Bruce Trail – Peninsula

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Length: 166.0km
Distance hiked: 15.2km
Number of hikes: 3

The Peninsula section of the Bruce Trail hugs the incredibly scenic rugged coastline of Georgian Bay from Wiarton up to Tobermory. It is the second longest section and is reputed to be the most challenging. Unlike many of the other sections that are located near the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), there are many areas along the trail with limited roadside/trail access. The Peninsula section does hold an annual End-to-Ends hike that splits the entire 166.0km distance over the course of 4 weekends and 8 days. But participants are required to hike together. And there are no check points to refill your water bottles. Or drop-outs.

If the Peninsula section wasn’t so far from Toronto (it’s about a 3 and a half hour drive from our place) we would hike here more often. The scenery is hands down one of the best along the Bruce Trail. And one of the best across Ontario.

Below is the (incredibly glacial) progress we’ve made to date.

All maps and kilometer references are based on the 27th edition of the Bruce Trail Maps and Trail Guide. 


Hike #1 – May 2016
Map #41: 146.1 – 144.3km (distance hiked = 2.7km one-way – 5.4km roundtrip)

The Bruce Peninsula National Park is probably one of the busiest parks throughout the summer. And its campgrounds usually fill up well in advance. We made an impulse decision to camp here over a weekend following the Victoria Day long weekend in May as the weather forecast was calling for favourable weather and there was still a lot of availability in terms of campsites. It was a rare opportunity.

We rolled up to the Cyprus Lake Campgrounds in the early afternoon on Saturday. After setting up our tent on our site in the Populars section (which is closest to both the Bruce Trail and various other trails that eventually criss-cross with the Bruce Trail) we were ready to embark on our first hike along the Peninsula section of the Bruce Trail.

We followed along the Georgian Bay Trail (probably about 1km one-way) which ends at the Bruce Trail. There’s no way to miss the turn off as it’s the only way to proceed. Plus the Bruce trail is marked with a series of white blazes.

We followed the trail east towards the Stormharven Campground (which offers 9 backcountry campsites). This part of the trail hugged along the shoreline of Georgian Bay. And you might be thinking that sounds like a pretty scenic hike – you know, just strolling along the beach. But make no mistake, those rocky beaches are challenging. It’s kind of hard to enjoy the view when you’re navigating among them loose wobbly pebbles and stones.

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We turned around at the Stormhaven Campground and headed back to our own campground at Cyprus Lake.


Hike #2 – May 2016
Map #42: 146.1 – 153.7km (distance hiked = 7.6km one-way – 15.2km roundtrip)

We followed along the Georgian Bay Trail to connect with the Bruce Trail again. Except this time we turned left and hike west towards Tobermory. The beginning portion of this trail winds through a wooded area high on top of the cliffs and provides gorgeous panoramic views of Georgian Bay’s rocky shoreline. The views don’t get much better than this.

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After hiking a short distance along the Bruce Trail we arrived at one of the main attractions in the Bruce Peninsula National Park: The Grotto. This is a popular spot for people to jump off the rocks into the crystal clear turquoise waters below. Located a bit inwards inside The Grotto there’s this opening in the cave where the light penetrates from the other side and gives the illusion that the water is glowing. Especially on a particularly sunny day.

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After exploring around The Grotto we continued along the trail, which consisted of a mix between walking across more rock beaches followed by more wooded areas. We didn’t anticipate the degree of difficulty required to walk along all those loose rocks. Progress was slow.

We hiked up to and including the Sinkhole Side Trail, which features one of the largest visible collapsed caves on the peninsula. We then turned around and started our journey back.

And guess what we saw just lurking around on a particularly muddy section of the trail? A massasauga rattlesnake! This rare rattler is Ontario’s only venomous snake. While the massasauga rattlesnake can be found along a small corridor along midwestern North America, within Ontario they predominately reside along Georgian Bay and on the Bruce Peninsula. Given that we didn’t want to disturb the rattler (especially since it is a threatened species), we made an exception to veer off the actual trail to walk around it.

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Hike #3 – September 2018
Map #42: 158.6 – 153.7km (distance hiked = 4.9km one-way – 9.8km roundtrip)

It’s been two years since we last visited Bruce Peninsula National Park. We came down the weekend after the Labour Day long weekend in an effort to avoid the crowds and to try diving at the Fathom Five National Park. But no trip to Bruce Peninsula is complete without hiking along the Bruce Trail.

We parked at the small car lot along Little Cove Road and hiked east along the trail. The terrain was just as challenging as we remembered, but the views overlooking Georgian Bay were well worth the effort. We hiked up to the Sinkhole Side Trail before turning it around and calling it a day.

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L & K

Return here for more of our Bruce Trail adventures.