Take a Hike… in Algonquin Park
By Kim Kerr
Since its creation, Algonquin Provincial Park has grown to encompass some 7,653 square kms – a quarter the size of Belgium and 1½ times the size of Prince Edward Island. It stretches 7,500 square kms across Ontario from North Bay to the Ottawa River and framed by the Trans Canada Highway to the north and Highway 60 in the south.
Algonquin actually lies in a transition zone between deciduous forests typical of areas to the south of the Park, and coniferous forests, more typical of areas to the north. As a result, both forest types are found within the Park, and even a short trip will take you by maple forest, spruce bogs, beaver ponds, campgrounds, lakes and cliffs, and each provides different opportunities that are exploited by different plants and animals.
Along with Algonquin’s diverse habitats comes an associated diversity in plant and animal life. More than 53 species of mammals, 272 species of birds, 31 species of reptiles and amphibians, 54 species of fish, and approximately 7,000 species of insects are known to hang out within Algonquin’s boundaries. Add to that the well over 1,000 species of plants, it’s little wonder so many are drawn here to witness Mother Nature in all her splendor.
Algonquin Park Hiking
Given its immense size, it’s hardly surprising that Algonquin Park hiking adventures top many peoples reasons for visiting The Park is home to countless trails, ranging from those aimed at experienced hikers (the Park has three overnight backpacking trails) to over a dozen much shorter walking trails suitable for day outings. Three more trails are located on the Park’s north and east sides, all designed to explore a different aspect of Algonquin. Trail guides are always available online or at trailheads, and year-round during business hours at the East and West Gates and the Visitor Centre bookstore.
Other trails include bike trails – the Minnesing Mountain Bike Trail and the Old Railway Bike Trail – while the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail is located in Algonquin South. Skiers are well served by Algonquin’s three trail networks specifically designed and reserved for cross-country skiers (the Fen Lake and Leaf Lake ski trails are packed and groomed on a regular basis, whereas the Minnesing Wilderness Ski Trail is not). If you want someone else to do the work for you, dog sledding, offered by commercial operators, is available in two locations in the Park (one along Highway 60 and one in the northwest section accessible from the village of South River on Highway 11).
For those with a penchant for water, Algonquin Park has within its boundaries over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kms of streams and rivers. Notable among them are Canoe Lake and the Petawawa, Nipissing, Amable du Fond, Madawaska, and Tim rivers, formed by the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age. Canoeists and kayakers are well served with countless routes suitable for all levels, and local outfitters can supply everything ended for your trip, right down to pre-packaged food or a guide.
To learn more about Algonquin Park hiking adventures, visit the Algonquin Provincial Park website at http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/index.php
Kim Kerr is a Muskoka-based freelance writer.