Hiking the Sydenham Section
About the Trail
The Sydenham Section of the Bruce Trail continues northbound after the Beaver Valley section, starting in the quiet little hamlet of Blantyre, on Grey County Road 12, and then winds its way along the Niagara Escarpment for about 170 kilometres until it arrives in Bluewater Park in downtown Wiarton.
Leaving Blantyre, the Trail passes through hardwood forests and farms, past wetlands, small creeks, the lovely Walters Falls, and features some beautiful lookouts over the Big Head valley.
Turning north, the Trail soon arrives at the Bognor Marsh Management Area. Bognor Marsh includes upland forests, three major marshes, natural regeneration areas, and several small springs feeding the marsh and stream system, which are home to a variety of waterfowl and other marsh-living animals, birds and plants. The Trail passes by an education shelter, and follows boardwalks with interpretive signs, and a viewing tower from which to enjoy the marsh and its inhabitants.
The Trail soon passes through the BTC’s Silent Valley property, a fascinating area to explore geology, history, and cultural heritage. Read the book for more details! This property is one of many purchased by the BTC in recent years, with donations from many members and other conservation minded individuals, to preserve and protect tracts of Escarpment land for perpetuity.
The small community of Woodford soon greets the hiker, with Side Trails to visit more of the local geology.
The Trail then heads out to the Bayview Escarpment Provincial Nature Reserve, with broad, sweeping outlooks over the Meaford Tank Range, and beyond to Georgian Bay and as far as Collingwood.
Returning toward Owen Sound (the city), you hike through the Sydenham Forests, and notice occasional outlooks to Owen Sound (the bay). The Trail soon arrives at the Centennial Tower, with its exceptional views of the Owen Sound re-entrant valley. From the Tower you head south again through some spectacular fern glens and the BTC's Palisades property on the “East Rocks”, eventually arriving at the well-known Inglis Falls at Inglis Falls Conservation Area. Heading north from Inglis Falls the Trail reaches the "West Rocks" at West Rocks Management Area and past some great lookouts over the city.
Heading north from Owen Sound the Trail enters the Pottawatomi Conservation Area where you can stand atop the lip of Jones Falls looking straight down as the water plunges over the Escarpment. Or take the Memorial Forest Side Trail down to the base of the falls for a closeup view!
The Trail leaves Owen Sound via the Georgian Bluff Rail Trail, wanders through the Fossil Glen property, and soon arrives at The Glen Management Area. This horseshoe shaped indentation in the Escarpment was carved millennia ago by glaciers. As you walk along the cliff tops, you can look down into a sea of green that contains a significant wetland and waterfowl population.
Continuing north, you’ll hike through the BTC's Lindenwood property. Be sure to check out the Donor recognition plaques near the parking lot!
Further north, you will visit the recently-acquired Kemble Wetlands and Kemble Rock Nature Reserves, and climb over Kemble Mountain before coming out along a road section. The section from Kemble Mountain to Dodd's Hill is filled with fissures and is another SBTC fern paradise - watch for walking ferns and much more.
After passing by the 'Slough of Despond' you come to another gem of the Sydenham Section - the 11 km stretch from Skinner's Bluff to the Bruce's Caves Conservation Area parking lot. Along here there are many spectacular lookouts over Colpoys Bay and many great spots for a picnic lunch.
Another 7 km past Bruce's Caves will bring you to Bluewater Park in Wiarton where we link up with the Peninsula section.
- Open fires on the trail are not permitted and any natural water source should be considered unsafe unless boiled.
- Many of the natural areas are noted for their varied plants, especially ferns, some of which are quite rare.
- There is ample opportunity for skiing or snow shoeing in areas like Massie Hills, Inglis Falls, above the Owen Sound's west rocks, and in 'The Glen'.
- There are several enjoyable side trails - consult your up-to-date maps for more information.
A very important resource for hiking the Bruce Trail is a map! The Bruce Trail Reference Guide is a full set of 42 maps for the entire Bruce Trail. The 50th Anniversary special edition (edition 29) is still available! Or if you just need 1 map, you can download singles here.
Another mobile option is the Bruce Trail App.
Or, if you just plan to hike in the Sydenham section, check out our Looping Thru Sydenham book, which describes delightful local hikes using the main Bruce Trail and some of its Side Trails.
The Bruce Trail Users' Code
- Hike only along marked routes, especially on farmland-do not take short cuts
- Do not climb fences- use the stiles
- Respect the privacy of people living along the trail
- Leave the trail cleaner than you found it. carry out all litter.
- No open fires are allowed on the Trail. Use a portable stove.
- Leave flowers and plants for others to enjoy.
- Do not damage live trees or strip off bark.
- Keep dogs on a leash and under control at all times, especially on or near farm land
- Do not disturb wildlife.
- Leave only your thanks and take nothing but photographs.
- Obey all signs.
For more information, review the 'Know Before You Go' resources posted on the BTC website.
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) well known for its sap that causes an itching rash. "Leaves of Three, Let Them Be!"
3 common forms:
- Trailing/creeping ground cover/vine, 10-25 cm tall
- Shrub up to 1.2 m tall
- Climbing woody vine that grows on trees
Poison ivy has three almond-shaped leaflets. Leaf colour ranges from rusty brown in early spring, to light green, to dark green, and then turn bright red in fall. The milky sap of poison ivy darkens after exposure to the air.
Ticks and Lyme Disease
Blacklegged Tick populations which carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme Disease are expanding in Ontario. See the Government of Ontario Lyme Disease Infomation Page for prevention recommendations and further info.
Thunder & Lightning Storms
Lightning strikes can cause serious injury and be deadly. The trail is not a safe place to be in the middle of a lightning storm. Review the Government of Canada's Lightning Safety Overview for more information.
There are several areas along the Sydenham section where there are deep crevices in the rock formations along the trail. As the snow falls the crevices may become covered in snow and form snow bridges. Therefore you may not be able to see where some of the crevices are located. Some crevices may be only 30 cm (1 foot) deep but others may be as much as 30 metres (100 feet) deep. Stepping into a crevice could result in a knee sprain to broken bones or even death. Crevices occur frequently along the edge of the Escarpment, but they can be even as far as a kilometre or more from the edge of the Escarpment. Please be aware of this and keep in mind that there is a risk factor in these areas. Whenever you snowshoe or hike, whether it be on a club hike or not, you do so at your own risk.