A map of the Bruce Trail.

The Bruce Trail - all of us Ontarians are familiar with this monster of a hike stretching from Niagara to Tobermory (at least I’m hopeful that this is the case). Sprawling over more than 900km of stunning urban and rural terrain - the over 400km of side trails excluded - hundreds of hikers call this trail home, enjoying the many scenic viewpoints and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Why is this trail so special? Aside from being well loved in this busy province, the Bruce is the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in the country, in addition to one of the thirteen Biosphere Reserves in Canada - a true national treasure.

But really though - why the fuss?

For the adventurous, albeit extreme outdoorsy folks out there in the world, the Bruce Trail is a challenge, one that must be completed from end-to-end, either by section via continual day-hikes and overnight excursions or if you’re super psychotic and a sucker for punishment, a thru-hike (you can run the trail, but you’d really have to be a sucker for immense pain).

Day one on the trail, posing by the cairn before we start hiking.

While I’m an advocate for hiking in whatever way gives you the most joy, there’s something to be said for aiming to finish the Bruce and achieve that elusive end-to-end.

And that my friends, is why I’m writing this blog post today. After very recently finishing up a 31 day thru-hike of the Bruce, I can say with certainty that as an Ontarian or avid hiker in Canada (anywhere, really), this is a trail that you need to slap on your list.

Here are four reasons - correction: lessons - as to why this needs to be the case.

1. Ontario is BEAUTIFUL

Showing our love for Driftwood Cove.

Growing up in this province, it’s hard not to be a cynic. Not only is everyone always telling you that Ontario is the worst province out there, but compared to Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Labrador, Ontario is rather dull, bland in comparison.

But boy - are you and every person out there with a hate-on for Ontario ever wrong.

Sure, it’s kind of hard for Ontario to hold a candle to mountains and oceans, but hell, the Bruce Trail is beautiful in its own right. There are countless viewpoints all across the trail that just take your breath away. Waterfalls, never-ending forests, boardwalks, and lake-side views that can easily compete with the east coast or even the Caribbean for that matter.

Enjoying the glorious views in Dyer's Bay.

In all honesty, the Bruce Trail gives one a new-found appreciation for Ontario. There are some epic, even secret places right outside your door, some you’ve never even heard of - a sure contrast to the perception of Ontario (southern Ontario to be specific) that is purely urban in nature. For some folks this is surprising. Can Ontario be anything more that a puzzle of large, sprawling cities?

Yes.

Hiking through the flowers in Short Hills Provincial Park.

And I encourage you all to get out there and find those special places - the ones that defy your expectations and shock you into oblivion. Learn to love the province that you call home. It truly is SO incredible what’s here!

Personally, I will never question Ontario’s beauty ever again.

2. Inner Strength

First 40km day in Silver Creek Conservation Are - it was painful.

Hiking is hard.

Very little can prepare you for stacked kilometres, 10 hour days, endless mosquitoes, a distinct lack of cleanliness, and the immense bodily discomfort that emerges after demanding your body to move for 31 days. Sure, you can work out like a maniac and learn to become one with nature so to speak, but nothing prepares you for building the mental fortitude required to complete a thru-hike - that elusive end-to-end.

There were days on the trail that were incredible and others where I felt as though my soul was literally exiting my body. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t know how my body could function any more. My feet were falling apart, my legs were 100 pound bricks, my fatigue was overwhelming - how? How the hell could I do it?

Taking a break from the hiking just outside of Glen Haffy Conservation Area.

Despite my daily doses of self-doubt and fear, I got the job done, coming out the other side with a newfound inner strength.

The Bruce Trail taught me that I’m the strongest person I know. No matter the obstacles that faced me, mental or otherwise, I was going to achieve my goal. I could have been sitting, crying in the pouring rain - having one of the most miserable days of my existence, and yep, I was going to finish the trail.

Metres away from finishing the Bruce Trail in Tobermory.

