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Hiking In Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario

Updated January 2020

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park is a visual treat. Rugged trails deliver exceptional cliff top scenery. They pass caves, crystal clear Caribbean-coloured blue water, ancient cedar trees and even rare orchids. I spent a few days hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park and while I hiked sections of the Bruce Trail I also did several loops on trails leading to the Bruce Trail (see map below). I think the Bruce Trail, Canada’s longest marked hiking trail, that jogs for 21 km (13.1 mi) through the park offers the best hiking experience in the park. 

The national park is part of a World Biosphere Reserve. People come from all over the world to see the rugged cliffs and the Caribbean-hued water that is part of the Georgian Bay. Reportedly there are 1,000 year old cedar trees too.

Some easy hiking on boardwalks in the park

Some easy hiking on boardwalks in the park

Where is Bruce Peninsula National Park?

The park is located at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, between Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay. It’s 289 kilometres northwest of Toronto, and approximately a four hour drive.

To get there take Highway 10 north out of Brampton and continue as it becomes Highway 6 for 283 kilometres to reach Cyprus Lake Road. Turn right and follow it for 4.4 kilometres.

It’s 10.6 kilometres south of Tobermory to reach the turnoff onto Cyprus Lake Road.

In summer a Parkbus often runs to Bruce Peninsula National Park from Toronto. Visit their website to keep abreast of the schedule.

Cyprus Lake

The main trailhead is at Cyprus Lake. Choose from a variety of trails starting here. Most are an easy hike down to the Georgian Bay but then the level of difficulty is all over the map, from easy to very difficult. Most people head for the gorgeous area around the Grotto.

When I visited it had just finished raining hard and by the time I reached the Grotto on the Georgian Bay I could hardly see a thing because of dense fog. Fortunately towards the end of my hiking day it started to lift. I don’t know how common fog is though I had it again on the second day.

Indian Head Cove and the Grotto

Leave plenty of time to explore both Indian Head Cove and the Grotto, a big cave on the shore carved by waves over thousands of years. Both are about a 90 minute hike west of the Stormhaven backcountry campsite. These two spots, real highlights on the trail, are only 10 minutes apart.

Overhanging Point

The other must-do hike is the one to Overhanging Point. But it’s a surprisingly tough hike. Follow a trail filled with uneven, sharply pointed rocks and big tree roots. From Overhanging Point you can easily return to the Cyprus Lake Trailhead via the easy Marr Lake Trail though you will have to retrace your steps a bit. Or continue hiking another 17.5 kilometres to Tobermory.

The Bruce Trail

Any trail that is marked with a white blaze is part of the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail is both the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada – running 893.9 kilometres. It starts in Queenston Heights Park near Niagara Falls and finishes at Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. In Bruce Peninsula National Park there are approximately 21 kilometres of the actual Bruce Trail.

Here is a look at the hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park, mostly along the Bruce Trail.

irst wildlife I saw in the park - a big honking toad

First wildlife I saw in the park – a big honking toad

Overhanging Point

Overhanging Point

View down from Overhanging Point

View down from Overhanging Point

The Grotto - one of the most popular sites

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park to the Grotto – one of the most popular sites

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park in sight of Caribbean hued water not far from The Grotto

More Caribbean-hued water not far from The Grotto

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park and admiring Caribbean coloured water

Caribbean-coloured hue to the water and very clear

Sunshine breaking through the fog while hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park

Sunshine breaking through the fog

View down the coast from the top of the cliff

View down the coast from the top of the cliff on the way to Stormhaven

Beautiful view from the Stormhaven campsite

Beautiful view from the Stormhaven campsite

The Bruce Trail on the way to Halfway Log Dump and High Dump

You can access Halfway Log Dump in Bruce Peninsula National Park via turning east on Dyers Bay Road and then making a left on Crane Lake Road. Follow it a short distance to reach the parking lot.

From the parking lot it’s 8.0 kilometres to High Dump and 15.5 kilometres to Halfway Log Dump.

The trail starts off easily enough on a gravel track with little elevation gain. After you pass Moore Lake to the east, the terrain becomes significantly more rugged.

The High Dump Campsite is off to the right (east), the Halfway Log Dump Campsite many kilometres along to the west. If you continued, you would arrive at the Stormhaven backcountry campsite. Even though I had fog for much of the hike, it was still very beautiful and the views down to the water quite gorgeous. Beware of the cliffs though. They can be slippery when wet.

You can do an out and back hike but if you could arrange a shuttle even better. Then you could enjoy a beautiful one way hike on the Bruce Trail. To do that leave one car at Cyprus Lake and one at Halfway Log Dump. 

Entrance to the trails by Halfway Log Dump

Entrance to the trails by Halfway Log Dump

Through the woods on the way to the trail along the coast

Through the woods on the Bruce Trail to a lovely section along the coast of the Georgian Bay

Trail is easy to see after the rains

Trail is easy to see after the rains

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park is rough going at times

Rough going at times especially with lots of holes in the rock

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park on cliff top trails

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park with spectacular cliff top views from the Bruce Trail

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park with beautiful water as a backdrop

Gorgeous waters of the Georgian Bay

Camping in Bruce Peninsula National Park

There are two backcountry camping areas in the park – Stormhaven and High Dump. Parks Canada starts taking reservations on January 14, 2020 at 8 AM EST. The exact date varies from year to year. The camping fee per person per night is $10.02. An online reservation is $11.50

Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-877-737-3783.

