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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.