Brief History of the Heritage Trail

The Upper Canada Heritage Trail was established in 1854 as part of the Erie & Ontario Railway linking Niagara-on-the-Lake, the First Capital of Upper Canada, with Niagara Falls and the Great Western Railway.  It was the first steam powered railway in Upper Canada. It was responsible for breathing life into the Town of Niagara following the years after the War of 1812 by attracting tourism and commerce.

Rail operations ceased in the mid-1950s, with the corridor being formally abandoned in 1969. For 50 years, the trail has been used by cyclists, equestrians, runners, walkers, cross-country skiers, and others. Many organizations enjoy the trail including: Upper Canada Equestrian Association (UCEA), Queenston Residents Association, St. Davids Ratepayers Association and the Niagara Bruce Trail Club.

The Heritage Trail corridor provides a continuous connection from the southern terminus of the Niagara Escarpment
with the federally-owned Niagara Commons. The UCEA became the major environmental steward in 1982,
organizing annual rides and clean-ups.  Other educational and environmental stewardship activities have included a
major tree-planting activity by the Boy Scouts of Canada.

A new sign erected near the entrance sign at John & King Streets tracks donations to the Heritage Trail!
See below on how you can become a Trail Blazer.

Improvements Needed for the Heritage Trail

The Heritage Trail is the only unimproved multi-use trail in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Official Plan.
It dissects the epicentre of the Wine Route in NOTL, a key destination for cycling, eco-tourism and agri-tourism.
As the automobile was responsible for the decline of the railway, it seems fitting that a shift from the automobile to a renewed priority on active transportation has the potential to breathe new life back into the Heritage Trail.

The 66-foot-wide corridor is visibly broken and even unknown to many residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Utilization of the trail has been compromised in the last few years by erosion and washout between Line 9 and York Road, and in other sections.  The overall integrity of the corridor is eroding due to an inability for people to use it.  Vegetation and grass are growing where people used to walk, run, cycle and ride horses.  The trail is losing its “visibility” in both a physical sense and in the overall consciousness of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The NOTL Canada Sesquicentennial Committee, created in 2017 to support and execute events to commemorate Canada’s 150 years of Confederation, chose the rehabilitation of the Heritage Trail as its Legacy project, to connect communities and to preserve a piece of Canadian history for new generations. 

A committee of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, The Heritage Trail, was initiated in 2019 and will be directed by a group of volunteers from the community.

Heritage Trail Committee Plans

  • Install new signage and trail markers to heighten awareness and usability of the Trail.
  • Clean-up and removal of vegetation overgrowth.
  • Repair and sustained maintenance of eroded and impassable areas.
  • Community engagement.
  • Sponsorship opportunities - adopt a section of the Trail! 

Interested in getting involved? Click here to send us an email.

Thanks to the Supporters of the Heritage Trail

JUNE 10, 2019 PHOTO OF HERITAGE TRAIL COMMITTEE, MEMBERS OF THE NIAGARA ON THE LAKE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AND TOWN PARKS STAFF UNVEILING THE PLANTINGS AT TRAIL ENTRANCE AT JOHN AND KING STREET, THANKS TO A GENEROUS DONATION FROM THE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY.

Photo: penny coles/the local

Trail Blazers!

Corporate Sponsors

Presentation of Trail Blazer certificate to ZOOM Leisure Bikes owners,  Rebecca and Steve DeBoer (3rd & 4th from right). Heritage Trail Committee Members Cheryl Morris, Fred Sentineal, Alan Bisback, Rick Meloen, Dick Coyne  and Tony Chisholm (photographer)  and Kevin Turcotte of the Town of NOTL.  Aug 12, 2019

Photo of several Trail  Blazers who donated to the Trail on July 29, 2019

“The Earth is what we all have in common.”
Wendell Berry 

“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” 
Frank Tyger