May 17th, 2022
Bruce Trail–from a Footpath to a 725 kilometre Walking Trail

Q5. How many various kinds of hikes are available on the Bruce Trail? (P27)

From a Footpath to a 893.9 kilometre Walking Trail - Bruce Trail, 50 years in the making

Almost everyone knows someone who has a connection to the Bruce Trail. It is safe to say that most Ontario hikers have walked some of its 893.9km of trails. The Bruce Trail is Canada's oldest and longest footpath and it takes you across and all around the magnificent Niagara Escarpment. This year marks its 50th birthday.

Building a trail together with hope and cooperation

Learn a bit about how the trail was created. It helps appreciate the massive amount of effort of those who manage, protect and preserve the trail, as well as the magnificence of the natural formation itself.

The idea of a public trail to span the entire Niagara Escarpment was born in 1960. There'd never been anything like it in history. Those who dreamed of it, in particular Raymond Lowes, Canadian wildlife artist, Robert Bateman, Dr. Robert MacLaren and Philip Gosling, met together to see what could be done.

The idea was difficult because creating a trail meant crossing private property all along the escarpment. Gosling literally went door to door in the towns and properties along the proposed route to ask for support. As each landowner agreed, 9 regional "Bruce Trail Clubs" were formed, each responsible for moving ahead with approvals, construction and maintenance.

Seven years later, in 1967, a stone cairn was erected at the far end of the trail in Tobermory. The Bruce Trail was now officially opened.

The First Bruce Trail Hike (April 21-28, 1962)

In "A Message from Robert Bateman" he writes about the "first ever Bruce Trail hike – an exhilarating 185-kilometre walk along the edge of the escarpment from Mount Nemo to Craigleith." The seven day hike was organised and documented each day in full page articles in The Toronto Telegram by editor Harvey Currell. Bateman wrote "The seven man team including Harvey, Ray, Robert, and others left this morning on a seven-day jaunt along the central portion of the Bruce Trail which the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and the Conservation Council of Ontario are jointly establishing...Our purpose is to help blaze a trail for a walking revival which will help pull Canadians out of their physical fitness slump...." The Telegram, April 21, 1962.

The Magnificent Niagara Escarpment Once Under Water!

Over 450 million years ago, the Niagara Escarpment lay at the bottom of a tropical sea, similar to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The gradual action of glaciers, water and weather resulted in its dramatic landform—a stretch of cliffs, some as high as 1675 feet—that today rises above the landscape.

The Escarpment is 893.9 kilometres long (a football field is .1 km!) It starts at Niagara Falls in the south, and stretches to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula at Tobermory in the north.

The Flora and Fauna of the Escarpment

You can find almost everything on the Niagara Escarpment: farms, vineyards, recreational areas, scenic views, streams, wetlands, pebbled beaches, rolling hills, waterfalls, deep caves, historic sites, villages, towns and cities.

It's home to a wide assortment of living creatures. 36 species of reptiles and amphibians, 53 species of mammals, 90 species of fish, over 350 species of birds. There also are many varieties of plants, some quite rare and unusual.

The People of the Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment is one of six UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada. The area received this recognition because of the efforts of residents in this region to balance conservation and preservation with surrounding development.

Last year, residents, trail volunteers, fans, public officials, naturalists, etc. celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first trail blazing in 1962. In 2017, the Trail celebrates the 5Oth anniversary of its actual opening, with a 50th Milestone project to open five new nature reserves.

How to Get On the Bruce Trail?

Don't think that just because you're not a hiker or experienced rock climber, you can't enjoy a day trip on the Trail. There are hundreds of places where you can start a short, or longer hike, suitable to the more athletic or the active family.

There are various kinds of hikes available:

Guided Hikes: Each of the 9 Bruce Trail Clubs organize hikes around the section of the trail that they manage. Hiking trails and schedules are on each of these Club's websites. There are also "end to end" hikes for the entire trail but these take a weekend, not a few hours in a day!

Specialty Hikes: Check the website for specialty hikes like Geology Hikes and special events like Bruce Trail Day. These hikes usually fill up quickly so register early.

Self-Guided Hikes: These routes are marked on an interactive trail mail and organized around a particular theme, for example, "Heritage Trees".

Friendship Hikes: The Bruce Trail Conservancy partners with like-minded organizations in other parts of the world. For example, you can follow a hike organized by the Bruce Trail at Lion's Head Nature Reserve; twinned with a trail through Cotswold Way in England.

For other great day hikes along the Bruce's Trail, see Adventure For Daytrippers, pages 44-45.

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