Hiking all 885 kilometres of the Bruce Trail is on my bucket list. As it is Ontario’s longest and oldest foot path, running from Queenston in Niagara to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, I have no interest in doing it all in one go (the average end-to-end hiker can finish in 30 days). Nor do I have any chance of breaking any records (10 days, 13 hours, 57 minutes is the fastest). I’d simply like to leisurely explore this UNESCO world biosphere famed for its glacially sculpted, rugged limestone and rich ecosystem, one scenic section at a time.
This summer, I fully intended to hike one of the trail’s most dramatic stretches from Tobermory to Lion’s Head. Located 270 kilometres northwest of Mississauga, both small towns are situated on the peninsula that divides Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. But even the best-laid travel plans don’t always materialize, and our four-day hike needed to be cut in half. Not only that, a section of the trail near Tobermory had been rerouted onto a main road, considerably less appealing than hiking on the escarpment.
But all was not lost. Thanks to our knowledgeable and gracious hosts at Taylor-Made Bed & Breakfast, we spent a fabulous 48 hours exploring both lesser-known and more popular sections of the Bruce Trail.
After visiting Lion’s Head on a hiking trip, Diana Licskai and Doug Kennedy decided to move here. “When we went into town on a Friday night and only three cars passed us,” said Diana, “we knew it was the place for us.” Serendipitously, the B&B they had been staying at was for sale, and the rest, as they say, is history. The majority of their guests are hikers, and about 20 percent come from overseas, Germany in particular.
What is their reaction to the scenery here?
“They are blown away,” says Doug. “They are used to lots of other walkers and fences that stop hikers from getting too close to the natural attractions, and there’s none of that here.”
Though it’s much closer to home for us, we were blown away, too. Our Bruce Trail hike in the Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve took us through an ever-changing escarpment landscape. One minute we were standing atop of 300-foot cliffs looking down at the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay, and the next minute we were rambling through a cool, dark forest with massive moss-covered boulders and every shade of green imaginable. What astounded us the most, however, was that we saw but one lone hiker in the first two hours. Later on, there were a few more people out and about (though it was still blissfully uncrowded), especially near the Pothole and Giant Cauldron side trails, which as their names suggest, highlight the region’s distinctive sink holes and caves. We would have loved to explore more but after six hours on the trail, the only place our wobbly legs would take us was back to the vehicle.
We had been dropped off at a different entry point by Diana that morning, taking advantage of the ferrying service the B&B provides their guests for $0.65/km. Transportation to this nearby hike was a very reasonable $7.15. As part of the home-to-home network, they also work with four other B&Bs that can arrange travel and even ferry luggage from inn to inn depending on your hiking plans.
After enjoying a meal on the outdoor patio at Lion’s Head Inn, we crashed at a ridiculously early hour to rest up for our next day’s adventure in Bruce Peninsula National Park and nearby Tobermory.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
With 248 campsites, 10 yurts, swimming beaches, and varied hiking paths that include the Bruce Trail, this national park is one of the most popular spots on the peninsula. The star attraction of the 38,000-acre wilderness area is the Grotto, an easy 30-minute walk along the scenic Cypress Trail from the parking lot. Though we didn’t explore the underwater cave ourselves, we climbed the rocks and watched other brave souls do just that. The emerald water and the shoreline resemble a panorama you might see on a Caribbean postcard; however, unlike tropical locales, the water here is considerably colder! Though the Grotto and Indian Head Cove next to it are the busiest areas of the park, there was a lot more to explore. We found ourselves back on the Bruce Trail, where we came across Boulder Beach, a shore covered with large white rocks bulldozed here by glaciers 450 million years ago. Once again we were awed by the wonders of the escarpment.
A good hike deserves a reward, and we got ours at the Tobermory Brewing Company in the form of a brewed-on-the-premises lager and the best meal of the trip. On the patio, we watched the comings and goings of this cheerful lakeside town: glass-bottom boats on the way to sightseeing excursions to Flowerpot Island; diving outfitters off to explore the over 20 shipwrecks found here; and the large Chi-Cheemaun ferry loading passengers headed to Manitoulin Island, the biggest freshwater island in North America and one of my absolute favourite spots in Ontario. But I’ll leave that for another day as I still have a lot of hiking to do on the Bruce Trail. If I continue at this rate, I should be done in say, 2070.
If you go:
Taylor-Made B & B: 31 Byron St, Lion's Head; 519-793-4853
For more information on the Bruce Trail and to order maps, visit www.brucetrail.org. You can find more to do on the Bruce Peninsula at www.explorethebruce.com and https://www.ontariotravel.net. Reservations for Bruce Peninsula National Park can be made at Parks Canada website – www.pc.gc.ca or by calling 1-877-737-3783 (1-877-RESERVE).