Canada’s Epic Hiking Trail You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

When you think of Canada, what comes to mind? If it’s lush forests, stunning nature, and untamed wilderness, you’re probably not alone.

Now, think about some famous hiking trails. Immediately, I’m sure that certain ones come to mind: the Camino de Santiago, the Appalachian Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail (made more well known by the book and movie, Wild). Did you know that Canada has an epic hiking trail that spans across the entire southern portion of Ontario, nearly 900km in length? It’s an outstanding trek that you’ve likely never heard about. This footpath is called the Bruce Trail. Expedia.ca asked me to share all I know about the Bruce Trail.

The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and continuously marked footpath from north to south – from Tobermory to Niagara. This path is 890km in total length. In addition, there are 400km of connected side trails. Southern Ontario has a lifetime’s worth of trails to explore, and they’re publicly available to everyone. The Bruce Trail offers the only continuous public access to the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This year is a very important milestone for the path, as 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Map
A map showing the entire Bruce Trail from Niagara to Tobermory

The Bruce Trail Conservancy

The Bruce Trail Conservancy, or BTC, is a charitable organization that is committed to the preservation of these lands for current and future generations to enjoy. The BTC’s mission is to protect the natural ecosystems while providing environmentally responsible public access to the Niagara Escarpment. While nearly 900km of hiking trails have been established, many people don’t realize that the Bruce Trail is not permanently secure. There are sections of the footpath that are owned privately, with permission granted to hikers to use the trail. More than 50% of the Bruce Trail corridor is vulnerable to development and destruction. The only way that the BTC can conserve this land permanently is by securing donations of land, or by purchasing the land outright. Currently, over 9,700 acres have been preserved by the BTC; thankfully, these will remain part of the public trails forever.

The BTC has nine area clubs that are responsible for maintaining their section of trails, run primarily by members and volunteers.

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada
Hiking the Bruce Trail with my friend, Shannon

End to End Challenges

If you’re a member of the BTC, you can officially participate in any of the numerous end to end journeys. The main end to end means that you hike the entire 890km of the Bruce Trail, through all nine club sections. This can be done all at once or over many years. Each Bruce Trail club also has a separate end to end challenge where you complete that smaller section of trail. All you have to do is become a member of the BTC and keep a record of your hikes. I strongly recommend that you pick up a Bruce Trail Reference Guide, which includes maps of the trails. This is really handy and helps you from getting lost! When you complete a section of trail or the whole thing, you can mail away to receive one of the coveted badges so you can proudly display your achievements. If you need extra motivation, every club organizes group hikes throughout the year, including end to end trips. So, you can hike with a group of like-minded nature lovers and tackle the trail together.

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

Hiking the Bruce Trail

For my personal hiking journey, I started in the Niagara region in Queenston. I don’t have any goals to achieve a certain distance by a certain time; I simply want to eventually hike the entire thing. I hike the trail when I’m able to get outdoors for the day, and I enjoy every moment of it. This journey began back in 2013 and I have traveled as far as Thorold, Ontario so far.

Southern Terminus of the Bruce Trail
Standing at the Southern Terminus of the Bruce Trail in Queenston, ON

 

Every hike is different. There are new sights, stunning views, and interesting discoveries. Through the Niagara club section, I’ve stumbled upon vineyards, caves, canals, and an abandoned railway tunnel (that is supposedly haunted). It’s always fun to explore and uncover places in my own province that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve also had my share of mishaps. One time, I had to drop out of a hike due to the heavy presence of mosquitoes and ticks. In another instance, I took quite the tumble into a huge mud puddle – yes, I was covered from head to toe in mud! One thing is certain for each hike: follow the white trail blazers and you’ll remain on this 890km stretch of trail.

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

I’ve hiked the Bruce Trail with Justin, my sister, and my best friend. It’s wonderful being able to spend the day hiking through the forest or wherever the trail guides us. There are lots and lots of places that I’m looking forward to visiting. The Hamilton area is known for its hundreds of waterfalls, many of which fall along the Bruce Trail. The most scenic waterfall is Webster’s Falls in my hometown of Dundas, Ontario. Towards the end of my hike, I’ll be fortunate enough to explore the jagged cliffs of the Bruce Peninsula, overlooking turquoise waters likened to those in the Caribbean.

