Bruce Peninsula National Park - The Grotto
Copyright Explore The Bruce
New for 2018 - Grotto Parking By Online Reservations
The Grotto is a very popular attraction. Parking space is limited and quickly fills up. The time slot parking limits help to ensure there is access to enjoy a Grotto experience. Reservations allow you to plan your trip in advance.
Follow #GrottoParking on Twitter for Grotto parking updates
May 11, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. (EST) to October 31, 2018.
You are able to reserve your time slot for Grotto parking beginning May 11, 2018 at 8 a.m. EST up to 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the requested time slot – subject to availability. When Grotto parking is fully booked, there is no more Grotto access at that time.
What are the time slots?
1) 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 2) 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
3) 12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. 4) 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
5) 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 6) 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
How to book:
Reserve online at www.reservation.pc.gc.ca or call 1-877-RESERVE.
Note - the reservation service requires that you set up an account.
The fee to park is $11.70 per vehicle plus applicable reservation fee ($6.00 online, $8.50 by phone).
Bring a print out of your reservation confirmation and photo identification matching the name on the reservation.
For detailed information and policies about Grotto parking reservations, click here.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Content from Parks Canada
The Grotto and Indian Head Cove are two of the top tourism attractions in Ontario, and for good reason. The natural rock formation and surrounding crystal clear water create a unique and memorable visitor experience. The increasing popularity of these sites require that visitors to Bruce Peninsula National Park and those wanting to visit the Grotto are well prepared and have the information they need to experience these sites safely and plan their trip.
When to visit
The busiest time to visit Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park is during the summer – July, August and on holiday weekends. At those times, you can expect traffic, long wait times and full parking lots. During these times, you may not be able to visit the Grotto.
Consider visiting at other times of year when the park is less busy.
Follow #GrottoParking to learn when the all permits have been distributed for the day.
Directions to the Grotto
The Grotto and Indian Head Cove are located within Bruce Peninsula National Park. They may be accessed through the Head of Trails and parking is located at Cyprus Lake P1 parking lot. Be sure to review the process for time slot parking as it is required for this lot.
The Head of Trails parking lot can be found at the end of Cyprus Lake Road (5 km). The entrance to Cyprus Lake Road is located off Highway 6, 10 km south of the town of Tobermory.
What to expect
Hiking to see the Georgian Bay shoreline and the Grotto sea cave is a highlight for many visitors to the area. Here are some tips to be prepared to get the most of your visit to Bruce Peninsula National Park.
A hike to the Grotto and Georgian Bay shoreline begins at the P1 parking lot located in the Cyprus Lake area. The Georgian Bay Trail is the most direct route to the shoreline and is approximately 30 minutes.
The beginning of the trail is rated Easy with a wide crushed gravel surface and few hills, the shoreline of Georgian Bay is very rocky and can be challenging for children, elderly and those with mobility issues.
It is necessary to pay attention to your footing and to keep children well supervised. The portion of the Bruce Trail leading to the Grotto does require some climbing over slippery rocks and tree routes.
You can choose to return using the Georgian Bay Trail or an alternate route using Marr Lake Trail or Horse Lake Trail. The entry points to these two trails are located a short distance, in either direction along the Bruce Trail, from the Grotto. Using these trails to return will allow you to experience a more natural and challenging hiking experience and you should allow up to an hour, depending on your pace, to return to your vehicle. Time slot parking is in effect at P1.
Be sure to check distances, times and trail names using the Visitor Guide while enjoying your hike.
Indian Head Cove
Flat limestone rocks and a small white boulder beach surround the tropical looking but cold blue waters.
A great place to dip your feet in the cool waters of Georgian Bay and enjoy a snack.
Left of Indian Head Cove as you look toward the water along the shoreline.
The blue waters of Georgian Bay can be seen through this hole in the rock on the way to the Grotto.
Don’t be confused – continue along the Bruce Trail to find The Grotto.
Once you arrive at the shoreline, keep left and follow the white blazes of the Bruce Trail leading towards the Grotto.
The Grotto is a large sea cave containing a pool of water. An underwater tunnel extends from the pool inside the cave through the cliff to Georgian Bay. This often makes it appear as though the pool is glowing on sunny days.
There are two options to descend into the Grotto:
The chimney is a small rocky tunnel that allows you to cork screw your way down to the Grotto opening. Those with mobility issues and children should use extreme caution. Take your time and maintain 3 points of contact while descending. Be aware of others coming up.
