The Bruce Peninsula is an increasingly popular destination for Ontario outdoor-lovers. Just over three hours from Toronto, the Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve is one of the beautifully breathtaking spots to visit on the peninsula. The trail to Lion’s Head Lookout connects to the 900-km Bruce Trail from Tobermory to Niagara. Even if you’re not ready for a month-long backpack trip, you can explore the Bruce on shorter trails in Lion’s Head!
I spent 10 days on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula with a group of students and young professionals as part of a conservation program with Ocean Wise. Together, we visited several spots on the peninsula including Lion’s Head Lookout. As we travelled around, it became evident that the peninsula did not escape the challenges of the pandemic. Through the pandemic, more Canadians have been getting outdoors—and that’s fantastic—but we’ve also seen more litter and more need for conservation education. We have to get out better.
About Lion’s Head Lookout
Location: Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
Distance: 6 km out and back
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (depending on fitness and weather)
Elevation: 56 m elevation gain
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must remain on-leash.
Features: The Lion’s Head Lookout trail is a short segment of the Bruce Trail that includes glacially-made potholes and stunning views over the Georgian Bay.
The entire Lion’s Head hike is about 17 km and takes several hours. I only completed a portion of the trail due to limited time. Even so, it’s gotta be one of the best hikes near Toronto and is well worth the visit.
Finding the Trailhead
We parked at the McCurdy Drive Parkette for access to Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve. You’ll find the park and trail access about 1.5 km from the town of Lion’s Head, about 40 km south of Tobermory. In the parking area, there are portable toilets and garbage cans as well. Remember to pack out your litter and dispose of it properly.
Advance reservations are required to park at McCurdy Drive. No additional fee is required, but reservations are needed. You can book your 4-hour pass or full-day pass online. If there are no parking reservations available, shuttles are offered at the local school and arena from the Lion’s Head Transit Authority. Alternatively, you could park in town and add an additional kilometre to your hike.
The Lion’s Head Hike
Did you know that the Bruce Trail is the longest and oldest marked footpath in Canada? The 900-km trail stretches from Tobermory to Niagara and can be completed in about 30 days. While some tackle the Bruce all at once, many choose to hike segments over longer periods of time. Lion’s Head Lookout trail is one way to experience the Bruce without biting off too much at once!
Hikers looking for a short jaunt typically take the Bruce Trail past the potholes to the lookout and then return on Moore Street Side Trail. However, this side trail was closed during our visit, so we opted for the 6-km out and back and took about 1.5 hours. The Lion’s Head Lookout is perched above 200-foot cliffs overlooking the Georgian Bay and the peninsula. Practice caution near the cliff as there are no railings.
While Tobermory is known as the Bruce Peninsula’s most popular tourist spot, your trip would be incomplete without a visit to Lion’s Head Provincial Park. The lookout views are spectacular and the hiking is very enjoyable. Depending on when you visit, you could even have the lookout to yourself.
Ambitious adventurers can tackle the full 17-km loop in about 6 hours, down the Hanel Side Trail and then back on the Bruce Trail. I’d love to return for that someday. I’ve heard this longer loop is one of the best hiking trails in Ontario!
Read more: Devil’s Thumb Hike at Lake Louise, Alberta
Know Before You Go
Leave No Trace: Several locals on the Bruce Peninsula described an explosion of visitors this past summer. While it’s great to see more people exploring close to home, the increase in visitors can be difficult for trail infrastructure. If you haven’t already, spend time learning about Leave No Trace and practice these principles on the trails.
Not child friendly: Parents should be cautious when hiking with children, with no guardrails and steep 200-foot drops at the lookout.
Keep pets on leash: Pets must remain on leash while in the provincial park. Bring a strong harness for your pup near the cliffs. Remember to pack extra poo bags and pack full bags out with you. I carry this Ruffwear Pack Out Bag when hiking with my dog. No one wants to see full poop bags on the trail (even if you plan to pick up later…).
Pay attention to blazes: White blazes mark the main trail and blue blazes mark side trails. A useful park map is found at the trailhead (snap a photo to bring with you). Overall, there’s plenty of signage in Lion’s Head park.
Bring the right stuff: Always bring water and snacks with you, even on shorter hikes. You might want hiking poles for extra stability on rugged, rocky terrain (especially if it’s rainy). Remember to pack layers for warmth and carry other hiking essentials with you (first aid and more).
Things To Do in Lion’s Head
Lion’s Head is a quaint little town on the Bruce Peninsula. On a sunny day, stroll along the marina to see the picturesque Lion’s Head Harbour Lighthouse with the provincial park in the distance. You could also plan a relaxing visit to the nearby beach.
From Victoria Day to Thanksgiving, the Lion’s Head Farmer’s Market is a must-see if you visit on Saturday morning. You’ll typically find craft beer, local art, artisan products, and lots of delicious food. When we visited, live music brought the park to life with toe-tapping folk tunes. I’d recommend dropping by.
Lion’s Head Lookout Trail Map
Have you explored the Bruce Peninsula? Did you hike Lion’s Head Lookout? Share your experience in the comments below!
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