The Bruce Trail runs along the escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory, with more than 890 kilometres of main track and over 400 kilometres of associated side trails. Like the Bibbulmun Track, the Bruce Trail is for walkers only, except for limited sections that pass along public roads or where specific permission is given for wheeled vehicles or horses. It is named after James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and Governor General of the Province of Canada from 1847 to 1854.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) is a charitable organization committed to establishing a conservation corridor containing a public footpath along the Niagara Escarpment, in order to protect its natural ecosystems and to promote environmentally responsible public access to this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Nine regional Bruce Trail Clubs are part of the BTC. Each Club is volunteer-run and is responsible for maintaining, stewarding and promoting a section of the Bruce Trail. Today, more than 1,250 volunteers donate their time and talents to the BTC and its nine member Clubs, and the BTC is supported by over 8,500 members.
The Trail begins in the Niagara Peninsula of Southern Ontario in Queenston, Ontario, on the Niagara River, not far from Niagara Falls, and a side trail allows walkers to view the falls. The southern segment is a narrow green corridor through a populated area in southern Ontario, a wonderland of waterfalls and panoramic views of ships plying their way along Lake Ontario. From there, it travels through the major towns and cities of St. Catharines where it passes through wine country. It continues due north, and the central section becomes remote and hilly. The escarpment often disappears into the hillsides, only to pop dramatically out again when you least expect it. Through the northern section, the walk is largely high on the escarpment ledges above the azure waters of Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huron. The northern terminus is in the small town of Tobermory, on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
The scenery along the walk is extremely varied and beautiful, ranging from cool green woodlands, massive rocky cliffs, beaches, waterfalls and slow-growing centuries-old coniferous trees right on the limestone lip of the escarpment itself. The wildlife is plentiful and walkers may see deer, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, porcupines, skunks and bears, as well as many birds and butterflies. The Bruce Trail passes through numerous government operated parks, and about half of its length runs through public land. Where private property is traversed the BTC has made agreements with landowners to allow trail users to pass through. Walking on the Trail is free but camping is only permitted at designated campsites. The BTC does not control the campsites, which vary from the very basic to large, drive-in campgrounds, and the costs will vary accordingly. For those wishing for a more comfortable walk there are B&Bs and hotels along the way, but careful planning is required.
The best time to plan a walk with regard to the weather is from late spring to early autumn i.e. May through September. As described earlier, the BTC is divided up into nine regional Trail Clubs, and each Club is responsible for its own section of the Trail. Information about each section can be obtained from the Club itself. All of this data can be found at the BTC official website http://www.brucetrail.org
White blazes mark the main trail, blue blazes indicate side trails, and to keep your bearings, the Bruce Trail Guidebook from the Bruce Trail Conservancy is indispensable.
Because there are many side trails and literally hundreds of access points, countless day-walks are possible with many loop trails available. Each Club recognizes an end-to-end walk through its particular section with the award of a badge and the BTC awards badges to those who walk the whole Trail—but in this case they must join the BTC as a member. As with the Bibbulmun Track, it is essential that anyone planning a walk on the Bruce Trail should plan carefully and contact the BTC for as much information in advance as possible, especially with regard to accommodation along the way.
Finally, herewith the comment of a Canadian hiker regarding the Trail:
“The incredible diversity of landscape, the hundreds of waterfalls and the abundance of wildlife creates the perfect backdrop for time spent in the great outdoors. We hike winter and summer, rain or shine—and yes, we have faced challenges due to inclement weather, but nothing we could not handle. Young and old will love the Bruce Trail, it is 900km of sheer beauty. Strap on a set of hiking boots, grab some water and an energy bar and enjoy!”
The Bruce Trail is a Bibbulmun Track Friendship Trail