One of the more remote provincial parks in Ontario that you can drive to, Fushimi Lake Provincial Park is home to a couple of impressive hiking trails.
While fishing attracts most people to this park in Northern Ontario, hiking and camping are equally rewarding with potential wildlife sightings, including iconic Canadian creatures like moose and loons.
Hiking the Fire Tower Trail at Fushimi Lake
This is the more challenging of two main hiking trails at Fushimi Lake Provincial Park.
For the most part, it is an easy trail, which skirts along the shore of Lake Fushimi for a good portion of the trail. There are plenty of places to stop and look for wildlife or admire the views at the lake, or even go for a swim near the start and end of this trail.
Some marsh areas are found along the portions of the trail as well, where you may hear, or spot smaller animals such as frogs, squirrels and turtles. Depending on the time of year you’re hiking, be sure to be prepared for plenty of mosquitos and annoying horse flies.
The park says to allow yourself 4 hours for hiking his trail. As with most Ontario Parks, this is a generous time allotment, as even with a handful of stops along the way, you can hike this trail in a bit over 3 hours. If you do decide to take a lengthy break for a picnic lunch up at the Fire Tower, or to go for a swim, then sure it could be a 4 hour adventure.
One thing that stood out while hiking this trail was the sheer number, and variety, of mushrooms along the trail. Fungus, fungus everywhere! They added a bit of colour to the landscape, along with the red squirrels that were extra chatty along this trail.
Lots of Black Spruce and Balsam Fir trees make up the majority of trees and vegetation you’ll be walking through on this trail, from start to finish.
The Old Cabin
One of the ‘highlights’ on the trail is the old cabin that was used in the past when the Fire Tower was operational. Both were built in the 1930s. Not knowing what to expect before arriving at this part of the trail, I was expecting a nice, restored cabin that could serve as an emergency refuge even today. But, as you can see from the photos it’s barely a real highlight anymore.
At first, I wasn’t even sure if this was the cabin mentioned in the park brochure and hiking trail map, because it was in such terrible ruins, barely recognizable. But sure enough, this was it. With some imagination, you could picture it in better days. The official trail brochure helps bring the history to life a little more, but for the average hiker, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
Would I call this a highlight of the trail? Not really. It was more of a let down than anything. But, still interesting as it does bring to life some of the history of the area.
Good Spot for a Lunch / Snack Break
From the cabin area, you have a choice. The trail here has begun to wind inland, and beyond the cabin you’re going to start climbing up to the Fire Tower. Alternatively, you can take a break and head down a side trail to a beach and picnic area.
The picnic / beach area was somewhat overgrown when I visited and wasn’t the most appealing spot for a swim, but was a decent spot to stop for a picnic lunch or short break to fuel up before heading to the top.
Up until the Cabin, the trail is easy and mostly flat. But as you go past the cabin and the trail turns inland, it also begins to climb. Part of the trail beyond the cabin has a decent incline to it, which can get the heart pumping if you’re hiking at any type of speed.
As you’d expect from a trail with a Fire Tower, the tower needs to be located somewhere with a great 360 degree vantage point of the surrounding forest. That means it is atop the hill that you’re now climbing.
If you’re climbing with kids, there will probably be a few “are we there yet” type of moments, but after some sweating it out, you’ll catch a glimpse of the tower in the distance.
At first sighting, it is a bit deceptive, as you still have a fair distance to cover before actually reaching the tower. Still, nothing motivates you better than seeing the end of the trail, or in this case, the highlight of the trail.
Reaching the Fire Tower
There are very few old Fire Towers still standing in Ontario. Once a critical, widespread network across a large portion of the province, todays modern world doesn’t really have a need for having people stand watch in these towers, peering out across the trees in search of forest fires.
While this fire tower is abandoned and not in use anymore, it is maintained enough to be a real highlight for the hike. Just know that it you are not allowed to climb the tower. There are warning signs reminding you that it is dangerous, as well as illegal.
It is tempting to want to see the view from “up there”, but gazing up at the tower from the clearing below is as high as you’re allowed to go. There are mossy rock outcrops and plenty of areas to stop and rest while you catch your breath after the hill climb.
The Fire Tower makes for a nice backdrop for some photos as well, before you continue on your hiking trail and begin the return path back to the start.
The return hike is easier (downhill) and a bit uninspiring as it follows the same path you took to get here. It would be nice for this trail to be a loop, instead of a single track, linear path, but even so it is worth spending a morning of afternoon to explore.
Overall roundtrip distance of the trail is about 7km (3.5km each way). Allow yourself 3 hours to enjoy the trail and surrounding nature. The suggested 4 hour hiking time is a bit much, unless you stop at the beach for a swim or lunch.
While this is the most challenging and longest trail in the park, If you’re more keen to spot wildlife or relax on the shores of a lake, I found the short Achilles Lake trail to be more enjoyable.