14 Magnetic Hills in Canada
14 Magnetic Hills in Canada
Canada is full of strange places, from the Headless Valley in the Northwest Territories, where tales of lost gold, evil spirits, and headhunting monsters abound, to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, the site of Canada’s longest-running treasure hunt. Among the most mystifying of these creepy locales are Canada’s so-called ‘Magnetic Hills’. Also known as ‘Spook Hills’ and ‘Gravity Hills’, these mystery mounds typically consist of sloped roadways lined with trees where cars, when put in neutral gear, seem to roll uphill.
Local legend often attributes this bewildering phenomenon to some sort of extraordinary force. Some people believe that ‘magnetic hills’ lie at magnetic vortexes, where the laws of gravity which govern the rest of the world cease to apply. Others suggest that the hills are capped with large deposits of lodestone- natural magnets which draw steel cars to their summits. Others still ascribe the hills’ antigravitational properties to the work of ghosts and spirits.
In reality, the magnetic hill phenomenon is an optical illusion. Despite all appearances to the contrary, roads on which the ‘uphill’ rollings take place are actually sloped downhill. Often, they are lined with trees and other objects oriented at unusual angles which obscure the horizon and give the driver the false impression that the road has a positive incline.
Although the phenomenon of the magnetic hill is not much of a mystery to those acquainted with its secret, it can still make for a truly head-scratching experience. If you ever get the chance, consider paying a visit to one of Canada’s fourteen magnetic hills, some of which may lie in your neck of the woods.
Magnetic Hills in British Columbia
Abbotsford’s Gravity Hill
If you drive to the northeasternmost corner of Abbotsford, BC, you’ll find a lonely thoroughfare called McKee Road. If you take this road and head for Sumac Mountain, you’ll come to the site of an old gravity hill just before you hit the Ledgeview Golf & Country Club. According to Lynn, the writer of a blog called ‘The One Constant’, this attraction was “worth the trip” back in 2011.
Regrettably, it appears that the hill may have since lost its ‘magnetic’ properties. According to journalist Ben Lypka in an article published in the April 11, 2019 issue of the Mission City Record, recent repaving of McKee Road has destroyed the optical illusion, causing Abbotsford gravity hill to “lose its powers”.
Fortunately for posterity, YouTuber James Waugh managed to videotape his car rolling up the hill back in 2009, at the height of the hill’s former glory. “Stay tuned next time,” concludes a young narrator, “for another exciting episode of ‘Up the Hill’”.
The Magnetic Hill of Maple Ridge
If you drive about 40 minutes northwest of Abbotsford, you’ll come to the city of Maple Ridge- the fifth oldest municipality in British Columbia, located at the northeastern edge of Greater Vancouver. Between Maple Ridge and the historic easterly community of Whonnock is a sleepy rural neighbourhood called Thornhill which skirts the southern slopes of a butte called Grant Hill.
If you drive south down Thornhill’s 256th Street, past its intersection with 100th Avenue, home to the old Thornhill Elementary School, you’ll come to what appears to be a small hill preceding a downwards slope. If you put your vehicle in neutral at the base of this hillock, it will roll up the ‘incline’ and down the other side, apparently defying the laws of physics.
YouTuber and Maple Ridge native Scott Leaf showcases the phenomenon this this 2009 YouTube video:
Vernon’s Dixon Dam Road
British Columbia’s third and final magnetic hill is situated in the city of Vernon, located north of Kelowna at the northern end of Lake Okanagan. In the northeastern section of town is a rural street called Dixon Dam Road where objects rolling ‘uphill’ can accrue speeds of up to 20 km/hour (12 mph).
This mystery spot has elicited local amazement for at least 60 years. In an April 1959 issue of The Vernon News, reporter Miles Overend described heading out the area to investigate the “silly rumour” of the magnetic hill with fellow journalist Harvie Hay. “We drove to the bottom of the slope, as instructed,” he wrote, “and stopped the car. Looking back we could see the slight uphill grade which we had just come down. I cut the ignition, released the handbrake. In eerie silence the car started rolling slowly backwards- uphill.”
If you’d like to see this strange phenomenon in action, check out this video by YouTuber Rick Slobodian:
Magnetic Hills in Ontario
Caledon’s Magnetic Hill
It might come as no surprise to learn that Canada’s three Prairie Provinces, to the best of this author’s knowledge, are completely devoid of magnetic hills. An obscured horizon is often a requisite for the ‘gravity hill’ phenomenon, and Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have no shortage of open spaces.
