The start of October also marks the start of Ontario Hiking Week, so it seems the perfect time to put together a few photos from some of my favourite day hiking trails from the Ontario Provincial Parks that I have visited.
I’ve hiked all around Ontario, from the shores of Lake Superior to the Niagara Escarpment to the southern tip of Point Pelee. It’s not easy choosing just six hikes that stand out, but these ones are some of the most enjoyable short hikes I’ve come across.
#6 – Kabeyun Trail, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (40km)
As with many parks further north in Ontario, hiking opportunities are plentiful, with many more options than you see at parks in Central or Southern Ontario. In total, Sleeping Giant boasts 17 different hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to tough multi-day treks. The Kabeyun is known as a challenging hike with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and plenty of great scenic lookouts.
You don’t have to do the entire hike to appreciate it, this photo is of ‘Sea Lion Rock’ (the head of the sea lion broke off years ago), which is only a hike of a few kilometres from the trailhead parking lot.
#5 – Mizzy Lake Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park (11km)
More famous for canoeing routes, Algonquin Park also offers great hiking options, with 13 hikes along the popular Highway 60 corridor and numerous hikes accessible via other entry points.
Of all the hikes along the corridor, Mizzy Lake stands out for a few reasons. First, it is an ideal day-hike length of 11km, taking you anywhere from 3.5-6 hours depending on how often you stop and what your hiking speed is.
The Mizzy Lake Trail also passes through a great variety of landscapes, from open forest, to dense pines and shores of lakes. Wildlife viewing here is the best of any trail, with patient hikers being able to catch glimpses of everything from chipmunks to moose. This is also the only trail along the corridor that does not allow dogs on the trail, so as not to disturb the wildlife. (Note, however that you may encounter hiking groups along the flat and easy ‘old railway’ portion of the trail that have dogs.)
#4 – Mayflower Lake Trail, Arrowhead Provincial Park (1km)
Arrowhead Provincial Park is a fun park to visit on a weekend, as the handful of trails on offer total only 13km, making it easy to hike all of the trails and enjoy the rest of the park over 2-3 days. The Beaver Meadow Trail is the only one of substantial length, at 7km, but I found the short Mayflower Lake Trail to be the most impressive, and conducive to photography.
If you are like me and like to take photos of nature, then the Mayflower Trail hike provides some nice green scenery and points of interest. Beaver lodges, rocky shorelines, changing trail conditions and a variety of plants make it a fun, short hike.
#3 - Agawa Rock Indian Pictographs Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park (0.4km)
The shortest trail on this list, it is also one of the most interesting. Few places in Ontario let you get so close to a piece of history as this trail does.
Some of the most impressive and most accessible pictographs are found along the rocky shoreline on this trail. It has a steep and sometimes slippery descent to view the pictographs up close, but on a clear day it’s well worth a glimpse of centuries old Indian rock paintings.
#2 – Chikanishing Trail, Killarney Provincial Park (3km)
For such a large park, Killarney has surprisingly few hiking trails if you skip doing any section of the 100km long La Cloche Silhouette Trail. Yet, the few trails it offers are all superb, with different landscapes and environments. The Chikanishing Trail is my personal favourite on a nice day, as it offers a pleasant hike along ridges and shorelines of Georgian Bay.
A great hike for staring out across the water and watching kayakers go by, or for stopping along the rocky ridge line for a picnic.
#1 – Etienne Trail, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park (2.5-9km)
Nestled above the immense Algonquin Park, getting to Samuel de Champlain park is a bit of a chore for people from Southern Ontario. It is well worth the effort though.
There are no simple ‘boardwalk’ hikes here. Each of the hikes at Samuel de Champlain has a bit of a challenge to it, and the Etienne Trail is the best of the bunch. This trail is actually comprised of three loops, so you can pick and choose the length of your hike based on your interests. I suggest doing all three loops for 9km, but in the least, don’t skip the Nature Loop part of the Etienne Trail.
Around the beautiful Long Lake, the Nature Loop offers a fun trail with plenty of rewarding lookouts, as well as potential animal encounters. This is the kind of trail that can be enjoyed by virtually any park visitor – from hikers and wildlife enthusiasts to photographers.
Enjoy Ontario Hiking Week! Hope you have time to get out and explore a nearby park.