The Grotto – Bruce Peninsula National Park

The Grotto is the most famous spot in the Bruce Peninsula National Park, and has become so popular in recent years that you can only book a 4-hour parking spot, due to the high volume of visitors in the summer.

No bears were punched during the making of this blog

We went on a Thursday in late September, so the parking lot wasn’t at full capacity. Navigating our way to the trail was extremely easy. Some provincial/national parks have sketchy maps which aren’t so easy to follow, but because of The Grotto and all the tourist dollars it brings in, the Bruce Peninsula National Park had a big fancy entrance, with multiple maps showing exactly the distance and time it takes for each trail, plus signs all the way along the trail pointing the way to the Grotto, making it idiot proof.

From the parking lot, we chose to walk the Georgian Bay Trail, which was the shortest, fastest, and most child-friendly. We saw people with baby buggies and strollers walking the path no problem. It only took 25 minutes, which, I imagine, is the other reason that half of Toronto visits here in the summer.

The first place you reach as the trail hits the water is Indian Head Cove, a stunning vista with rock pools and the most unbelievably blue water. If only it were the heat of summer – I so wanted to jump in! We stopped here and had lunch, admiring the incredible view.

After this is the Grotto cave itself, which we unfortunately didn’t clamber down to because of the steep cliffs, and because we had 3 little kids in tow. But next time for sure!

At this point we decided to continue along the Bruce Trail towards the Overhanging Point. The walk wasn’t hard but it did require some scrambling over rocks and some careful balance (baby buggies not welcome).

Along the way, we walked across one of the most bizarre beaches I’ve ever seen – Boulder Beach. Was this some natural phenomenon? The entire bay, and it was huge, was covered with smooth rocks – absolutely no sand. It was hard to walk for so long on wobbly rocks!

After scrambling across the rocks, it was back into the forest, for a slightly uphill hike. Be warned there are no signs for Overhanging Point, and if a nice couple hadn’t given us some advice we never would have found it. Along the way are small signs on the trees with numbers – Overhanging Point is right after #41, and you have to look for a small hole/tunnel in the ground next to the trail.

Me trying hard not to look down

The picture above doesn’t really do it justice – you are hundreds of feet from the ground and everyone’s stomachs were having butterflies! Also, for the brave at heart (and small of bum bum), you can apparently squeeze down the rabbit hole next to the trail and go walk around at the base of Overhanging Point.

After Overhanging Point everyone was exhausted, and we were running out of time on our 4-hour parking spot. This retraced our steps back to Boulder Beach, and this time took the Marr Lake Trail back. The trail was simple enough to follow, with some light clambering over rocks, but generally no problem.

This is the map of the route we did – Parking Lot to Indian Head Cove to Boulder Beach to Overhanging Point – and back to Boulder Beach and along Marr Lake Trail. It took a full 4 hours to do all this, including stopping to eat something, stopping to take pictures, stopping to use the facilities, and stopping to give piggy backs to tired kids! (It does NOT take an hour, as Google Maps shows below.) ^_^

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