The nearest gravity hill east of Vernon, BC, is the Magnetic Hill of Caledon, Ontario, located on Escarpment Side Road just off King’s Highway 10, at Escarpment’s intersection with the street leading to Devil’s Pulpit Golf Course.
As if to complement the weird landmark, the land surrounding this remote location is associated with an old Indian legend which tells of a beautiful maiden of the Neutral Nation and a young brave whose advances she spurned. Long ago, the warrior stole the girl from her father’s wigwam and brought her to a cliff ledge on the Niagara Escarpment- a long ridge which spans the Great Lakes, over which the Niagara River falls. The unwilling captive died of grief, incurring the wrath of a local thunder god. The angry deity used lightning to isolate the kidnapper’s camping spot from the rest of the cliff, creating a rocky spire known today as the ‘Devil’s Pulpit’, for which the nearby golf course was named.
Although Caledon’s Magnetic Hill is not associated with any supernatural legends itself, it does produce an eerie visual effect, which YouTuber Kelly Vo demonstrates in this video:
Burlington’s King Road
Ontario has three more magnetic hills, two of which are located off the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario. The first of these is situated in the city of Burlington, about an hour’s drive south of Caledon.
In the southwestern end of Burlington is a rural thoroughfare called King Road, which winds through Burlington’s Bayview Park. After rounding a bend in the road near the park’s off-leash section, drivers will come upon two small hills, the second of which appears to have antigravity characteristics. Check out this video by YouTube’s Mr. Burlington to see the hill for yourself:
Unlike the other magnetic hills on this list, Burlington’s gravity hill is associated with ghost stories, UFO sightings, and other tales of the supernatural. According to BurlingtonGhostWalks.ca, drivers have experienced power failures, engine failures, and the sensation of being electrically “zapped” while cresting the second ‘hill’ near Bayview Park. Some witnesses have reported seeing strange lights in the sky overhead, while others claimed to have spotted spectral 19th Century pioneers walking through Bayview Park, or heard the whinnies of phantom horses and the rumble of ephemeral wagons while driving down King Road. Perhaps Burlington’s magnetic hill is more than an optical illusion after all.
If you decide to investigate Burlington’s gravity hill for yourself, you may want to avoid planning your visit in the spring; every March, the city closes King Road in order to allow Jefferson salamanders, which Ontario classifies as an endangered species, to safely seek their mates on the other side of the asphalt.
Oshawa’s Magic Hill
About 100 kilometres (62 miles) northeast of Burlington, on the northern shores of Lake Ontario, lies the city of Oshawa, which contains yet another magnetic mound known locally as Magic Hill. Like most gravity hills on this list, Magic Hill is located on the outskirts of town, at Oshawa’s northeastern corner on a thoroughfare called Ritson Road North. Just south of Ritson’s intersection with the Canadian National Railway is another strange hill that might have baffled Sir Isaac Newton himself.
Dacre’s Magnetic Hill
About 222 kilometres (138 miles) northeast of Oshawa, not too far from Barry’s Bay and Palmer Rapids, is the tiny community of Dacre, Ontario. There, one kilometer south of the junction of Highways 41 and 132, is a place where vehicles appear to coast uphill. Even more intriguing than the wacky road is the little creek which parallels it- perhaps the only creek in Canada that appears to flow uphill.
Magnetic Hills in Quebec
The Magnetic Hill of Chartierville
The next stop on our tour of Canada’s gravity hills is the tiny rural community of Chartierville, Quebec, which shares a border with the state of New Hampshire. Chartierville’s Magnetic Hill lies right on Quebec Route 257, the only road connecting Canada with New Hampshire, just before the Pittsburg-Chartierville Border Crossing. Incidentally, back in December 1999, an American border guard stationed at this crossing via a Remote Video Inspection System prevented a would-be al-Qaeda terrorist with a truck full of explosives from entering the United States and carrying out the planned ‘Millennium’ attack at Los Angeles International Airport.
Chartierville’s Magnetic Hill was born in 1939, when the road that would become Route 257 was first constructed. As early as the 1940s, tourists travelling to and from the United States marveled as their vehicles inexplicably rolled uphill without the assistance of their engines.
