The Bruce Trail offers one of the most magnificent backpacking opportunities in North America.
Following 860 kilometers (553 miles) of the Niagara Escarpment, Bruce is long, requiring at least a month for serious, experienced trekkers to tackle; more if you want to venture off the main path to explore the 400 kilometers (273.4 miles) of associated side trails — and you should.
Bruce is beautiful and exciting, and the country surrounding it is worth a few extra days of play.
Here are a few top stops to make time for while you're backpacking Bruce Trail.
The main Bruce Trail has one end in Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula and another end in Queenston in the Niagara Valley.
Most backpackers prefer to venture from south to north, so they can have a few stress-free days to explore and indulge in Niagara Falls.
Easily one of the world's greatest natural wonders, Niagara Falls is as much a bucket-list item as the Bruce.
Plus, thanks to outstanding Niagara Falls hotel deals, backpackers can stay in the center of the city, enjoying fantastic views for a relatively low cost.
Can’t-miss attractions around Niagara Falls include a boat cruise to the base of the falls and a look behind the falls through underground tunnels.
You might also consider wandering around Goat Island and Dufferin Islands.
However, since you’ll be walking plenty in the coming weeks, you might also save your strength and enjoy a movie at the Niagara Falls IMAX or a ride on the SkyWheel.
It might not be the highest peak in Canada, but Mount Nemo does offer excellent and unique views of the Niagara Escarpment and the countryside beyond.
The entire Conservation Area, located beside the Iroquoia section (or Club) of the Bruce, has just five kilometers of trails that lead backpackers to fascinating caves and crevasses as well as panoramic lookouts.
If you are interested in climbing and trekking, you can try your skills at any of the routes on the white limestone crag or even sample spelunking into the deep caverns.
No matter where you venture, you should be mindful of the age of this forest: It is the oldest, least disturbed forest in eastern North America.
To protect the groves of white cedar, some of which are more than 1,000 years old, you must avoid top-roping and other destructive climbing and hiking activities.
Then, everyone can enjoy Mount Nemo’s rare views for years to come.
Limestone is a typical rock around the Niagara Escarpment.
To take advantage of this natural resource, earlier inhabitants installed lime kilns, which heated limestone to create the valuable building material called quicklime.
Lime kilns have existed since ancient times, and modern kilns are hardly different from the kilns of the past.
Backpackers can take a day to explore Niagara’s lime kiln ruins in two different locations.
Limehouse was named for its famous lime kilns built in the 19th century and stopped producing lime in the 1960s.
Though much of the kiln area is deteriorating — to include a railway used to transport the limestone and quicklime — the largest kiln, called Draw Kiln, is being restored, so visitors can see what the kilns looked like in their prime days of operation.
The second lime kiln opportunity is in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, in Bruce’s Caledon Hills Club.
Here, backpackers can find examples of Hoffman ring kilns, which were immensely popular and innovative kilns in the mid-19th century.
Hoffman’s kiln design was so dominant in its time that it appeared in almost every country.
To finish your Bruce Trail trek the right way, you must take a day to wander the Devil’s Monument Loop at the last stretch of the Peninsula Club.
The hike is hardly two kilometers long, but it is undeniably the most spectacular scenery the Bruce has to offer.
After reaching the scarp’s edge, you can see the deep, blue waters of Dyer’s Bay, the white boulders of the beaches below, the thin birch and aspen trees of the forest, and the escarpment rising steeply above.
Plus, you’ll visit a few sea stacks, including Devil’s Monument itself, which was carved more than 5,500 years ago by a glacial lake.
The Bruce offers wonders beyond belief, but if you are willing to venture off its main paths, you can find even more to marvel at.
There’s backpacking — and then there’s backpacking the Bruce.
This story was published in partnership with Sheraton on the Falls Hotel.