.
This isn’t the most accessible park we’ve seen, I’m sorry to say.
It should be relatively easy to do if you’re on a boot or using a cane / crutches, but I don’t think it’s really wheelchair accessible at all.
The two trails we were on were labeled as being stroller accessible, but would have involved lifting the stroller at several points... and that’s before the trees fell across the paths.
There are a few spots with benches along the boardwalk path.
- There is a gift shop in the visitor center.
- There are picnic tables on site, see the Halton Conservation site for the long list of Picnic Rules.