Bruce County is One of the Best Places to Go Hiking in Ontario
Bruce County is famous for its epic natural and beautiful landscapes, outdoor activities and opportunities to view wildlife. Naturally, it’s a brilliant region to go for a hike.
We recommend planning your hiking trip over a few days or even a whole week to make the most of what we have to offer. In this hiking guide, we’ll show you where to plan your hiking trips and how to prepare for your outdoor adventures to ensure you have the best time.
Hidden Gems and Fan Favourites on the Bruce Trail
Here are the best places to go hiking in Bruce County, including some fan favourites and trails you may not have visited before. There’s a great mix of shorter day hikes and lengthier excursions on the trails. For each hike, we’ll recommend where to stay and some restaurants and cafes in the area to make the most of your time here.
Jones Bluff Loop
The Jones Bluff Loop is a challenging 8.5 kilometre hike on the Bruce Trail, but it’s worth the effort. There are stunning lookouts over MacGregor Harbour from your vantage point on Cape Croker. Admire Sydney Bluff, Cape Dundas and Barrier Island as part of this magnificent scenery.
Walk through the forest while listening to the sound of crashing waves just beyond the trail. This is a three to four hour hike with no shortcuts. The trail itself is relatively flat, but the distance itself can test your endurance. There’s complimentary parking at the Bruce Trail lot on Boundary Road.
White Bluff Loop
Just north of Lion’s Head inside Smokey Head White Bluffs Nature Reserve, White Bluff is a fantastic choice for beginner hikers looking for breathtaking scenery. White Bluff offers three different loop trails, each with incredible views overlooking Isthmus Bay. Choose your adventure, from two to four hour long hikes. Hence the name, White Bluff is a layer of white rock on top of a rugged cliff that juts out over the water. The trail is flatter than other paths in the vicinity, so it’s a great choice for anyone seeking a shorter and more forgiving trek. You can park your car for free at the Bruce Trail parking lot on 40 Hills Road.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the most popular places to go hiking in Ontario. Famous for its rugged landscape, turquoise blue waters and the Grotto, Bruce Peninsula National Park includes part of the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath.
The Bruce Peninsula National Park is a very busy and popular place for visitors and residents alike. To start your hike along the Bruce Trail at certain popular access points, you will need to book a parking reservation over the busier months. These heavily trafficked areas include the Grotto and Halfway Log Dump. It’s a good idea to plan your trip during the off-season or throughout the week in the spring or fall.
Lion’s Head offers one of the most epic views on the Bruce Peninsula. To reach the lookout from the parking lot and back, you’re looking at an eight kilometre round-trip trek. For a more challenging adventure, hike the entire 18 kilometre full loop, which includes the lookout and other unforgettable scenery.
Be sure to reserve parking in advance to avoid disappointment. Paid parking is also available in town, but it adds an extra two kilometre walk from town to the park. This has become one of the more popular trails over the years, so it’s a good idea to arrive early or visit during less busy times.
The Spirit Rock trail is an easy, three kilometre loop inside Spirit Rock Conservation Area. The path takes you past the site of the Corran, a crumbling ruin that was once the site of a stately 17-room stone mansion. It also features an impressive view from the top of the Niagara Escarpment, as well as a spiral staircase to the waterfront.
Hikes on the Shores of Lake Huron
The best hikes in Bruce County aren’t limited to those on the Bruce Peninsula. There are a multitude of fascinating trails teeming with wildlife and beautiful scenery on the shores of Lake Huron. One of the best parts? These trails aren’t as crowded as the more popular places, like the Grotto, so you may end up having them all to yourself.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
MacGregor Point Provincial Park offers 20 kilometres of hiking and cycling in the summer and a dozen kilometers of cross-country skiing and ten kilometres of snowshoeing – and even a skating trail and rink – in the winter. Yes, this park is open year round! Spend the night camping or in a yurt and relax on the sandy beach or enjoy the tranquility of winter – there’s plenty of reasons for every season.
Inverhuron Provincial Park
Offering four kilometres of shared use trails, Inverhuron Provincial Park has hiking and biking and is a popular area for watersports such as paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking.
Stay at the Lime Kiln Cottages and dine at The King’s Pearl Pub and Eatery in Tiverton.
Sauble Falls Provincial Park
Sauble Falls is the perfect basecamp for visits to nearby Sauble Beach, with 2.5 kilometres of trails and camping. True to its name, there is a waterfall that offers the perfect spot to set up a picnic.
