Today’s blog comes from Heather Stern, the Discovery Leader at Samuel de Champlain.
I will confess: I LOVE fall. To me, it is the best season because it is the time when I get to go camping.
As a park staff, it’s tricky to go during the busy summer months, but as things begin to slow down in the fall, there’s usually more time to get away and visit some provincial parks.
This doesn’t bother me, though, because camping at this time of the year is the best! The cooler temperatures and shorter days provide opportunities we don’t get in July and August.
And, to me, fall camping is just better at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.
Stargaze without staying up all night
The shorter days of September and October mean you can wake up to watch the sunrise with a hot cup of coffee, enjoy a sunset at the beach, and still have more than enough energy for an evening of stargazing.
The Jingwakoki Beach is a great spot to watch the stars come out, as it gives an unobstructed view of the southern night sky.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, my favourite spot for stargazing is from the Wabashkiki boardwalk. It’s a peaceful spot where you are unlikely to encounter lights from vehicles or flashlights.
Campers in early October may start to see some meteors from the Orionid meteor shower that peaks mid-month. Constellations are also always fun to spot. Try to find classic ones like the Big Dipper or Cassiopeia, or just have fun and make up your own!
Take the path less travelled
Wedged between the north side of Algonquin Provincial Park and the Mattawa River, Samuel de Champlain is on a beautiful section of the Canadian Shield, which means we have lakes and rivers galore!
Long Lake is a wonderful short-afternoon-paddle spot. With tall granite cliffs towering above you and a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, you will feel like you are in the remote backcountry.
Did we mention Long Lake is also great for fishing?
If you have your own canoe or kayak, take a longer paddle by getting in at Campion Rapids and paddling down the Mattawa River to the entrance of the Gut.
The Gut is a beautiful hidden gem in Samuel de Champlain as the only ways to access it are by boat or by boot (hiking).
As you paddle the Mattawa River, look up the steep cliffs and consider how these natural walls would have echoed the voyageur’s wonderful songs as they kept time for their paddling more than 200 years ago.
Fall colours (we have them too!)
Autumn leaf changes can turn even the dullest forest view into something spectacular!
And Algonquin isn’t the only park with beautiful fall colours.
The smaller crowds at Sam D mean you’ll have an unobstructed view. You may even be the only people on the trails if you come mid-week.
The main road into the park has some wonderful golden yellows from aspens, reds from maples, and rusty browns from oak trees. Scenic spots that are easily accessible are Campion Rapids and the bridge into Jingwakoki Campground (please do not park directly on the bridge!).
Want to see nice views and colours outside of the car without walking too far? The Wabashkiki Trail lets you glimpse the colours in Jingwakoki Campground, as well as some stunning vibrant reds through the marsh.
See more, sweat less
The cooler temperatures make hiking in the fall more enjoyable. You are less likely to break a sweat, and it’s more comfortable to layer clothing. There are no bugs, so you do not need to worry if you get to the trailhead and realize you forgot to bring your bug spray.
With less foliage and a clearer view, you have a better chance to see that beaver, busily working on its dam for winter, or the deer quietly grazing at the edge of the clearing. The only time I have seen a moose in the park has been during fall so this is an opportune time to see wildlife on your hike.
Since there are no bugs why not try a longer day hike? The Etienne Trail system at Sam D is a series of four hiking trails of varying lengths and challenges.
The Red Pine Trail is a quick 3 km loop that takes you along the top of the cliffs overlooking the Mattawa River. With two scenic lookouts along the way, this is the perfect fall trail if you only have a couple hours.
The Nature Loop and the History Loop are the two longest trails in the park and are part of the Etienne system.
The green Nature Loop follows the shoreline of Long Lake and takes you out to the Gut, while the blue History Loop follows the shore of the Mattawa River and also takes you out to the Gut. Both of these trails offer great scenic views from the tops of cliffs and beautiful fall colours along the way.
Samuel de Champlain is the perfect park for fall camping if you want to get away from the crowds and experience the beautiful changes of the season.
Maybe I’ll see you out on the Red Pine Trail this fall.