Winter Eco Adventures on the Bruce

May 01, 2018
The word has long been out about the summer beauty of the Bruce Peninsula National Park, but fewer folks know about visiting during the winter months. To be honest, a winter visit to the Peninsula is a totally different animal. The park itself has fewer services and staff on hand, (although day visitors and winter campers willing to tent it are welcome). The villages of Lion’s Head and Tobermory have fewer businesses to choose from. Arriving with a full tank of gas is a good idea. Being prepared for the elements is key as weather can change quickly. Visitors need to be as self-sufficient as possible, cell reception is spotty at best and the responsibility really lies with you.


Armed with those few words of caution, The Grotto and the Georgian Bay shoreline are stunning decked out in blue ice and blankets of white snow and a winter visit can be magical with the right preparation or the right guide! That’s where the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association comes in. In recent years, the Biosphere has started offering guided wilderness eco-adventures. Last summer, their geology hikes and bush craft adventures helped educate visitors about the magic of the Bruce Peninsula and this winter, they offered their first 3-day winter eco-adventure. I was lucky enough to tag along for the Sunday itinerary and get a taste of the many reasons why a visitor would choose a guided experience like this one! Read on for an inside look at the BPBA’s winter wilderness eco-adventures.
Jess and Natalie were two of the participants on the three-day adventure.
“There was a little bit of everything, from outdoor activities and adventures, amazing
views of Bruce Peninsula, some indoor crafts, local music, astronomy and delicious
home-cooked food that was mostly local as well,” explains Natalie.
“I think the best part of this guided tour was all the knowledge and information I learned along the way.
It wasn’t just snowshoeing to a view to snap some pictures and leave, we got to learn the proper
techniques for each activity, and then along the way we'd stop to discuss things we saw on the
path, or even how the path and its surroundings were formed millions of years ago.
The tour guides were so passionate about the area they live in, which made me want to
take extra special care of it during my stay.”
Guide Sean Skinkle stops to give the group some information about the birch tree.
Some visitors have been peeling back the layers of bark and carving initials in the tree, which
over time, will shorten the trees lifespan.
Instead of taking the direct route to The Grotto, our guides led us on a snowshoe around
Horse Lake and then along the Georgian Bay shoreline. There were no tracks on the trail, except a
set of fox paw prints we followed along the boardwalks in the bush.
Guide Graham Thomas stops to point out this intricate lichen growing on a trailside tree. Thomas has lived on the Peninsula for many years and has a wealth of information to share.
Our first view of the Georgian Bay shoreline in the winter. We lucked out with a peaceful and relatively warm day with very little wind. We continued along the Georgian Bay Trail to the Grotto. We passed a pair of winter campers heading out from a few nights at the backcountry campsite, Stormhaven.

Blue skies and blue ice formations. It was a perfect day to visit Bruce Peninsula National Park.

We climbed and climbed along the Bruce Trail to earn views like this one.

The blue ice formations along the Niagara Escarpment rock walls are stunning in the winter months.


With our snowshoe hike wrapped up, we headed back to the eco-adventure
home base: On the Rocks Guest Inn in Dyer’s Bay.

The guest house really is on the rocks! The views of Georgian Bay are stunning and the cozy
fireplace indoors was a great spot to warm up before dinner.

Our host, Valerie, had the house warm and cozy and smelling like fresh-baked banana bread when we returned.
Dinner was stewing in the crockpot while a few of the guests had massages upstairs.

Comfort food is the name of the game at On The Rocks Guest Inn.

The evening presentation began with a talk by Mike Warkentin, Chair of the Dark Sky Committee and volunteer with Bayside Astronomy.
The Bruce Peninsula is a dark sky preserve, meaning the town has taken steps to reduce light pollution and
make the stars more visible. Cloudy skies meant we couldn’t use the telescopes on this night, but Warkentin gave
us an indoor presentation about light pollution. The image on this iPad is of the reduced light pollution
during the blackout back in 2003. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Lion’s Head area on
a Friday night in the summer, stop by the harbour for Bayside Astronomy’s weekly star viewings.
Find out more on their Facebook page where they post regular updates on
weather conditions will permit that night’s viewing.

This was just as chill as it looks! Local musician Brian Taylor came in to play for us as we relaxed
in the living room of the Guest Inn. He played songs that guided us through
the four seasons on the Peninsula, ending with a version of
John Denver’s Country Roads customized for the Peninsula.
So, is an eco-adventure a worthwhile experience? Natalie and Jess definitely thought so. “We also had the chance to meet some special people from the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association to learn a little more behind the scenes where the proceeds from our trip were going. We learned about some of the issues affecting the Bruce Peninsula and also some of the projects that the BPBA have started in hopes to reverse some of these issues. It was an awesome weekend, worth every penny, and I came home with so much interesting and useful knowledge to share with my friends and family. I definitely recommend participating in one of these Eco-Adventures for anyone considering it! I plan to come back and participate in a summer one.”
The BPBA are busy planning next year’s winter adventures and a full line up of summer eco adventures for those looking for a new way to experience the Bruce Peninsula. Find out more at Proceeds from all eco-adventures go back to local conservation projects conducted by the BPBA.
Want to visit the Bruce Peninsula National Park during the winter months? Be sure to check out their winter website updates here and read their winter safety tips here