Rock Glen Conservation Area: Falls, Fossils & Family Fun (2022)
Tucked away in small town Arkona, lies one of southwestern Ontario’s hidden gems: Rock Glen Conservation Area.
Rock Glen boasts a beautiful waterfall and one of Ontario’s best locations to uncover prehistoric, Devonian era fossils. Get ready for an adventure, because this place really is like no other!
Whether this is your first time to Rock Glen or you’re a seasoned explorer, use this guide to help you make the most of your time in this ancient wonder.
What is there to do in Rock Glen Conservation Area?
The highlight of your trip will definitely be viewing Rock Glen Falls, and if you’re adventurous, swimming in its pool! But the fun doesn’t stop there. Hiking, fishing, picnicking, digging for fossils, barbequing and spending time at the playground are among many ways visitors enjoy their day at Rock Glen.
The Conservation Area also houses the Arkona Lions Museum and Information Centre, where you can learn more about the fossils, minerals and First Nations artifacts found on the land.
How long should you spend at Rock Glen Conservation Area?
Between seeing the falls, hiking to the river, and exploring the fossils, we recommend planning to spend 2-3 hours at Rock Glen Conservation Area. If you plan on fishing, barbequing or having a family gathering, there’s a good chance you will want to spend the better part of a day here.
Guests are permitted to stay the whole day, however, if you visit on weekends and holidays in the summer, keeping your visit to a couple hours will help control the flow of traffic in and out of the park.
When is the best time to visit Rock Glen?
Weekends and holidays during spring and summer months are the most popular times to visit Rock Glen Conservation Area. For that reason, they are also the busiest! We recommend planning to visit during the weekdays for less crowds.
Fall and winter also offer beautiful views of the falls and the changing leaves.
Rock Glen Conservation Area Trail
We recommend that you start your visit by following the paths from the parking lot to the falls. As you approach the falls, you will see wooden walkways, stairs and viewing platforms at various locations around the falls leading to its pool.
Take the wooden stairs to reach the bottom of the falls, at which point you will see many people walking up and down the rocky drain (creek) flowing down to the Ausable River. If you’re up for a potentially slippery hike, this is a fun and adventurous way down to the river.
If you prefer the safer and dryer route, there are proper hiking trails and solid wooden stairs that lead from the lookout of the falls down to the river. We hiked the rocky stream down to the river and the stairs back up. The walk is beautiful, taking you through the lush Carolinian forest.
Note: It is good to be aware that the staircases are not small: they are each comprised of over 100 stairs, meaning you’re in for a good cardio workout!
Once at the Ausable River, you will be surrounded by an abundant array of prehistoric, Devonian Era fossils! We recommend spending time sifting through the rocks to see what kinds of treasures you can find! The guide given upon entry to the Conservation Area lists the different kinds of fossils in the area, which makes for a fun scavenger hunt!
The trail is very intuitive and if you visit during the summer months, there’s a good chance the trails will be busy, meaning you definitely shouldn’t get lost! All in all, the loop trail leading from the falls to the Ausable River and back to the falls is not much more than 1 km, though you can continue walking along the river for a longer hike.
Rock Glen Waterfall
Rock Glen Falls is a 10.7 meter tall natural rock waterfall that flows into the Ausable River.
Can you go to the bottom of Rock Glen Falls?
Yes! This is one of the few popular waterfalls we have been to in Ontario where getting close to the falls both from the top and at the bottom is permitted! This can be thrilling to visitors but this privilege must be very carefully honored with safety. The falls can be very dangerous if not respected.
Can you swim at Rock Glen Falls?
Because the pool of the falls isn’t large and water levels fluctuate by season, the Conservation Area states that there is no swim area here. Fortunately, it was clear to us that visitors are permitted to swim at the base and wade through the creek leading away from the falls.
Fossils in Rock Glen Conservation Area
It is important to clarify that the types of fossils found at Rock Glen are not dinosaur fossils! They are instead fossils from the Devonian era, known as the Age of the Fishes. Scientists believe that the area known as Rock Glen today was once a tropical sea, home to ancient marine species. The most common fossils found here are brachiopods, crinoids, trilobites, and horn corals.
Can you take fossils home with you?
Guests are permitted to take one fossil home with them. The Conservation Authorities ask visitors to honour this rule so as to ensure that there will be many for other guests for years to come.
Arkona Lions Museum and Information Centre
Through the marvelous work of volunteers, local businesses and fossil experts, the Arkona Lions Museum and Information Centre displays many of the Devonian era fossils and indigenous artifacts found on site. Individuals, families and tour groups will find this to be an interesting and educational addition to their time at Rock Glen. The museum is located within the Conservation Area and entrance is included in your day pass.
Rock Glen Conservation Area Hours, Entrance Fee and Parking
From May-October, Rock Glen Conservation Area is open and staffed from sunrise to sunset unless otherwise noted.
The Conservation Area is also open all year round during daylight hours for visitors to see the falls and hike the trails. In the off-season, the gates are not staffed but visitors are still permitted.
The entrance fee is $4 per person. Kids 5 and under are free.
Note: There is ample parking, but the Conservation Area can get very busy during weekends and holidays throughout the summer. If you plan to visit during peak times, plan to arrive early for your best chance to avoid wait times to enter the park.
Rock Glen Conservation Area Map
Rock Glen Conservation Area is located at 8680 Rock Glen Rd, Arkona, Ontario.
Rock Glen is approximately 45 minutes west of London, 40 minutes east of Sarnia, 2 hours and 10 minutes northeast of Windsor, and 2 hours and 30 minutes southwest of Toronto.
Are there washrooms at Rock Glen?
Yes, if you visit the park during the peak season (May-October) the public washrooms are open for use during staffed hours. They are located near the museum. If you visit during the off-season when the park is not staffed, portable toilets are available.
Can I bring my pet to Rock Glen?
Yes! As long as your pet is leashed, it’s poo is properly picked up, and the pet does not interfere with nature or other guests, you are permitted to bring it into the Conservation Area.
Rock Glen Fishing on the Ausable River
Fishing on the Ausable River is permitted within Rock Glen Conservation Area, for those holding an Ontario Fishing License. People have reported catching bass, trout, carp and catfish in the area.
Camping near Rock Glen
There are lots of great camping locations within half an hour of Rock Glen. Along Lake Huron, Ipperwash Beach, Port Franks, Pinery Provincial Park, and Grand Bend are each within a 20-30 minutes drive from Rock Glen Conservation Area.
Check out our post Grand Bend: 33 Best Things to Do + Ultimate Beach Guide to find out more about camping at Pinery Provincial Park.
Rock Glen Family Resort
The closest camping option to Rock Glen Conservation Area is the popular member-only Rock Glen Family Resort. While this is the closest place to stay near the falls, you will need to plan ahead to purchase a customized membership before you book a stay.
Rock Glen Family Resort has over 100 campsites, as well as individual villas (cabins). There are playgrounds, pools, a splashpad, mini-golf course, fitness centre, and indoor play equipment and kids’ rock climbing wall.
Note: The only feature of Rock Glen Family Resort that is open to non-members is the mini-golf course.
Rock Glen Conservation Area: Our Wrap Up
Rock Glen is one of Ontario’s best kept summer getaway secrets! Not only does it have a beautiful waterfall perfect for selfies, it is also one of Ontario’s best accessible locations for finding fossils. It’s educational, adventurous, relaxing and refreshing, all in one.
We think you will enjoy it as much as we did!