The Top Reasons to Visit and Explore Algonquin Park
By Katherin Mankowski-Sauvé
If you like things a little less resort-like and want to discover Muskoka’s really wild side, then you won’t want to miss a chance to explore Algonquin Park in all its incredible diversity. Whether you’re an avid hiker, camper or fisherman who enjoys a slower paced, old-fashioned way of doing things, or just want that other Muskoka experience – a chance to catch a glimpse of a moose and her calf stopping for a drink in a lake, or perhaps a white-tailed deer frolicking through the trees – then Ontario’s largest provincial park’s well worth a visit.
Stretching over 7,500 square kilometers from the edge of Lake of Bays all the way to the Ottawa River and framed by the Trans Canada Highway to the north and Highway 60 in the south, Algonquin Park is home to more trails – walking, cycling, skiing and even dog sledding – than could be traversed in a lifetime. The essence of Algonquin is its vast backcountry of maple hills, rocky ridges, spruce bogs, and endless lakes, ponds and streams, and the only way to really explore this rugged beauty is by canoe or on foot.
Although originally populated by the logging industry in the 19th Century, a growing number of concerned individuals wanted to preserve its beauty and its abundance of nature for all to enjoy. As a result, Algonquin Provincial Park was established in 1893, making it the first provincial park in Canada and a prime example of good forestry practices.
Endless Outdoor Fun and Adventure
Today, the park’s vastness offers a number of activities and programs to those wanting to explore Algonquin Park and get a taste of what “roughing and toughing it” is really all about, ranging from short hikes suitable for all abilities to full-out back-to-nature experiences. And if you’re looking for a less than luxurious night or two away as you explore Algonquin Park, there are 12 campgrounds to choose from, some located deep in the park’s interior and only accessible by canoe or hiking in the summer months (or possibly by snowshoeing or skiing in winter).
But you need to be well prepared for these getaways for the simple reason that the deeper you go into this ‘back country’, the less likely you are to see anyone else, possibly for days at a time. (Don’t worry, some campsites are located close to easy access points throughout the park and allow vehicle access.)
One of the most popular of the park’s many programs is the weekly wolf howl held every Thursday in August (weather and wolves permitting, so call ahead). With cars snaking through the park’s major thoroughfare seemingly for miles, you’d be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to happen. But sure enough, at the allotted time, park guides begin their wolf imitations and before long are joined by the real thing. Surely, the piercing howls of these wild animals would send chills through anyone… but what an experience (especially in the knowledge you’re a safe distance away, in a crowd of other howlers, and have a Park Guide close at hand).
The park is also famous for its 2,200 kilometre-long network of lakes and rivers that connect its interior and which offer an incredible variety of canoe or kayaking trips. Best of all, you don’t have to go it alone: professionally guided canoe trips are available through any of the three outdoor outfitters located within the park prepared to navigate you through the waterways, allowing you to immerse yourself in the magical landscape of Algonquin Park.
7 Top Things to Do in Algonquin Park
To help you get the most out of your time as you explore Algonqiun Park, LuxuryLakeofBays has put together the following list of great reasons to visit Ontario’s largest provincial park.
- Hike: There are 19 interpretive hiking trails, each allowing you to explore a different aspect of Algonquin’s natural environment. Clearly marked and easily navigated, pick up a trail guide detailing points of interest.
- Canoe: Famous for its beautiful waterways, be adventurous and set out on your own or choose from single or multi-day packages. Conveniently, these come with a guide, canoe, camping supplies, even food.
- Fish: In search of that elusive big catch? Lake Opeongo is the place to go. Small mouth bass and lake trout can also be found in the Lake of Two Rivers, and bait and tackle are readily available at the Two Rivers Store.
- Star Gaze: Become absolutely awe struck when you look up at the night sky and find millions of dazzling stars shining down on you. Clear and crisp night air and the absence of city lighting will leave you with a view of our universe that can only be found in an environment such as this.
- Learn: Even if you’re not a history buff you’ll enjoy learning about the original settlers and the logging industry from a bygone era at the Algonquin Logging Museum. The Visitor’s Centre is also a fantastic place to explore exhibits, the bookstore and the amazing views from the observation deck. The park’s Outdoor Theatre also offers a wide selection of educational films and slideshows.
- Explore: Home to a diverse array of plant and animal life, you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across some of the park’s 53 species of mammals, 272 species of birds, or 31 species of reptiles and amphibians.
- Relax: Finally, the most important thing of all as you explore Algonquin Park is taking time to unwind and relax while enjoying so much beauty and splendour.
Katherin Mankowski-Sauvé is an Ontario-based freelance writer.