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Beautiful Ontario - Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park

Updated on June 1, 2013
Picnickers and peddlers
Picnickers and peddlers | Source
A cliff jumper.
A cliff jumper. | Source

As the lonely trail led us to a rocky outcrop at the Indian Head Cove, we glanced casually down at the rocky Georgian Bay lakeside some 10 meters below and were pleasantly surprised to see hundreds of visitors, many with their dogs, picnicking by the crystal clear waters.

A group of daredevils had climbed a rock which was standing tall over the waters at about 20 meters high and was preparing for cliff jumping. We looked in horror as the lead jumper was about to unknowingly jump on two snorkelers in the water directly below him. He prepared himself for jumping and many visitors yelled in alarm, stopping a calamity in the making. Finally, when the snorkelers cleared the waters, the man jumped and splashed into the water, making some visitors clap in appreciation. Oblivious to this great feat, two sea kayakers pedaled pass by fully focused on their elegant strokes. Far out in the lake, couple of islands of the neighbouring Fathom Five National Marine Park were shimmering on the clear early morning sun.

We picked the Bruce Trail again and reached the rock where jumpers were stationed only to see a post warning visitors against cliff jumping as “it could result in serious injury and even death.”

The park, consisting of Georgian Bay coast; cliffs; cobbled and rocky beaches; many inside lakes; forests; unique flora and fauna; hiking trails; and camping sites, offers many water and land based activities.

What interested us in this park, a family of 4 (with two teen-aged children), was the fact that a section of 782 km-long famous Bruce Trail, Ontario’s mini version of the Appalachian Trail in the US, runs through the national park. We have been exploring its various sections off and on. Since it offered varying degree of difficulty all along the shoreline, we decided to hike on a track from ‘Overhanging Point’ in the west to ‘Crane Lake’ in the east. Inclusive of access trails through the dense forests, this meant only 25 km, but certainly felt like more than that due to several stretches where the trail went over rocks and cobble beaches.

Cyprus Lake.
Cyprus Lake. | Source

Hiking from Cyprus Lake to Indian Head Cove

From highway 6, we took Cyprus Lake exit and reached the Park Registration Office. We bought our entry pass, collected brochures, and got some necessary information before heading off to the end of the road. It was early in the morning, but anyone could tell that it was a sunny and hot day in the making. We took the Georgian Bay Trail to reach Indian Head Cove. The trail passed over a stream of gushing water coming out of Cyprus Lake and flowing towards the shore. Children were delighted at identifying oxeye daisies, orange hawkweeds, and birds-foot trefoils all along the trail.

A view of the cove
A view of the cove | Source

Trying to swim at Indian Head Cove

This was the first destination on the shore from the Park Office. It was only 8 in the morning, but the sunlight reflected off the water and wet rocks made us reach for our sunglasses. The elements had artistically carved the rocky shoreline, which was very popular with picnickers. The calcareous nature of lakeside cliffs had helped in formation of many caves that the children were exploring.

I dipped my one foot to determine water temperature. It was freezing. I opted out. Someone chipped in with an advice, “You gotta just jump in and everything will be fine.” Not being able to gather the courage, I declined to heed. However, that did not seem to discourage new arrivals. A group of 5 pre-teens jumped directly into the water upon arrival and swam back to the shore quickly, physically shivering, but mentally shell-shocked. Their embarrassment and their parents’ laughter bailed me out.

We made a ‘base camp’ here for our day-long stay in the park. Since the purpose was to hike, that is what we exactly embarked upon from here.

Visitors looking down a hole to see two snorkelers.
Visitors looking down a hole to see two snorkelers. | Source

At the Grotto

It was 10 a.m. and the bright sun felt like burning our skins. We hiked westwards for quarter of a kilometre over large rocks and through hundreds of beach and caves lovers to reach the high cliffs at the Grotto (picture). A grotto (Italian grotta) is any type of natural or artificial cave that is associated with modern, historic or prehistoric use by humans. Naturally occurring grotto is a small cave near water and often flooded or liable to flood at high tide.

Members of a family waiting for their loved ones to come back from Grotto.
Members of a family waiting for their loved ones to come back from Grotto. | Source

This was perhaps the most popular spot in the national park, albeit to slight discomfort of our naturalist minds. Cave lovers, snorkelers and children were squeezing pass a crevasse to reach the Grotto at the bottom of the cliff. From the top of the cliff, one could have a panoramic view of the entire shoreline, the mud coloured rocky beach, green forest covered cliffs, colourfully crowded rocky beach of Indian Head Cove, turquoise blue waters of the Georgian Bay, and silhouettes of couple of islands of the neighbouring Fathom Five National Marine Park out in the far background.

