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Official Tourism Website of Bruce County, Ontario, Canada

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Winter Hiking

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Experience a Whole Different Hike
Experience a Whole Different Hike

The spectacular views along the Bruce Peninsula in winter are a sight to behold, but one that doesn't happen without the cold. A few seasonal considerations can help assure you are well prepared and warm enough to enjoy the trails in all their hibernal beauty.

Layer Up

"Dress warm" may sound obvious when hitting the trails in winter, however dressing warm in layers will improve your over-all comfort throughout the day. Having layers allows you to moderate your temperature by removing layers when moving on trail, or adding them when stopping to refuel or to admire those vistas. Hiking in full layers can cause sweat, which can make you colder when you stop. Making sure you have some dry layers throughout the duration of your outing will help ensure the overall enjoyment of your experience.

Hands and Feet

Rambling around over snow covered rocks can leave you no choice but to depend on your hands for stability, which can cause your gloves to get wet before the day is over. Keeping a spare pair of gloves nice and dry in your daypack will permit you to reset the warmth on your hands later in the day. Likewise it's a good idea to have a second pair of socks for the same purpose. Depending on how long you are hiking, your socks may get wet which will leave you feeling twice as cold when you stop.

Rewarmers

Hotpockets provide a handy dose of heat when you need it most. Follow the instructions on the package to activate the heat and place them inside your gloves or boots or both. Hotpockets can also be activated and used in your pocket to keep the cold from zapping your camera batteries or cell phone. Having extra hot pockets with you is always a good idea. Sometimes they don't work and having backups will assure you have the blast of heat when you need it most.

Traction

Snow and ice can lead to slippery terrain, especially along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. Having a pair of anti-slip soles can make all the difference when in need of extra traction. Adaptable to all shoe and boot sizes, anti-slip soles can be found at most outdoor outfitter shops. Furthermore, a pair of snowshoes that can be strapped to your daypack are a good option if you decide to venture off on trails less travelled.

Be Snow and Ice Safe

While hiking along the top of the escarpment, even when on trail, stay well back from the edge, especially in winter. Snow can pile up along the edge and cause cornice formations. A cornice is when the snow formation is shaped out past the edge of the cliff. Stepping onto a cornice is extremely hazardous. Always be aware that what looks like snow can also be ice and may not be secure. The natural rock crevasses of the escarpment can also be hazardous when buried under the snow. For the most part, staying on the trail is a good way to avoid falling in a crevasse.

Stay Off the Ice

Lake Ice along the Bruce Peninsula is rarely ever safe. Even when it is thick, the ice can detach and leave you stranded on an ice floe in a hurry. Have a hiking pole with you that doubles as a prodding device to check the snow in front of you while hiking along the shore and make sure you are not walking on lake ice. Most of the spectacular ice formations can be appreciated from on shore. Avoid following the tracks of others who've ventured out on the ice before you got there.

Food and drink

One of the best ways to stay warm is to keep the body refuelled and hydrated. A thermos of tea or warm meal can make all the difference trying to stay warm out on the trails. It's easy to forget to drink water when it's cold outside. Be sure to have water with you and take the time to rehydrate. This will help keep you comfortable and moving throughout the day. Also nothing beats a post winter hike like a warm meal in the nearest town. Best to find out in advance which restaurants nearby are open during winter and check their hours of operation. With fewer people using the trails in winter, be sure to have a full charge on your cell phone, and let someone know where you plan on going and when you expect to return. With proper preparations in place and having the right gear, hiking the Bruce in winter can be highly rewarding, and is surely a magical time of year to explore the trails.

Places to Go

The best winter hiking on the Peninsula is found anywhere along the Bruce Trail. For the Lakeshore, head to the Beiner's Bush Trail near Port Elgin and find out why folks have coined this corner of the County as 'Ontario's Hiking Heaven'. For the Interior, take a snowshoe or hike along the Bruce County Rail Trail, and experience the winter beauty of the Saugeen River.

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Learn all about visiting Bruce, Grey, and Simcoe counties here