Bruce Trail: Wiarton to Tobermory
Discover one of Ontario’s best week-long hiking routes, the Bruce Trail: Wiarton to Tobermory. Encompassing the length of the Bruce Peninsula to the famous trail’s northern-most point, Tobermory, this epic 166 km adventure offers incredible vistas, spectacular landscapes where towering granite cliffs drop off to turquoise waters, inspiring sunsets and amazing wildlife and nature.
Winding over 892 km across the ancient Niagara Escarpment, all the way from Niagara Falls to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail is the oldest and longest public footpath in Canada. It can be divided into nine (or more) sections, of which, the Wiarton to Tobermory along the Bruce Peninsula is arguably the most scenic and impressive.
As cell reception is limited on the trail and in the campgrounds, you’ll want to work out your itinerary in advance. Be sure to bring paper maps and download offline GPS maps on your phone to keep on the trail. There are lots of books, guidebooks and blogs you can read to help you plan for the trip.
Whether you’re reaching the crescendo of the full hike, feel like a week-long challenge or just want to jump on for a couple of days, there’s no need to rough it (unless you want to), with plenty of accommodation options en-route. Campsites and roofed accommodation both tend to get booked up quite quickly, though, so you’ll have to plan ahead.
For up-to-date information and details on the Bruce Trail, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
More about Bruce Trail: Wiarton to Tobermory
This leg of the Bruce Trail’s starting point is the little town of Wiarton, just over 2.5 hours’ drive north from Toronto. It’s not easy to get there via public transit, so you’re best off having a car. Ideally your hiking group will have two cars: leave one in Tobermory, an hour’s drive north of Wiarton by road. Otherwise, you can check out shuttle buses, taxis and guided/self-guided tour options to get you back to your vehicle in Wiarton.
Clocking in at an impressive 166 km, the trail can be tackled in smaller sections, with each walk taking a few hours to a few days. You can also do the whole Wiarton to Tobermory section of the Bruce Trail, which should take seasoned hikers a week or so and others a little longer. You might also want to factor in time for any of the recommended side trips. However you decide to tackle it, make sure you give yourself time to appreciate the spectacular nature, lookout spots and beaches—just a few of the reasons why this hike is so popular.
It’s also worth noting that even the most rough and ready campers will probably have to stay a night or two in a guesthouse, as you can only camp in designated sites along the trail, and they’re few and far between on this section. The trail winds through farmland and private property where camping is not permitted. However, some B&Bs and guesthouses offer pick-up and drop-off on the trail, so you can maximise your time hiking and still get to enjoy some of the beautiful historic towns and villages in this stunning part of the world.
As lovely as the towns are, the magic of the trail is in its nature and solitude. This is a place where you can switch off, kick back and reconnect with the trees and the land. Traversing through national parks, provincial parks and farmland, the Wiarton to Tobermory Bruce Trail passes by waterfalls and through forests and up big granite outcrops with amazing viewpoints over Lake Huron, before descending into ancient gorges, valleys and onto sunny beaches.
There are benefits to doing the trail at different times of the year. In the spring and summer, the trail is filled with flowers and orchids. In fall, the changing colours of the leaves make for a truly breathtaking hike, though it can be a little colder, so you’ll have to pack lots of warm layers. In winter, the bravest souls can also snowshoe and cross-country ski along sections of the trail, making for a truly exciting and unique experience.
If time allows, you might want to factor in a day or two of R&R after your hike to enjoy some of the other delights the peninsula has to offer. From long sandy beaches and hidden coves with crystal clear water to diving shipwrecks, visiting islands and exploring caves and historic ruins to chilling out in arty towns with galleries and amazing restaurants, the Bruce Peninsula has it all.
Know Before You Go
When undertaking a hike it is important to be prepared, even if you are only planning on going out for a couple of hours or a day. While the Bruce Trail Conservancy has some great information about what to know before you go and how to plan and prepare for a hike, this list will give you a good idea about what to expect.
- Communicate your plan: let someone know when you’re leaving and when you expect to be back, especially if you are hiking alone.
- Plan your route and make sure you have a map as well as GPS and a phone (even though there is only limited signal available on the trail).
- Bring plenty of water and foods/snacks.
- Wear suitable clothing and footwear. Keep ankles and skin covered as much as possible.
- Bring sunscreen and a hat. Wear insect repellent to avoid ticks and mosquitoes.
- Don’t forget rain jackets and cold-weather gear, just in case.
- Hike only along marked trails.
- Pre-book accommodation, especially in the busy seasons.
- Note that camping in non-designated campsites along the trail is trespassing.
- No open fires are allowed.
- Keep dogs on a leash (in places where they are allowed on the trail).
- Treat all water before drinking.
- Make sure you bring bear spray, a whistle and an air horn.
- Give animals a wide berth, especially black bears and rattlesnakes.
- Avoid bringing anything with a strong fragrance. Keep food in sealed containers.
- If camping, put your food, soap, toothpaste etc. in a bag strung on a line between two trees. Keep it away from the tent, about four metres off the ground.
- Always keep your backpack out of your tent in case it smells of food.
- Learn to identify common poisonous plants like poison ivy, giant hogweed and wild parsnip.