Think Niagara Falls and you probably imagine the falls, casinos, wax museums, boat trips to the bottom of the cataracts, great restaurants.
Why not bouldering?
Have you never heard of the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, part of the massive gorge carved out of rock by thousands of years of water passing through?
Bouldering – rock climbing without ropes, basically – is great exercise for most people, but must be planned and carried out with a strict eye toward safety.
The Glen is a nature preserve home to all sorts of flora and fauna, and it also has rock walls that are perfect for climbing, as long as you do it right and safely.
It’s also the largest developed bouldering area in southern Ontario.
There is a mix of thin surfaces, sandstone and the quality varies greatly from boulder to boulder.
First, get a permit. They are available to buy at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre as well as the Butterfly Conservatory, on the Niagara Parkway. Be sure to bring photo ID.
Next, be prepared: Make sure you are familiar with the territory and plan for the unexpected, like extreme heat, rain or wind. Small groups are better than large ones, too.
There are so-called crash pads that boulderers wear on their backs, too, to cushion the blow if you fall from the rock.
Guided tours are available through the Niagara Parks Commission and remember, respect the environment. Take your trash and leftover materials home with you.
The parks commission does make some boulders specifically available for climbing, and has listed others as off limits. Check first.
In 2017, the Globe and Mail called the Glen “one of the province’s best-kept secrets: a hidden playground of large rock formations throughout the wooded trails … just above the rapid, cool water of the Niagara River.”
The Niagara Glen Nature Centre is on the Niagara Parkway, across from the Whirlpool Golf Course.