Bruce Peninsula National Park continues to rise in popularity due to it’s beautiful hiking trails and incredible turquoise water views of Georgian Bay. As the 156 square kilometre park is located on part of the Niagara Escarpment, there are plenty of tall cliffs made of rocks up to 400 million years old. Along with breathtaking views of the water and caves at the edge of the cliffs, there are neat rock formations along the hiking trails to both admire and climb. Bruce Peninsula National Park provides a wonderful weekend nature escape from the city, with hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, scuba diving, and so much more to offer.
The most famous part of the park is the Grotto, which is a large cave easily accessible by the main parking lot to the National Park. Due to the Grotto’s increasing fame, it is now exceptionally busy with tourists, which takes away from the peace and beauty of the area during peak season. You have to purchase parking way ahead of time, or risk not being allowed into the parking area. This drives adventurers looking for a less chaotic trip to visit the Grotto during off-season when it is too cold to swim in the water, but allows for crowd-free views of the water.
What many people don’t realize is that there are plenty of other entrances to the National Park, many of which have similar views to that of the Grotto, and some where you can still hike to the Grotto in a single day!
My new favourite spot to enter the park is at Halfway Log Dump (lol at the name). This entrance is about a 7.5km hike to the Grotto, making it a more adventurous trek to see the cave in comparison to the 20-minute flat walk from the other parking lot. The overall trek took us about 6 hours roundtrip, with plenty of stops at the people-free rocky beaches along the way. Parking is about $12, which is half-price compared to the Grotto parking lot, and best of all, we didn’t have to have a reservation to park when we arrived at around 9:30am!
After a short 900m hike from the entrance, you will arrive at your first rocky beach, with very few (if any) people in sight. The water is a beautiful turquoise, and is usually good for swimming depending on the wind and the waves. The views from this initial beach are so incredible, that if you aren’t up for a long hike or you are with a family, this would be a wonderful final destination for a picnic and beach day.
I love hiking, and so I decided to hike from this entrance, all the way to the Grotto. The trail definitely ranged in difficulty, with some spots that were nice and flat, and a few that required using my hands to pull myself up. Along the way, there were so many incredible lookouts at the edge of cliffs, where you can see Flower Pot Island in the distance, and kilometres of Georgian Bay.
Along with incredible lookouts, there were also many other rocky beach spots, most of which had no people around anywhere. If there were any people, we walked up the beach off the trail for a bit and found our own place to hang out at. We walked along the Bruce Trail for about 3 hours, stopping at many lookouts and beach spots to enjoy the view and eat some snacks. We then arrived at the Grotto, where we jumped in for a quick swim, then left to avoid the congestion of tourists. We took our time on the way back, almost falling asleep laying on one of the rocky beaches on the way back!
Six hours of hiking may not sound exciting to some of you, but with the proper gear (and company!) it makes for a great adventure and work out. Preparing for such a day may feel daunting, but I’ve put together a list of items that will definitely prepare you for your trek!
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A Proper Backpack
I cannot stress the importance of a good hiking backpack enough – it will save you from terribly sore shoulders during your hike, which will worsen the day after! As you will be carrying a bag through the duration of your hike, it is wise to choose a bag with good back support. I purchased a great 30L hiking bag a while back, and it holds all of my snacks and such, while providing different straps and latches to spread the weight of my bag throughout my body. If you don’t hike very often and don’t wish to purchase a hiking bag, a good backpack will suffice. Try to find one with padding on the back and a clip on the front that helps to spread the weight of the bag.
Hiking & Water Shoes
Proper hiking shoes definitely make your hike more comfortable, and help you avoid injuries throughout your walk. Finding good hiking shoes can be difficult as different shoes are better for different kinds of trails! The hike through Bruce Peninsula Park is both through dirt trails and over stoney beaches. Typical hiking shoes may be good for most of the hike, but are really inconvenient if you wish to jump into the water at the many stoney beaches you’ll find along the way.
A great pair of shoes for this hike would be water shoes, with good support and quick-drying material. These would be great to wear in the water, as the stones make it hard to walk around without hurting your feet. With good support, you’ll be able to survive your hike without sore ankles and feet (hopefully).
I brought these water shoes on my trek, and I’m so glad I did! They are lightweight, and were really comfortable on both the trails and in the water. I was able to jump into the water without worrying I would step on a sharp rock or object, and then continue on my hike with the same shoes and dry feet shortly after. Aleader offers different styles for men, women, and kids, in many different colours.
Better yet, the shoes are a really good price! If you’re interested in purchasing these shoes, use my code “DEVENTURETIME15” for 15% off on the Aleader website!
Food & Beverages
As you are heading out into a park and onto the trails, there are no places to buy water and snacks – SURPRISE! Therefore, you always have to prep ahead with meals and plenty of water. I tend to stock up on nuts, granola bars, hummus and veggies, and some fruit, along with as much water as I can handle carrying. When it comes to packing food and water, you would much rather overpack, than end up running out mid-day!
This is always a good idea to grab when you’re heading into any park to go hiking. It will highlight restrooms, lookouts, different trails, and definitely helps you estimate how much longer you have to hike. It especially comes in handy if you lose cell service out in the forests, deeming the maps app on your phone useless!
Towel & Change of Clothes
You’ll definitely want to jump in the water in Georgian Bay! It is such a beautiful blue, it almost feels like a part of the Caribbean, but in Ontario. I tend to wear my bathing suit when I start hiking for convenience, then change into fresh clothing to continue hiking after swimming.
Definitely be sure to bring a towel or you’ll be hiking around uncomfortably until you’re dry! I like to bring quick dry towels, which are extremely convenient for hiking and travelling. I did a collaboration with a really neat sand-free towel brand, Tesalate, and I love bringing my pink and blue towel on all of my adventures now!
First Aid Kit
This is something you should always bring with you when you go anywhere because you never know what could happen! With the rocky, tree root covered trails in the National Park, it isn’t difficult to trip over something and injure yourself. Always be sure to pay attention to where you are walking, and bring a travel first aid kit in case you trip!
Of course, if you’re heading on a hike that is longer than 1 day or that is of high difficult, there’s definitely a lot more items you should be packing! I would say the part of the Bruce Trail from Halfway Log Dump to the Grotto is a medium difficulty hike – there are some places where you need to pull yourself up, lots of uphill then downhill parts, and rough terrain throughout. It is definitely manageable to hike from this entrance to the Grotto and back in a day!
Have you visited Bruce Peninsula National Park? Tell me about your experience in the comments!