If you are planning a (future) vacation to or around Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I 10/10 would recommend adding Bruce Peninsula National Park to your list. The drive is only 3-4 hours one way, depending on where you live or stay in the GTA + surrounding areas. The views are worth the travel time. If you manage to plan farther ahead, you could even spend a couple of days backcountry camping. Parks Canada keeps up the maintenance throughout the year, and the tent pads looked #comfy. We saw a couple of families with their kayaks propped up to dry, and their dry bags were strung high. It was a beautiful and inspiring sight. Future goals—literally.
We wanted to make this trip for a while after visiting the national park in early March. I have been in awe of Bruce Peninsula since I had first moved to Ontario. I knew someone that camped here in frigid November, and I have wanted to visit since.
Luckily for me, Griffin took me to Bruce Peninsula for my birthday! After having experienced the fantastic blue waters in snowier weather, he and I have been itching to get back to the park these summer months. Our day was supposed to be a hot one according to my weather app, and I wanted to get right in the water! Fun fact: Bruce Peninsula National Park is well-known for its swimming options.
Last year, we got out swimming in southern Ontario (early-morning Elora quarry is the best) and in my home area of Kananaskis near Calgary, Alberta. I forgot my bathing suit when we visited Bruce Peninsula in March, though, and ruined my three-year-long birthday tradition of diving into cold water to ring in my new age. This year, while we've been Ontario-bound, returning to Georgian Bay to get my swimming-redemption seemed like the perfect fit.
The last time we visited this popular national park, we opted for a shorter trip to the Grotto because it was -25 °C, and we had a warm place calling our name. This time, Griffin and I mutually decided that a longer hike might be fun, and I chose the point-to-point 7.7 km (and 15 km roundtrip) Halfway Log Dump to the Grotto trek. The reviews on AllTrails are seriously helpful, and the tips on there to bring water shoes were excellent! Our experience of the hike was similar to others: so many "ups and downs marked the rough, rocky trail." We were exhausted by the time we got back to our car. Even our shorter winter trip to the Grotto left us slipping on the incline because we hadn't been smart enough to wear proper shoes.
We were saying to each other after this more recent hike that there is no way someone would be able to complete this round trip if the weather was rainy or even unpredictable. Maybe the moral of this story is to be prepared to cut a hike short due to steep terrain. The trail is marked online as "difficult," and while I sometimes scratch my head at these categorizations, I agreed with this one. This stretch of Bruce Trail is tough.
With a pretty startling 4:00 am alarm time, and all packed and ready from the night before, we set out on our summer adventure. We got to the park by opening time (8:00 am), paid our park fee (it cost us 26 bucks), and parked in the shade. Note: I thoroughly did not enjoy the 40km/h gravel road that took us to the Halfway Log Dump parking lot.
Since the road that takes you to the parking lot and trailhead is so narrow, Parks Canada took it upon themselves to pave the way so no one can drive faster than the marked speed limit. For a good reason, of course, but I would prefer it if the results were not vibrating car seats and uncomfortably loud impact noises.
Important: Follow the white markers! The trailhead is quite hidden. In other words, Griffin and I were so mesmerized by the aqua waters and the white pebble beaches that we completely missed the Halfway Log Dump trailhead. Hint for next time: the trailhead is further up the blue-marked wide-trail before you see Georgian Bay.
I have to say that Griffin and I enjoyed testing the limits of our waterproof hiking books as we ventured through the more shallow parts beyond the shoreline. We also enjoyed apples, some peanut butter, and a dip in the water. This stretch of "beach" is where, upon returning after our hike, we would see quite a few people fishing, swimming, boating, etc.
Griffin and I managed to hike along the shore for about a km before we had to (literally) climb our way up to the trail. Just as we were about to turn around and find the signed trailhead we thought we saw (which we had), we caught glimpse of a couple other hikers higher above us on the white-marked trail. Success!
The hike took us around 6-7 hours total—with the quarter-hike swim lasting us about an hour. The water was perfect. We made sure to pack extra sandwiches, drinking water, apples, and energy bars since we'd read online that this hike is particularly grueling. The reviews were correct! We were surprised by the simultaneous rewards and consequences (read: very severe quad workouts!!) this hike offered. I must say, though, with every kilometer displaying a viewpoint, this hike is up there for the most fun I have experienced.
Halfway through the point-to-point trail (so, a quarter of the way through the roundtrip), you will find yourself at a large sign and stairs down to a vast stretch of pebbled beach. Well-kept backcountry camping is also popular at this part of the trail, called Cave Point. As I said, we hung out in the water + on the beach for an hour before moving on.
Even though we only saw 15-20 people on our hike, the more accessible beach areas were relatively busy. Despite some COVID-19 restrictions, the national park still charged the approximately 15 dollars CAD per person park fee. But since swimming seems to be one of the most popular things to do in the area, I wanted to highlight that the area around the Halfway Log Dump trailhead and the resulting stretch of Bruce Trail both offer perfect spots for swimming. Griffin and I were saying to each other that we felt like we were in a tropical or Mediterranean place and not Ontario.
Many more viewpoints, swimming spots, tiny lakes, and cliffs marked our hike's final stretch. I read somewhere that avid hikers continue past the Grotto to Loon Lake for a whopping 19.5 km roundtrip hike. We were not adventurous nor prepared enough for that level of hiking dedication, but we were pretty proud of our 14.5 km achievement! The trek is a rocky one. Wear hiking boots so that you don't roll an ankle! We felt like we were climbing up and down a set of stairs over and over. Have I mentioned that the hike was incredibly grueling?
Regardless, if you're on the more adventurous side, if you have a great hiking buddy + set of ankle-supporting boots, and if you're ready to snag a bunch of great shots for Instagram (*wink*), then do check out the "Halfway Log Dump to Grotto" hike.
This trail is just part of the expansive Bruce Trail I wrote about in my last blog post, and while the difficulty-level is not for everyone, the beautiful thing about a point-to-point trail with so many spectacular views is that you can turn around at any time!
What is more, before the trailhead begins, there is a 2-3 km stretch of beach with tons of swimming and cliff jumping spots. Overall, the area offers so much for any summer day. My ultimate dream is to plan a week-long kayaking trip around the national park and its surrounding regions. We saw ample spots along the trail where kayakers/canoers had hitched their dry bags + backpacks, and we cannot wait until we have a little family we can take on some outdoor summer adventures.
Thanks for following along! We have lots of DLTK's summer activities, and be sure to check out one of our other hiking posts:
- Bruce Trail: Chedoke Radial Trail
- Packing for A Hike
- Packing for a Day Hike
- Dressing the Family for a Hike
- Hiking Grotto Canyon
- Hiking the Kicking Horse to Amiskwi Trail
- Hiking the Loop Brook Trail
- Peyto Lake Trail
I am the "T" in DLTK! In my spare time, I love to hike, read poetry, and hang out with my two cats. You can connect with me here.