The other option is to climb down the 12 meter (40 ft) open cliff face. Know your limits. Once again, those with mobility issues and children should use extreme caution and know their limits. The cliff face includes a series of shelves and rocks that you can climb down. Typically, this route results in wet feet.
Either option is suitable for exiting and climbing back out.
Washroom facilities are located at the Head of Trails, Indian Head Cove and the Grotto. Please do not use the surrounding forest as a toilet.
Pack out what you pack in, there is no garbage collection along the trails. The last garbage can is located in the Head of Trails.
The Head of Trails parking lot has a timed parking system.
Consumption of alcohol is not allowed.
No fires are permitted at the shoreline
Make sure you are prepared for hiking in the wilderness of a national park.
Cliff jumping is dangerous and has resulted in serious injury and loss of life. This location is remote and rescues require additional time and resources.
This shoreline portion of the Bruce Trail is rated as Difficult. Please wear proper footwear and take your time. The shoreline trail is not recommended for inexperienced hikers or those with mobility issues.
All barbecues are prohibited along the shoreline and trails.
This area is very popular and may seem crowded. Walking 5-10 minutes in either direction from Indian Head cove will bring you to more tranquil and private locations.
The water at Indian Head Cove and the Grotto is very cold and wave conditions are often rough. Even when waves look swimmable, undertows and currents can present drowning hazards. Learn more about water safety.
Frequently asked questions
What is the Grotto?
The Grotto is a large sea cave carved in to the limestone shoreline along Georgian Bay. Inside the Grotto there is a pool of water with an underwater passage to the exterior of the cliff face. It is possible to climb down to in to the cave's large opening, however it should be noted that the shoreline is very rugged and rocks can be very slippery when wet. Learn more about to expect at the Grotto.
Why are there Grotto parking time limits this year?
Parks Canada is celebrating Canada 150! It will be busy in our park this summer, especially at the Grotto. The new timed parking program will help to ensure there is fair access for visitors to enjoy a Grotto experience.
What if we want to stay longer than 4 hours?
The time slot parking offers 4 hour time slots during the busy season. For visitors who would like a longer experience, please consider visiting in the Spring or Fall. You may also like to experience semi-wilderness camping in Cyprus Lake Campground which provides all day access to the Georgian Bay Shoreline .
What can I see in 4 hrs?
The hike to the Grotto and Indian Head Cove is roughly one hour round trip. This provides more than enough time to explore the Grotto, Indian Head Cove and the the surrounding area of Georgian Bay Shoreline before returning to your car.
What are the trails to the Grotto like?
Although the Georgian Bay Trail to the Grotto is a wide crushed gravel trail with very few hills about 1 km long, it ends at the Georgian Bay shoreline where the trail changes to rugged limestone rocks. Sturdy footwear is recommended as flipflops and high heels may not be suitable or safe. Know your limits.
Is it wheelchair or stroller accessible?
No. While we’ve made the path there smooth and wide, it does not technically meet the standards to be considered wheelchair accessible. That said, many visitors who use wheelchairs are able to get to use the trail to view the shoreline.
Can I eat at the Grotto or the shoreline?
There is no food or water available at the Grotto, but visitors can pack in a picnic if they would like. There are no garbage facilities along the shoreline so visitors must pack out what they bring in. Open alcohol is not permitted at the Grotto.
Can I have a family barbecue at the shoreline?
There are barbecue facilities at the Head of Trails situated close to the parking lot. Barbecues are not permitted at the shoreline due to fire hazards. If using a charcoal barbecue please be sure to dispose of used coals in the coal receptacles provided at the Head of Trails.
How busy is the Grotto?
Being one of the most popular attractions on the Bruce Peninsula, the Grotto is no longer considered a hidden gem of Ontario. During the summer thousands of visitors make the hike to the Grotto each day, If you are looking for a quieter visit to the site consider coming during the early spring or late fall.
Is there any other way to access the Grotto?
Campers staying at the Cyprus Lake Campground can hike there from their campsite. Hiking to the Grotto from other locations is not recommended due to the distance and rugged terrain. Round trip hikes from other parts of the park take up to 12 hours. There is no taxi or shuttle service available in the area.
We’re camping at Cyprus Lake, does the new Grotto parking time limit affect us?
Campers are encouraged to hike directly from their campsite. If you’d like to park in the Grotto parking lot, you will need to obtain a time slot parking permit in the same manner as anyone else.
Does this time limit apply to other places in the park?
No, the time slot parking is only in effect for the Grotto parking lot.
Can we get in before 7:00 a.m. in the morning?