Both campsites have 9 spots with wooden platforms like the one pictured below. You need a free-standing tent to set up on the platforms. Bring a cook stove as fires are not allowed. There are poles that can be use to hang your food and toiletries.

Tent pads are well built

Tent pads are well built

Poles for hanging food

Poles for hanging food

Trail map

Map of hiking trails in Bruce Peninsula National Park

Map of trails in Bruce Peninsula National Park

For more information about Bruce Peninsula National Park visit their website.

Crazy clear water in Bruce Peninsula National Park

Further reading on hiking in Ontario

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 46 Comments
  1. Your photos – as usual are beautiful. They have an almost haunting quality about them. . .quiet, solitude, being alone on the trail, a moving post, this one!

  2. Beautiful photos Leigh! Places like this are why I hike. Scenery is amazing and I am at peace just looking at the photos 🙂

    I really want to spend some time exploring the outdoors of Canada.

    1. @Jeremy Thanks for your lovely comment. I hope I can continue to entice you up to Canada. We’re not as exotic as other parts of the world but I bet you’d love the beauty of the place.

  3. I’ve never been, but from your pictures it’s something that definitely resonate with me. We have some awesome hikes in Western Australia too, but quite different to those in Canada.

    1. @Johanna From everything I’ve read in western Australia I would definitely like to visit and hike. You’d find the Bruce Peninsula area very rugged, almost desolate feeling in places but very beautiful.

    1. @Sophie Initially I wasn’t happy about the fog as I always find it a tad disorienting but in the end I agree – it lent a lot of atmosphere but glad it burned off at least for a short while.

  4. Hi Leigh, I have not heard of Bruce Trail. It sounds amazingly long and it looks spectacular. I love wooded trails that run along the water. The color of the water is stil stunning eventhough it’s not sunny. It must be incredible when the sun shines. But I enjoy the foggy atmosphere; it looks mysterious. Thanks for taking me for another gorgeous hike!

    1. @Marisol The whole of the Bruce Trail hike is quite an undertaking. I met 5 ladies who were doing sections over the course of 8 years and planned to finish in June. That’s one of the best things about being out there is running into people like this and hearing their stories.

  5. Amazing scenery, Leigh. The mist is a problem but I’ve got to say, it gives it a lovely, ethereal feel. Hope the sun stays out so you can finish your time in Bruce Peninsula in good weather.

  6. I read about it in Lonely Planet Canada, and had it marked as a possibility on our 2010 trip, but we never found the time. It looks like it lives up to it’s reputation. Canada is so huge and has so many worthwhile sights and walks!

    1. @Jan You really have to pick specific area when you come to Canada and concentrate on them or you spend all your time in transit. The park is lovely and relatively easy to access from Toronto but remote too. There’s a ParkBus that now leaves Toronto and takes you there on weekends.

  7. I always keep on hiking because of the wildlife and the scenery. I love the photo of the water being so inviting but so cold as well. Enjoy your hike :)! Lovely landscape.

  8. Ooooo gorgeous photos! The sea looks magnificent, esp with the mist hanging. And the green of the trees is just beautiful. Thanks for taking me there for a visit.

  9. A shame about the budget cuts in the parks. I was really surprised about the color of the water — I wouldn’t expect that Caribbean hue in Canadian waters. Lovely pics you got on the trail. Glad the frog cooperated and kept still while you got his pic.

  10. Beautiful photos, Leigh! I knew about the Bruce Trail but I have never hiked it and I did not know that it was in a National Park. I really need to familiarize myself with a list of our National Parks! The colour of the water is amazing – I didn’t know about that either!

    1. @Lisa I lived in Toronto for years and never visited the park either. It’s exciting to explore areas you’ve heard about for years – especially when they more than meet your expectations.

  11. I haven’t heard of Bruce Peninsula National Park but now I want to visit. Those pictures and scenery from the Overhanging Point are just inviting and beautiful. I really love the unexpected Caribbean hue of the water. Awesome shot of the frog – I can almost feel its bumpy skin texture.

  12. So, so beautiful – maybe even more beautiful because you did such a good job of capturing the fog. Obviously there are a lot of wonderful places in Canada that I know nothing about! Guess I need to head north more often.

    1. @Cindy Yes you do – and I’m glad you’re coming to TBEX. There is a lot of great country I’m hoping to discover in Canada over the next 18 months. I’ve just got started in Ontario.

  13. I am truly captivated by your realistic photos and the way you used words for this trail. Wonderful post indeed. 🙂

  14. I always knew I was lucky, but now I know I’m luckier than I thought. My family owns land that abuts the park and includes lots of lakeshore as well as a beautiful glacially formed inland lake.

  15. We used to have a family cottage just north of Lion’s Head. I still go up to the Northern Bruce Peninsula every summer! It’s the most beautiful place in the world. Thank you for sharing these gorgeous photos! If you go up in late August or early September, you can probably handle the water temperature. If you swim on the Lake Huron side it’s much warmer and sandier!

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