Bruce Trail, Ont.
Runners in southern Ontario are very lucky to have the Bruce Trail in their backyard. Eight million people live within an hour’s drive of some part of Canada’s oldest continuous hiking trail (which opened in 1967), much of which goes through private land.
Many of my most memorable runs of the past decade have been point-to-point trail runs on the Bruce with friends. Early on a weekend morning, multiple vehicles converge on the planned finishing point, and everyone crowds into one or two vehicles for the drive to the starting point, leaving one or two cars behind for the post-run ride back to the start. There can be hiccups when you discover that some important item – a change of clothes, wallet or car keys – is at the opposite end of the route when it’s needed, but that was always part of the fun of running the Bruce.
Although carpooling is inadvisable during a pandemic, out-and-back routes make it unnecessary, and loop routes, where you never have to run any section twice, are even more satisfying. The main Bruce Trail, marked by white blazes, is one 900-km-long, point-to-point route divided into nine sections, each with its own branch of the Bruce Trail Club that’s responsible for maintaining the trail in that section. From north to south, they are Peninsula, Sydenham, Beaver Valley, Blue Mountains, Dufferin Hi-Land, Caledon Hills, Toronto, Iroquoia and
Niagara. When you add in the 400 kilometres of side trails, marked by blue blazes, there are plenty of options for loop routes. Here are three favourites that can be done as day trips from your base in southern Ontario.
The new, 30th edition of the Bruce Trail Reference Guide, available at brucetrail.org, contains 42 topographical maps, historic and geological highlights, the Bruce Trail Users’ Code, information on parking and any local restrictions – for example, dogs are prohibited in a few places where the trail passes through cattle pasture.
Hilton Falls loop
This 2 4.6 km loop is in the Toronto section, northwest of Milton. It includes 10 km of the main trail, the 9.2 km Hilton Falls side trail and about 5. 4 km on 15th Sideroad and Sixth Line. The terrain is technical, skirting the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment, and offers spectacular views. It also includes the scenic Hilton Falls. For a 30 km option, add 3 km of the main trail and return via Vanderleck Side Trail.
Hockley Valley loop
This 2 4.1 km loop is in the Caledon Hills section, northeast of Orangeville, and includes 17. 4 km of the main trail and the 6.7 km Hockley Heights side trail. It’s a beautiful woodland trail with some gravel roads. There are lots of climbs and descents, but it is less technical than the Hilton Falls loop.
Beaver Valley loop
This 22. 4 km loop is i n the Beaver Valley section, southwest of Collingwood, and includes 20. 4 km of the main trail and the 2 km Campbell’s/Graham’s Hill side trail. The route offers frequent scenic views across the narrow Beaver Valley, and passes Eugenia Falls and Hogg’s Falls. For a longer, 30.7 km option, take the Valley Crossover side trail further north instead.