Story and photos by Colin Hughes
As I stood in the shade of a hundred foot tall rock wall, watching rushing water cascade down a boulder-strewn streambed, I thought “is this the best trail in Algonquin Park?”
The park is a wondrous outdoor adventure destination any time of the year, but each spring, I try to get out for a few days as the earth is awakening from its winter sleep. Moose are often more readily seen in the spring as they make their way to the sides of the roadway to lick the road salt left over from winter. And it doesn’t hurt that if you go around the middle of May, bug season hasn’t really started yet. This was the case again this year; the blackflies were out but they were in a bit of a drunken stupor, bothersome at times but not biting.
I chose to set my basecamp up for my time in the park at the campground found at Algonquin Bound on the west side of Algonquin Park. The outfitter, which has three locations to access the park, offers just about everything necessary for an outdoor adventure in Algonquin, helping with canoe routes, permits, supplies and more. The campground is not well-known (though I guess the cat is out of the bag now) and because of this, is a quiet spot to relax. I had it to myself for the entire time I stayed there. Birds singing, campfire crackling, cold beverage in hand … sweet!
Algonquin Park has no shortage of hiking trails. The Highway 60 corridor has fourteen interpretive trails ranging from a couple of kilometres in length to the over 10 km (6.2 mi) Mizzy Lake and Centennial Ridges Trails. There are two overnight hiking trails accessed along the highway as well. These also make good daytrips, either by hiking the closest loop or covering a section as an out-and-back.
But which trail was I hiking when I had my revelation above? It was the Track and Tower, a 7.5 km (4.7 mi) route that seems to have a bit of everything; forests, rushing water, abandoned rail line, lookouts and plenty of lakes, which the dog, even though the water was cold, choose to play in. The trail is really a microcosm of the entire park, and if you only have time for one hike, this might be your best bet.
However, hiking is only part of the Algonquin experience. Although on this trip I didn’t bring my canoe, there is nothing quite like paddling silently through the still water of a lake in the early morning, with the mist rising to meet you while listening to the haunting sound of a loon. It is an incredibly tranquil experience, and a quintessential taste of Canada’s great outdoors.
Algonquin truly is one of the country’s most magical outdoor destinations, and this year celebrates 125 years of its existence. Be sure to plan a trip there, even if just for a day, and discover the best of Ontario’s backcountry.
Click HERE to Purchase your copy of the Algonquin Provincial Park Waterproof Map!