In my opinion, Algonquin Provincial Park is the top park in the Ontario Parks system. I have been camping there for decades and our family camps there for at least seven nights each year. We camped at Algonquin Park during the first week of August, last year. Here are many reasons why we keep returning year after year:
Environment: Algonquin Park is located in Central Ontario and is the oldest provincial park in Canada, having been established in 1893. The park is 7,653 square kilometres, which is 1.5 times the size of Prince Edward Island. It is a Mecca for camping and day tripping and is one of the most popular parks in Canada. To appreciate this park, you need to visit it often and during the different seasons of the year, as this is a year-round park. It offers everything that camping enthusiasts are looking for. The beauty of Algonquin Park has provided inspiration for many artists, including the Group of Seven.
Beach: All car accessible campgrounds have beaches within walking distance. There is also the day-use picnic area along Lake of Two Rivers, which has a nice beach.
Biking: The Old Railway Bike Trail is my favourite bike trail in the Ontario Parks system. It follows along an old railway bed and can be accessed from the following campgrounds: Two Rivers, Mew, Pog, Kearney, Whitefish, Coon and Rock Lakes. The total distance from Two Rivers to Rock Lake is approximately 12 kilometres one way. There are plans to extend this bike trail west towards Cache Lake. The Minnesing Bike Trail (23.4-kilometre loop) is very challenging and should only be attempted by those who are very experienced and fit. Bikes can be rented at the Two Rivers Store.
Camping: For car camping along the highway 60 corridor, there are approximately 1,215 campsites that are split among eight campgrounds (Tea, Cannisbay, Mew, Two Rivers, Pog, Kearney and Rock Lake). Whitefish and Coon Lake offer another 64 campsites. Achray, Brent and Kiosk are car accessible from the north side of the park and provide an additional 97 campsites. For backcountry camping, there are almost 2,000 remote campsites scattered throughout the park.
Canoeing: There are approximately 2,100 kilometres of canoe routes throughout the park. Many great canoe routes can be accessed along highway 60. Canoes can be rented and dropped off for you at these points along highway 60: Cannisbay, Mew, Two Rivers, Pog, Kearney and Rock Lake campgrounds. You can also rent at the Portage Store on Canoe Lake and the Opeongo Store on Lake Opeongo. Be sure to purchase and pack the “Canoe Routes of Algonquin Provincial Park” when you arrive at the park.
Fishing: The best fishing is found in the backcountry, where it is less crowded. Ensure that you have a valid fishing license and review the fishing regulations in the park. Grab a copy of the Algonquin Information Guide for more details.
Hiking: There are 15 day-use hiking trails along highway 60 that range in length from 0.8-kilometres to 13.2 kilometres. I’ve done all of the trails many times and my favourites are: Booth’s Rock, Lookout and Centennial Ridges. All three trails offer scenic lookouts. If camping along the north side of the park, the Barron Canyon trail is a must see and probably the most scenic trail in the park. If you are planning an overnight hiking trip, the Western Uplands (88-kilometre loop) and Highland (35-kilometre loop) trails offer great hiking. Purchase a copy of “Backpacking Trails of Algonquin Provincial Park” if you plan on hiking any of the overnight trails.
Shopping: Camping supplies, books and souvenirs are available in the park at: The Portage Store, Lake of Two Rivers Store, Algonquin Visitor Centre and Opeongo Store.
The Ampitheatre: The Amphitheatre is probably the largest in the Ontario Parks system and provides outdoor evening shows on various topics that relate to Algonquin Park.
The Art Centre: The Art Centre displays the works of many of Canada’s most prominent wilderness and wildlife artists.
The Logging Museum: A 1.3-kilometre walking trail provides a snapshot of what logging in Algonquin Park was like 100 years ago. A theatre provides an excellent show, which documents the history of logging in the park. Exhibits display everything from logging equipment to housing for loggers at that time.
The Visitor Centre: Algonquin Park has a large two level visitor centre that showcases the park environment, animals and human history. There is also a theatre, bookstore and restaurant.
Wildlife: There are plenty of opportunities to see all kinds of wildlife in the park. You can see moose along highway 60 in May and June before the crowds hit the park for the summer. Drive carefully, stay alert and obey the speed limits, as there are many winding roads in the park where your visibility can be reduced.
In Conclusion: The July-August occupancy rate for 2009 was 74%, however, for car camping, ensure that you have a reservation if arriving on a weekend. You will find that most campgrounds are full on weekends and there are more campsites available on weekdays. No Ontario camping experience is complete without a trip to Algonquin Park. It is my goal to spend and entire summer in the park one year, as there are many areas of the park that I have not seen yet. I will provide more details of park features and activities in future posts. The above is meant to provide a brief introduction to Algonquin Park.
My Park Rating: 5 out of 5