We decided to spend Labor weekend at Bruce Peninsula, famous for its crystal clear water, ancient stone plates and rocks, pebble beach and challenging hiking trails. Our initial thought was to stay at Cyprus Lake or private campground, or in worst case scenario at the motel. But all sites and rooms were booked. It was possible to get a regular motel room for $173 per night, but we thought it is too pricey.
And then we were lucky enough to book so called backcountry campsite. There are only 18 sites like these offered by Bruce Peninsula National Park. These sites can be only accessed by feet through moderate difficulty hike trails and don’t have electricity, therefore are not popular among regular tourists. They offer true wilderness experience. And unbelievably 3 sites out of 18 were still available two days prior one of the most popular long weekends in Canada!
Of course, such camping requires some fitness and special equipment, but I already collected all camping items over last 8 years of camping. Some important items for two-day backcountry camping are: hiking boots, large backpacks (75-85 liters), light-weight tent (I love my $400 MSR Mutha Hubba tent), small gas stove, light-weight sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Also you need to take proper amount of food to last at least 5 servings, as the calories burn fast.
So, after one day of preparation, we left Toronto on early Saturday morning to get to Cyprus Lake Park around 10 am. It took us 4 hours to get there. At Cyprus Lake you pay the fees and register your vehicle for overnight parking.
Bruce Peninsula has 2 backcountry campgrounds called High Dump and Stormhaven. There are four main access points: from the south it is north end of Crane Lake road (Highway 6 -> Dyers Bay -> Crane Lake), in the middle we have Halfway Log Dump that is the end of Emmett Lake Rd and Cyprus Lake; and you can access the trail from the north at the end of Little Cove Rd.
Ideally, you can spend 3 days of hiking starting from Crane Lake to High Dump on the first day (8km), then, hiking 12km to Stormhaven on the second day finishing in Tobermory on the third day with 20 km hike. But since we had only 2 days, we decided to hike from Cyprus Lake to Stormhaven and then hike back on the second day. The backcountry campsite costs around $30 per night plus you pay $12 for each night of parking.
Initially we hiked from Cyprus Lake to Grotto. Grotto is the most popular attraction for all Cyprus Lake campers (hundreds of them), so don’t expect any privacy or piece there on the long weekend. In a summer weekend it reminds a zoo. But once you get away from the Cyprus Lake trail, it is getting very quiet and wild. We met only few people during our 1.5 hour hike.
The water is very clear therefore it does not get warm even by the end of the summer. I would assume it was around 15 degrees Celsius, but it was completely worth getting through the chill due to the amazing snorkeling in the blue wonderland.
The hike trails gives very good variety of shore line, steep rocks and deep woods. It is marked with very visible white marks that are hard to miss. By the way, the trail is part of the larger Bruce Peninsula trail that is 863 km long and connects Niagara Falls with Tobermory.
Once we arrived to the site, we were impressed with the quality of campsites. Campsites had wood platform for the tent, special ropes for storing the food away from bears and very fancy composting bathroom that uses sawdust.
Because of few campsites, the community of campers is very small and cozy. It consists of hikers and kayakers and most of them are very experienced travelers with many interesting stories to share. The sunset was breathtaking. In the morning we had our breakfast prepared on gas stove (open fires are prohibited), packed backpacks and hiked back from this small paradise.
There are a lot of great rental cottages at Bruce Peninsula and hiking the Bruce Trail can be great one day adventure.