The Kincardine Trails are five different trail systems that take you into the heart of Kincardine. Check out the more than 25 kilometres of Kincardine Trails, including a wheelchair accessible boardwalk along the south side of the harbour, as well as multiple access points for each trail system.
Points of interest along the way include the Kincardine Lighthouse, the Pentangore River, Geddes Environmental Park, downtown Kincardine and several gardens alongside the trails. Also, you can be one of the first to explore the new 12 kilometre KIPP trail, connecting Kincardine to Inverhuron Provincial Park.
Stay at Inn at the Harbour and dine at many restaurants in beautiful lakeside downtown Kincardine, including The Bruce, The Erie Belle Restaurant or Hawgs Breath Saloon.
Saugeen Shores Trails
From the Lake Huron shoreline to the Woodland Trail forest, Saugeen Shores has a wide range of multi-use trails with a variety of surfaces. The Biener Bush Trails are used as walking trails in spring, summer and fall, and they’re open in the winter for multiple activities. The Shipley Trail connects the Port Elgin Main Beach to Gobbles Grove Beach.
The Saugeen Rail Trail connects Southampton and Port Elgin before continuing to the Bruce County Rail Trail. Points of interest from the Saugeen Shores Trails include the Chantry Island Lookout, Fairy Lake, multiple white sandy beaches, two splashpads and downtown Southampton and Port Elgin.
Stoney Island Conservation Area
Stoney Island Conservation Area offers six kilometres of hiking trails in the spring, summer and fall, as well as cross-country ski trails and five kilometres of side trails for snowshoeing in the winter. Admire gently flowing creeks from hand-crafted bridges on your adventure. There are also many opportunities for birdwatching from spring to fall.
Peaceful Hikes in The Interior
The beautiful hiking trails don’t stop beyond the Bruce Peninsula and Lake Huron. There are many more serene and peaceful paths in the Interior of Bruce County. Here are some lesser known gems that you’ll want to add to your hiking bucket list.
Schmidt Lake is a vast wetlands property in the Greenock Swamp. It’s one of the most diverse areas in Bruce County with 11 species of birds of prey species (eight species nest on the property). Be on the lookout for orchids that naturally grow at Schmidt Lake. Enjoy seven kilometres of trails, including the gorgeous views and floating boardwalks at the Schmidt Lake Lookout.
Bruce County Rail Trail
Hike a portion of the 80 kilometre Bruce County Rail Trail or challenge yourself to eventually hike the entire path. You may also choose to bike this lengthy route, consisting of a flat stone and gravel trail. It runs from Huron Bruce Road, south of Mildmay, all the way to Port Elgin.
The trail runs through the communities of Mildmay, Walkerton, Paisley and Port Elgin, so it really transforms into a “choose your own adventure.” Stop for a beach break in Port Elgin or a paddling trip in Walkerton. Make an ice cream pit stop at Tomboi Artisan Ice Cream in Paisley, a welcome treat on a lengthy hiking trip.
Safety Tips for Hiking in Bruce County
Bruce County is a hiker’s haven, with the most scenic section of the Bruce Trail, rail trails, local woodland trails and more. In a place with so much biodiversity and natural beauty, it’s important that you know what you’re doing before and during your hike. Here are some quick tips to ensure you have the best hike possible.
Wear Proper Clothing and Footwear
Wearing the proper clothing will make your hike more comfortable and enjoyable. Dressing in layers is always a good idea, especially quick-dry materials like polyester or wool. Avoid cotton if possible as it holds onto sweat. Check the weather in advance, and pack a rain jacket or light windbreaker if necessary. Wear a sun hat to protect yourself on hot and steamy days. Sunglasses can be a good idea for when there are areas with less shade.
Pay attention to the difficulty rating and surface of trails and always wear suitable footwear.
You want your feet to be comfortable and supported. Flip flops, sandals and casual shoes are a definite no-no. Your best bet for a safe and enjoyable hike is to wear hiking boots, hiking shoes or trainers with a lot of traction. The name of the game is traction-this is best for preventing slippage and accidents.
In the winter, you’ll need to dress in layers, including a thermal base layer, a midweight layer (fleece) and a warm winter jacket. You can always remove layers if you get too warm. It’s essential to bring a winter hat, gloves and a scarf, too.
You can purchase winter hiking boots that are waterproof and have added insulation. Most importantly, bring a pair of microspikes to attach to your hiking boots in case there are icy sections. These will provide traction so you don’t slip on the ice. And if the snow gets too deep, snowshoes are better than hiking boots in this situation.
