Experience the Bruce Trail
As Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath, the Bruce Trail connects you to the wonders of the Niagara Escarpment
Whether you explore the Trail in an afternoon or challenge yourself with an end-to-end journey, you are sure to find a Bruce Trail experience that will inspire or even surprise you. With over 900 km of main Trail and over 450 km of side trails, the Bruce Trail offers a myriad of ways to explore the natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment on foot. Accessible to explorers of all ages, the Bruce Trail connects you to the wonders of the Escarpment – cobble beaches, open meadows, waterfalls, rocky crevices, old growth forests, and awe-inspiring views.
Yet the Bruce Trail is more than just a footpath. It plays a crucial role in protecting and preserving one of Canada’s irreplaceable natural wonders – the Niagara Escarpment. By providing an opportunity to explore the Escarpment, the Bruce Trail has introduced thousands of people to its diverse landscapes, its unique geology, and its biological treasures. And as one of Ontario’s largest land trusts, the Bruce Trail Conservancy protects and cares for Escarpment ecosystems with the support of members, volunteers and donors.
Bruce Trail 101
Since its beginning, the purpose of the Bruce Trail has been to inspire the connection between people and nature through our 1,300 km of trails. From hiking, birding, photography, running, and more, the Bruce Trail is an invitation into nature. The Trail welcomes everyone wanting to celebrate and protect the Niagara Escarpment, and have a positive experience. Before heading out to the Bruce Trail, there are a few important things to know.
Bruce Trail Apps, Maps & Club Sections
Explore the wonders of the Niagara Escarpment along the Bruce Trail using Bruce Trail Conservancy maps or the Bruce Trail App. Research a couple of locations, check for Trail closures or changes, make parking reservations where needed, and plan an alternate destination in case you find the trail busy or parking lot full.
Bruce Trail Users’ Code
Visiting the Bruce Trail can be a fun and enriching experience. To ensure everyone enjoys their time on the Trail and to ensure that our relationships with the people, animals, and plants that live along the Trail remain strong, be sure to follow the Bruce Trail Users’ Code:
1. Hike only along marked routes. Do not take short cuts.
2. Obey all signage.
3. Use the stiles. Do not climb fences.
4. Respect the privacy of people living along the Trail.
5. Leave the Trail cleaner than you found it. Carry out all litter.
6. Use a portable stove. No open fires are allowed on the Trail.
7. Camp only at designated camp sites.
8. Leave flowers and plants for others to enjoy.
9. Do not damage trees or remove bark.
10. Where dogs are permitted, keep dogs on a leash and under control at all times.
11. Do not disturb wildlife and farm animals.
12. Leave only your thanks and take nothing but photographs.
Staying on the marked trail will ensure that you remain safe, sensitive vegetation is not damaged, and relationships with private landowners along the Bruce Trail are not strained.
To stay on the Bruce Trail follow the blazes. The Bruce Trail is marked with painted rectangles – blazes – to guide hikers. Look for these rectangles on trees, posts, rocks and wooden steps for passing over fences.
When in doubt, follow the blazes. If the blazes don’t match your map, always follow the blazes.
If you lose the Trail, go back to the place where a blaze was last seen.
If you walk more than about 20 metres without seeing a blaze, you’re probably not on the Bruce Trail. When this happens, turn around and retrace your steps, until you reach a place that has blazes.
Other Bruce Trail Signs
A stone cairn marks both the south and north ends of the Bruce Trail.
These are the most common signs you will see where the Bruce Trail meets a road or a parking area. Watch for these white signs as you are looking for where to access the Bruce Trail.
Activities Allowed and Not Allowed Signs
Various signs warn you of activities that are and are not allowed on the Bruce Trail, including: a hiker, a tent, a bicycle or open fire. When the activity is circled with a red circle slashed by a red diagonal line, these activities are not allowed. Signs that indicate “Hiking Only”, all other activities are not allowed.
