Hendrie Valley

When traveling with kids it’s often hard to find nature destinations that appeal to all members of the family. Luckily for us, out two young children A. and C. love exploring nature sanctuaries and trails as much as we do. They might not have quite the same stamina or interest in plants but birds, mammals, and frogs definitely capture their attention.

Hendrie Valley Boardwalk
The boardwalk over Grindstone Creek is perfect for children and families.

We stopped in Toronto, Ontario, for a couple of days to visit my brother and his family and to break up the long haul from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia. Hendrie Valley was my idea as an afternoon “nature break”—I figured the long boardwalks over the marsh would be great for the kids (easy walking) and provide good open sight lines for spotting animals and birds.

We didn’t get too far but both families had a great time. Hendrie Valley has a bit of Reifel Bird Sanctuary feel, but in any urban nature park you tend to get people feeding birds. Most people seemed to be using bird seed rather than chips and Cheesies which was reassuring. As a result, we were able to get some good looks at black-capped chickadees and a white-breasted nuthatch, as well as several other “feeder” birds.

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
A friendly White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) perches on the edge of the boardwalk railing, looking for a handout.

The cool thing at Hendrie Valley is the elevated boardwalk over the Grindstone Creek. Not only do you get a spectacular view out over the marsh and creek, you’re also somewhat removed from the animals that call the creek valley home. The muskrats were awesome and seemed unconcerned about people watching from above. As a place to see wild animals in natural habitat, Hendrie Valley is excellent.

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) were common and very approachable. Probably not a great idea to feed them, though people obviously do.

Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) were very common and a good motivator to keep the kids moving. By the time we returned to the Cherry Hill parking area our tally was somewhere between fifty and seventy chipmunks… some double counting probably occurred!

Grindstone Creek
Grindstone Creek and surrounding wetlands make for good birding and wildlife watching for all ages.

If you’re looking for a family friendly nature break, Hendrie Valley is an excellent choice. There are plenty of birds and animals to see and, if you have the time (and children who are old enough to wait), it looks to be good for botanizing as well. Jocie and I both commented that, with the heat and humidity, the deciduous forest felt like a jungle, complete with thick climbing vines. While we were only able to explore a small part of the nature sanctuary, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Getting There:

Hendrie Valley is one of three nature sanctuaries that are associated with the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. The parking area at Cherry Hill gives you quick access to the boardwalk and trails.