Backpacking Bruce Peninsula National Park is a unique trek through a beautiful landscape more reminiscent of the Caribbean than Canada. The Bruce Trail features rugged limestone cliffs that plunge dramatically into the crystal-clear Georgian Bay, the famous Grotto, giant white pebbled beaches, lush forests, and plenty of wildlife. While the entire Bruce Trail is 900 km long, this particular section between The Grotto and High Dump Campground allows backpackers to experience all of the major highlights of Bruce Peninsula National Park and keep transportation logistics easy



  • Where: Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario, Canada
  • Trailhead: Halfway Log Dump | Google Maps
  • Distance: 26 km there-and-back
  • Time Needed: 2-3 Days
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 745 m
  • Maximum Elevation: 265 m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route: Halfway Log Dump – High Dump – Grotto – Stormhaven – Halfway Log Dump
  • When to Hike: May – October
  • Reservations Required: Yes
Bruce Peninsula Blue Water

Map of Backpacking Bruce Peninsula Section Hike

There’s many variations of this hike you can do in Bruce Penisula National Park.  I can definitely recommend the route that I did starting from Halfway Log dump (the direction doesn’t really matter, you could do the opposite of me, the trail is very up and down and you’ll do it all by the end). I camped one night at High Dump, and then the following night at Stormhaven before returning back to the Halfway Log Dump parking area. Alternatively, you could park at The Grotto and do a very similar route. The nice thing about parking and starting at Halfway Log Dump is it gives more flexibility with campsite reservations since the order/direction you do the hike doesn’t matter (so double the chances of getting permits for the dates you want!)

How to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park

 Toronto to Bruce Peninsula National Park is about a 4 hour drive. The park is located at the very top of Northern Bruce Penisula Municipality. There are several roads in the park but the main roads for hiking include one for the parking area for The Grotto, Indian Head, and Cyprus Lake, and one for the parking area for Halfway Log Dump and Emmet Lake.  The Visitor Centre is near the town of Tobermory, which is also worth a stop.  Also while in the area, I highly recommend visiting Fathom Five National Marine Park which has more than 20 historical shipwrecks, cool underwater geological formations, and has some of the best freshwater diving in the world. 

Does Bruce Peninsula Require Reservations for Backcountry Camping or Parking?

There are 2 backcountry campsites (Stormhaven and High Dump) in Bruce Peninsula National Park and both require reservations. Reservations can be made online on through Parks Canada’s online camping reservation portal.

The Grotto and Halfway Log Dump in Bruce Peninsula National Park require parking reservations for certain times of year. The Grotto requires reservations from April 30 to October 31 and Halway Log Dump has required reservations from June 17 to September 4.

Backcountry permit fees for Bruce Peninsula are $11.50 CAD just to make the online reservation and then an additional $12.75 CAD per person camping. Parking at The Grotto and Halfway Log Dump are $15 per Day.  Reserve ahead of time!

Bruce Peninsula also has an entrance fee of $8.50 per person per day for adults.  However I highly reccomend getting the Parks Canada Discovery Pass if you plan on going to any Canada National Parks for at least 4 days in a year.


Which Bruce Peninsula Campsite is best?

I think Stormhaven is the better of the two Bruce Peninsula campgrounds. The individual tent sites at Stormhaven are tucked away in the woods but with quick and easy access to the beach to enjoy the sunset, cook some meals, and do some stargazing. High Dump is also near a beach, has better solitude, and also includes a small beach with a steep rope descent to get to.  All of the reservable tent sites come with wooden platforms to set up tents, bear poles to hang food, and pretty nice pit toilets. 

Backcountry Campgrounds in Bruce Peninsula National Park

Stormhaven – Nestled in trees with staircase to huge beach and boulder area, can get crowded. 

High Dump – Secluded in the forest with asteep descent to a long beach area, less crowded than Storm Haven

Trip Report

My Friend Hannah and I headed to Ontario from the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks.  This was my first time to visit Toronto, and Hannah hadn’t been since elementary school. We stopped by Niagara Falls along the way and then biked around town checking out popular spots, eating good food, and going to a few breweries.

My first time seeing the Queen of Waterfalls!
Can’t go to Canada without getting a Beaver tail, eh?!
We had a double rainbow on one side of the dock, and a beaultiful sunset on the other end!

We were curious if Ontario had any good hiking/backpacking opportunities, we had all our gear with us from the week before, and backpacking was the goal of our original two-week trip that got canceled due to wildfires in California. Every Google search kept recommending the same place: Bruce Peninsula National Park.

After seeing images of the park, we really wanted to do Backpacking in Bruce Peninsula and see it for ourselves. All of the backcountry campsites were full though and the other campsites nearby were quite expensive; around $45 for peak season. The park was also about a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto.

We went to a coffee shop to research more hiking options; there were some other promising locations near Ontario from our initial research.  Just in case, I checked the Canada backcountry reservation website for the 5th time that day, AND THE HIGH DUMP CAMPGROUND HAD OPENED UP!  To make things even better, the campsite reservation was for an itinerary reservation; In order to book High Dump, we also had to book a second night at Bruce Peninsula’s other backcountry campsite: Stormhaven.

We lucked out with Stormhaven, it was definitely the better of the two sites.

Unpacking and hiking to our first camsite: High Dump.  Backpacking Bruce Peninsula was finally underway!

First epic view of Lake Huron at Overhanging Point in Bruce Peninsula

Amazing views of the Milky Way on our first night! We were actually surrounded by storm clouds and there was faint distant lightning creating a ring of occasional dim light.  Bruce Peninsula is a Dark Sky Preserve so the stargazing here is phenomenal. 

On the first day of the journey there were no bugs so we decided to leave the bug spray behind. The next morning, right after we packed up camp and headed out, there was a cloud burst and it drizzled (drizzle with trizzle) for about 15 minutes.  The rain made the environment extremely humid and the mosquitoes emerged. I must have sweet blood because bugs always swarm to me, and this trip was no different.  I got eaten alive.  Here’s a picture from after the trip showing the worst section of my body, my left arm, which had 30+ bites alone. Overall we counted about 110 bites.

Can you spot the guy in the right image?  Some of the cliffs are pretty high. The highest cliff in the park is 120 feet.

We kept hearing about Indian Head Cove so we wanted to check it out for ourselves. Here’s what we found:

It was insanely crowded compared to the rest of the park.  I’m guessing because of the close proximity to Cypress Lake. We didn’t spend any time here because of the crowds. There are so many better and more secluded beaches in the park.  Just walk 10 minutes east on The Bruce Trail!  The Grotto however, which is right next to Indian Head Cove was definitely worth checking out!
This cool cave is right next to Indian Head Cove as well.  Definitely glad we stopped by, and there weren’t too many crowds.
The Grotto had some epic underwater features, which I couldn’t see when I opened my eyes under water (everything was pretty blurry), but at least the GoPro captured some cool pics! There’s actually a part of the cave you can swim down to and then go through a small opening to the outside, where the main lake is.  It looked like an intense swim, and we hadn’t done any previous research into whether it was possible or not so we skipped it this time. People have done it, but it is dangerous if you’re not an expert swimmer.
There’s no better way to end a day of hiking then chilling some beers and enjoying them with a delicious dehydrated Mountain House meal.

Although there’s not much total elevation gain in Bruce, there’s plenty of net elevation gain on The Bruce Trail. We experienced constant inclines and declines; especially on the section from Halfway Log parking lot to the High Dump campground.   By the end of the trip, the difference between our highest and lowest point on the trail was about 200 feet but the overall elevation gain was over 2,000 feet!


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