It is amazing how Ontario has so many beautiful places to visit, Elora being one of them. The enchanting village of Elora is one of Ontario’s most picturesque areas with its rolling hills and Mennonite farmland contrasted by the breathtaking Elora Gorge. With its 80 foot limestone cliffs and both the Grand and Irvine Rivers rushing through it, the gorge is one of Elora’s most popular tourist destinations.
The best place to visit the gorge is in Elora Gorge Conservation Area. The conservation area costs six dollars per person to enter and use their facilities. This includes access to all the hiking trails, splashpad, fishing and their general day use area.
There are three kilometers of hiking trails throughout the conservation area that offer different views of the gorge. The trails take you to several scenic lookouts including Hole in the Rock. The trail also takes you to the top of a staircase that appears to vanish deep into the ground. This stairway takes you down into Hole in the Rock where it is believed that the First Nations people of the area, the Neutral Indians, cashed their wampum belts. A wampum belt is made of channeled whelk shells and quahog or hard-shelled clam. These belts were used as a form of gift exchange as well as a form of currency.
From Hole in the Rock you continue down the trail following around the top of the gorge. There are fences to stop you from going too close to the edge as it is a steep drop!
A great spot to check out is down by the tubing launch area. Here for $25 you can ride the gorge on a tube for 2km down the river. If you are not looking for an adventurous ride you can also walk along shore of the gorge taking in the beauty from the bottom of the limestone cliffs.
Another activity that you can do at Elora Gorge is canoeing or kayaking. The 300 kilometer stretches of the Grand River are suitable for paddlers of all levels. White-water enthusiasts are drawn to the gorge with various access points throughout the river and the sections of white-water rapids.
After completing all three easy kilometers of the hiking trails that the Elora Gorge Conservation area has to offer, we headed off into town to find the access point to the bottom of the gorge where we could view the historic David Street Bridge. The bridge was constructed in 1867 by local stonemasons over several years. Late in 1875 a new bridge was constructed on the same location using the same pier. Subsequently, new bridges were built again on the same pier in 1921 and then again in 2004.
Both pier and bridge have become one of the many landmarks of the village of Elora. What makes this bridge unique is that it is a rare example of an open-spandrel concrete arch bridge.
Getting down to the bottom of this gorge took a bit of asking around to find the best access point without having to hike several kilometers. We found that if you drive into the town and head to Victoria Park (also called Lovers Leap Park) and head right from the parking lot you will find a set of old concrete stairs.
Watch your step as you go down these uneven steps. Once at the bottom continue to head down the cliff of the gorge (running shoes are suggested) and you will reach the water. Once you are down at the river you will be able to see the David Street Bridge on your right.
You can easily walk down some of the submerged rocks along the shoreline to get closer to the bridge. As you walk towards the bridge there were two large looking caves on the south side.
Hiking down to the bottom of the gorge to visit the bridge is a must do on your trip to Elora.
This village very much has still kept its old world charm. Walking the streets of the village with its original stone buildings from the 1800’s makes you feel like you have taken a step back in time. There are some great galleries, gift shops, studios and great restaurants that have made Elora the perfect place to visit in any season.