Hiking on rocks.
Hiking on rocks. | Source

Hiking towards the Overhanging Point

Hiking on the Bruce Trail westwards to the Overhanging Point from there on turned out to be difficult as a small section of the hike was over rocky terrain and then a cobble beach that required careful balancing. A slight misjudgement could force the hikers into doing a downward bound ‘whirling Dervaish’.


A bikini clad over-enthusiastic girl in her early 20s, apparently headed for the beach, lost her balance, and before anybody could respond to her cry for help, was penalized by the unforgiving nature with bloody bruises and a blushed face. Many other hikers gave up in the middle of the cobble beach. Where humans wilted, some resilient wildflowers had chosen tiniest of spots between rocks to bloom and show off their radiant colours. Sunglasses failed against the sunlight. Out came the baseball caps from our backpacks for supplemental defense.

My son poses for a picture.
My son poses for a picture. | Source

Once we crossed this section, the trail ascended sharply into the dense forest and became easier to traverse.

Out in the open, burning sun was at least accompanied by a light breeze. In the forest, it was hot and humid. We started sweating profusely. This reminded us of our frequent hikes on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and North Carolina.

The temperatures here were 10 C less, but felt equally challenging. The smell of wildflowers and freshly trampled and rotting foliage, damp soil and our sweat drenched T-shirts fused together into something that was refreshing and disgusting at the same time.

We found trees with their roots on soil surface like serpents, trying to get a hold of anything they could find. Some of them were uprooted by a recent storm to expose thinness of soil over the rock bed. This explained why the hearts of earlier settlers were broken when they tried to plough the land. Due to this unique geological feature, their pioneering days were doomed from the start.


At Overhanging Point

The Overhanging Point is named so because this portion of the cliff is not supported by ground below it, which is one of the main features of the Niagara Escarpment (see picture). This outcrop is the most photographed spot of the national park with many a picture of hikers / couples taken for showing off and for making posters.

This section of the trail was quite popular with hikers, many of them with their dogs on the leash, starting from Tobermory and heading for the Grotto. Wood lilies and an assortment of wildflowers bloomed along the trail. We then doubled back to our base at the Indian Head Cove.

An inland lake.
An inland lake. | Source
Contrast of green forest and blue water and sky.
Contrast of green forest and blue water and sky. | Source
My son walk from a forest on to a cobble beach.
My son walk from a forest on to a cobble beach. | Source

From Halfway Rock to Cave Point to High Dump to Crane Lake Parking Lot

My son and I hiked on this 8.5 kms of the trail as the other two members opted out in favour of Cyprus Lake. The trail offered fantastic lookouts of the rocky shore and crystal clear waters. The two of us met only 3 hikers on this long tract of Bruce Trail. Drinking lots of water and stopping at scenic outlooks or to observe wildflowers were our preoccupations.

At High Dump, the Bruce Trail said goodbye to the Georgian Lakeshore and turned south i.e. inwards into the deep forest. The sound of the waves breaking on the rocky shores gave way to total silence where the two of us could hear the swishing of our clothes and thudding of the hiking boots in a vast expanse of timelessness. Occasionally, a blue jay took to wings protesting at our intrusion in its territory in a characteristic annoyingly loud, almost gull-like scream.

The only other incident was when I heard an unusual rustle in the bush. I looked at my son and deciding to test his concern, inquired, “deer?..... bear?”

My son recalled his knowledge gained at the Park office brochure and replied, “Dad, there are 80 bears spread all over the park. Even if it is a bear, it is probably smaller in size as all animals are smaller here compared to their cousins elsewhere, and as much scared of us as we are of it.” I found the response satisfying.

This was an 8 km long hike that meandered through forest and through a number of lakes, namely, Warder Lake, Quenlin Lake, Upper Andrew Lake, and Moore Lake to reach the Crane Lake Parking Lot, where we were picked by my wife and drove back on Crane Lake Road back to Highway 6, finally joining with my daughter at our base camp on Indian Head Cove.

A busy spot in the park.
A busy spot in the park. | Source

Back at the Indian Head Cove

We had an early dinner back at the Indian Head Cove, where many other families were still coming in to enjoy the beach in late summer sun. Although we had brought delicious sandwiches, the aroma of barbeques was so strong that we could almost taste the steaks, kabobs and fish.

As the children went down the crevasse to explore the Grotto, my wife and I reflected on the day-long adventure. We had not even covered quarter of the Bruce Trail that passed through the national park. An entourage of various age groups appeared on the rock. A man in his 60s holding on to the leashes of two St. Bernards was alerted for his picture to be taken.

