Cyprus Lake and The Grotto - Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is situated on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. This park is comprised of an incredible array of habitats from beautiful marine ecosystems to dense forests. At the tip of the Niagara Escarpment this enormous wonderland spans 155km², consisting mostly of limestone cliffs, caves and old growth forests, home to some of the oldest trees in Canada. This is one of the largest natural habitats in such a close proximity to a major city and is the largest remaining chunk of natural habitat in southern Ontario.
Many of us long to pack up the car and head out into the great unknown for it has been the hallmark of Canadian summers for years.To me, nothing beats getting away from it all and spending some time relaxing by one of the thousands of Canada's pristine interior lakes such as Cyprus Lake. Now don't get me wrong, I love backcountry camping however some times its nice to have some of the amenities provided for you so you can spend less time search and setting up camp and more time exploring and relaxing. I had the opportunity to go to Bruce Peninsula National Park and camp alongside Cyprus Lake, one of the clearest lakes in Ontario. I would argue that this location is by far one of the best parks in Ontario due to its pristine waters and many natural attractions that will keeps you busy for your entire stay. I have actually been up there twice this year and have yet to see all of the points of interest I have mapped out however I was able to visit the Grotto, Overhanging Point, Indian Head Cove, Boulder Beach as well as squeeze in a few hikes.
What is your favourite attraction at Bruce Peninsula National Park
In time, I will hike the entire Bruce Trail which follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and is one of the thirteen UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada. This world renown trail runs for almost 900 km so I would have to take quite a bit of time off work but it would completely be worth it, for what little I have seen of the trail already was amazing.
Many people have actually hiked/ran the entire trail to raise money for various events. The fasted record for completing the trail was set in October 2012, by Cody Gillies, a 23 year old Orangeville resident,who finished in 12days 7hrs 39min. He raised over $35,000 for the Headwaters Health Care Foundation.
Getting to Bruce Peninsula National Park
Since this park is located so close to Toronto, it sees many people from the south every day. Its nice to be able to get out of the big city and after a short 3.5hr drive find ourself so far removed from the concrete jungle which is T.O. The drive itself is nice, especially for those not from Canada for it give you the opportunity to see some of Ontario's farm communities. Make sure to stop and buy some fresh corn or vegetables along the way and if you are into antiquing there are some great stops to find that perfect nick knack for your home or cottage.
From the South
From the North
Travel north on Hwy 10 which will turn into Hwy 6, pass through Miller Lake. Continue past the turnoff to Dyer's Bay Rd for another 12.3km. Turn right onto Cyprus Lake Road. Follow for 5km to the campground office.
From Hwy17 turn on to Hwy6 past Manitoulin Island to the end of the Hwy. Take farry to Tobermory then follow Highway 6 south for approximately 11km.Turn left onto Cyprus Lake Road, 5km to main office.
For those of you who don't have a car there is no need to worry, thanks to an organization named Park Bus, there is now public transportation to parks throughout Ontario, Bruce Peninsula National Park being one of them. This amazing service has various pick up locations amongst Toronto and runs trips regularly throughout the summer. By checking out their Schedule you can book your ticket online well in advance to secure your seat.
So for those who live in the city and rely on the public transit to get around have no fear. I actually road park bus on my last few trips for it was easier and cheaper then bringing my own vehicle. Their prices are very competitive and don't forget, if you take your car you have to pay an extra 12$ to bring it into the park, so really that's like taking $12 off the cost of the bus ticket. There is always a ton of room to bring all your camping gear and my favourite thing about Park Bus is that you can bring your dog! That's right, dogs are welcome on park bus so your pooch can enjoy your weekend getaway as well. If you can't manage to wrangle up your friends for a camping getaway, riding Park Bus is perfect because you get a chance to meet others who obviously enjoy the outdoors and will be camping in the same park.
Cyprus Lake Campground
After the Hwy 6 turn off onto Cyprus Lake Rd. get ready for 5 fun kilometres of twisting and turning until you arrive at the Main check-in building. It is here that you can pay for your site and get any information you need about the different hikes and activities. Let me warn you though, this particular park is extremely busy in the summer months and I urge you to use the online registration system so you don't get all the way out there and can't get a site. At the park there are three main camping sections, each a little different then the other and are all named after trees, Tamaracks, Birches and Poplars. The Tamarack section is a "No Radio" section so generally its for people and families that are looking for a quieter retreat. If you choose to stay here I recommend trying to book site #223 or #225. These two site are excellent, close to a water source and you have no visible people to your left, right or behind you. Also these sites back onto the bike path and cyprus lake hiking trail which can be used to get to the trail head. My favourite location at Cyprus lake is in the Poplars in either camp site #13,15 or 17. Campsite #13 is large and there are no other visible campers however there is a boardwalk to the beach beside the site, so you will have to give up privacy for convenience. Sites #15,17 are great and very close to the lake and trail head.
The sleeping pad I use when I go camping alone. Extremely light and packs up super small.
Indian Head Cove
Indian head Cove is one of the rarest sites to be seen here in Canada. Tropical coloured waters meet a smooth pebbled beach, all surrounded by gigantic sedimentary rocks which create an ideal place to lay out to tan. This is a very popular spot so don't expect to have much privacy once you get there, best you change into you swimsuit back at your tent. I also found it interesting to see the mix of people that were at this location. No two families were of the same origin, which in my experience, is rare. Generally you don't see to many other cultures out and about in the bush however due to this parks proximity to Toronto, I guess its much more appealing. I think back to all the time I spent up north at Lake Superior Provincial Park and in all that time I maybe saw two families from other countries.The waters at Indian Head Cover are so clear you can see the bottom up to at least 15m making it an ideal diving location. You can actually go with an outfit to dive the area however the cold waters and lack of marine life rendered it unappealing to me. Oh, speaking of cold waters, this is not the body of water you want to be wearing a speedo in, that's for sure. The tropical looking waters are very deceptive, it may seem like you are in Mexico but the waters feel more like Antarctica. You wouldn't catch me alive swimming in these waters if the sun was not out in full force. Luckily for us it was nice so we threw on our flippers and snorkels and went for a little exploring.
