Bruce Peninsula is home to one of the most beautiful national parks in Canada. The towering cliffs rise sharply from tropical-looking water; the rocks are covered in colourful lichen and wildflowers. The park is home to a gorgeous section of the Bruce Trail – excellent for 1-, 2- or 3- day backpacking adventures.
This trip report details an easy, 2-day route from Halfway Log Dump parking lot to High Dump and back. The short distance and low elevation gain make it suitable for novice backpackers. However, it is pretty enough that it is worth experienced backpackers checking out too.
Trip Completed: October 2020
Starting Point: Halfway Log Dump
Ending Point: High Dump
Total Distance: 14 km
Elevation Gain: 243 m
Duration: 2 days / 1 night
This section of the Bruce Trail is located within Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Traditional Territory: Bruce Peninsula National Park is located on the traditional territory of the Mississauga, Odawa and Anishinabewaki (source).
Maps & Resources
Map: I used the map provided by the Visitor’s Centre. If you want a more detailed map, you could use the Backroads Mapbook for Southern Ontario.
Campsite Reservation: You can book your campsite through the Parks Canada Booking Portal. Unlike some of the other parks in Ontario, you book a specific campsite in BPNP.
Permits: You should book your backcountry camping site online and in advance, as there are limited sites. The reservation fee is $11.50 when you book online.
When you arrive at the park, head to the backcountry permits office (right after the gates into Cyprus Campground). Here you will pay for your overnight pass ($10.02 per person, per night) and your overnight parking pass ($11.95 per night).
Outfitters & Shuttles
No outfitter or shuttle is needed for this trip. You can park right at the trailhead (the Halfway Log Dump parking lot) and end your route in the same place.
Day 1: Halfway Log Dump to High Dump (7 km)
Picking Up Permits
I arrived at Bruce Peninsula National Park a little afternoon. I first went to the visitor’s centre for BPNP and Fathom Five National Marine Park thinking this was where I picked up my permits. I was wrong, and you actually pick up your permits at the campground office after the gates to Cypress Campground.
Here I paid for parking and my permits. The park staff gave me the option to park at either Crane Lake or Halfway Log Dump. Both parking lots are about equal distance from High Dump.
I chose to start at Halfway Log Dump. The Crane Lake – High Dump section of the trail is apparently easier, but not nearly as scenic because it isn’t along the coastline.
Halfway Log Dump to the First Fork
I started hiking around 1 pm. The first 1 km of the trail was on a paved path, taking me straight from the parking lot to the coastline. After 1 km, I was able to see the water and The Bruce Trail. Going left would take me to Stormhaven (the other backcountry campground) and going right would take me to High Dump.
Tip: Before turning left to High Dump, go straight down to the water. There’s a nice view of the cliffs.
First Fork to High Dump Side Trail
Once I’d turned onto the Bruce Trail and was making my way to High Dump, the trail became much more rugged. The second kilometre was mostly flat, with one section that had a gradual incline lasting about 150 m followed by a steep decline. Even the flat parts, however, had rocks and roots to watch out for.
Between kilometres 2.5 and 4.5 the trail is very up and down. There were a few places where I had to use my hands. I didn’t use trekking poles on this hike but had fun using tree roots and trunks to help lower myself down or pull myself up.
If you’re a beginner backpacker, you’ll likely find the rocks and steepness challenging. Take it slow. If you’ve hiked the Superior or PukaskWa trails, however, you’ll find this really easy in comparison.
Throughout the trail, there were a few places with amazing views of the peninsula cliffs and Georgian Bay. It was absolutely beautiful! Just be careful getting close to the edge – it’s a long way down.
High Dump Side Trail
After about 6.5 km there were blue signs for the High Dump Side Trail. Up until this point the trail had been high up, but now the trail lost elevation quickly as it went towards the water.
The trail loses elevation REALLY quickly. There’s even a rope to help you climb down a section of the trail. It’s still totally manageable for beginners, but you’ll want to be careful if it’s been rainy, as these rocks may be slippery.
Once you’re down, there’s a big sign indicating that you’ve made it to High Dump campsites.
It took me about 2.5-3 hours to cover the ~7 km from Halfway Log Dump to High Dump. However, I took a lot of breaks to film / photograph the area (see trip video below).
Campsite: There was a trail that ran parallel to the water and there are signs along it that indicate which tent platform was which. I had booked the last campsite – number 9 – so I followed the trail until the very end. It was so rocky that without the tent platforms there would not have been a single tent spot.
Near the High Dump sign, there was a bear hang structure for everyone to hang their packs. There was also a composting washroom here.
I absolutely loved High Dump. The campground itself is down a side trail off of the Bruce Trail. It feels very “last corner of the Earth”. The campsites are in the forest, but there is a rocky beach that’s great for getting water and making dinner.
Day 2: High Dump to Halfway Log Dump via The Grotto (7 km + 14 km)
I was up early on the first day. It was only 7 km back to the car, however I wanted to make a detour to the Grotto, which would add around 14 km for a total of 21 km of hiking. I hit the trail around 8:00 am.
I retraced my steps from High Dump toward Halfway Log Dump. However, instead of turning onto the short trail that would take me back to the parking lot, I stayed on the Bruce Trail and hiked the Grotto.
From the turn-off, it was about 7 km to The Grotto. This part of the trail wasn’t as scenic as the prior day – much more of it was in the forest – and I found it to have more ups- and downs- than the day before.
It didn’t help that I was hiking REALLY quickly. I would have been better off to have spent a second night in the park and camped at Stormhaven (the other backcountry campground).
But the views at the Grotto made it all worth it. The Grotto really is a beautiful part of the park, despite the hype. After a good 30 minute break, I turned around and retraced my steps back to Halfway Log Dump.
I reached my car around 2:30 pm, meaning I hiked the 21 km in about 6.5 hours. From here I had a four hour drive back to London, Ontario.
Think about Trekking Poles: I didn’t use trekking poles for this hike, however about 1/3 of the people I passed did. I used my hands a lot to get up and down, and I think trekking poles would have actually made it harder. However, if you want stability on the rocks, trekking poles would be helpful.
Beware Slippery Rocks: Be extra careful on the rocks if it’s been raining. I slipped three times on this trip (all minor, thankfully). Grippy hiking shoes / boots are also a must.
Do a Bear Hang: There is a metal structure specifically there for you to do a bear hang. There’s a clip you attach to your pack and a cable you pull the pack up with. It’s very easy.
Bring a Pot with a Rope: The Georgian Bay waves were relentlessly crashing onto the rocky beach, making it very difficult to fill my pot without getting soaked. Another (more experienced) backpacker near me had a pot with a long rope on it. He threw the pot into the water and pulled it back with the rope. This would have been so helpful!
Campfires: At the time of writing, BPNP does not allow campfires at the backcountry sites. There were several signs posted about it and no fire pits. I believe this is because the coastal environment is so fragile – there is very little firewood and the topsoil is very thin. Despite this, there were still a few people who made illegal fires. Don’t be like them! Respect nature!
Mikaela is the voice behind Voyageur Tripper, an outdoor adventure blog that enables people to improve their skills in the backcountry. She previously worked as a wilderness guide, leading trips in Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut. Mikaela is also the founder and operator of Trip Reports.
Website: Voyageur Tripper