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

Bruce Trail, Ontario, Canada

Now that Fall has arrived in Ontario, it’s an ideal season for hiking. The leaves are changing colour and there’s a cooler breeze in the air. It’s the perfect time to find a section of the Bruce Trail near you and spend a day outdoors. And maybe I’ll see you out on the trails!

I blog about all of my Bruce Trail adventures, so please check out my individual hiking trips.

 

17 Responses

  1. Freda
    | Reply

    I’ve not only heard of it, but I live in Hamilton and have hiked the trail often. πŸ™‚
    Freda recently posted…3 Photo-Art Fall Decor Ideas from PosterjackMy Profile

  2. Jenna
    | Reply

    You’re right! I had never heard of this hike. Thanks for sharing–it looks like an amazing trail system! Would love to do even a portion of it sometime! I’ll have to remember this for the next time we are in the area!
    Jenna recently posted…Fall Hiking at Hallaway HillMy Profile

  3. antonette - we12travel
    | Reply

    As a follower of you blog, I read your previous stories too. I love long distance hikes and it’s such a great accomplishment when you finish them. The longest hike we have in The Netherlands is about 650 kms and we finished it early 2014. Too bad that Ontario is just a bit far away for us to come and check it out…

  4. Ron Robbins
    | Reply

    Oh great post Justin & Lauren! I’ve hiked a good 75 miles of the Florida Trail, portions of the Appalachian and now that I’m living in Colorado am really looking forward to hiking the PCT. You were certainly right, I’ve never heard of the Bruce Trail. I’ll be traveling to Alberta next Spring/Summer but was definitely considering making it a larger trip and visiting Ontario as well. This will definitely be on my list of places to hike! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚
    Ron Robbins recently posted…Giveaway: Win 1 of 5 NEW GoPro’sMy Profile

  5. Charlie@Seattle Trekker
    | Reply

    I am always looking for new hiking challenges, thank you.

  6. Wandering Carol
    | Reply

    We’ve been hiking different parts of the Bruce Trail almost every weekend this summer. Well, my husband has. I go when I can. We love love love it! Glad you’re also a fan.

  7. Brad
    | Reply

    This might be a crazy question, but how do you hike just portions of the trail and still get back home? Do you hike one way and then double back to your car? Or do you have someone pick you up at your finish point? I’ve wanted to hike the Bruce for year but can’t figure out the logistics of getting back home again!

    • Lauren
      Lauren
      | Reply

      Brad, that’s not crazy at all! I actually end up hiking the trail twice…. I hike a distance and then hike back to the car. It isn’t the most efficient way of hiking the Bruce Trail, but that’s the way it’s working for now. I know some people hike with two cars (one parks at one end and one at the other) and I’ve also heard of people calling an Uber to bring them back to their car! I don’t mind hiking this trail slowly and hiking it eventually…twice πŸ˜‰
      Lauren recently posted…Seydisfjordur – Iceland’s Picturesque Valley TownMy Profile

      • Brad
        | Reply

        Thanks Lauren! I’ll have to start my trek this spring. Twice!

  8. […] Canada’s Epic Hiking Trail You’ve Probably Never Heard Of […]

  9. Taryn
    | Reply

    I live in BC, but have friends who live in Ontario. On our most recent visit a few years ago we headed up to Tobermory for a few days of camping and hiking. We went hiking along the coast and discovered that we were on the northernmost kilometers of the Bruce Trail. It’s a beautiful area – I had no idea that Ontario could look like that! From your photos it looks like the trail covers some really varied terrain. I’ll have to hike more of it next time I’m in Ontario.

  10. Pasquale DeAngelis
    | Reply

    Back in 2005 I did the entire Bruce trail by myself. It was the most exciting thing I have ever done. What struck was how each path or section has a B&B available. I was able to eat, shower, rest and go at it again the following day. I will never forget it. I wish I could do it again…

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  12. Sarah Chrish
    | Reply

    That’s awesome! Hiking in this type of beautiful places makes us feel excited.

  13. pavitra
    | Reply

    Absolutely right, I am reading first time about this hike. Wonderful pictures. Great share.

  14. Agness of aTukTuk
    | Reply

    These are some awesome trails! I would love to hike all of them!
    Agness of aTukTuk recently posted…5 Tips on Blending in with Asian Culture whilst TravelingMy Profile

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