Adventure Your Way: This is Algonquin Provincial Park
Pristine lakes, towering trees as far as the eye can see, the call of a loon, a moose peeking through the morning mist. Get ready to say ahhhh…. This is Algonquin Provincial Park.
For almost 130 years, Algonquin Provincial Park has preserved the wild for the enjoyment of all in the heart of Ontario.
The first provincial park in Ontario, Algonquin Park was established in 1893 as a wildlife sanctuary and to protect the headwaters of the five major rivers that flow from the park to surrounding areas.
Prior to becoming a park, it had been used by Indigenous peoples for fishing, hunting, and picking berries, but saw little other human activity. Before long, the newly established park was ‘discovered’ by fishermen and other visitors arriving by train and staying at one of its hotels, and later became immortalized in the works of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.
Today, the park is internationally renowned. In addition to its extensive network of backcountry canoe routes — about 12 per cent of the park’s 7,630 square kilometres is water — there’s an abundance of shorter paddling routes for a few hours on the water, easily accessible interpretive walking trails with options for all abilities, backcountry hiking, plus bike trails, picnic areas, and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities. It’s adventure for everyone!
Explore on two feet or two wheels
With 20 interpretive walking trails and three biking trails, almost all within the Hwy 60 corridor, it’s easy to find yourself in the wild in minutes, the noise of civilization quickly falling away behind you. Each trail explores a different aspect of the park’s geology, ecology, and natural history.
The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, located at km 42.5 on Hwy 60, is the ideal place to start. This 1.5 km loop is kid-friendly and wheelchair accessible, and offers a taste of the park’s trails that will leave you wanting more.
For more experienced hikers with a day to spare, the Mizzy Lake Trail, which begins at km 15.4 on Hwy 60, is a wildlife watcher’s dream with sightings of moose and beaver a regular occurrence. The 10.8 km trail passes nine ponds and small lakes for a full day’s worth of exploration.
Or head off the beaten path to the Brent Crater Trail, accessible from Hwy 17 at the northeast edge of the park. This short trail provides a scenic view of a crater believed to have been formed by a meteorite impact around 400 million years ago!
Take to the lakes
Whether you like to paddle, fish, swim, or just take in the view from the shoreline, Algonquin Provincial Park has no shortage of lakes to enjoy.
With motorized boat access extremely limited or outright prohibited on the park’s many lakes, canoers, kayakers, and stand up paddleboarders will find peaceful opportunities for short day trips, or you can head into the backcountry for some canoe camping.
If you want to take a plunge into the pristine waters, all of the park’s campgrounds and picnic areas have designated beach areas for swimming (note that there are no lifeguards).
Or if fishing is your passion, the park is home to 54 different species of fish and offers some of the world’s best Brook Trout and Lake Trout fishing.
Turn in for a night (or more!)
Algonquin Park camping is beyond compare, with hundreds of well-maintained sites to choose from.
If you prefer a more upscale visit, check out one of the park’s three lodges — Arowhon Pines Resort on Little Joe Lake, Bartlett Lodge on Cache Lake, and Killarney Lodge on Lake of Two Rivers. All are open seasonally through the summer and fall and offer a unique wilderness experience.
Pack a picnic
Algonquin Park is a popular day use attraction, too. After your hike or scenic drive, stop in at one of the park’s picnic spots to enjoy some snacks al fresco.
Watch out for wildlife!
It’s a delight to round a bend and find one of Algonquin Park’s many animals staring back at you. It’s one of the best places in the area to encounter wildlife. There are more than 55 mammal species in the park, including moose, deer, fox, bears, and martens, as well as 140 species of breeding birds like loons and Canada jays, and 32 types of amphibians and reptiles. Early morning offers the best chance for spotting wildlife.
A provincial park may not be the first place you think of for art galleries and museums, but Algonquin Park has no fewer than three for you to take in.
The Algonquin Visitor Centre at km 43 on Hwy 60 is open year-round and includes exhibits on the park’s history and an art gallery featuring artists from the areas surrounding the park, as well as a gift shop and restaurant.
At the Algonquin Logging Museum at km 54.5 on Hwy 60, which is open through mid-October, learn about Algonquin Park’s logging history. There’s even a short, 1.5 km interpretive trail that features a recreated camboose camp and a steam-powered amphibious tug called an “alligator”.
The Algonquin Art Centre at km 20 on Hwy 60 contains a world-class gallery that showcases Canada’s best wilderness artists. There’s also a gift shop where you can find smaller works in a variety of media, books, and other remembrances of your time in the park.
And, of course, you can learn more about the park’s natural and cultural history by taking a stroll on one of its many interpretive trails.
Go with the (seasonal) flow
For many people, Algonquin Provincial Park is synonymous with fall colours. Its vast stretches of uninterrupted forest turn fiery red, orange, and gold in September and October — Mother Nature’s fireworks! Be sure to book a permit for your visit online to avoid disappointment — the park often reaches capacity at this time of year.
Get your fill
No matter what you need for your outing in Algonquin Park, you can pick it up on your way through Huntsville and Lake of Bays, or at one of several outfitters in the park itself.
Algonquin Outfitters’ Canoe Lake Store, Opeongo Store, Two Rivers Store, and Brent Store, as well as the Algonquin Outfitters flagship store at Oxtongue Lake, all offer a variety of gear, snacks, and equipment rentals, plus there are restaurants at the Portage Store and the Two Rivers Store if you’ve got time to pause for a meal. At each store you’ll find knowledgeable staff who are passionate about the park to help make your visit a memorable one.
As well, Huntsville and Lake of Bays are the gateway to Algonquin Park, and the ideal spot to pick up food, treats (‘smores, anyone?), beverages, and gear before you head out for a hike, a paddle, or an overnight stay.
A park permit is required for both day and overnight use in Algonquin Provincial Park. Remember to register online up to five days before you go!
For more information about Algonquin Provincial Park, visit algonquinpark.on.ca.