There’s no better way to experience Ontario Parks than on your own two feet. See nature up close as you examine moss and lichens at the trailside or from high above as you reach vistas that extend to the horizon. Hiking has the added benefits of clearing your mind and challenging your heart….you might even learn something along the way. Here is a small sample from the 1800 km of trails that Ontario Parks has to offer. Please check individual park listings for more hiking experiences.
One of Ontario Parks’ core missions is education. Interpretive trails can tell a story about plants, animals, rocks or history. Signs or guidebooks will inform you along the way. Along the shores of Lake Superior, the Under the Volcano Trail at Neys showcases the unique geology of the area. As you scramble over rugged and smooth rocks, interpretive panels explain what you are seeing. Sturdy shoes are recommended for this 1 km trail as the rocks can be slippery. Take a stroll along the meandering Bonnechere River and learn about its rich natural and cultural history by exploring Footprints in Time (FIT) on the McNaughton Trail at Bonnechere. FIT is based on the traditional local First Nations way of teaching and explaining our history. This 2 km trail takes you in stride with 13 giant footprints, marked by posts with interpretive and educational text designed to be informative and engage you and your family along the hike.
At MacGregor Point’s Tower Trail, hikers will start to understand a wetland environment and have great opportunities for waterfowl and wildlife viewing. An observation tower offers a panoramic view of the wetland and a bird hide provides viewing opportunities at water level. Ontario’s pioneering history is on display at Murphys Point Silver Queen Mine Trail. From the Lally Homestead, the Silver Queen Mine Trail leads to the restored, early 1900s partially open pit mica mine, heritage displays and the rebuilt miner’s bunkhouse.
Every visitor to Ontario Parks should have the opportunity to experience a trail. A number of trails at Ontario Parks are barrier-free. The Dunes Trail at Sandbanks loops through a unique and fragile dune habitat - the largest of its kind in the world. A 1 km loop at the beginning of the trail is barrier- free. Rondeau’s Tulip Tree Trail travels through a mature Carolinian forest where hikers can see Carolinian trees that are rare in Ontario such as tulip trees, sassafras, and shagbark hickory. This 1 km, accessible trail is mostly boardwalk and an all-terrain wheelchair is available for loan. At Awenda, a 1 km boardwalk leads through a landscape that has been altered by beavers. The Beaver Pond Trail also offers views of the Nipissing bluff as well as opportunities for viewing wildlife, wildflowers and many species of birds.
One of the greatest satisfactions for a hiker is to round a corner and be rewarded with a great view. These trails will do just that. Barron Canyon located in the eastern section of Algonquin is a spectacular 100m deep gorge. The 1.5 km Barron Canyon Trail follows the north rim of the canyon and offers many breathtaking glimpses down to the river flowing along the canyon floor. Hikers at Pigeon River will encounter steep stairs and hilly sections on the High Falls Trail. Your reward is a view of Pigeon River’s steep walled gorge and the spectacular High Falls shared by both Ontario and Minnesota. It’s no surprise that waterfalls are the highlight at Chutes Provincial Park. The Twin Bridges Trail is a 6 km return trip following along the shoreline of the Aux Sables River leading to the waterfall and to the Seven Sisters Cataracts. The trail at Ouimet Canyon leads to two viewing platforms and panoramic views of the 150m wide and 100 deep gorge. This is a 1 km loop trail.
For those who want to be “king of the hill”, here are some trails that after a bit of a climb will reward you with a spectacular view. The 3 km hike to The Crack at Killarney is challenging and requires a good level of fitness, but it’s worth the sweat. The immense white cliffs of the La Cloche Mountains surround you as you ascend through the cascade of huge tumbled boulders of what is known as “The Crack”. When you reach the top of the ridge, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The Sibley Peninsula on the northwestern shoreline of Lake Superior is home of the famous Sleeping Giant. The Top of the Giant Trail is a heart-pumping, zig-zig ascent. Once on top of the Giant, the trail takes you to scenic lookouts on both east and west sides of the peninsula with spectacular views of Lake Superior. Although this trail is only 2.7 km, the total return distance from the Kabeyun Trailhead is approximately 22 km. A shorter trail but still with a stiff climb is the 2 km Cliff Top Trail at Bon Echo. Take the Mugwump Ferry or your own boat across Mazinaw Lake to the start of this trail. Stairs and a pathway lead up Mazinaw Rock to a spectacular view of the lake and the surrounding shield landscape.
These hikes will appeal to the trekker who wants to truly experience Ontario Parks on foot and head out for a multi-day hike.
The Lake Superior Coastal Trail travels in a north-south direction from Cape Gargantua to the Agawa Bay Campground. Along the way it hugs the Superior coastline and offers sweeping views across the water. You will ascend and descend over cliffs and encounter rocky outcrops, beaches, boulders and driftwood. Several access points give you a choice of spending one or several days on the trail. 63 km (5-7 days) strenuous.
Some will claim that Killarney’s La Cloche Silhouette Trail is Ontario’s premiere long distance hiking trail. Most hikers prefer to travel this trail in a clockwise direction. This allows for a gentle start through rolling forested hills and along a small lake. The east section of the trail heads uphill to the Crack, a ridge with a vista of rugged and scenic landscapes. Considered strenuous, this section of the trail passes through forests and wetlands and over rocky ridges. 100 km loop (7-10 days) strenuous.