Located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada, Algonquin Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in Canada. Algonquin Park was established in 1893.
The park’s scenic beauty is splendid. Algonquin Park will not fail to mesmerize you with its vast interior of Maple hills that turn into a dazzle of crimson, gold, and orange in fall, glassy lakes, clear rivers, rocky ridges, and solitary moose.
The outdoor playground is made up of more than 7,650 square kilometers of parkland. The only way to explore Algonquin Park is by paddle or by foot. From camping in a backcountry tent or in a cozy pine cabin to a canoe, horseback, or on-foot hiking or snowshoeing, Algonquin Park is the best stop to have an adventure.
Let’s dig a little bit more information about the park, shall we?
1. Algonquin Provincial Park
The name “Algonquin” refers to the Algonquin people, indigenous inhabitants of the area. An act to establish “Algonquin National Park of Ontario” was passed by the liberal governments on May 13, 1893.
The park is considered part of the “border” between Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario. Highway 60 runs through the south end of the park, while the Trans-Canada Highway bypasses it to the north.
The park is also an important site for wildlife research because of its unique mixture of forest types, and the wide variety of environments in the park which allows the park to support an uncommon diversity of plant and animal species.
There are over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kilometers of streams and rivers within the park. The summer climate of Algonquin Park is not uniform, it can be humid throughout June and July, yet the humidity tapers off around August. During autumn, it is cold and dry but the winters are guaranteed to be snowy, cold, and harsh.
2. How to reach Algonquin Park?
Highway 60 is the park’s only major highway that is open year-round. The highway runs through the south end of Algonquin Park and is easily accessible by car.
2.1. East Gate
It is located just west of the town of Whitney, Ontario. You can stop here for information, permits, or a washroom break. It is also the home of the Peace and Reconciliation Totem Pole, carved by Algonquin Elder Dan Bowers and it was put together at the gate in 2015.
The information plaque states that the totem pole was “presented to Algonquin Provincial Park to share the culture of the Algonquins of Ontario, in the spirit of peace and reconciliation to all Nations”.
2.2. West Gate
It is located just east of the town of Dwight, Ontario. Marked by two large flag poles and a large birch bark sign. The office provides information, permits, and bathroom facilities. It is also the home of the Fen Lake Ski Trail. There are several other access points to the park, that run off Highway 17 to the North of the park.
3. Top tourist attractions in Algonquin Park
3.1. Canoeing at Algonquin park
Whether you are visiting Canada or you are a resident there, you have to try canoeing.
At 14.1 of Highway 60, there is a short road that leads to the Canoe Lake Access Point for Canoe trippers and visitors. 2,000 kilometers of canoe routes and portages, you can either choose a short trip or you can plan something epic and have an adventurous voyage at Canoe Lake.
Go backcountry and hire a guide to help you on your journey.
Voyageur Quest, an off-the-grid service is one of Canada’s most iconic destinations. Voyageur Quest specializes in Algonquin Park Canoe Canal Trips, Lodge-Based Adventure Trips, and Private Cottage Rentals. The company’s comfy cottage outpost even has a floating sauna. A little luxury in your wilderness goes a long way.
Algonquin Provincial Park Wolf Howls started in 1963 and more than 150,000 visitors have experienced the wolves’ haunting harmonies. Imagine spending the summer evenings listening to the wolf howls, it’s really stirring.
Since 1963, public wolf howling sessions have been led by naturalists and it is a core element of the park’s education program. There are 35 packs of eastern wolves that inhabited Algonquin.
How the sessions begin:
The sessions begin in the evening on Thursdays in August and September at the Outdoor Theater. It starts with a talk on wolf ecology delivered by the park’s naturalists. The howl attendees are given instructions for the event protocol.
After that, the participants either drive or walk to a howl site along Highway 60 where the wolves have been seen gathering.
The naturalist team gives imitation howls to encourage a nearby pack to respond. Sometimes you hear pups yipping or a solo crooner, but other times if luck is on your side, you score with what the pros call a “full pack howl” response.
Listening to the eerie, primitive calls is really thrilling and amazing. For more information, you can either search on Google or YouTube as ‘Algonquin Wolf Howls’.
Who does not enjoy camping? If you want a quick escape to nature, spend a few nights under the stars, sit around a campfire, and watch the smoke drift up through the trees. Listen to the loons calling and the wolves howling as you drift off to sleep.
The park has plenty of campgrounds to accommodate a large number of campers. Most of them are set along the Highway 60 corridor about three hours north of Toronto, where many of the hiking trails are located.
Campgrounds can be reserved for a maximum of 23 consecutive nights. If you are planning on camping in July or August you will need to make a reservation to secure a campsite. Reservations can be booked up to five months in advance through the Ontario Parks online reservation system or by phone.
