Brief History of the Upper Canada Heritage Trail

The Upper Canada Heritage Trail was established in 1854 as part of the Erie & Ontario Railway linking Niagara-on-the-Lake, the First Capital of Upper Canada, with Niagara Falls and the Great Western Railway.  It was the first steam powered railway in Upper Canada. It was responsible for breathing life into the Town of Niagara following the years after the War of 1812 by attracting tourism and commerce.

Rail operations ceased in the mid-1950s, with the corridor being formally abandoned in 1969. For 50 years, the trail has been used by cyclists, equestrians, runners, walkers, cross-country skiers, and others. Many organizations enjoy the trail including: Upper Canada Equestrian Association (UCEA), Queenston Residents Association, St. Davids Ratepayers Association and the Niagara Bruce Trail Club. The UCHT corridor provides a continuous connection from the southern terminus of the Niagara Escarpment with the federally-owned Niagara Commons. The UCEA became the major environmental steward in 1982 organizing annual rides and clean-ups. Other educational and environmental stewardship activities have included a major tree-planting activity by the Boy Scouts of Canada.

The Legacy Project

The UCHT is the only unimproved multi-use trail in the Town’s Official Plan. It dissects the epicentre of the Wine Route in NOTL, a key destination for cycling, eco-tourism and agri-tourism. While the automobile was responsible for the decline of the railway, it seems fitting that a shift from the automobile to a renewed priority on active transportation has the potential to breathe new life back into the Upper Canada Heritage Trail.

The 66-foot-wide corridor is visibly broken and even unknown to many residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  The utilization of the trail has been compromised in the last few years by erosion and washout between Line 9 and York Road and in other sections.  The overall integrity of the corridor is eroding due to an inability for people to use it.  Vegetation and grass are growing where people used to walk, run, cycle and ride horses.  The trail is losing its “visibility” in both a physical sense and in the overall consciousness of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The NOTL Canada Sesquicentennial Committee was created to support and execute events to commemorate Canada’s 150 years of Confederation. The Committee chose the rehabilitation of the Upper Canada Heritage Trail as its Legacy project – to connect communities and to preserve a piece of Canadian history for new generations.

Project Plans

  • Install new signage and trail markers to heighten awareness and usability of the Trail.
  • Clean-up and removal of vegetation overgrowth.
  • Repair and sustained maintenance of eroded and impassable areas.
  • Community engagement.
  • Sponsorship opportunities - adopt a section of the Trail! 

Interested in getting involved? Send us an email.


Download the donation form and email or mail to:
Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake: UCHT Legacy Project,
1593 Four Mile Creek Road, NOTL L0S 1J0

A tax receipt will be mailed to you with a minimum $25.00 donation.

“Common sense and good nature will do a lot to make the
pilgrimage of life not too difficult."'
William Somerset Maugham

“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions,
by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” 

Frank Tyger