By RED HUNT
One of Ontario’s most impressive wilderness areas, Algonquin Provincial Park is larger than some national parks at more than 7,000-square-kilometres and with more than 1,600 km of navigable waterways. Given the park’s size and its distance from both Ottawa and Toronto (about three-and-a-half hours from each to the outermost park entrances), it’s best to set aside some time here: five to seven days is a perfect amount of time to appreciate the diversity of one of Ontario’s best adventure destinations.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Algonquin getaway.
Before You Go
Reserve your campsite. Most people enjoy the low-cost, outdoor aspect of camping in Algonquin Provincial Park. Tent camping gives you more freedom to explore different lakes and areas of this huge park. Mew Lake is very popular and open year round. Great alternative campgrounds are Canisbay Lake and Pog Lake, both of which have camp sites that are radio and dog-free zones if you want a quiet camping experience. Their lakes each have easy access for canoeing as well. Reserve online with Ontario Parks.
What To Do
Explore the Highway 60 Corridor
Spend time at the visitor centre and pick up a map and park guide. Then drive along to the Logging Museum to gain an appreciation of the history of the area. Take your time and drive carefully as the Highway 60 corridor is one of the best places to spot wildlife crossing the road or hanging out beside the road, especially moose!
Go Canoeing at Sunrise
Getting up early in the cool mornings before sunrise isn’t easy, but the sounds of nature and fresh air in Algonquin tend to make it a little bit easier. The calm hours just before and after sunrise are ideal for enjoying a canoe ride on a lake and possibly spotting moose or other animals along the shoreline. Whatever campground you’ve chosen, be sure to bring a canoe or rent one from a local supplier who’ll deliver it to your campsite for you.
Chill Out Then Cook Out
Take a day to just enjoy your campground. Read a book, watch the sun set or lounge in a hammock then plan a fancy feast. Steaks, ribs or other big meals can keep nicely in a cooler with ice for two to three days after leaving home, meaning you don’t have to survive on cans of beans when you’re camping. Enjoy a day around the campsite, then enjoy a night around the campfire. Don’t forget the marshmallows for roasting!
Take a Lunch Break in Lake of Bays or Hunstville
If you’re spending a week camping in Algonquin there is a chance you’ll have a rainy day or two in the summer—or you’ll just want a break from campfire cooking. Take the opportunity to explore some nearby towns. Lake of Bays and Huntsville are just west of the park and have plenty of places to eat.
Enjoy a Guided Hike with a Park Ranger or Naturalist
Appreciating the park ecology and environment is done best by hanging out with the experts: the people who work in Algonquin. One particularly exciting event to try and plan your trip around is the Wolf Howl nights, which are every Thursday in August. Hearing the haunting howl of wolves is a special experience in Algonquin Park.
Hike the Mizzy Lake Trail in Search of Wildlife
Every trail in Algonquin has been designed to highlight a different aspect of the park. When it comes to wildlife viewing, Mizzy Lake is the trail to choose. At 11 km in length it takes at least a few hours to hike, but for nature lovers expect to easily spend five or more hours. This trail snakes along the edges of many lakes and nine beaver ponds, so it’s best to start early in the morning. It can be a wet trail at times, so be cautious if it has recently rained.
Take a Scenic Drive Home
Pack up early and begin your journey home. To avoid stress, avoid driving back on a Sunday with all the other summer traffic. If you do return on a Sunday, allow extra time and consider taking the slow route along some country roads.
Photos by Red Hunt