No flip flops, dress shoes, high heels or sandals are permitted when visiting the Scenic Caves in Collingwood, Ontario. There’s a good reason for this strict rule.
While it may be a touristy attraction, don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t need to break a sweat getting to the caves. The Scenic Caves spot is a do-it-yourself walk through rocky terrain including slippery mud, snow and ice (yes, even in May there’s ice at the bottom of the huge crevices and caves). Either good walking shoes with treads, running shoes or ideally hiking boots with good ankle support, are a must-have for this visit. There’s the option of purchasing running shoes in the gift shop, but why spend money on new shoes, when you can just bring them with you?
The Scenic Caves are situated about 400 meters above sea level, up in the Blue Mountain area just west of Collingwood. The caves and cliffs formed in the time between approximately 450 and 250 million years ago, and are part of the Niagara Escarpment, which experienced glacial erosion over millions of years.
In more recent times, these caves were spiritual spots for the Petun and Huron First Nations which lived in the region. A more in-depth history can be found on the Scenic Caves site.
During your visit, you get to learn about the different cliffs, clefts and caves at the site and the aboriginal legends associated with them. A numbered trail, including steps leading down into the crevices, makes it easy to follow along.
You will notice when you get down into the limestone crevices that the temperature will drop dramatically – you may even see snow on the ground and see your breath mist up (if visiting in May or later in the early fall period). It’s a refreshing feeling after the sweat-inducing climb up to reach the caves, particularly on a warm, humid day.
For those who are slim, the Fat Man’s Misery – a cave in which you have to squeeze your body through 36 cm gap – is something to try. It’s not for claustrophobic types, buxom women or anybody with a spare tire (that’s me!).
The Scenic Caves also has a suspension bridge that offers a fantastic, unimpeded view of Georgian Bay and Collingwood. It may not be for those who are wary of heights, or shaky bridges. Our visit to the bridge was marred by a group of teenage boys who thought it would be fun to walk in such a way that made the bridge sway dramatically from one side to the other and up and down.
A few hours drive north from Toronto, this spot offers a couple hours of exploring. Basic entry (caves and suspension bridge) is approximately $22.87 plus HST for adults (more packages and pricing info here.) The cave visits are open in the spring, summer and fall. Other activities including skiing, snowshoeing and treetop walking are available in the winter.
From Collingwood, drive west on First Street to the First Street extension. Continue west on Mountain Road which becomes Grey Road 19. Continue on Grey 19, merge into the Roundabout. Exit the Roundabout on Scenic Caves Road. Follow this road to the top of the hill.
More photos from our visit: