Bruce Trail Spring Hiking Trip
Blue, brown, white, green - April 2016

Note: you can zoom into the above map with your mouse wheel or zoom tool. There are two different hikes we completed on this trip.

A Spring tradition... early hike!

Every year, a week or two before the ice goes out, I complete a Spring hiking trip. I find this time of the year to be the best time to get out for a hike... no bugs, manageable temperatures, smaller crowds, and amazing scenery at the cusp of transition. I've done many different areas: the Highland backpacking trail and Western Uplands trail in Algonquin, The Crack and beyond in Killarney, and eastward to Topaz on the Killarney La Cloche loop. For 2016, my goal was to do a couple nights on the Bruce Trail around Tobermory. It's the only part of the Bruce Trail system which allows formal back country over night stays at a couple of locations.

My buddy and I Peter geared up, and headed out on Friday 8th of April. There was no snow on the ground in Kitchener, but we found plenty of snow and ice in sheltered trails areas up by Cyprus Lake on the Bruce Trail. We started at the park office, and took the bruce trail south past the Grotto, to the official back country camping area at Storm Haven.

Dan and Peter, Bruce Trail hike

The Bruce Trail at this time of year is incredible. It's amazing enough in summer, but we were surprised to see so much ice, combined with the spectacular emerald green water, crystal clear blue sky, contrasted against the white snow. And... so few people out there! We say only a couple people the whole day of our hike to Storm Haven. Compared to the usual zoo of tourists at the Grotto, this was also a pleasant surprise.

The Grotto The Grotto, 2

The Grotto, 3

As we worked our way along the Bruce trail, the scenery kept blowing our minds, requiring many stops for photos. The 4 km hike took us longer than an hour for sure!

Bruce Trail, 1 Bruce Trail, 2

Bruce Trail, 3 Bruce Trail, 4

Bruce Trail, 5 Bruce Trail, 6 Bruce Trail, 7

I've not camped at Storm Haven before. They have 8 wooden platforms that you reserve and set your tent on, all in one area (four at the cliff top, four along the water). There is a metal structure for hanging your food up with pulleys, which is convenient. At the top of the cliff is a fully enclosed outhouse (without plumbing or power though). Overall, I found the setup far too clinical for my tastes, but we did have the area to ourselves for that first night.

Storm Haven, 1 Storm Haven, 2

Unfortunately, Saturday brought lots of tourists and visitors, and we found our lucky solitude at Storm Haven shattered. We had planned on hiking further to the next overnight camping area, High Dump. But the good weather and multitudes made us decide to hike back to our cars, and hike into Lion's Head on the Bruce Trail, to camp over night at McKay's Harbour. Hikers are allowed to stay over at this beach, but reservations are not required. So, we hiked our way back to Cyprus Lake, passing many day trippers coming to the Grotto.

Bruce Trail, 8 Bruce Trail, 9 Bruce Trail, 10

We stopped for lunch at the Grotto, then hurried along to our car. From there, we drove into Lion's Head, parked our car at the trail parking lot, and started our hike to McKay's Harbour. We figured there would be far less people on this part of the Bruce Trail, especially overnight campers. I told Peter I'd eat my shorts if there was a crowd of campers at McKay's Harbour at this time of year, despite the great weather.

Bruce Trail, 9 Bruce Trail, 10 Bruce Trail, 11

When we got to the designated camping area, there was already someone there! And, as we progressed farther south down the beach, we encountered a couple more groups. But there are many places to setup on this 2 kilometer stretch of rocky beach, so we carried on and setup in a quieter area right on the water front over looking Lake Huron. Peter generously let me out of bet, and I was allowed to enjoy our chilli dinner instead of stewing up my underwear as promised. The weather was still very nice, without a breath of wind. This was the first time I've ever setup camp right on a beach at the water's edge. It was an incredible experience to wake up and open the tent to another perfect sunny morning overlooking the calm lake.

Bruce Trail, 12 Bruce Trail, 13

As we ate breakfast looking out on the still lake water, we could see stuff floating 500 meters out. This baffled us... was it debris or birds, and why was it floating? As an hour passed, we finally figured out it was a skim of ice that had developed on the water, with debris or ice chunks that had settled on top! The ice sheet drifted in shore, and eventually melted as we packed up.

With yet another perfectly windless sunny day, we took our time returning back to our car, taking a few side trails to explore the area. While the Bruce Trail in this area is definitely challenging with 45 lb packs, I highly recommend this to hikers looking for a scenic trip in the early Spring.