Turning towards us, he asked, “Do I look OK?”

My wife responded, “Well you are standing on top of the world, holding on to the leash of two majestic St. Bernards with the Grotto appearing in the background. What else do you want?”

The entourage chuckled and dispersed away. Children came back and showed bruises on their hands, their palms as coarse as the rocks they negotiated to get to and out of the Grotto.

Not a cliff jumper.
Not a cliff jumper. | Source

Cliff jumpers continued their frenzy. A girl in her mid-teens seemed preparing to jump this time.

“Don’t jump, there are children swimming at the base of the rock”, someone yelled.

“I am not jumping”, the girl shouted back, clarifying her take on the proceedings.

“Stop pulling the Lion King on us then”, protested another visitor recalling the rocky outcrop from the famous movie.

Although she did not jump, there were others defying logic and sense.

While this exhibit at the park's museum shows a black bear looking for worms under a rock, 88 black bears call it home in the park.
While this exhibit at the park's museum shows a black bear looking for worms under a rock, 88 black bears call it home in the park. | Source

Important information:

Other features of the Park include its endemic wildlife adapt to subsistence living due to thin soil over the rock bed. Commonly seen wildlife on The Bruce Peninsula National park includes chipmunk, squirrel, raccoon, porcupine, snowshoe hare, skunk, white-tailed deer, snakes and frogs. Black bear, fox, fisher, martin and the Massasauga rattlesnake call it home too, but are less ubiquitous.

Two other distinct features of the park are alvars and one of the oldest eastern white Cedars hanging on to the cliffs. Alvars are naturally open habitats with either a thin covering of soil or no soil over a base of limestone or dolostone. This feature is found only in the eastern European Baltic region and the North American Great Lakes Basin. Almost 75 percent of North American alvars are located in Ontario.

How to get there

The Park can be reached by taking north exit of Hurontario Street (Highway 10) from Highway 401. Continue until Highway 10 north joins Highway 6 north (coming from Guelph) at Owen Sound. Follow Highway 6 north past Owen Sound and Wiarton (a town at the base of Bruce Peninsula) all the way to the picturesque Tobermory, which is the last town on Bruce Peninsula with a population of 4,200.

Where to stay

For those interested in an affordable and comfortable extended stay, Tobermory and Highway 6 all along the park offer reasonable accommodations. However, advanced booking is highly recommended due to the popularity of the peninsula with the tourists.


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      22 months ago

      Yes, hiking does have its advantages. I should do much more of it.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      22 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you, Robert! Hiking was surely much better than swimming for water was ice cold even in the first week of July ha-ha.


      Suhail and my dog K2

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      22 months ago

      It is impressive how much your family hiked. The pictures are great. I think telling about the activities of other visitors is a nice touch.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Stella,

      I think you are doing a very nice job of hiking in Florida and educating us from a hot spot for us "Snowbirds".

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      You have wonderful photos of a beautiful place. I love to hike and wish I could go more often.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Au Fait (C.E. Clark),

      And here I am thinking of visiting Houston in March hahaha.

      Thanks for leaving such a nice comment as this.

      Best regards,

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Great information for people traveling to this area and after seeing your gorgeous photos, who wouldn't love to visit Bruce Peninsula? A perfect place to be in July or August when here in Texas the temperatures are sweltering under the relentless sun. I'm not sure I would handle cliff jumping very well, but sightseeing and taking photos like yours would definitely be at the top of my list! Fabulous article! Sharing with followers.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi manatita44,

      Thank you for visiting my hub and leaving kind words.

    • manatita44 profile image


      5 years ago from london

      That was some jump, Bro, and again incredibly beautiful places, including the grotto. I believe that I saw one like this in the Philippines.

      You may not be a poet but I see that you are a dog and nature lover, from your Hubs. Loyalty, devotion and sweetness ... all remarkable spiritual qualities. God speed!!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you, Mary. I am just trying to introduce beautiful places in Ontario for nature lovers.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Yes Phyllis, Ontario is beautiful, but not in normal ways that people refer a beautiful place to travel to. I am glad you liked this article.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      My gosh ! this is such an interesting article with beautiful images. Your description of all the points of interest is marvelous. I so enjoyed reading about beautiful Ontario. I have never been there, but, would sure like to take part in experiencing such a gorgeous area.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      6 years ago from UAE

      This is an outstanding poste. Voted up

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      You did an outstanding job at describing this beautiful part of the world. I've never been there, but would certainly love to see it1

      Voted UP, etc. and shared.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Thief12,

      Thank you for leaving nice comments.

