There’s nothing like delving into the unknown to awaken your adventurous side. Spelunking (a hobbyist term for the exploration of caves) has surged in popularity with nature lovers in Ontario, thanks to the region’s vast cave systems.
The Canadian Shield has many dark and mysterious caves to explore, where you’ll find fossils, rock formations, and hidden underground waterfalls. Though some may leave you feeling claustrophobic, the scenic hikes and breathtaking views that accompany these cave adventures will leave you with a new appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds us.
Scenic Caves Nature Adventures
Collingwood (1.5 Hour Drive)
Located at the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment, this labyrinth of caves and crevices at Blue Mountain—some up to 70 feet deep—are between 10,000 to 20,000 years old. You’ll get chills visiting the “Refrigerator Cave,” where the temperature hovers around the freezing mark, allowing snow and ice to stick around throughout the summer. Admission to the park includes access to a suspension bridge with stunning views across Georgian Bay. Looking for more thrills? Take a trip down Ontario’s longest Twin Zip Line.
Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves
Belleville (2 Hour Drive)
Ontario’s oldest natural cavern is home to 300 million-year-old fossils and a “wishing well” with water so clear you’d think you were in the Caribbean if it weren’t for the average temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. Although you can’t tour this cave system on your own (admission includes a 45-minute guided tour), the educational experience alone is worth the drive.
Peterborough (2 Hour Drive)
This system of seven caves was formed thousands of years ago at the end of the last ice age thanks to melting glacier water. Visitors are able to explore the caves, unsupervised, with the help of trail markings. Although many of the caves are connected, keep in mind you will have to climb feet first into several narrow spaces to explore the caverns and get a glimpse of the fossils hidden in the ceilings.
Hamilton (1.5 Hour Drive)
A great option for beginners, or adventurers with young children, the Eramosa Karst trails feature over 7 kilometres of trails through beautiful escarpment forests, bringing you alongside a series of small caves and geological formations. Although these caves are smaller than others featured on this list, they are perfect for kids to explore safely.
Lionshead (3 Hour Drive)
Situated along The Bruce Trail, Ontario’s largest natural limestone caves are linked by a series of tunnels and a gorgeous kilometre-long trail with several viewing points for photo opportunities. The small admission fee to the park is worth it, so that you can explore this natural wonder—a favourite of those visiting Bruce Peninsula. Make sure to bring a flashlight with you to navigate the dark caverns.
Hell Holes Cave
Centreville (2.5 Hour Drive)
Despite its menacing name, the Hell Hole cave is not as daunting as it seems. After a kilometre hike, visitors descend 7.5 metres down a metal ladder into the heart of the cavern. This wide cave is a great option for those who are claustrophobic, plus the 3.2-kilometre hike features a beautiful gorge with grottos, rock formations and sinkholes
It’s important to keep in mind that although these caves are open to the public, you should use caution when climbing in and out of the small spaces you may encounter. These natural jungle gyms can be slippery, steep and difficult to maneuver. If you’re up for the exploration, it’s recommended you bring a flashlight and wear good hiking shoes to help with your grip.
by Nicole Bogart