An end-to-end is just a combination of logistics and dogged determination. After that, the hiking comes easy. This article will help you get started and perhaps enlighten you on some challenges you may have yet to consider when planning an end-to-end.
Welcome back! Thank you for following along with these blog posts about end-to-end hiking. To review, an end-to-end is finishing every trail KM within the time that the trail was set. An end-to-end does not need to be updated when the route changes. Last week, we reviewed the crucial rules about stealth camping on the Bruce trail (spoiler alert: don’t do it!). Stealth camping is the act of camping somewhere where camping is not allowed. It can damage the environment and harm our landowner relations. These weeks, we will offer alternatives to stealth camping and discuss the tested and true methods for finishing your trail KMs.
Before we begin, any end-to-end is better when you have at least one other person as support. A hiking partner is committed to hiking their end-to-end or every KM with you that day. A cheerleader will support you and walk some of your daily KM. If you have a cheerleader, show your gratitude to them! A cheerleader is giving up their time to help you accomplish your dream. Regardless of who your partner is, they are invaluable! They can share responsibilities and support you when you are stuck, grumpy, or tired. Logistically, travelling with a partner also opens up many more hiking possibilities in this list. Before you begin your end-to-end, consider who might want to hike with you or would be in your corner supporting you.
Below, you will find all the different methods of tackling a part of the Bruce Trail I have used and know of. There might be a bespoke way out there, but these are the main methods sorted by your number of people or vehicles.
Solo Hike Without Assistance
There and back
It’s exactly how it sounds. When you do a There and Back, park a car at the trailhead and hike to a turnaround point. This is your middle. After you reach it, turn around and walk it back to your vehicle.
Bike and Hike
Similar to going There and Back, a Bike and Hike requires you to drop a bicycle at the far end of your hike to make returning to your car easier. Bike and hike need you to be aware of the quality of roads surrounding your trek, which could mean you are biking a longer distance.
Solo Hike WIth Assistance
Drive and Hike
Have a driver drop you off at the furthest location from your car. Then, hike back to your vehicle at the trailhead. While you could do this style in reverse and have the driver pick you up at the furthest location, you may spend more time waiting for your ride than you would like. It’s still an acceptable option; it just means that you still have to get back to your car when you are done.
Your driver could be a cheerleader, a Trail Angel, or a professional driver such as a taxi or rideshare app. Just remember that not all options are available at all locations. Hiking in more rural areas may mean relying on fewer services to cover the same distance.
A Trail Angel is a volunteer who will drive you when available from the start or end of your hike. Each Trail Angel may have a cost for their time and gas or be willing to support you out of the goodness of their heart. Some may even ask for a donation to the Bruce Trail Conservancy. Be generous, clear and kind. Talk with the Trail Angel to ensure you can be picked up. You are a guest in their car, follow their lead and share with them about your trip.
Bus and Hike
Once a year, each Bruce Trail Club usually puts on an end-to-end hike. These hikes can either be over one weekend or, depending on the size of the section, several. You will meet a bus at a set trailhead often early in the morning and head out to the start of today’s section. Then, you will hike back to your car, stopping at rest stations for snacks and more water.
Bus hikes are logistically the easiest way to complete an end-to-end as all the planning has already happened. The upfront cost is reasonable; you certainly get a lot for your admission. Plus, your admission fee also supports the clubs themselves. Yet please know that this might not be for everyone. Firstly, you are held to their schedule and cannot pick the distance that might be right for you. If you get hurt, coordinators will help to find a way to extract you from the trail.
Another thing to consider is that there might be better ways to have a more solitary experience than a bus hike. When the bus drops people off, it usually takes an hour or two before the “bubble” of hikers bursts and people become more spaced out and separated by speed. This hiker bubble may not be an issue in more northern end-to-end events.
Becoming a member means you have access to many club hikes. These are led by a hike leader and can cover smaller portions of the trail than a bushike. Hike leaders rate their walks so people know how strenuous the hike will be. Stitching together an end-to-end will take more organization.
Hiking WIth a Partner
Two Car Leapfrog
You will need two cars and two drivers to hike in this manner. When you are ready to start hiking, park one vehicle at the end of your hike, then drive the other to the beginning. Park the remaining car at the beginning and walk to the endpoint. When finished, go back to collect your vehicle from the starting location. This may take more fuel and be more suited to cover distances locally.
Two people Meet Up
Using one car, travel to the beginning of the trail section. Drop one hiker off heading northbound on the trail. Then, drive to the end of the section and park the car. This hiker will go southbound, meeting their partner in the middle. After some snacks and a quick hello, both hikers will continue until the northbound hiker reaches the vehicle and the southbound hiker reaches the trailhead. The new driver will then pick up the southbound hiker and drive home. Remember to switch keys at the meet-up if you only have one set.
Multi-day backpacking hike
This method can be helpful if you have prepared for it and are willing for an adventure. Most Bruce trail is not set up for overnight camping, and I have shared my thoughts about stealth camping. But in some spots, especially up the Peninsula, an overnight multi-day approach might be the best way to hike.
Aaron “Talus” Holden
Missed a post in the END-TO-ENDER Advice Series? Check out other posts here:
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