Bring Water and Snacks
Refillable water bottles will help you stay hydrated and reduce waste. When you’re packing food, make sure you bring items that will give you energy. Think trail mix with lots of nuts, whole wheat bread sandwiches, energy bars, even some chocolate for that extra boost when you need it. In the winter, you may want to bring a warm beverage, like tea, in a tumbler. We often overlook bringing beverages in the winter, but you can still easily get dehydrated when hiking in any season.
Share with your friends, not the wildlife, feeding local animals can hinder their ability to survive independently. Make sure you bring more food than you think you need, in case something happens and you’re stuck out there for longer than you anticipated.
Leaves of Three, Let it Be!
Poison ivy is at best a pain and at worst highly dangerous. Learn how to recognize poison ivy and steer clear of it. Poison ivy is identified by its three leaves. Poison ivy can cause a rash or allergic reaction that, when in the wilderness, can become dangerous quickly. Make sure you are familiar with it before you head out on your hike.
Watch Out For Snakes
Be mindful where you step, Massasauga Rattlesnakes have excellent camouflage and they’re a protected species. If you’re bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
When you’re driving in provincial or national parks, please drive slowly and watch out for snakes on the road. It might look like a stick or a branch, but it could be a snake. Please “brake for snakes” as we aim to collectively protect our wildlife.
Beware of Bears
In the rare event of a black bear encounter, make yourself as large as possible and make a lot of noise by yelling or stamping your feet. You should NOT run away and you should NOT climb a tree. Black bears are faster and better climbers than you are, and your sudden movement could spook them. For more tips and tricks visit Ontario Nature.
Wear Sunscreen and Bug Protection
Don’t leave home without protecting your skin. Be sure to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the day. To protect yourself from mosquitoes, blackflies and other insects, make sure you wear light-coloured, long sleeved shirts and pants. You can protect yourself with bug spray as well, but make sure it’s environmentally friendly.
You never know what could happen out on the trail. You don’t want to have to use it, but if you need it you’ll be happy to have a first aid kit handy, stocked with adhesive bandages, gauze pads, antibiotic ointment (Polysporin) and tension bandages to help deal with any injury that might occur.
Another way to stay prepared is by bringing a flashlight in case you’re out for longer than you anticipated. In a worst-case scenario, make sure you have some sort of shelter with you in case of inclement weather or an unplanned overnight stay.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
It’s a good idea to always be aware of your surroundings. Be mindful of each step you take. Step over tree roots, not on top of them, as to cause minimal damage to the tree and avoid tripping or twisting your ankle. Be careful when you walk across limestone rocks, especially after a rainfall when they will be slipperier than usual. Don’t use tree branches to pull yourself up as they are unreliable and may snap under the pressure.
Keep your distance from the edges of cliffs as you don’t want to accidentally fall over the edge. In the winter, keep a safe distance from shorelines as the ice beneath your feet can break away from the shore and send you adrift on the frigid lake. You don’t want to end up trapped in the freezing cold on an ice drift.
Always let a loved one know where you plan to hike, your hiking route and when you plan to return. Be sure to follow up with that person when you return from your trip. Bring a fully charged cell phone, power pack and cord as backup to keep your phone charged. With that said, we can’t always rely on technology in case we venture to places in the wilderness that are far from cell towers.
Download the What3Words app in case of an emergency. This app has mapped out the entire world with a unique three-word combination for each three square metres. Provide 911 with the three words to identify your location during an emergency. However, What3Words only works when you have good cell reception and a charged phone. It’s not a good idea to solely rely upon What3Words in case of an emergency, but it isn’t a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the app in advance.
Respect the Environment
Please be mindful when you venture out into nature. Leave no trace or even better, leave the trails even cleaner than when you found them before. Don’t pick plants, don’t get too close to wildlife and don’t stack rocks. Only leave footprints and only take photographs.
Pack In and Pack Out
When you bring food, most of the time that also means you’re bringing garbage with you. Food waste, wrappers, plastic water bottles and more are bad for the environment and harm plants and wildlife. Make sure that whatever you pack in, you pack out and dispose of or recycle once you leave the trail.
Stay on the Trail
Please don’t wander off the marked trail. It’s important to minimize our impact on these wild natural places. Walking off the trail can negatively impact plants and animals by trampling on protected ecosystems. Some of these areas are private property where you are not allowed to walk or disturb the landowner. And furthermore, it’s easier to get lost when you’re off the trail!
Do Not Light Fires
Lighting fires is not permitted in most places on the hiking trails of Bruce County. Please limit fires to only designated spaces.