Bruce Peninsula National Park
A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
A true gem of Ontario's natural beauty
Bruce Peninsula National Park
is located just outside the Town of Tobermory and was founded in 1987. It is a unique place within the borders of Ontario and it is within easy distance from most of the major tourist destinations.
Located in the center of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
the park contains incredible scenery, rare flora and fauna, a diverse collection of wildlife and activities to please a wide array of interests with some amazing vistas to view either the sunrise or sunset.
Situated on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron the park is 155 square kilometers in size and comprises the largest remaining chunk of natural habitat in southern Ontario.
On the east coast of this peninsula, Bruce Peninsula National Park is bounded by the Niagara Escarpment which drops off into Georgian Bay. To the west you’ll find fabulous beaches along the shores of Lake Huron. To the north and surrounding the park is another of Canada’s National Parks: Fathom Five National Marine Park, one of the best diving sites in the world.
The park is comprised of a variety of distinct habitats ranging from the rugged cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment to flat, dry rock plains called alvars, to various types of swampy wetlands. Many of these are separated by sections of privately owned land.
The cliff-edge ecosystem contains ancient Eastern White Cedar trees, some upwards of 850 years old. A dead 1845-year-old cedar was found on Flowerpot Island. It had died about 1500 years ago was only 1.5 metres (5 ft.) tall! This fragile ecosystem survives due to its remote proximity and the fact that the cliffs aren't the best place to grow but they're one of the safest places to live. There are no forest fires, nor logging and very little impact by humans.
In addition to the cedars, the park also contains a variety of rare plants including 43 species of orchids, rare ferns and ½ the world’s supply of dwarf lake iris.
Wildlife abounds and species to be found include:
- Black Bear
- Massassauga Rattlesnake
Black bears are present but they tend to avoid human contact. They are however strongly attracted to human food and garbage and will lose their inclination to avoid after become accustomed to eating our garbage and carelessly stored food. These bears can become a serious problem as they are quite large and can easily cause serious injury including death. Never approach a bear and avoid at all times.
The Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake is a very endangered species and is now reduced to a few scattered populations. You will more than likely never encounter this snake but it is better to be safe than sorry when hiking through the park. Protect yourself and always wear longer pants with thick socks and hiking boots and always kkep aware of where you are putting both your hands and feet. If you do happen to encounter a snake, report it to the park office.
Location of Bruce Peninsula National Park
How to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park:
If you plan to travel to the park getting there is relatively easy. Simply look on a map and find the small peninsula that separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay, That’s the Bruce Peninsula. Located right at its tip is the small Town of Tobermory. By far the most traveled route to Tobermory is from Southern Ontario You get there by:
- Traveling north on Highway 6 into Tobermory
- At Chi sin tib dek Road, turn right
- Follow approximately 1 kilometre (0.6 mile) to the visitor centre
Entry fees to the park also include entrance to Fathom Five National Marine Park and Flowerpot Island. Parking, camping and diving fees are not included and are sold separately.
As soon as you arrive at the Bruce Peninsula National Park visitors center you can’t help but notice the tall observation tower. At 65 ft (20 meters) tall it has 112 steps and offers amazing panoramic views over the area. If you are physically able be sure to climb to the top and check out the views. You will be impressed. This is something you definitely will not want to miss.
The park offers lots of activities to partake in including:
Bruce Peninsula National Park has the following trails of varying lengths and difficulty:
Cyprus Lake Trail - 5 kilometres (3 miles) long it takes about 2.5 hours. The trail loops around Cypress Lakeand is low in difficulty. It is accessed from the Head of Trails.
Georgian Bay - Marr Lake Trail - 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) long it takes about 3.0 hours. It reaches out to the bay then loops back to the Head of Trails. The difficulty varies and it is accessed from the Head of Trails. Halfway Point Rock offers an excellent vista with Flowerpot Island off in the distance. The trail also passes by Indian Head Cove which is an excellent diving and swimming spot. Further along are two sea caves, a natural arch and the famous Grotto.