When in a green circle, the activity is permitted.
Leave No Trace
Pack out everything you pack in, even biodegradable items and toilet paper. Take the extra step and (safely) pick up any trash you find along the way. Please bring trash home if bins are full or unavailable.
Be prepared for your adventure along the Bruce Trail and pack the essentials: water, snack, Bruce Trail map, first aid kit, whistle, flashlight, extra socks, bug spray, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, and extra layers. Hiking boots are the best footwear. If you don’t have a pair, a solid pair of runners will suffice in most areas.
Let Someone Know Where You are Going
Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
Remove valuable from your vehicle and leave them at home. If you have to leave something of value in your vehicle, stow it in the trunk before you arrive at the trailhead. Vandalism is infrequent, but there’s no point in taking unnecessary risks.
Always make sure your cell phone or tablet is fully charged. Many parts of the Bruce Trail have poor reception. Download the Bruce Trail maps from the Bruce Trail App, and carry a paper copy if you have one. It is still recommended that you bring your cell phone, especially for the ability to make 911 emergency calls.
Ways to Explore the Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail is a publicly accessible footpath running from Niagara to Tobermory, created and maintained for use by people on foot. It is entirely built and maintained by volunteers for the purpose of protecting the Niagara Escarpment.
You can explore with:
- non-motorized, pedestrian activities including walking, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
- dogs, when leashed (except in those areas where dogs are not permitted)
- camping in designated areas only
You cannot explore with:
- motorized vehicles, such as ATVs or dirt bikes
The above are not allowed except along road sections of the Bruce Trail and in those few areas where explicit permission is posted. This applies to both the main Bruce Trail (marked with white blazes) and Bruce Trail Side Trails (blue blazes).
Here’s why there are limits to exploring:
On some portions of the Bruce Trail, landowners have given permission for it to pass on their land. This permission is for pedestrian use only. Any other use could cause the landowner to ask for the Bruce Trail to be removed from their land.
The Trail has many bends, twists and steep hills. Sharing it with bicycles, vehicles or horses can be dangerous. Our priority is the safety of explorers so that they don’t have to worry about what is coming around the next bend.
The Bruce Trail has been routed to keep the sensitive ecology along the Niagara Escarpment safe, while still offering an amazing experience to Trail users. Vehicles and horses can damage the Bruce Trail, having a negative ecological effects on the soil, plants and animals along the Trail.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy hike program is open to members and non-members thanks to our Bruce Trail Clubs. Bruce Trail Clubs run the extensive program throughout the year. Registration is required for all hikes.
Guidelines for Hikers Joining Group Hikes with our Bruce Trail Clubs
Hikes are open to Bruce Trail Conservancy members and non-members. Some hikes may be for members only. Membership is 100% tax-deductible, is valid for everyone in a household, and is a wonderful way to support our mission: preserving a ribbon of wilderness, for everyone, forever. Join or Renew today.
Bruce Trail 101
Prior to joining an organized hike, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the Bruce Trail and and hiking etiquette.
Hikes vary in difficulty. In each hike description, you’ll find important pieces of information about distance, pace, and terrain to help you determine if that hike is right for you. To participate in an organized hike, you need to be able to complete the specified length of the hike on your own or with your own support person within the time allowed.
Hike Difficulty Ratings have been standardized across most of the Bruce Trail Clubs:
Leisurely: 3 km/hr or less
Medium: 3 to 4 km/hr
Brisk 4 to 5 km/hr
Fast: 5+ km/hr
Easy: Mostly flat and usually good footing.
Moderate: Some hills and/or some poor footing.
Strenuous: Hilly with steep climbs and some poor footing.
Ready for a challenge, or working on an End-to-End?
Parking & Transportation
Park safely and legally
To make the most of your trip to the Bruce Trail:
Look for and follow any no parking signs. Please respect no parking zones.
Where roadside parking is allowed, park only in designated areas.