When you are all set, pack up your camping equipment and other necessary items and get ready to be amazed!
I. Lake of Two Rivers Campground
Lake of Two Rivers has the most beautiful campground set in the entire park. Huge pine trees tower over campsites, and a long stretch of soft sand along the shores of Lake of Two Rivers fronts the campground. Running along the edge of the campground is the Madawaska River.
You can rent canoes and paddle out from the beach to explore the lake or the river, a roped-off swimming area is perfect for kids and families. On the edge of the campground is the Two Rivers Store, with groceries and supplies, a restaurant and ice cream shop, and bike rentals.
This is a large campground with 241 sites, many of which are electrical. During the peak times of July and August, including the Labour Day weekend, this campground is busy, and due to a large number of campers, it can be quite noisy.
If you are going during mid-week in the spring or fall, this campground is perfect, with fewer campers and beautiful, quiet surroundings.
II. Pog Lake Campground
Algonquin Park’s Pog Lake Campground is located along the shoreline of Pog Lake and the Madawaska River. The sites are very large, dispersed between mature pine trees. Undergrowth between sites lends to privacy.
Pog has a mix of electrical and non-electrical sites, as well as a radio and pet-free area for those looking to escape the noise. The Old Railway Bike Trail can be easily accessed from the Pog Lake Campground. From there, you can bike the Lake of Two Rivers Campground and Two Rivers Store.
Heading in the opposite direction, you can also bike to Whitefish Lake; and Rock Lake, where the Booth’s Rock hiking trail begins.
3.4. Algonquin logging museum
The Algonquin Logging Museum is located by the park’s east gate. The museum brings life to the story of logging from the early square timber days to modern forestry management.
Starting with a video presentation that sums up the logging history of the Algonquin area, the 1.3 kilometers trail starts. The trail consists of a recreated camboose camp and a fascinating steam-powered amphibious tug called an “alligator”, followed by 20 different exhibits each with signs and explanations.
So, step back in time and learn about the colorful aspect of Algonquin’s cultural history. Beautiful scenery throughout the trail and a very enjoyable and informative tour. If you are visiting Algonquin Park, don’t forget to see the Algonquin Logging Museum.
3.5. Lake Opeongo
Lake Opeongo is the largest lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. The source of the lake is the Opeongo River.
The lake’s name is derived from the Algonquian word opeauwingauk, which means ‘sandy narrows’. Lake Opeongo offers you wildlife and a gateway to interior camping sites within the park.
The total area is 58 km, the average depth is 14.6 m and the maximum depth is 49.4 m. It has three arms, North, East, and South, joined by narrows into a Y shape.
The Lake Opeongo access point provides excellent access to the central canoe-tripping area of Algonquin Park, making it a great starting/ending point.
The AO Opeongo Store is located right at the access point on the south end of Lake Opeongo. The store offers canoe and kayak rentals, water taxi services, camping equipment and supplies, and souvenirs, among various other things.
One of the most amazing things that the visitors of Algonquin Park experience (many for the first time) is the awe-inspiring majesty of the night sky.
For the majority of people, it’s the first time seeing the Milky Way- the many millions of stars of our galaxy that are so dense they appear as a cloud in the sky.
Visualize this: looking towards the dark sky, which is filled with millions of twinkling stars, sit on the grass or the hood of your car with someone special. A moment so heavenly, that its imprints on your heart. A moment so memorable that it stays with you forever.
Due to the increasing amount of buildings in the cities, they block much of the sky, but the light from street lights and buildings dulls the dark backdrop that makes seeing the Milky Way possible. It is rarely possible to see a few stars. That’s why when people visit Algonquin Park, they feast their eyes on the aesthetic view of the sky.
At Algonquin Park, seeing a sky full of stars is possible most nights of the year.
A sky is full of stars in the quiet Algonquin Park, “Time Stand Stills“. No telescope or binoculars are necessary to enjoy the show.
3.7. Hiking Trails
During the fall season, Algonquin Park puts on a breathtaking view as the leaves turn bright red, orange, and yellow. Hiking the trails along the high ridges that look out over the forest and lakes is one of the best ways to see all the natural beauty that Mother Nature has given us.
Most of the trails are located along the Highway 60 corridor running through the park, but a couple is found on the east side, near Achray.
The hiking trails vary from easy, flat walks along boardwalks to more difficult routes that climb over ridges to outstanding lookouts.
A. The Lookout
The lookout trail is a two-kilometer hike. The trail leads to a beautiful lookout point that is uniquely inspiring when the fall colors are peaking. This is a fairly steep hike to the top along a wide trail. At the top are a series of lookouts along a pine-covered ridge.
The view extends out over a forest of mainly deciduous trees, rolling hills, and a small lake in the distance. A couple of shade-covered benches at the top provide a great resting spot.
