Bruce Peninsula National Park, Part 3: The Grotto and Overhanging Point
The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park is so popular that there is literally timed entry for parking at the Cyprus Lake Trailhead. Because the first image I ever saw from the park was of the Grotto however I just had to see it in person, despite the certainty of crowds. And so, I secured us the earliest time slot for the day with the best forecasted weather upon our arrival to Tobermory.
One of the first vehicles to arrive in the parking lot on the day of our reservation, we made a beeline for the shoreline and the spectacular cave formations there. I had wandered for a few minutes and snapped off a few photos when another couple showed up – and promptly stripped down to their bathing suits before launching themselves off the rocks. It was then that I realized I made a terrible mistake.
Because I like to experience places without having a lot of preconceptions and (in particular) seeing a lot of photos, I tend to not do much research after I make a decision to go to a place. This sometimes backfires however and I end up completely unprepared – like for example being at a place where there are caves only accessible by water and not having a bathing suit or my underwater camera. Once I realized my error I was honestly pretty annoyed with myself for having missed out on the opportunity to see the caves and shoreline formations (more) close up. But we made the best of it, climbing up and down the cliffs, getting as many views as possible at the amazing solidified minerals, long eroded by wave action.
After we’d explored all the angles around the Grotto we joined the Bruce Trail and again headed west-northwest, this time toward Overhanging Point. Along the way we hiked through coastal cedar, across pebble beach, and up through the headland confier. All were spectacular, but it was during the former we saw a few yellow-orange leaves despite the fact that it wasn’t even August!
Once we ascended the headlands and were hiking across the Niagara Escarpment we were treated to multiple views over the cloudy, dark Georgian Bay but the trail become more interesting as the geology became dominated by the coral-like dolomite that both Tom and I likened to brains. Shortly after this we reached Overhang Point, a section of undercut cliff that results from wave action on the softer underlying geology. Unfortunately, due to our timed parking spot, this was our turnaround point, but we’d honestly seen so much already that it was hard to be disappointed.
Thanks for sharing your experience. It has become crazy busy there over the past number of years it seems. Implementing timed parking is a necessary evil, given cars where lined up literally for miles to enter the park. I often wonder that with the advent of social media and such, presents these places to so many people who may not have even known spots like The Grotto existed?
Lovely pictures that add so much to your post. If you haven’t, check out the Lions Head area of the Bruce Trail, not too far south of Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Again, thanks for taking the time to share.
I think timed/restricted entry is a good thing- for both the environment and the people (because who wants to show up and then wait half a day in line in a car anyway?). The permitting system we use in the US works well for some places but I think this times entry system in something the National Park Service should consider for places like Zion Canyon.
Thanks too for the recommendation on the Lions Head area; I’ll check that out if I get back there someday!
I agree. It did get pretty crazy there over the past number of years for sure.
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Things have changed since I was there (the timed parking), but I guess that’s not a surprise 25-30 years later. The water colour and clarity in your photos and videos are spectacular. Jumping into the water certainly looks tempting, but definitely better in a wet suit.
I’ve heard that the popularity of the park has really skyrocketed in the last 10 years or so. Coupled with the relative proximity to Toronto I guess its not surprising that they’ve been forced to limit entries. The water color and clarity really is worth seeing though! And yes, a wet suit would have been ideal but I would have jumped in in a heartbeat despite the temperature!
Abby is happy that you couldn’t dive in and disappear while exploring caves! Great photos. Love the color of the water!
You’re completely right – she would have not been happy if I disappeared into the water and then into a cave!
Although you didn’t get to do some things, you certainly saw amazing sites you would have missed if you had gone diving. What a beautiful place!
I was surprised to hear about the timed entry and even more surprised that you also had to leave by a certain time.
Thanks for sharing the pictures of such a marvelous place!
We definitely did see some amazing things and its difficult to feel disappointed… except you probably know how bad I wanted to get into that water!!
The timed entry and exit was something we’d been prepared for (and had reservations for) but once we were hiking and saw the number of people crowded into one area right around the Grotto it became completely understandable. I’ve heard they’re considering instituting a similar system at some places in Zion, Yellowstone, etc.