Under three hours’ drive from Toronto is one of Canada’s most spectacular wilderness regions. Imagine exploring a vibrant, thrumming city – the biggest in Canada – and being just a short dash away from 2,896 square miles of protected forest. Algonquin Provincial Park is a pristine backcountry filled with rocky ridges, fragrant maples and thousands of lakes. The interior is wild and undisturbed by roads or man. The only way to explore is on foot or by canoe. Venture into the rich forests and you’ll be rewarded with birdsong, moose encounters and tranquil waterways.
The park is divided by Highway 60, and the smaller, southern section of the park is full of accessible campgrounds and hiking trails. So hire a car, strap on your backpack and head into one of the country’s most accessible unspoilt regions.
Here are 5 unique adventures you could have in Algonquin:
Canoeing in the wilderness
There are 2000 lakes and 621 miles of river to explore in Algonquin. So needless to say, one of the best ways to dive into the park’s wilderness is by taking to its waters. There are several places where you can hire canoes and gain information on access points and portages. While it can be hard work carrying your canoe around a beaver dam, the rest of the time promises easy paddling through calm waters.
It’s a great way to see wildlife undisturbed. Canoes glide silently through the water, so you can hang out with the birds, moose, deer, beaver and bears which call the park ‘home’. If you fancy a less sedate adventure, there is also plenty of white water nearby. The Madawaska River is one of the best places to find your adrenaline rush. There are plenty of outfits offering both kayaking and rafting on the rapids.
Fishing for your supper
Once you’ve got your permit, you can try your hand at fishing in some of the best spots in Ontario. Algonquin is home to pristine meltwater rivers and lakes, and the fish certainly appreciate the icy currents! Algonquin’s lake and brook trout are world-famous thanks to their giant size. The best time to catch these big beasties is in spring, but summer still boasts bass and perch. There are plenty of outfitters where you can hire equipment or even join a guided fishing trip.
If you’re lucky enough to land a catch, there is no better way to enjoy it than seated around a crackling campfire in one of Algonquin’s many campsites. Some adventurous fishing tours will even cook your catch for you right in the canoe that you fish from! You can’t get fresher than that.
Hiking through maple forests
We’re based in the UK, so we reckon we know trees. Right? Wrong! Visit Algonquin and you’ll realise that forests take on a whole new existence here. At the end of summer in particular, as autumn (or fall) starts creeping in, the woods explode with colour. The maples turn a fiery, lurid red you wouldn’t have thought possible in nature. The slender aspens boast delicate yellow and orange leaves.
There are 22 designated hiking roots crisscrossing the park with exciting names like Scorch Lake Lookout and Whisky Rapids Trail. From boardwalks to beaver ponds, the trials through the ancient forest lead to some spectacular sights.
Camping under the stars
Algonquin Provincial Park is the most popular place in Ontario for camping, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only is the landscape absolutely stunning but the campsites are easy to access. Many of them are located along the Highway 60 corridor where the hiking trails start, so it couldn’t be handier to roll up, pitch up and head out. Nearby to this area you’ll also find a restaurant, a store and a bike rental shop, which can make life easier or at least provide a backup if your fishing trip is unsuccessful.
Lake of Two Rivers is arguably the most scenic campsite along Highway 60, but Pog Lake is a great alternative. It’s just a short drive off the highway where the lake meets the Madawaska River. The campsites are open over the summer months, so check on Ontario Parks’ website to see opening periods.
One of the most beautiful treats awaiting intrepid campers at Algonquin is the spectacular sky. Algonquin is blessed with dark skies completely unspoilt by light pollution. It’s one of the best places to get a clear, bright view of the Milky Way. While we feel that rustic camping in the woods is a brilliant way to escape the trappings of modern life, those who fancy embracing nature in a more luxurious way can hire a yurt.
The Public Wolf Howl
In the dark, dense reaches of Algonquin’s forest, something wild is prowling. Algonquin park is famous for its resident wolves, which you might be lucky enough to hear howling in the evening. There are regular talks on wolf ecology and the behaviours of this beautiful and elusive animal. Visit Algonquin’s exceptional visitor centre to learn more.
On Thursdays in August, a particularly special wolf encounter takes place. The Public Wolf Howl meets at the Outdoor Theatre for a presentation on Algonquin’s wolves. Once you’ve learned all there is to know, you’ll head out by car to a spot along the Algonquin Highway where wolves may howl in response the Naturalist staff’s expert imitation. It’s a beautiful – and spine chilling – experience.
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