    • Thief12 profile image

      Carlo Giovannetti 

      6 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great hub, and gorgeous pictures! Wish I could visit the place.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you for nice comments Sheri.

      And believe you me, BC and Vancouver Island are on my list of top destinations due primarily to the greenery and wildlife that we don't have here in abundance. My family and I would like to explore deep into BC's territory as far as the Continental divide.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      7 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      This is a very interesting hub. Every time I have been to Ontaria it has been for business and I haven't had time to linger and enjoy the outdoors. One day! Luckily for me I live on Vancouver Island and we have lots of trails to hike. Thanks for this, I enjoyed it!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Unknown spy,

      A typical summer adventure for a person like me that I remember vividly.

      Thanks for dropping by.

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      Amazing and wow!! that was a very great adventure.. I really want to see places like this. sharing!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi travel_man1971,

      But the truth is that they say, "seeing is believing". YOu have to give Ontario honor to host you again.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I hope our ship pursued its discharging schedule at the port in Ontario. It was way back 2009.

      Unfortunately, we had to stop at Toronto to unload our cargo due to the change in schedule.

      Thanks for this hub. My laker's experience in Canada is completed, unexpectedly (with your help).

      They say, to be a true seaman, you have to travel the Seven Great Lakes of Canada and had a first-rate experience with it. :)

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON


      Thank you very much indeed for your vote. And btw, you live in a beautiful country too. We have been to Malaysia and enjoyed the hikes there. We hope to visit parts of Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand in the future. I will be reading your hubs soon too.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON


      Ontario is quite different from California. We don't have their mountains and national parks and also anything like Napa Valley vineyards. Hiking for us is totally different from what we can visualize in Californian national parks. Ontario is a bit different from Wisconsin too, where my wife's nephew drives his motorcycle reaching there from Chicago. But what we have here, I tend to enjoy as it is easier to do lol.

      Btw, many tourists at Bruce are from neighbouring Michigan.

      Thank you for your nice comments.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Beautiful and I really enjoy the virtual hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park. Thanks for share with us. Good presentation. You deserve to get my vote. Take care!


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Bruce Peninsula National Park came alive with your descriptive words and photos. It sounds so lovely and would be a delight to visit someday. All kinds of up votes and definitely sharing!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you Au fait for reading my hub. Actually, 70% of the visitors to the waters of this part of Lake Huron are from Michigan. They come on their boats. And yes, it was a very enjoyable hike on the trail of this national park.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      7 years ago from North Texas

      Great description and beautiful pictures! Your narrative does make a person feel like they are there with you. It sounds like you had an enjoyable day and like it would be a great destination for vacationers going to Ontario.

      Voted you up, and all the rest. Will share with my followers!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you Samfay for the encouraging remarks.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you, Adnan for nice words. I am on the trail during spring and fall.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      It's beautiful place no doubt but your description made it so real as if I was walking the trail myself.

    • profile image

      Adnan Haider 

      8 years ago

      Beautiful article doing justice to this beautiful park!

      Went to Bruce Peninsula National Park last year with family... and was really stunned with its pristine coves... rocky beaches... and crystal clear blue water...

      Thumbs up Suhail Bhai to your quest for Bruce Trail!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Yes Ammar, I believe K2 will be with us in our next attempt to conquer Bruce Trail.

    • profile image

      Ammar Zubaid Ahmad 

      8 years ago

      I ditto the comment of the first poster. I just want to go there right now.

      Although i greatly greatly miss the presence of K2 in all of this. Just goes to show how much he has become the part of your adventures

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you, Uzma, that was very encouraging comments. Incidentally, this hike was continuously reminding me of a similar hike I had undertaken in Margallah Hills National Park in 1993. Only at that time my kid brother was with me. That was a whole day long hike that took us almost on the other side of the hills to Haripur. On our way, we saw barking deer, monkeys, hogs, goral mountain sheep, and pheasants. But then that is a story for some other time.

      Thank you again for visiting this hub.

    • uzma shaheen profile image

      Uzma Shaheen Bhatti 

      8 years ago from Lahore,Pakistan

      it seems to be a beautiful visit, you narrated it so well that i felt like i was visiting that with your words. I wish I could be there in were beautiful,complimenting the hub. voted up.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON


      Thank you for reading.

      You may be surprised to know that almost 70% of visitors to the waters of Georgian Bay are boaters from Michigan.

    • ercramer36 profile image

      Eric Cramer 

      8 years ago from Chicagoland

      Great Hub! Very interesting. It makes me want to pack up my car and drive there now.


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