The Cheltenham Badlands are a series of bare, windswept red hills and gullies in southern Ontario that formed as a result of overgrazing. In the 1930s, the area was still productive farmlands, but poor farming practices resulted in the creation of the rolling martian landscape.
As dirt and vegetation were worn away by the elements, the Queenston shale below the surface farmland was exposed. Unfortunately, the shale supports little or no vegetation, and has left the area as barren badlands. The reddish hue of the Badlands is caused by iron oxide, while narrow greenish bands show where groundwater has transformed the rock from red to green iron oxide.
Care should be taken while visiting, as this area is very fragile. Visitors should not climb on the hills after a rainfall or when the ground appears soft. Violation of this unwritten rule will also result in a nasty reddish dirt stain that most travelers work to avoid while on vacation.
As of August 2019, you can visit most of the Cheltenham Badlands in Ontario, however, check their website beforehand, as conservation projects are ongoing. You can no longer walk on the rocks, as they are fenced off, but there is a lookout platform to take in the view.
Know Before You Go
From Toronto take Hwy 427 to Hwy 401-W then 410 towards Brampton. Exit onto Hurontario-N and continue 9.6km. Turn left on Old Baseline Road and go 3.8km until you see the Badlands on your left. The Cheltenham Badlands northwest of Toronto is now closed to visitors likely for several years while a long-term conservation plan for the ecologically sensitive site is developed, says the Ontario Heritage Trust. A fence will be erected along the road to keep people off the badlands and an environmental consultant will begin work on the conservation plan.