Hamilton, Ontario Has AWESOME Public Stairways!

We got 8 or 10 inches of snow earlier this week. JJ has been having a great time frolicking in the snow on his walks. I got an hour of exercise the other night when I shoveled out the driveway. But these pictures are from before the snowstorm, which explains the lack of snow. They’re from my trip last weekend to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and they feature some incredible public stairs!

I went to Hamilton to compete in the Steeltown Stair Climb, and while at the race, I talked to a very nice local woman. I can’t remember her name for the life of me (sorry!), but she was telling me about all the local stairs that people use for exercise. I knew right away that I had to go find some!

Hamilton, geographically, is split into two parts – the area on top of “the mountain” and the area at the bottom. People refer to “the mountain” all the time in day-to-day conversation, in sentences like “I’m visiting my friend who lives up the mountain.”

The mountain isn’t a mountain at all. It’s actually a cliff that runs through town. Geologically speaking, it’s part of the Niagara Escarpment, a cliff that dates back millions of years, that marks the shore of a long-gone tropical sea. The Niagara Escarpment starts in western New York, crosses into Ontario, snakes around Lake Huron, across Michigan’s upper peninsula, and then heads south through Wisconsin, almost to the Illinois border. The Niagara Escarpment is most known for being the cliff that Niagara Falls tumbles over.

In Hamilton, there are a limited number of ways to get up or down the cliff. There’s a handful of roads, and a handful of pedestrian stairways. The woman at the race told me how to find one of the stairways, called the Chedoke stairs, which start in the parking lot of the Chedoke Civic Golf Course. That’s the stairway pictured above.

The Chedoke stairway has 289 steps. When I got there, I chuckled a little bit at the sign that says they’re bicycle friendly. How could a giant stairway be bicycle friendly?

But then I realized that there’s a little ramp, just wide enough for bicycle tires, between the stairs and the railing. You can walk up the stairs, and walk your bike up a ramp at the same time! Pretty clever!

The stairs are fantastic. They’re all metal, and built on concrete footers, so they’re slightly above ground, as opposed to being carved into the hill. These stairs have two lanes, with a center railing, so they’re spacious, too. They rise up through a wooded grove, and just in case that’s not pretty enough for you, they pass by a waterfall.

The Chedoke stairs turn a few times as they snake up the hill, but there’s never more than 18 or 20 steps between landings.

The second stairway I found is called the Dundurn Street Stairs, because they start at the southern end of Dundurn Street. These start with shorter flights, with longer landings…

…but they soon get steeper, because the cliff gets steeper:

This stairway is only one lane, and isn’t bicycle friendly, but it is lined with streetlights. There are 326 steps in the Dundurn stairway, and, at the top, you’re treated to a nice view of the Hamilton skyline, through the trees.

My favorite thing about the two stairways I explored was that they were being used. There were three or four people on each that were exercising, and a bunch of others that were using them as part of their commute.

I only climbed each stairway once, because the clock was ticking and I still had a four-hour drive back to Michigan in front of me. But it’s exciting to know that these are there, plus four other stairways that I didn’t visit, ranging from 227-498 steps each!

I did a little research when I got home, and found all the info I need on all six stairways, so I’ll be prepared for my next visit to Hamilton. I also read that there’s an event called the Steeltown Stomp, which is a 20km hike (about 12.4 miles) that includes all six stairways – that sounds fun! Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I’m happy with the 615 steps I climbed after a race, and thrilled to have checked out some incredible public stairs.

Keep it up, David!

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