Cheltenham Badlands

Happy Monday, all – I hope everyone is having a great start to the week! I had a particularly fun weekend: I enjoyed a nice brunch out with Tania and my parents, celebrated my best friend’s birthday at an escape room (my first time doing one – it was so much fun!) and ran my first 5K at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Running a 5K was a goal I set for myself this year, and I’m happy to announce that I beat my 30-minute goal by 37 seconds, coming in at 29 minutes and 23 seconds! I know that’s not a particularly impressive time, but I’m not a serious runner so I consider it good enough for me! I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic leading up to the event, as I’d gotten a foot injury a month ago and hadn’t been training whatsoever since then, so I was thrilled to see that I surpassed my goal, even if just by a hair! Even better was the fact that I did the 5K with my dad, who is a pretty amazing guy. He is 72 and had quadruple bypass surgery just two years ago, but when I told him I’d signed up for the 5K, he was eager to join me. Unfortunately he got a back injury a couple of weeks ago (injuring ourselves must be a genetic trait!) so he wasn’t able to run the course as originally planned, but he still showed up and walked the entire course like a champ. I’m so proud of him and so happy that we got to have this experience together! (He is also a dedicated reader of this blog and I know he’ll be seeing this so… hi, Dad! I love you!)

Last week, I shared some throwback photos of one of my favourite fall destinations: Kelso Conservation Area. Today I thought I’d do something similar, and share some photos of an incredible fall hike we did last year in the Cheltenham Badlands. As my blog continues, I may be doing this more frequently – sharing content from older adventures – because I’ve been to so many fun places over the years and I want to share them all here! I only wish I’d started my blog earlier, but better late than never. I’ll always tell you when I’m posting about an older trip, so that you won’t be surprised if you visit a place after seeing it on my blog and things look a little different, though it’ll be obvious that the following photos are older because I’m a brunette in them!

We visited the Cheltenham Badlands last October, and even then, it had been on my Ontario adventures bucket list for a while! Located in Caledon, the Cheltenham Badlands is managed by Credit Valley Conservation, who describes it as “one of the most recognizable and visited natural heritage landmarks in southern Ontario.” The badlands were first formed over 450 million years ago and are well-known for their sloping gullies and hills comprised of red Queenston shale. The beautiful red colour of the shale combined with the distinct geographic topography of the hills make this one of the most unique and interesting natural wonders in the province! For anyone interested in reading more about the badlands’ formation and geography, this Wikipedia page is very informative.

The Cheltenham Badlands is particularly popular in the autumn, and if you visit, you’ll see why. The backdrop of fiery red, yellow and orange trees behind the dusty red hills paints a stunning picture that’s truly a sight to behold! Because the badlands are so popular, especially this time of year, you’ll want to book a reservation in advance in order to secure your parking spot. The cost is $10 per vehicle Monday through Thursday, and $20 per vehicle on Fridays, weekends and holidays. We visited on a Saturday last October – if visiting on a weekend, you may want to arrive earlier in the morning to avoid crowds. We started on the Boardwalk Trail, which takes you to the viewing platform over the badlands. This trail is very short – only .06 km – so not to worry; even if you’re not a hiker or don’t want to trek a long distance, you can still enjoy the beauty of the badlands!

Once we arrived at the viewing platform, we were completely in awe, and spent a few minutes just taking in the scene around us. People frequently compare the Cheltenham Badlands to the planet of Mars, and I don’t blame them – not only are they visually similar, but it truly feels like an otherworldly experience! The closest thing I’ve ever experienced in person were the famous red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, but I’d certainly never seen anything like this so close to home.

After marveling at the scenery – and taking lots of photos – we hiked the Badlands Trail, which takes you on a boardwalk through a slow-growing forest before connecting with the Bruce Trail. The trails were flat and easy-walking, and we loved soaking up all the gorgeous fall colours around us. It also happened to be a beautifully sunny and warm day, which was a bonus!

It would be irresponsible of me to write a post about the Cheltenham Badlands without mentioning the importance of being a respectful visitor and following the park rules. Of course, this is important wherever you go, but it’s especially important here because of the badlands’ vulnerable geography and their unfortunate history of disrespectful visitors. In 2015, the Ontario Heritage Trust found that excessive foot traffic (i.e. people walking directly on the formations) had significantly damaged the area, and could have been responsible for up to 10% of its erosion. The badlands reopened to visitors in 2018, now with newly installed fencing and ‘no trespassing’ signs in place. On the day we visited, all the visitors were being respectful and staying on the viewing platform, but occasionally I’ll be scrolling Instagram and come across recent posts of people who have hopped the fence and trespassed onto the badlands, all for a photo, and it makes me so mad. Trust me, as a self-confessed Instagram addict, I understand wanting to get a great photo…but there is no excuse for destroying nature in pursuit of a selfie! The platform provides a great view of the area, and you can take perfectly beautiful photos while staying on the designated trail. It’s up to all of us to be responsible tourists and take good care of the badlands, so that this unique and stunning geographical formation can be enjoyed by visitors well into the future.

The Cheltenham Badlands will close for the season on November 6, so I highly recommend making a reservation to visit while you can!

What’s your favourite natural wonder in Ontario? Let me know in the comments or send me an email – I would love to hear your thoughts!

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