The Day Use area of Bruce Peninsula National Park opens at various times of the year. There is no early access outside of these hours for the Grotto parking lot. If you would like to experience the shoreline earlier plan your visit during the Spring or Fall when time slot parking is not in effect. Another option is make your trip into a camping adventure.
Can we give our time slot parking permit to our friends when we leave?
Time slot parking permits are valid for one time entry and are associated with the specific vehicle. Time slot parking permits are not-transferable to others.
Can we drop off and pick up at the Grotto as long as we don`t park?
All vehicles require a valid time slot parking permit to enter the Cyprus Lake area. Vehicles are not permitted to drop off friends and family unless a valid entry permit is obtained for the requested time slot. Please note pedestrians are not permitted on Cyprus Lake Road.
Is it safe to swim?
There are no lifeguards on duty in any area. Visitors choosing to swim do so at their own risk. The water at Indian Head Cove and the Grotto is very cold and wave conditions are often rough. Even when waves look swimmable, undertows and currents can present drowning hazards. Please keep children well attended and swim within your ability.
While natural hazards are present in Bruce Peninsula National Park, the risk of injury can be minimized by taking reasonable precautions. Parks Canada provides information to help you prepare for your trip and evaluate potential safety hazards. Ultimately, your safety is your responsibility.
Water in campground faucets is potable. Water from streams and lakes should be boiled for at least 5 minutes or filtered before drinking. Please use personal refillable water bottles rather than disposable bottles. There are no drinking water faucets in the backcountry.
Hiking Safety and Preparedness
Check the weather forecast and be aware of sunset time.
Dress appropriately. Spring and fall can be surprisingly cool, especially along the coast. Pack rain gear and extra warm clothing.
Proper hiking footwear is a MUST. Ankle injuries are common on the trail.
Ensure someone has your trip itinerary including route and expected return time.
Although cell phone coverage is not reliable in the park, it is still recommended that you bring your cell phone. Make sure it has a full charge and includes the park contact number 519-596-2702. Call 911 in an emergency.
Always pack a first aid kit, headlamp/flash light, whistle, water and snacks.
There are no garbage cans in the backcountry or beyond the trail heads. All garbage and belongings must come back with you so pack smart and avoid bringing unnecessary items.
Bring navigation tools that you know how to use, including a map and compass. Electronic devices are handy but susceptible to power failure and poor reception.
Familiarize yourself with a map of the area before you leave for your hike.
Stay on the Trail
The most frequent distress call received by our public safety team is to assist hikers who are lost on the trail. The following tips will help you stay on track and enjoy your hike.
Stay on the trail. It is much more difficult to navigate and locate you once you have left the trail.
Avoid hiking alone.
Don’t leave too late. Give yourself enough time to finish your hike before sunset.
Observe your surroundings. Pay attention to prominent landmarks and geographic features. Take pictures you can refer to later if you are unsure.
Check your map often. Many incidents relate to hikers who have travelled too far in the wrong direction.
If you do get lost.
Check for cell phone service. If you have coverage, stay where you are and call 911 (or the park number 519-596-2702). Make sure that you tell the dispatcher your cell phone number and where you think you are. Don’t continue walking until you have received instructions from park staff.
If you don’t have cell phone service retrace your steps until you find enough to call for help or you find the trail again. Pay attention to where you are walking when looking at your cell phone.
Rescuers can confirm your general location if you have a cell phone signal.
Accessing the Grotto from locations other than Cyprus Road
During the summer months the parking lot at Cyprus Lake campground fills to capacity daily, resulting in visitors being denied access. Although the Grotto is accessible using the Bruce Trail, these routes are extremely difficult and long. Visitors should consider the following before departing from the parking lots at either Little Cove or Halfway Log Dump.
Halfway Log Dump – Grotto is a difficult 6 km hike, including numerous steep inclines and descents, requiring at least 6 hours return for fit, equipped persons.
Little Cove – Grotto is a difficult 9.5 km hike that will take at least 8 hours return for fit, equipped persons.
There are no transportation services to shuttle you back to your vehicle, you must walk back the way you came.
It is not recommended to leave later than noon, to be sure you will arrive back before sunset. Lowlight on the trail increases the likelihood of injury and getting lost.
The terrain is very rough in some sections, including steep inclines and large boulders.
Cell phone service is limited and non-existent in many areas.
There are no potable water sources or other services along the trail.
This route is recommended for experienced hikers only.
All the above information can be viewed aon the Parks Canada Website HERE