When temperatures dip and snow blankets the Niagara Escarpment, the Bruce Trail can feel like our own winter wonderland. But winter hiking brings its own set of challenges. Here are a few important ways you can stay safe while hiking this winter.
- Research your hike. Check for trail closures or changes.
- Check weather conditions before heading out and be prepared for them to change.
- Choose a route that is familiar to you. When trails are covered in snow, it can be harder to find your way. Be extra attentive in looking for trail blazes.
- Avoid hiking alone. Bring a friend or two for safety and fun.
- Some parking locations (especially roadside parking) may be inaccessible in the winter. Plan alternate parking locations or alternate hiking destinations. Take care not to impede traffic when parking on roadsides. Do not block entrances to private properties.
- Some rural roads are closed in the winter, although GPS directions may continue to direct motorists onto these roads. Watch for signs indicating an unmaintained road and avoid roads too narrow for two lanes of traffic.
Plan for earlier, shorter days
- Choose a shorter distance than you would normally cover in summer conditions. Snow and ice will slow your hiking speed.
- Nightfall arrives earlier in winter months. Start early in the day and plan to be off the trail before dark.
- Pack a flashlight or headlamp, with fresh batteries.
Wear and pack layers
- Staying dry is key to staying warm in the winter and layers will help you do both.
- Start with a good base layer, add a mid-layer, and then a shell on top. Cover your head, neck and hands. Add or remove layers to minimize sweating.
- Don’t overdress at the beginning. You should feel slightly chilly before you start as you’ll warm up when you hike. Pack a puffy jacket you can pull out when you stop for a snack.
- Avoid wearing cotton since it holds moisture. Opt for synthetics or wool. This goes for socks too.
Keep your footing with boots, icers & poles
- Wear sturdy, waterproof footwear with a good tread and use extra caution in icy conditions.
- Icers, or similar removable footwear traction devices, can help secure your footing and make it easier to walk and to balance on challenging terrain.
- Hiking poles can help with stability on ice and snow by acting like extra limbs. When not using hiking poles, carry them horizontally with the points facing forward.
Fuel your body and stay hydrated
- Hiking in the cold burns more calories, so bring extra snacks and drinks. Calorie-dense foods such as nuts and chocolate are great.
- Dehydration can be a common problem in winter. It’s tempting not to drink as much when you’re cold and it’s not as easy to notice how much you are sweating. Make sure to bring and drink plenty of water.
Remember: the Bruce Trail is not maintained in the winter
Trail conditions vary according to season and the weather. Hazards exist along the Bruce Trail. You are responsible for your own safety.
Hiking in Hunting Season
Due to the potential risks involved in hiking during the fall/winter hunting season, the Bruce Trail Conservancy strongly advises that hiking in the Blue Mountains, Beaver Valley, Sydenham and Peninsula Club sections of the Bruce Trail be undertaken with caution during November and December.
6 Tips for Hiking During Hunting Season:
- Be aware: Understand that hunting is taking place. Know the seasons, dates, locations.
- Be visible: Wear hunter orange or another bright colour (as a hat, vest, scarf) and avoid beige, brown, white, red or green clothing.
- Make some noise: Talk, whistle, and generally let your presence be known.
- Keep your pet on a leash and use a bright vest, collar or leash to make your pet more visible.
- Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk, and anytime visibility is limited.
- Stick to established trails.
Hunting Season Dates:
Hunting season dates in Ontario vary depending on the area, the type of game, and even the type of hunting equipment used. Large-game hunting [deer, bear, moose] takes place along some sections of the Bruce Trail from about October to January each year.
More detailed information about hunting in Ontario, including locations and dates, is available from the Ministry of Natural Resources at:
2021 Regulations: https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-hunting-regulations-summary
More resources on hiking during hunting season:
"Be Safe, Be Seen" factsheet from Simcoe County Trails