Bruce Trail Hiking along Niagara Escarpment
We can’t help but toot our horn when it comes to the Bruce Trail. Hands down, we have the most dramatic section of the world-famous footpath. Here dolostone cliffs drop 10 stories into the turquoise abyss of Georgian Bay. Spots like these make you want to lay on your belly with your head over the edge and watch your spit.
From Wiarton to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail stretches 156 km along the Niagara Escarpment on the eastern edge of the Bruce Peninsula. Huge boulder beaches and massive caverns put you in the land of the giants. Crevices, steeps and stocky roots keep you focused. It’s a challenging trail – for sure.
Numerous access points allow for countless day trips. Side trails offer looped options. There are primitive campsites and drive-in public campgrounds en route. At the trail’s northern terminus in Tobermory, be sure to climb the Lookout Tower for a stupendous view, and also to get your picture taken in front of the Bruce Trail cairn.
White blazes mark the main trail, blue blazes indicate side trails, and to keep your bearings, “The Bruce Trail Guidebook” from the Bruce Trail Conservancy is indispensable. Another smart companion is a hiking map called “Bruce Peninsula Trail Club Day Hike Guide”, which folds out like a road map and provides pertinent details including distances, highlights and parking. This hiking map is readily available at local shops.
For multi-day packages, a wonderful organization called the Home-to-Home Network offers accommodation, meals, luggage transfers and shuttles for Bruce Trail hikers. You can trek lodge-to-lodge or hike selective segments from a cozy home base.
Great Day Hikes
• Bruce’s Caves (Near Wiarton; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 33, Reference #119.0) – From the Bruce Trail (and Bruce’s Caves parking lot), a 400-m access trail leads to a massive undercut cave with a crevasse at its back and a pillar at its front.
• Spirit Rock (Near Wiarton; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 33, Reference #2.8) – On a side trail of the Bruce Trail, this conservation area features the ruins of a 17-room mansion built in 1882, and a spiral staircase that winds down the escarpment. Picnic tables are on site.
• Jones Bluff (Near Cape Croker; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 34, Reference #26.6) – One of few points on the Niagara Escarpment where you can actually see the escarpment – in view on the other side of Sydney Bay. Numerous lookouts provide great photo opportunities.
• Jack Poste Side Trail (Near Hope Bay; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 35, Reference #49.7) – Massive, moss-covered boulders and large glacial potholes, scattered amidst the big trees of a mature maple forest.
• McKay’s Harbour (Near Lion’s Head; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 36, Reference #81.0) – It’s a demanding trek down and up the escarpment with a succession of lookouts over Georgian Bay. Hikers can watch rock climbers tackle one of the toughest spots on the escarpment. There’s a designated wilderness campsite on shore.
• Devil’s Monument (Near Cape Chin North; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 38, Reference #119.1) – Standing 14-m-high, Devil’s Monument is the largest flowerpot formation on the Bruce Peninsula. From it, a staircase leads down the escarpment to the water’s edge.
• Cyprus Lake (Bruce Peninsula National Park; Guidebook Edition 24, Map 40, Reference #156.5) – From Halfway Rock Point to the Overhanging Point, the most visited section of the Bruce Trail features Indian Head Cove, several caves including the Grotto [LINK], the Natural Arch and a big boulder beach.
• Little Cove to Tobermory (Near Tobermory; Guidebook Edition 24; Map 40, Reference #168.8) – This full day adventure includes lookouts, the Visitor Centre in Bruce Peninsula National Park, and the northern terminus trail cairn.
***Also, see “Hiking” under Things to Do.
View The Bruce Trail in a larger map