One of the best things about living in and visiting the Muskoka area is enjoying some of Ontario's most beautiful natural landscapes. What better way to unleash your adventurous side than to explore a selection of Ontario’s best parks? Immerse yourself in the wilds of cottage country as you partake in great hiking trails, cycling, swimming, and the breathtaking nature and wildlife around you.
Cottage country boasts several unique provincial parks just waiting to be explored. Let’s take a look at Algonquin Park.
As one of the largest provincial parks in Ontario, measuring over 7,600 square kilometers, (or 2.946 square miles), Algonquin Park is a wonderful place that offers enjoyment for everyone, no matter the season. From canoeing, swimming and picnicking in the summer to watching wildlife, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, you can always find a way to experience the maple hills, rocky ridges and thousands of lakes.
The park has a lot to offer in the winter months. Highway 60 is ploughed regularly, and many trails are open for winter activity. So put on your skis and head out on one of the three trail networks designated for cross-country skiing at the park. If you want to see evidence of wildlife, the Fen Lake Ski trail is a great choice. This trail offers both easy and more challenging loops. Just look around you, and you will notice moose tracks on your travels. Another trail, Leaf Lake Ski Trail, offers a wide variety of trail selections, and it even has three groomed loops ideal for stake skiing. This trip provides a great vantage point to take in the stunning landscape and even more opportunities for moose, otter and other animal sightings.
Snowshoeing enthusiasts will appreciate the ability to go almost anywhere within the park except the cross-country ski trails. Try out one of the short walking trails along Highway 60 or one of the longer backpacking trails. Visitors will also find a part of the Mew Lake Campground parking lot converted to a skating rink during the winter. On-site and available for loan are sticks, nets and pucks.
The park is an absolute treasure for wildlife enthusiasts, and visiting year-round offers plenty of opportunities to view and photograph wildlife on the trails. In addition, wildlife sighting whiteboards at the east and west gates allow people to engage with each other by posting what they have seen and where. You’ll even find social media groups connecting people to others by sharing “photos and tips on the trails and sightings,” as Sales Representative Nancy Carr does. Take a look at a few of the sightings Nancy has photographed.
Like any provincial park, using Algonquin Park requires a valid park permit. Depending on your length of stay and what you plan to do at the park, fees will vary. Passes are available for park day use (from 7 am to 10 pm) in either Day Vehicle Permit or Season Day Use Permit (which is suitable for any provincial park in Ontario and pays for itself in four or five visits. Some campgrounds are open in the winter for visitors staying overnight, and a camping permit is needed. Fees will depend on the type of camping, whether Developed Campground or Backcountry Camping. Please visit the Ontario Parks Website for more information or to make reservations.