After researching great/underrated Waterfall hikes I found the High Falls on Eels Creek in the book “Paddling and Hiking” Ontario’s Southern Shield country, by Kas Stonethis. This specific hike was of interest due to its proximity North of me, in Eastern Ontario, to the lack of knowledge of the area and its intrigue to something so promising. It’s easy to find the greatest and best waterfalls, it’s a challenge to find the most unique with a story to tell.
Any outdoor enthusiast would feel how special of a place this was the second they started hiking to High Falls on Eels Creek, located on the Peterborough Crown Land reserve in Harcourt Ontario. The entire hike was soaking in the unspoiled terrain on the tip of the Canadian Shield. This hike is magical and well worth the trip, feeling remote as you walk through covered lowlands on route to a piece of nature unspoiled and natural.
Many locals and canoe enthusiasts seem to know about this area (near Peterborough Petroglyphs) and canoe or paddle to the Falls. I feel, this is a must visit spot for anyone and encourage those Torontonians who only go North to Muskoka or Tobermory or South to Hamilton for experiences, to try something more natural and less touristy while still only a few hours away.
(Beautiful Views along the Eels Creek Hike)
The hike is not as straightforward as it may look on the map (bottom of the article), if you walk along the creek you will be ok. It gets trickier ½ km into the hike where you have to cross a smaller creek and 100 or so meters of marshy terrain. The creek, is only a few meters wide, and cannot be confused with the much wider Eels Creek. My hiking partner and I found a couple of logs to cross. From here the hike is more straightforward as you walk through peaks, valley, hills, and forest winding around the beautiful body of water.
(My hiking partner crossing the swampy terrain ½ km into the hike)
October of 2016 was my second attempt to complete the 1.5 hour hike to High Falls on Eels Creek. The first time was in May of 2016 when I ventured off the trail and was lost for 3 hours before finally finding my way out at the halfway point and walking the path home. In May, instead of crossing the logs (as seen above) I found a path that ventured up into the woods and thought that was the path, however, it was a path leading me East of where the Falls were and in the middle of the woods, more going towards Peterborough Petroglyphs.
The photo below is where I came out of in May 2016 (midpoint of the hike) at the top of the cliff and stunning views.
(First time along Eels Creek in May 2016)
Attempting the hike again in October proved to be one of the best hiking experiences I have ever had. With the fall colours in bloom, milder temperatures and a hiking partner with me, it allowed me the time and attention to soak it all in, communicate and work together to maneuver along Eels Creek for an amazing adventure, this time reaching the pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow (High Falls).
(Interesting cropping of Rocks when approaching the top of the Falls)
As we approached the beautiful Rock Croppings we could hear the rushing water, walking down from a distance we could see High Falls in a distance. Most spectacular was how this Waterfall was not modified by a dam or any natural substance, just a beautiful flowing waterfall in the middle of a great country side in the remote Canadian Wilderness. As we approached closer we bush wacked along the side to gain the best view, as we approached the East side of the Falls.
(View of High Falls from the top ledge facing South)
At the bottom there was no way to cross the waterway from below to get to the other side (there were several large rocks and maybe in the summer you can cross but it was to deep on this day) so we hiked along the East side enjoying the natural views and splashing water at the bottom of the Falls.
(Splash of water at the bottom of High Falls, photo on the East side of the Falls)
It is hard to get a good view of the entire falls from the east side. The falls curves a bit, and trees near the base block the upper part of the falls. For better viewing purposes, we almost gave up on crossing to the west side until we decided to climb across a dangerous tree limb to make sure we could get to the West side for further exploration.
(The only moderately safe way to cross from East to West, the West side has the best views and area to explore around the falls, we had to shimmy across the log)
The West side of the Falls is where the canoers and kayakers portage to, it is not as unspoiled due to this, but, it offers the most spectacular views and area to explore. There is another beautiful tumbling Falls Northwest of the Main High Falls where we had to cross another stream to inch down the Gorge and directly have great views of the main waterfall.
(Sitting on a Rock in front of High Falls)
The majority of the water goes down a slide on river right, but part of the creek heads down a smaller channel on river right around a large rock outcropping that segments the falls. A submerged rock near the top of the falls creates a large water wheel, spraying water a meter or more into the air. Downstream from the other side of the Falls was dried up with large rocks we climbed down.
(Playing Tarzan, in behind is the second part of the Falls from the other side- the way I am facing has high dry rocks, where behind where the creek flows lead to the main Falls)
Further downstream, heading South of the Waterfall into the Creek, we also found several unique rock formations you can climb into. I personally named them “The High Caves along Eels”. Technically, you can crawl around under the rocks in several areas, which was a bonus find for us and something we were not aware existed, nor is there any mention anywhere. There are several “cave type” rocks that lead to the wider Eels Creek below.
(Climbing in a Hole around the Caves area near the Falls)
After working our way back to the top of High Falls, we explored the top part of the calm river above, where further rock views and another set of rock croppings, which is a steeper hike, offers a different landscape to explore. Further upstream, if you are up for several more kilometres of walking, you will find Three Tear Rapids, which we had no time to visit this trip.
(View from the stream leading at the top of the Falls)
High Falls on Eels Creek is a splendid place to visit and is open year-round. On our hike we spoke to several people who said they enjoy the winter hike as well (although I am not sure I would tackle this challenging course at that time)
Parking address: 1680 Northey’s Bay Road Harcourt, ON
The parking lot is on the North Side on the East part of the bridge (be careful of the sharp corner)
Essentially, on the map below of Northeys Bay Road north of the water stream you can park. For the hike stay close to the body of water but do not venture to far east or you will get lost. The marshy terrain you cross is about 15 minutes into the walk (do not follow the path up into the forest). The big circle base of water North of the Map you are at a High Peak and walking around and down to get to the area near the Falls, this part of the hike is much longer then it looks but is beautiful