Lion’s Head, Ontario

Since a few months had passed since our last backpacking trip (to Algonquin Provincial Park), Mac & I felt it was time for another adventure! We had heard great things about Backpacking in Lion’s Head and decided to head up there for a 2 day/1 night trek!

Lion’s Head is about a 3 hour drive from Burlington on the Bruce Peninsula. The Provincial Park juts out into Georgian Bay. In the summer the Bruce Peninsula is teeming with locals & tourists basking in the natural beauty of the area. It being mid-October when Mac & I visited, we had the place virtually to ourselves!

Lion's Head Backpacking | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion’s Head

Day 1 – McCurdy Drive Parkette to McKay’s Harbour

We arrived in Lion’s Head around 12:30pm. The Provincial Park is just a block or so off the highway before you go into town. Taking Moore St will lead you up to the trail head (on the north side of the peninsula). After a thorough inspection of our rental tent (we actually set it up in the parking lot to check for holes!) we set out on our hike. Instead of following the Bruce Trail from the McCurdy Drive Parkette, we took the Moore Street side trail. This route shaved almost a full kilometre off our hike. Plus, the extra-wide trail was just oozing with fall charm. That extra-wide trail ended once the side trail merged with the Bruce Trail. The fall charm was still abundant though!

Lion's Head Backpacking | A Taste of Trace

Lion's Head Backpacking | A Taste of Trace

It didn’t take long to hike through the forest and out to the cliff edge. Once we did, we were given a taste of what the views for the rest of the 17km hike would be like. Stunning doesn’t even come close to describing it! Though it was a rather cloudy day, the water was as blue as ever, and the trees had just started to change colour making for a perfectly picturesque hike.

Lion's Head Backpacking | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Our first day of hiking finished up after walking under a precarious rock ledge and then down and onto McKay’s Harbour. We followed the shore for a bit before we came upon McKay’s Campsite. This (free!) campsite is right on the trail and had a very serene rocky beach, but also had a quite protected forested area to pitch a tent. As I mentioned before, there weren’t many other hikers and we had the whole campsite to ourselves! I have heard that McKay’s Harbour gets pretty crowded with big groups in the summer months.

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

We had rented –7C sleeping bags, as well as a 4-season tent for this hike. Needless to say, we were quite toasty overnight!! Our second morning started out slow as we worked out the kinks in our backs from the not-so-comfy air mattresses, filtered our water for the day, and ate breakfast. We were on the trail again by 10:15am.

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Day 2 – McKay’s Harbour to McCurdy Drive Parkette

The trail immediately climbed back up so we were on the cliff edge once more. Similar to our first day, the trail was somewhat slow-going. The uneven granite & limestone terrain coupled with feisty tree roots made for pretty labourious hiking. It was all worth it though – those views are hard to beat!

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Eventually we made it around the peninsula and had to hike through the forest (via the Ilse Hanel side trail) back to the Parkette. Once more we found ourselves in a beautiful serene forest with a smoother terrain and a calming silence. We motored back to the car at a rapid pace and were taking off our hiking boots and enjoying sitting by 3:30pm.

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace

I’d highly recommend backpacking in Lions Head for anyone looking for great views and a different perspective from hikes in the GTA area. I have a friend that even made a day trip out of it! There are plenty of small side trails that join together meaning that you don’t even have to do the entire loop all in one go. Whichever you decide, I hope you’ll give Backpacking in Lion’s Head a thought!

Practical Information

Lion’s Head is 3-3.5 hours from Burlington. Take Hwy 6 north towards Tobermory. Head east on Hwy 9 into Lion’s Head. Turn left onto Hwy 29 and then take your first right (Moore St). This will lead you to the McCurdy Drive Parkette.

From the parkette to McKay’s Harbour Campsite is 5.1km (or 6km if you don’t take the Moore St side trail). Camping is free, but the campsite is not serviced (no thunderbox, and no fires permitted).

From the campsite to the Cemetery Road carpark (on the south side of the peninsula) is 6.7km. From there, you can cut across the peninsula back to the McCurdy Drive parkette (another 4.3km or 5km if you take the optional Warder Side Trail).

By the numbers, our first day was 5.1km. The second day was 11km. In total we hiked 16.1km. Through the forest we were averaging 3.5-4 km/hr, but on the rocky terrain by the cliffs it was more like 2-2.5km/hr. Just something to keep in mind if you’re worried about timing.

Backpacking in Lion's Head | A Taste of Trace