The walk can be challenging but it’s a great spot to see the overall park during the fall. The view is spectacular. If you visit Algonquin Park during fall time, don’t forget to hike at the Lookout Trail.
B. Mizzy Lake Trail
If you are looking for a full-day hike, then Mizzy Lake Trail at Algonquin Park is the best place to go.
A 10.8 km trail requires you to start early in the morning because this hike will take longer than you expect. The hike can be a little difficult but the trail leads through typical Canadian Shield topography, past ponds, marshes, and lakes. A great chance for spotting wildlife animals along the way as well as to see stunning natural beauty.
When you start the hike early, there is a possible chance to see loons, blue jay, broad-winged hawks, and lots of other species. The trail is quiet and peaceful. But one thing to keep in mind is that in spring or after heavy rain, this trail can be very wet and muddy.
C. Beaver Pond Trail
The Beaver Pond Trail leads past two beaver ponds. For most of the repeat visitors to Algonquin Park, this is their favorite hike.
This is a good place to spot wildlife, especially the beaver, which can often be seen dragging trees through the ponds or moving along the shorelines on game trails. Chances are much better in the spring and fall, but they can be seen at any time.
At the very least, you can see some of their work, with beaver dams and beaver houses visible in the ponds. Depending on which time of the year you go and with a little bit of luck, you might also spot moose, turtles, and other wildlife or small animals.
The landscape of this trail is very standard for the Algonquin and Ontario wilderness. As the trail leads through the forest; past beaver-formed lakes, some of which are crossed on a boardwalk; and up to over rock ridges that provide good lookout points along the hike.
D. Barron Canyon, Achray
When it comes to epic hikes, Barron Canyon is the best. This is a short, steep trail, but the view is absolutely breathtaking. Barron Canyon is one is Algonquin Parks’ lesser-visited attractions. Not because it is less spectacular but because it is in a more remote part of Algonquin Park.
Canyon walls rise 100 meters along the sides of the Barron River, which is also a popular canoeing area. This trail provides beautiful views over the water and forest. It is located on the east side of the park near Achray, about an hour from Pembroke, on Barron Canyon Road.
E. Hardwood Lookout
The Hardwood Lookout Trail of Algonquin Park is a short, 0.8 km loop featuring a lovely walk through a typical Algonquin hardwood forest and a fine view of the Smoke Lake Basin.
It is a steady climb up to the scenic lookout point. The view is amazing and there are benches at the top so that you can stop and rest.
The trail runs in a counter-clockwise direction, but if you do this hike in a clockwise direction, the lookout is only a short walk from the trailhead and much less strenuous.
The trail is just a short distance from the Tea Lake Campgrounds, and the hike takes between 30 minutes and one hour to complete.
3.8. Algonquin Visitor Centre
When you take a trip to Algonquin Park, don’t forget to see the Visitor Centre. The Algonquin Visitor Centre features exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the park.
A large and detailed relief map of southern Ontario is displayed to enable a visitor to be oriented to the size and geography of the park. It also provides other information about the park, don’t forget to check out the gift shop, the library, and the art gallery. You can also get a Daily Vehicle Permit or Camping Permit from there.
There is an Interpretive Centre (i.e. museum) that presents information on the topography, flora, fauna, history, and more. Plus, from the front, there is a short walk to a Fire Tower from where you can also enjoy the views. A bulletin board in the lobby tells you about the latest wildlife sightings in the park.
Overall, it is very impressive! and highly recommended!
3.9. Dog Sled
Imagine the thrill of driving your own team of happy, loveable Alaskan huskies through the remote wilderness while embracing the peace and tranquility of the wilderness trails.
The feeling you will get, that rush, the adrenaline building up in your body as your team pulls you along beautiful forest trails and across spectacular frozen lakes is nothing short of magical, now that’s exhilarating. This is a fun way to see the park and explore beautiful nature.
Algonquin Park has two dogsledding areas: Sunday Lake Dog Sled Trail and North Algonquin Dog Sled Trail. Both of these services are provided by commercial operators located outside Algonquin Park, who use Algonquin Park’s trail system. You can take custom tours from day trips to full-week mushing expeditions.
If you want to take a break from your busy schedule and want to indulge yourself in nature then Algonquin Provincial Park is the right place for you!
The national and provincial parks of Algonquin are a sight to behold! You can also, find tons of exciting places just around the park boundaries some are right beside the entrance gates. eg;- grand trunk railway, crown lands, pleasure ground park, day hiking tours, health resort, the famous Alexander Kirkwood & Son.
‘Hit Pause. Unplug. Settle into a rhythm paddling, hear the fire crackle or the wind howl, notice the fifty shades of green, and inhale the view’. Algonquin Park will not disappoint you when it comes to whether to take an adventurous hiking trail or explore the stunning natural beauty!