As I sat on the rocky shores, I stared at the turquoise waters as they swirled and sloshed like a spin cycle set in slow motion. Nature’s hand carved a serene, rhythmic masterpiece through the river. Underneath, it’s fury raged with currents and forces that could kill a man in minutes.
I was paralyzed by curiosity and awe.
I had come here at the end of my day just to see this place. I lingered here longer than I planned and left wishing I only had more time.
Just down the road, thousands of people spent the day gazing at Niagara Falls, getting soaked by the mist that glistened in the sun. Yet here was a Niagara Falls secret known by the locals, hidden in plain view.
As I remember the feelings and experiences from my time here, I struggle to type the name of this place. I don’t want to give away the secret known only to locals.
However, it’s too beautiful to keep to myself.
Whirlpool – a secret of Niagara Falls hiking destination
Early morning views of Niagara Falls and a few hours of golf meant I had a couple of hours to go hiking.
Sore feet and slightly sunburned skin weren’t ideal companions for some Niagara Falls hiking. A hundred stairs and some ankle soaking mud made me wonder if this was worth it.
I passed by a local fisherman and asked him how far it was to the bottom. “15 minutes” he panted, out of breath from his climb up the stairs.
On my way down, I left Niagara and returned to the land of ewoks. The trail became a dense lush forest of green harkening me back to my Mt Tamalpais hike in the hills above San Francisco. No one would expect scenery like this in Niagara Falls.
My feet slipped and slid over mud and dirt. Leaves fell like rain from the sky as branches crackled. I was caught between rocks and hard places as I struggled to watch my footing below and take in the scenery above.
As I got closer to the end of this short trail, the sound of water came closer and closer. I struggled to catch a glimpse through the trees as I hurried along the trail.
As the trees opened up, the sight of Whirlpool made me stop and stare as I made audible sounds of exclamation and awe. I set my bag down on a concrete lookout and made my way down to the shore.
For nearly thirty minutes, I watched a fisherman wade his boots into the water. He cast his line over and over with a graceful rhythm that even the fish could appreciate.
Just beyond Whirlpool’s bay of concentric chaos, I could see Class 6 rapids crashing as they flowed just downstream from Niagara Falls.
Over head, the Niagara Falls Whirlpool Aero Car (aka gondola) glided slowly from one side of Whirlpool to the other. A few minutes later a Whirlpool jet boat slammed into the waters, twisting and contorting to soak every passenger from head to toe.
Watching from the shores, I knew I wasn’t the only one who knew about Whirlpool. People could see it from above or get splashed by its waters from within. After a few minutes, they were gone. I was still here and everything was quiet and beautiful.
The waters of Whirlpool invited me to stay a little longer.
I snapped photos and stood at the edge of the waters watching and waiting until my body and soul let me know they were ready to leave.
After a long silent chat with nature, I returned to the concrete overlook to gather my things. Enjoying the views was Jim, a local who grew up in the area around Niagara Falls. I sat down beside Jim.
As we talked, Jim told me that most tourists didn’t know about this place. It was a favorite among locals but the trail isn’t really well marked. We talked about life, his family, faith, and a passion for travel. He pointed out the trails, talked about the area, and shared his love for this place that went back to his childhood days.
For nearly twenty minutes Jim and I talked, joined only by a couple sitting near the water. On a hot spring day in early June, the four of us came here from different places yet I felt connected to these people I didn’t even know.
As we talked, tourists glided by overhead and zoomed in and out on Whirlpool boats. This place was full of life yet there weren’t many people who were here long enough to truly experience it.
I said my goodbyes to Jim and began the muddy ascent through the Ewok forest. A muddy hike turned into a quad burning workout as I climbed the last few steps before reaching the top.
The Niagara Falls hiking trail of the locals
Back on the path, people walked and rode bikes, played golf at Whirlpool Golf Course, and sat at the picnic tables. How many of them knew what lies at the bottom of this trail?
On the bus to Toronto, a tired, sunburned grin appeared as my eyes rested and reflected on my day.
I discovered the hidden secret of Niagara Falls with miles of trails along the river and rapids. Memories of Whirlpool swirled in my head as I smiled knowing I had a Niagara Falls secret I couldn’t wait to share.
Interesting facts about Whirlpool
1. From the Falls, water is pushed into a narrow gorge creating the Whirlpool rapids – class 6 rapids that are a mile long with speeds up to 20 mph.
2. The whirlpool is a basin created by the right turn in the Niagara river. It is 1700 feet long, 1200 feet wide, and 125 feet deep.
3. The flow of the water from the rapids rotates in a counter clockwise motion when it enters the basin. Pressure builds when the water tries to exit and is forced under the incoming water flow creating a vortex.
4. When water flow is low, the whirlpool waters rotate in a clockwise rotation (as seen in the video below) and exit the outlet down to more rapids below.
Read more interesting facts about Niagara Falls.
Directions to the Whirlpool hiking trail
1. The Whirlpool hiking trail is on the Niagara River Recreation Trail located along the Niagara Parkway.
2. From Niagara Falls (Canadian side), drive down the Niagara Parkway towards the Whirlpool golf course. The Niagara River Recreation Trail runs parallel to the road.
3. Approximately two miles from Niagara Falls, the Whirlpool hiking trail is across the street from the Whirlpool golf course (hole #2). A number of picnic tables are located just a few steps from the trail entrance.
4. The trail is marked by a metal gate, a warning sign about the trail, and a set of steps leading down the trail.
5. A number of parking lots are located beside the picnic tables making it an easy walk to the trail.
6. Please note that heavy rains may cause the trail to be muddy and slippery. Wear appropriate hiking shoes and be careful on the trail.
Check out this video I took of Whirlpool where the waters are dangerous yet calm. To see how dangerous Whirlpool can be, check out this Whirlpool rescue video where a woman fell into the waters while hiking.
Have you been to Niagara Falls? What’s the most surprising place you discovered while traveling?
Thanks to Holly Goertzen of Niagara Parks for letting me in on this Niagara Falls secret. A few minutes at the Falls, a round of golf, and this Niagara Falls hiking trip provided by Holly and Niagara Parks. The unforgettable experience and descriptions of this account were all mine. There’s so much more to Niagara than just the Falls!