On the left side of Indian Head Cover there is some great cliff jumping, just make sure you jump off the right section. Most likely when you get there, there will already be people jumping off so just make your way towards them. Unfortunately there are no signs except for one saying to swim at your own risk. What makes this cliff jump different then any other one I have done in Canada is that you can actually see the bottom. For me I found this to be a bit nerve-racking, I prefer jumping into an abyss that gives the illusion of a bottomless pit.
We came to Indian Head Cove for the sunrise the following day and though it was way earlier then I wanted to get up, it was totally worth it. The crystal clear waters helped to illuminate the pinks and purples that danced across the lake as the sun began to peek over the horizon. I was expecting to be the only one up that early in the morning but I was wrong, there was a group of students there to take pictures, like myself eagerly awaiting the sun. Indian Head Cove to the Grotto is only a 3 minute walk away and a must see for any newcomer.
By far, the Grotto is one of the most popular attractions in Bruce Peninsula National Park making it hard to get good pictures for it is almost always full of people. Thousands of people every summer come to check out the big cave which was carved out by the waves of Georgian Bay over thousands of years ago. After going there on my first day I decided to come back the following morning for sunrise in order to get some pictures before it filled up with tourists. Sunrise is definitely the best time to check out the cave but if you plan on swimming through its underwater tunnel I'd wait until later in the day when the sun is out completely.
To get into the cave there is a little bit of a climb down that is not too difficult but may be dangerous for someone under the age of 5 or over 65. I was able to bring my dog down by passing her to my friend at some of the larger drops however she some how made it back up unassisted. The caves neatest feature is an underwater passageway that opens up to the Georgian Bay. This tunnel emits a tropical blue colour within the cave giving it just enough light to take some great pictures. It is possible to free dive through the underwater tunnel though I recommend using fins and a mask. I will add an eBay posting with the set of snorkeling gear I use for I love them and they are great quality for the cost.This will make the swim easier giving you more time to look around while you are diving through the hole. It only takes about 20-25 seconds to dive it, for its only about 15' deep 20' long. A fun way to get to the Grotto is to swim from the shore of Indian Head Cove to the tunnel entrance however it's a little hard to find the cave hole if you have not done it before, so you may have to just swim to the cave entrance. For your first time its best you dive from the cave outward. We dove in and out a few times but the water was so cold that once I got a few videos of us we got out and went back to camp to make breakfast and pack for our hike to Overhanging point.
Making the Hike to overhanging Point is a decent trek and from the Grotto, is about an hour hike on a well tromped path. Every now and then you will see small paths on your right that lead to the edge of the cliff, I recommend checking them out because each one gives you a different perspective of the beautiful shoreline. Eventually we made it to the overhang and it was very clear why they named this locations Overhanging Point. A giant ledge formed thousands of years ago gives way to a beautiful vantage point of the lake. It was amazing to think that at one point waves were crashing into this rock face leaving behind this overhang. As you take the skinny trail to the ledge you will see a small hole in the ground that kinda looks too dangerous to climb into. Don't let it intimidate you it is actually really easy to climb into and once you do, it leads underneath the overhang. Behind me followed my dog who we had to pass down into the small tunnel then my friend followed swiftly behind. The tunnel was dark and wet and though it was an easy climb you have to be careful, for the rock inside is jagged and sharp at some points.
Watch your step as you are coming out of the cave for I am 6' and I had about 5" to the ground. The underside of the overhang is really neat and you get a chance to see just how the water eroded the rock over the years. Off to the right of the overhang is another cave that is a bit larger then the one we came down in and if it starts raining on your hike I recommend taking shelter in this cave or even having your lunch here. Its spacious enough and has a really cool view. If its not raining and you don't feel like having a caveman lunch climb up and out of this cave and hang a right. This will take you to a great plateau that over looks the entire lake. This is where we chose to rest and make our lunch.
After lunch we made the long trip back going a different way then we came. If you stay along the ledge you can take the shoreline trail back to the Grotto then onto the main trail back to Cyprus lake. I preferred this route because there were a lot of interesting rock formations. The main trail back to camp is wide and well kept twisting and turning through ancient spruce trees. A small water fall signifies that you are almost back at the campgrounds and rye would always stop for a quick drink.
We made our way back to camp and took some time to rest from our long day of hiking and swimming. One of my favourite things about Cyprus Lake is its beautiful sunsets. Make sure to make it down to the lake to see at least one sunset while camping here. We cooled our beers in the lake and sat along the sandy shore watching the water catch fire with colours of red and pink, while my dog rye drifted off to the sound of calling loons. There is a trail that goes around the entirety of Cyprus lake and most of it is board-walked. This is a great trail to hike at dusk so you can see the sun setting over different parts of the lake. The Cyprus lake trail takes 2 hrs to hike, so make sure you give your self the right amount of time. I absolutely loved my time at Bruce Peninsula National Park and my stay at Cyprus Lake. Personally I believe that the further north you go the prettier nature gets, but this park helped to change my perception. It truly is a diamond in the rough.