about 7 km
Beginner/Intermediate; Wheelchair access to Badlands from parking lot
About 200 m
Pay parking at trailhead $10 per car; free parking (3 cars) at waypoint 003
05 Oct 2004; 07 May 2005
Not wheelchair accessible
Route revised 2007 -see Trail Map and Trail Guide. The Russell Cooper Side Trail is closed for regeneration (2007). Route Revision 2011 -the Credit Stone Side Trail is also closed. Complete hike revision Dec 2018.
The incredible badlands
Unknown winter activities -likely none
The Cheltenham Badlands
The Cheltenham Badlands in the Caledon Hills are a strange geographical formation, unusual in Ontario. This area consists of bare, windswept red hills and gullies that are very similar to that of the Alberta badlands. The reddish hue of the Queenston Shale is caused by iron oxide, while the narrow greenish bands show where groundwater has transformed the rock from red to green iron oxide. How did this phenomenon come to be?
Many hundreds of millions of years ago, the Cheltenham area was a shallow sea. The sea was surrounded by a developing mountain range and the waters were becoming deeper, pressuring the red mud to form Queenston shale (a very soft rock in comparison to the more common limestone.) Over time, the sea gradually disappeared and the sedimentary base of the sea was exposed for the first time. Once settlers arrived in this region of Ontario in the 1900s, the area was cleared for cattle grazing and farming. By the 1930s, there was no vegetation left and farming had ceased. The poor farming practices caused overgrazing of the land grasses that held the soil in place. The loss of that topsoil resulted in the exposure of the Queenston shale that supports little or no vegetation. With no vegetation to protect the shale, the weathering effects of erosion has been underway from the 1930s to the present day.
“Badlands” is a geologic term for an area of soft rock and little, if any, vegetation and soil cover that has become molded into a rolling landscape of rounded hills and gullies. Areas such as this are quite rare in Ontario because in most spots, rocks, sand, and gravel cover and protect any shale. The relatively soft shale is essentially clay and is easily eroded by water. This site was acquired by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 2000 and is under the care of the Bruce Trail Association. NOTE: The Russell Cooper Side Trail is closed for regeneration (2007).
Care should be taken as this area is very fragile. Visitors should not climb on the hills after a rainfall or when the ground appears soft. Some photos will make it seem like you've been to Mars. The last time I visited the Badlands a busload of rambunctious school kids were scrambling all over these delicate hills. Perhaps the answer lies in larger signs asking visitors to show some care and respect for this unique feature.
NOTICE from the Caledon Hills Bruce Trail Club (12 Feb 08):
The Cheltenham Badlands, near the villages of Inglewood and Cheltenham Ontario, are an Earth Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), managed by the Bruce Trail Conservancy. In order to protect the sensitive environment of this site from degradation, visitors are requested to respect the following:- no sliding, no digging, stay on the flat area in the vicinity of the interpretative sign, stay off during wet conditions, no toboganning, no motorized vehicles, no bicycles, no horses and please do not litter. The Side Trail is closed due to erosion. Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but your thanks. For further information, contact the Caledon Hills Bruce Trail Club at info@caledonbruce trail.org.
The Cheltenham Badlands are nothing short of incredible. Once you park and climb over the hill, there they are. They really are unlike anything you've ever seen and you almost feel that you are on another planet -perhaps a Martian landscape. They're all red, rolling hills with some streaks of greyish-green and a few stunted trees poke out here and there to give the whole scene an other-worldly atmosphere. Without a doubt, this is the best example of badlands topography in Ontario. Soon after we arrived, a busload of young students arrived who began to swarm all over these delicate hills. There are some small signs about respecting the badlands but these students were obviously not prepped to heed this in advance.