Today, travelers are informed of the hill’s presence by a sign which reads, in both French and English:
Put hazard lights on
Put car in neutral
Look behind and experiment.
Have a nice day!
To see the hill in action, check out this YouTube video by Lopstick, purveyor of rental cabins in Pittsburg, New Hampshire.
Cote Magnetique of Buckland
Nearly three hours northwest of Chartreville, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains not too far from Quebec City, lies the beautiful parish municipality of Notre-Dame-Auxiliatrice-de-Buckland. A little more than a mile southeast of this quiet rural community, on a lonely stretch of road called Route Saint-Louis, lies Buckland’s Cote Magnetique, or Magnetic Hill.
Visitors are alerted to the presence of the mysterious landmark by a sign which reads, in French:
Put the vehicle in neutral
Remove the brakes
Look out for traffic behind you
Watch your vehicle roll
To virtually tour this little-known attraction, check out this YouTube video by Yves Vincart:
Magnetic Hills in New Brunswick
Moncton’s World Famous Magnetic Hill
Without a doubt, the most famous gravity hill in Canada is the Magnetic Hill of Moncton, New Brunswick. This internationally renowned attraction has been one of New Brunswick’s most popular tourist destinations since 1931, when an old cart path skirting the base of Lutes Mountain was expanded into a paved road suitable for automobile traffic. Drivers quickly realized that cars would roll backwards up the hill when placed in neutral, and almost overnight a Maritime sensation was born.
Moncton’s Magnetic Hill is located at the northwestern edge of town and can be accessed for a fee of $5. The landmark’s popularity has allowed for a number of attractions to thrive in its vicinity, including Magnetic Hill Zoo, the Magic Mountain Water Park, the Hotel Moncton, the Magnetic Hill Winery, and the Magnetic Hill Wharf Village. To see the striking illusion to which the Hill owes its tremendous popularity, check out this video by YouTuber Jean-Daniel Cathell-Williams.
Magnetic Hills in Nova Scotia
Bridgetown’s Hampton Mountain Road
Incredibly, there are said to be three little-known magnetic hills crammed within a 30-mile strip of eastern Nova Scotia paralleling the Bay of Fundy.
The southernmost of these is located on Hampton Mountain Road, about a five minute drive from the village of Bridgetown and approximately two kilometres south of Valleyview Provincial Park. According to a certain local resident, it is a place where “automobiles coast upgrade with ease, yet pedestrians huff and puff their way downgrade”.
The Magnetic Hill of Route 221
If you drive a mere 25 minutes northeast of Bridgetown up the Annapolis Valley, you’ll come to a tiny community called Melvern Square. Here, take the northeasterly Nova Scotia Route 221, also known as Spa Springs Road. On Route 221, about halfway between Melvern Square and an ancient volcanic ridge called North Mountain, is another magnetic hill where, according to one writer, “it looks like you are going down but you obviously are climbing.”
North Mountain’s Magnetic Hill
If you proceed beyond Route 221’s magnetic hill, you’ll come to 221’s intersection with Nova Scotia Route 360, which bridges the fishing community of Harbourville, on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, with the village of Berwick, located 15 minutes southeast. Take a left and right there, just preceding a hairpin turn known locally as ‘the Oxbow’, is another magnetic hill where, according to one writer, “by stopping your vehicle at what appeared to be bottom of the hill, shutting off the motor and putting the gearshift in neutral; the vehicle would begin moving backwards by itself up the hill.”
Magnetic Hills in Prince Edward Island
Darnley’s Gravity Hill
The most easterly magnetic hill in all of Canada is located near the town of Darnley, Prince Edward Island, a mere 7 minutes’ drive west of the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. County Line Road, which extends south of town, leads the way through woods and farmland to what one writer described as “a very high ‘magnetic hill’, the summit of which provides a spectacular view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the north and rolling hills to the south.” One PEI tourism website claims that “the hill is apparently so steep at its base that, in the days of yore, a wagon driver with a full load of grain could touch the ears of his horses while sitting in his seat”- a characteristic which did not deter rumrunners from using the secluded road during the days of prohibition.
It is not entirely clear to this author whether Darnley’s ‘magnetic’ hill elicits the same optical illusion as the other gravity hills in this post or has been given its ‘magnetic’ appellative for some other reason. Whatever the case, PEI tourism websites seem to indicate that Darnley’s magnetic hill is well worth the visit.
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