If a parking lot is full, do not park on the road. Head to another destination, like you planned.
Please do not block driveways or farm gates.
Parking information can be found:
Be prepared to make parking reservations at some parks and conservation areas along the Bruce Trail. Parking reservations are required at:
Trail angels are volunteers who provide transportation to solo or small groups of hikers. Typically this is for those who would like to cover longer distances but only have one car available. Hikers may also wish to start their hike at a location where there is no parking available, so a Trail Angel would enable them to do this.
Please check the Bruce Trail Club’s website for more information:
Public Transit, Shuttles and Taxis
Accessing the Bruce Trail and its side trails by public transportation, shuttles and taxis is generally easier where the Bruce Trail runs close to developed areas (especially in our Niagara, Iroquoia & Toronto sections); however, in many remote areas typically no such service exists. Some Bed & Breakfasts near the Bruce Trail offer a hiker shuttle service for those staying overnight at their accommodation. Ask the host. The Park Bus offers seasonal service from Toronto and Brampton to the Bruce Peninsula.
Bus Hikes from Toronto
Our Toronto Bruce Trail Club has an extensive program of bus hikes making it easier for those without a vehicle in the city to get out and explore the Bruce Trail. Bus hikes are organized group hikes where everyone gets to and from the Trail on a chartered bus. Hikers meet the bus and the hike leader at a central location. The bus brings the group to the start of the hike, the hike leader takes everyone for a hike, and the bus picks up the group at the end of the hike and brings them back to the city.
Parks, Conservation Areas & Other Bruce Trail Access Points
The Bruce Trail passes through land owned by many public and private landowners along the Niagara Escarpment. These partners in conservation not only contribute to our ribbon of wilderness, but also provide access for the Bruce Trail on land for which they are responsible.
Ontario Parks: www.ontarioparks.com
Bruce Peninsula National Park: parkscanada.gc.ca/bruce
Neyaashiinigmiing, Cape Croker: www.nawash.ca
Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority: www.npca.ca
Hamilton Conservation Authority: conservationhamilton.ca
Conservation Halton: conservationhalton.ca
Toronto & Region Conservation Authority: trca.ca
Credit Valley Conservation: cvc.ca
Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority: www.nvca.on.ca
Grey Sauble Conservation: www.greysauble.on.ca
Royal Botanical Gardens: www.rbg.ca
Ontario Heritage Trust: www.heritagetrust.on.ca
City of Hamilton: hamilton.ca
Long Distance Hiking
Hiking large sections of the Bruce Trail can be a rewarding way to explore the wonders of the Niagara Escarpment.
Long Distance Hiking on the Bruce Trail
An End-to-End is the completion of the entire main Bruce Trail on foot. At 900 km long, this journey can be done over 30 days or several years depending on how you’d like to approach it.
At Your Own Pace, Over Time
Most End-to-End hikers attempt to complete the full 900 km over the course of months or years, hiking sections of trail as they have time. These may be self-directed hikes, or part of the organized End-to-End hikes offered by Bruce Trail Clubs.
Section Hiking with Bruce Trail Clubs
Avoid the difficulty of scheduling trailhead transportation and enjoy the comraderie of hiking with other end-to-enders by participating in one of the organized section End-to-Ends offered by our nine Bruce Trail Clubs.
Visit the schedule of End-to-End and Challenge Hikes.
Completing the entire 900 km Bruce Trail in a single trip is a major endeavour requiring significant physical, mental and logistic preparation.
Make sure you are prepared with the appropriate maps, clothing, and food, and are physically ready for hiking with your gear.
Please note that pursuing a thru-hike by only camping is NOT possible. The designated camping areas are too few and far between. Camping in undesignated areas is considered trespassing and puts the route of the Bruce Trail at risk. Check out our roofed accommodation listings for other overnight options.
Not only can you see a variety of what the Bruce Trail has to offer, but you can get recognition for your achievements along the way. Learn more about our badges here.