Thru-hiking, as hard and it is, truly teaches you what kind of person you are, right down to the deepest, most intimate level. While certainly a challenging experience, there is something to be said for learning to acknowledge your boundaries and eventually overcome them, even if they aren’t purely hiking-related.

So, if you have a hankering to defeat your inner demons and re-discover your strength, mental fortitude, and awesomeness, here’s yet another reason to get out there and fully hike the Bruce Trail.

3. Kindness is Out There

All smiles in Hamilton - thankful for trail angels.

The hiking community surrounding the Bruce Trail in Ontario is amazing. Hands down.

We started our journey on the trail without any expectations and wow, were we ever blown away. Friends and family joined us on the trail, bringing snacks, cold drinks, friendly conversation, and words of wisdom for our long days outside in the relative wilderness. Even people from the Instagram community lent a helping hand, meeting us on the trail in the scorching heat and sunshine with offerings of water, popsicles, gatorade, and sour candies to fuel our daily travels.

More incredible yet, we encountered random hikers, mountain bikers, and runners on the trail that offered us food, water, beer, and places to stay for the night! New friends and more amazing conversations - well beyond anything we could have ever dreamed of.

Watermelon and family - a great combination.

After living through a pandemic (let’s be honest - it’s still well underway), being closed off from the world, and watching some fairly dramatic global events take place, it was very easy to believe the worst in people. The Bruce Trail however threw a reverse uno into the mix. People, while complicated, are pretty great (my inner introvert cringes in acknowledgement of this fact).

If a total stranger is willing to lend their time, home, vehicle, and overwhelming amount of positivity to your cause, it is very challenging to think completely poorly of the human race.

We were absolutely humbled.

I for one will never forget the kindness extended to me and my fellow hiking buddies. If that isn’t a convincing enough reason to aim for an end-to-end of the Bruce Trail I don’t know what will be.

4. Friends Are Golden

Taking in the views just outside of Primrose in Boyne Valley Provincial Park.

There are hikers out there whom I admire that forever choose the solo route, hiking long-distance trails with nothing but their own pack and company. While a beautiful way to experience the world for sure, I have always been more group-oriented, preferring to share my outdoor journeys with like-minded people - friends and family that make me laugh or even share in my discomfort (hiking in a never-ending downpour for instance…always fun with the right people).

Thru-hiking the Bruce Trail made me appreciate this simple fact more than ever.

Yes, you need friends to share in the good times, but you also need friends to share in the bad times. As briefly depicted before, there are moments while thru-hiking that are pretty rough, times where I didn’t want to walk any more, let alone hike.

Trying to stay dry under our tent fly at the Birch Camp ORA.

I needed my friends. I needed my family. I needed someone to tell me to get up off my ass. I needed motivational speeches, lectures, and a positive attitude, especially when I didn’t have one. I needed someone to cry with me when I was having a bad moment. I needed someone to make me laugh. I needed so many things and the wonderful group of humans that hiked with me were kind enough to supply them. The best part? I never had to ask.

That’s the thing about hiking with friends and family - they’re always there for you, for better or for worse. They hold you up (literally - not even kidding), support you, and make sure that you’ll make it to the end in one piece.

Horsing around in the Blue Mountains.

Incredibly valuable and beyond words - do not underestimate the value of friendship out there on the trail, especially during an extensive end-to-end. And perhaps, at the end of it all, that is what is the most important. If you want to be empowered, inspired, and treated to a world of compassion, hike the Bruce Trail, but be sure to include a boat load of friends in the mix. You won’t be disappointed.

And how could you be?

Hiking with friends is always a good time, even if it’s type two kind of fun.

Using our super strength at Eugenia Falls.

So there you have it.

Four reasons as to why you need to get out there and attain that ever elusive end-to-end of the Bruce Trail. I could have quite easily listed a billion more, but I think my point has been made. This is 100 percent a hike that you need to include in your itinerary at some point in your life. Take time to live out the beauty that Ontario has to offer, in all of its wonderful shapes and sizes.

Celebrations in Tobermory as we finish the Bruce Trail.