At the beginning of December, I spoiled myself with a weekend away along the Bruce Peninsula. The finale was finally visiting a part of the Bruce Trail that’s been on my list for a while – Cyprus Lake in Bruce Peninsula National Park! Both times I previously attempted to visit. The first because I mistook BPNP for Fathom Five (while often marketed together, they are separate parks) and the second due to the influx of tourists in the summer. Although it just made this visit that much sweeter!
My heart skipped a beat as we arrived to a practically empty park at the end of Cyprus Lake Road. One thing you may not know about me is that I really don’t like sharing… especially when it comes to nature. I want to enjoy its beauty in peace and quiet! Especially the ever-stunning beauty of the Bruce Peninsula. So as you can imagine, this made our arrival even more surreal compared to the last time where I turned around before even reaching the parking lot.
We arrived at 1pm, meaning we were racing daylight as the sun set at 5pm. Not wanting to be stuck out there in the dark, we opted for a 5km loop taking us along Georgian Bay’s shoreline along with 2km of the Bruce Trail! There’s lots of trails to make a full day of it if you have more time. However, this loop was perfect for an afternoon adventure.
We made our way west following the Georgian Bay Trail. The start of the hike is easy as the terrain is flat with smooth gravel. You’ll want to stop for a moment at Cyprus Lake, especially when it looks as tranquil as it did when we arrived! Not wanting to lose too much time, we quickly continued along the trail. For those wondering – that’s not smoke. Robin uses a vape.
You’ll reach a fork where the Marr Trail appears on the left. Taking this will lead you to the Bruce Trail as you reach Georgian Bay’s shoreline. You’ll also pass by Marr Lake on your right. The trail starts to get a little more difficult as you trek down the path. Although way before you see trail blazes, you’ll see the iconic bits of limestone the area is known for. Be careful and take your time when you reach this point as the terrain is very unstable and it’s easy to roll an ankle! Follow the blazes to the left and then you’ll see signs for Overhanging Point.
After enjoying the view, backtrack and follow the Bruce Trail along the shoreline. I always love exploring along the rocks because the patterns and colours are so interesting! You’ll come back to the Marr Lake Trail, but keep left along the shoreline. The trail will take you through areas of brush with the odd rock path towards the bay. Take in these views as you make your way towards one of the area’s most photographed locations. Can you guess what it is?
You guessed it – the Grotto! Visiting in the off season, you’ll be able to enjoy the Grotto in its entirety. No people, no hassle – just the pristine natural beauty the Bruce Peninsula is known for! This is the main reason I love off-season travel. You experience places as they’re meant to be! However, in the warmer months you can actually climb down close to the water and go inside the cave. I didn’t dare venture it for fear of falling in the barely above freezing water. That didn’t damper my experience though!
As beautiful as the Grotto is, the next stop was hands down my favourite. The pristine beaches of Indian Head Cove took me back to Caribbean-like views. It’s a popular swimming spot, and I can definitely see why. While the water in Georgian Bay is quite cold, it’s refreshing on scorching hot summer days!
You can never get enough of the turquoise blue waters, but keep following the Bruce Trail when you’re reading to continue. About 150m down the trail you’ll come to Halfway Rock Point and another fantastic lookout spot. Keep following the shoreline through fun little pathways until it begins to head slightly inwards. Here you’ll come upon a fork in the trail. Make a right for the Georgian Bay Trail, or keep left like we did to meet the Horse Lake Trail. A few more minutes with the shoreline and then it was back into the forest!
The trail becomes easier as the terrain changes from hard rock to soft dirt and leaves. Follow the winding path through beautiful tall trees and listen for little critters as they scuttle up tree trunks and long the ground floor. You’ll cross the occasional wooden bridge as some areas can get mucky. Need to take a little break? Be sure to sit for a moment and enjoy the view of Horse Lake from one of the benches on the wooden deck. Continue through the trees for another 5 minutes and voila, you’ll be back at the parking lot!
While the loop took us about 4 hours to complete, it can be done a lot quicker as we stopped for plenty of photo ops. Just be sure to take your time on the rough terrain. Sprained ankles aren’t fun, especially when it’s +2km back to the car!
NOTE: I highly suggest going the route I did as this way you build up to the beauty that is The Grotto and Indian Head Cove. Overhanging Point is gorgeous, but I think it’ll be a little lacklustre if you see it after the aforementioned highlights! Here’s a map for reference:
MY ADVICE? If you’re thinking of doing it this hike in the summer months, be prepared for an early morning. The Cyprus Lake parking lot is known to fill up as early as 8am, especially on weekends. Arrived too late? Continue down Highway 6 to Emmet Lake Road and park at Halfway Log Dump. If you do this, be prepared for a long day of hiking as it’s 90min (6km) each way to the Grotto from here. Overall, I suggest visiting in the off-season, not just to avoid lines but to preserve the ecology. Besides, Canada’s National Parks are free for 2017 so what’s the rush?!
Looking for more Canadian adventures? Why not check out my epic list of 150 things to celebrate Canada‘s 150th!