After a long year, we took a week off work and wanted to spend it in Northern Ontario. The first night we stayed in Tobermory before grabbing the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Mantoulin Island the following day. Bruce Peninsula National Park was the perfect place for us to visit!
Managed by Parks Canada, Bruce Peninsula National Park is about a 10 minute drive from downtown Tobermory or about a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto. The park currently requires reservations for day visits in the summer. As of August 2022 you can reserve 4-hour parking slots starting from 8 AM – 9 PM. Parking is $12.25 CAD.
We parked at the P1 Daytime Parking lot, and the lot was full when we arrived for our 4 – 8 PM slot on a Sunday. Although the walk to the shoreline and back we only saw a few people, the Grotto itself was busy. We first trekked along the Horse Lake Trail towards the shoreline where the trail meets the Bruce Trail.
The Niagara Escarpment was formed from an ancient body of water from over 400 million years ago, where sediment and biological material form layers of what is eventually limestone. Reaching the water, we noticed patches of ancient cedar trees along the escarpment rock and large chunks of limestone rock making up the entire shoreline.
The walk along the shore towards the Grotto was difficult but well worth it. Due to the limestone rocks across the beach, we needed to walk slowly and pay attention where we stepped. The view was unbeatable!
The Grotto is formed by erosion from Georgian Bay, where waters undercut the limestone to create cliffs and carve out caves. Many visitors were swimming when we visited in August, but wow, was the water absolutely freezing!
You would assume on a hot day the water would be warmer, but the heat seemed to have little effect on the chilling crystal blue waters. This is because the region is where the Niagara Escarpment meets the Georgian Bay, with water depths reaching just under 150 metres off the coast. The process of upwelling causes cooler waters from the depth to be circulated to the surface. This is also one of the reasons the waters are crystal blue!
The hike on the side trails from the parking spot to the Grotto are relatively easy with the paths being well marked, with little variation in elevation, and wide enough to walk side by side. The shoreline itself was more difficult walking on limestone with lots of elevation changes.
Have you visited or camped at Bruce Peninsula National Park? Let us know your experience in the comments below.
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