Bruce Trail – Toronto Section

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Starting in 1959 the Bruce Trail was conceived and developed with the northern terminus being unveiled in 1967.  The trail covers 890 kilometers between Tobermory and Queenston.

For those in the GTA we are lucky because the Bruce Trail runs across our doorstep with large parts being accessible within an hour from midtown Toronto.  The Toronto Section covers 50 kilometers of main trail and 55 additional ones of side trails between Kelso and Cheltenham.  Exact maps of this section can be purchased from the Bruce Trail maps covering maps 11-14 and a more general overview is seen below.  For slightly more than the price of four maps you can buy the Bruce Trail App for your phone.  It does pretty much everything except hike the trail for you.  The annual section end to end hike is scheduled for September 8-9, 2018 and covers an area that has been explored both in terms of the trail and local history in a number of stories.  Hiking the GTA has put together a series of links to these local treasures along the trail.


Toronto section

The trail section starts at Kelso if you are hiking from the south toward the north.  The conservation area has many of it’s own trails and the area was once home to a lime industry.  Two kilns remain near the main trail.


Just a short distance north of the 401 the Hilton Falls side trail runs for 9.2 km and let’s you visit the falls with the remaining portions of the original mill.


The trail follows the edge of the escarpment and passes The Gap created by Dufferin Quarries in 1962 to allow extraction of aggregates from an open pit mine.  The trail crosses the gap on a bridge allowing you to see the restoration efforts that will eventually turn this area into a parkland.  The aptly named Restoration Side Trail will let you have a view of the restoration process in a closed section of the pit.


After passing through the Scotch Block the trail leads to Speyside.  This little community has one of Ontario’s only heritage trees. In 1937, to celebrate the coronation of King George VI on May 12th, acorns from Windsor Park in England were sent all across the commonwealth. The Royal Oak Of Speyside was planted by the local school children.


Several side trails extend from the main trail over the next few kilometres.  One of these, The Canada Goose Side Trail, leads through an old homestead and along the edge of another one of Dufferin Quarries limestone extraction operations.


The next heritage site along the trail is found at Limehouse where the remains of several lime kilns have been preserved.  This area became well known for the production of lime used in the construction industry.  One of the interesting artifacts is the restored powder house where the blasting powder was stored.


From Limehouse the trail continues north using a combination of trails and sections of roads until it reaches Silver Creek and Scotsdale Farm.  One of the defining features of Fallbrook is the stone arch bridge that was built in the 1870’s.  The stone for the bridge was taken from the decommissioned saw mill just downstream.


Silver Creek Conservation area is also home to the Irwin Quarry Side Trail.  This trail leads to one of the 50 small quarries that have come and gone along the escarpment.  The quarry was successful because the layer of soil on top of the limestone was very shallow allow for easy extraction.


The Credit Valley Footpath is another side trail that runs for almost 10 kilometres and leads to two historical sites.  The Barber Paper Mills in Georgetown dates back to 1837 but unfortunately it is suffering from demolition through neglect.


A couple of kilometres farther downstream the Barbers erected the first dynamo in Canada to generate electricity and transmit it over wires to power a mill.

dynamo 4

Meanwhile, the main trail carries on through the Terra Cotta Conservation Area.  This park has many of its own trails and is home to a 12-metre plunge waterfall on Roger’s Creek.


The Toronto Section of the Bruce Trail ends near the Cheltenham badlands.  This area of Queenston Shale was exposed to erosion in the 1930’s and was crossed by the main trail until recently.  The area had been closed for a few years because people wouldn’t stay on the trail and were increasing the erosion.   A new parking lot and boardwalk have been installed this year to allow people to check it out up close.


The Toronto Section of the Bruce Trail, along with all the side trails, provide people in the GTA with quick access to some great hiking with plenty of views and historical artifacts.

Google Maps Links for the stories are included within the links.

Check out all three of our Greatest Treks compilations here: OneTwo, Three

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