Camping on the Bruce Trail
Help us keep the Trail along the Niagara Escarpment. Please camp only in designated campgrounds.
Camping elsewhere is considered trespassing.
The Bruce Trail runs through land that is owned by over 700 private and public landowners, thanks to generous agreements with those landowners.
Access to this land is jeopardized when the Trail is not used appropriately, and in some cases trail ends up being re-routed, often along roads.
Arrangements for camping cannot be made through the Bruce Trail Conservancy. See the camping list for contact details for campground operators. Reservations are often required. Contact the operators for more details.
You’ll also find campgrounds listed in our:
Pursuing a full End-to-End of the Bruce Trail as a thru-hike using only camping for accommodation is not possible given how few and far between the campgrounds are. There are countless hotels, motels, Airbnb, B&Bs, and cottage rentals available along the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail Conservancy recommends using a Bruce Trail map and an online search engine to see your options in the area you wish to stay.
To help with planning your Bruce Trail explorations, consider an overnight stay at one of these unique accommodations found along or near the Trail.
This accommodation listing is provided solely to help provide accommodation information along the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail Conservancy makes no claims or promises about the quality, accuracy or reliability of the accommodations listings or to the quality of the accommodations themselves. If you have any questions regarding specific accommodations, please contact the provider directly.
Interested in advertising your accommodation on our website and promoting to Bruce Trail hikers?
Become a Member or Renew Your Support of
the Bruce Trail Conservancy
If you’ve experienced the Bruce Trail, you know what a treasure it is. This treasure is made possible thanks to the ongoing support of Bruce Trail Conservancy members. Best of all, your membership helps us fulfill our mission, and provide safe, environmentally responsible, public access to the Niagara Escarpment for generations to come.
History of the Bruce Trail
In 1959 Ray Lowes, concerned about the disappearance of Niagara Escarpment landscapes in Ontario due to development and commercial activities, had the idea of creating a public footpath spanning the entire Niagara Escarpment. The idea was that the trail would connect people to nature and inspire them to protect the Escarpment and all of its natural wonder. At approximately 900 km, never before in Canadian history had a trail of this scope been realized. Ray Lowes first articulated this vision to friend Robert Bateman at a meeting of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and subsequently held the first meeting of the Bruce Trail Committee on September 23, 1960. The four attending members, Ray Lowes, Philip Gosling, Norman Pearson and Dr. Robert MacLaren, each became instrumental in building the Bruce Trail.
Gaining access to the Niagara Escarpment was the critical first step in building the Bruce Trail. From 1962 to today, Escarpment landowners have been key to the existence of the Bruce Trail. In the beginning, trail director Philip Gosling visited major towns along the proposed route to solicit help. Going door-to-door, Philip and his team of volunteers discussed their vision with landowners and were greeted with support all along the way.
Between 1962 and 1966 regional Bruce Trail Clubs were established along the length of the Trail. Each Club was responsible for organization, landowner approvals, and Trail construction and maintenance. As access was granted from gracious landowners, more Trail was blazed. On March 13, 1963, the Bruce Trail Association was incorporated under the laws of Ontario (to be renamed “The Bruce Trail Conservancy” in 2007). The first edition of the organization’s newsletter, The Bruce Trail News (now Bruce Trail Conservancy Magazine), followed shortly after and in 1965 Dr. Aubrey Diem compiled the first Bruce Trail Reference. In just three years, membership ballooned to over 200 members.
With Canada’s Centennial Year approaching, it was decided the Trail should officially open in 1967. And so, in Tobermory, on June 10 of that year, the cairn at the northern terminus of the Bruce Trail was unveiled. After years of determination, support, vision and hard work, the Trail was finally realized.
What began as the vision of concerned citizens working together has grown into one of Ontario’s largest and most active land trusts – the Bruce Trail Conservancy. Each year the Bruce Trail Conservancy actively works to bring more land into conservation along the Niagara Escarpment.