Horse Lake Trail - 1 kilometre (.6 miles) in length it takes about 0.5 hours. It traverses long the shore of Horse Lake and is of moderate difficulty. Also accessed from the Head of Trails.
Singing Sands - 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) in length it takes about 0.5 hours as it is of low difficulty. The trail is on the west side of the Peninsula in a separate isolated section of the park across the highway from George Lake. It is well know for its orchids.
Halfway Log Dump - Is accessible from Emmett Lake via the gated road. This 3 kilometre (1.8 mile) hike will take you to one of the most spectacular areas of the Escarpment that lies within the park. Of moderate difficulty it takes about 1.5 hours.
Bruce Peninsula National Park is connected to the 800-kilometer Bruce Trail which provides a journey on its own for avid long term hikers and backpackers. Be sure to check out my Bruce Trail page for more information.
If you plan on staying overnight Bruce Peninsula National Park provides some excellent camping facilities including Yurts. For those unfamiliar, these are the dwellings of Asian nomads and provide excellent shelter and comfortable camping facilities. Check out the parks official website at: www.pc.gc.ca
for more information on renting a yurt or fees for other camping sites. If you just want to pitch a tent the following campsites are available:
Front Country Camping -
Bruce Peninsula National Park has 242 campsites in the area of Cyprus Lake. Tamarack (best for tent camping) has 81 sites, Birches 98 sites and Poplars 63 sites. There are no serviced sites available in the park. There are basic amenities but no showers. Showers are available for a fee just outside the park and in Tobermory. The park gets extremely busy and reservations are strongly recommended during high season. The Bruce Trail in this area is spectacular, especially further along near the Lion’s Head area.
Group Camping -
There are three group camping sites at Cypress Lake. The sites have basic facilities only. Groups must qualify top utilize, contact the park for more information.
Backcountry Camping -
There are wilderness camping sites in the park along the Bruce Trail following the Niagara Escarpment at High Dump and Stormhaven. There are 18 sites in total and access to the sites is along a rather rugged trail. You must pre-register to obtain one but reservations will prevent you from being. There is also a camping area on Flowerpot Island in Fathom Five National Marine Park located just off Tobermory. See my Fathom Five National Park page for more details.
The park offers excellent opportunities to partake in this Canadian tradition. Canoeing is available in:
- Cyprus Lake
- Cameron Lake
- Emmett Lake
Canoeing is available along the park's shores but open canoes are not recommended as these waters are cold and very unpredictable.
Bruce Peninsula National Park and its neighbor Fathom Five National Marine Reserve provide a sea kayaker’s paradise. Whether a first timer or a long time veteran the area provides some of the best inland sea kayaking in the world.
Beautiful scenery like sheer limestone cliffs abound, enchanting destinations like Flowerpot Island and the Grotto are lapped by waters varying in color from emerald green to deep blue. Paddle among shipwrecks lying just a few feet underwater. This is an activity that I highly recommend as you will have access to sites you simply can’t see from shore.
This can be a dangerous activity for newbie’s and experienced kayakers alike. The weather can be highly unpredictable and can change suddenly. The water is extremely cold and hypothermia can easily set in. Make sure you check the weather report before heading out and NEVER go out alone.
See my Fathom Five National Marine Park page for information on the area’s world-class scuba diving activities.
Bruce Peninsula National Park is a perfect getaway for travelers looking for a change from the usual routine of the big cities. Located just 300 kilometers northwest of Toronto it is an easy 3-hour drive. Well worth the trip it provides spectacular photographic opportunities, great swimming, canoeing and hiking locations and a genuine tranquil setting not found anywhere else in the world. If you go make sure you check out:
- Flowerpot Island
- The Grotto
- The Natural Arch
- The Lookout Tower
- Hike along one or 2 trails for some spectacular scenery
- Shipwrecks in the neighboring Fathom Five National Marine Reserve
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