The Local's Guide To Cragging At Lion's Head
Sparkling aquamarine shorelines, overhanging white limestone, all-day amazing views … No, I’m not talking about southern France or some other exotic destination. Surprise: I’m talking about Central Ontario. With cooling winds often whipping across the lake, Lion’s Head makes a great summer crag on the East Coast, where good summer conditions can be hard to come by.
Lion’s Head offers the full package. Five-star routes from 5.9 to 5.14, perhaps the best scenery of any sport crag I’ve been too, and a lakeside hang for refreshing post-climbing dips. But it’s no walk on the beach. Here are the details you need to know before you go.
A day spent climbing at Lion’s Head is not particularly straightforward. First, a 30-minute walk in amongst beautiful fern and cedar forests gets you to the top of the cliff line where you can choose a variety of points to rappel in, depending on where you want to climb. At the end of the day, many climbers choose to climb out rather than scramble out the fixed ropes in the Stinger Gully. Either way, the combination of hiking in and ascending out can make for pretty long days. So make sure you pack plenty of food and water to keep you going!
Compared to most sport climbing areas, Lion’s Head is unique in that it offers multi-starred routes of a wide variety of grades, making it a great destination for climbers of all abilities. Though the majority of the climbing at Lions Head is single-pitch sport climbing, climbers should be comfortable with rappelling and dealing with scenarios more often found in multi-pitch climbing. The wind and length of the pitches can make communication between climber and belayer challenging, so be sure to have a system worked out beforehand.
The best guidebook to get is Ontario Rock Climbing – The best of Southern Ontario by Jesse Wong. This guidebook does an excellent job of sending climbers to the correct descent points along the top of the cliff, which is hugely important beta for a smooth experience. While many of the routes at Lion’s Head can be climbed from the ground, there are lots of routes that start at hanging belays accessed by rappel. This is clearly outlined in the guidebook.
The entire wall is in the shade until around 1:30 p.m. when the sun blasts the chalk-white limestone, blending holds into a blinding white glare. But if you’ve got good shades and don’t mind the sun, often the wind coming off the lake can keep temperatures manageable, even in the summer. Even in July, climbers should be prepared for a variety of conditions from shorts and T-shirt weather to puffy jackets at the belay.
Being right on the lake, there are ample swimming opportunities. Some cool hiking and running trails follow along the top of the bluffs, too. A short 20-minute drive up the Bruce Peninsula can also take you to Halfway Log Dump and some cool limestone bouldering right on the beach. Even if you’re not into the bouldering, this is a must-do rest day hike with some beautiful views.
The town of Lion’s Head has a public beach as well as some great eateries, including Rachel’s Bakery and Diner—which has free Wi-Fi and a tasty menu.
The Bruce Peninsula contains a National Park and is a popular tourist destination. So there are several campgrounds near town and many cottage rentals if you’re willing to spend the money. White’s Bluff Campground is popular with climbers and only 10 minutes from the trailhead.
Gear Picks for Lion’s Head