Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: February 2019
In light of a recent snow storm (or rather storms), we decided to take advantage of the abundance of fresh snow and head up north to spend our Family Day long weekend here in Ontario. We visited Arrowhead Provincial Park yesterday and planned to spend the remainder of our long weekend in Algonquin Provincial Park, which also hosts a variety of winter activities, including: skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. We’ve only ever been here in the summer for our annual canoe adventure into the interior, so it was a nice to see the park transformed into a winter wonderland.
Day 1: Algonquin Provincial Park
We went to bed at an embarrassingly early time last night. So this morning we woke up bright and early ready for another day outside in the snow. After eating some breakfast, we headed out for the day. Except it was absolutely freezing outside: -21°C (felt like -28°C with the windchill). We wussed-out and returned to our warm hotel room decided to wait an hour or two for it to warm up outside.
There is an abundance of winter activities along the Highway 60 Corridor of Algonquin Provincial Park. We initially planned to go cross-country skiing in Algonquin Park, but due to bad timing on our part, were unable to rent any. Instead we went snowshoeing.
The day was noticeably warmer by the time we were ready to start our first hike along Track and Tower (7.5km roundtrip, rated difficult), but it was still pretty chilly.
This was (hands down) our favourite trail that we snowshoed along this weekend. The path weaves through pinewood and hardwood forests and provides a variety of scenic viewpoints overlooking lakes, ponds, and rivers. There are 13 marked checkpoints scattered along the trail. But let’s be real, there were countless other good viewpoints that were unmarked.
There is this one particularly scenic spot located across a bridge where all the mist from the river froze to some of the nearby branches and rocks. It created this picturesque landscape in this wintry wonderland.
Around midway through the hike there is a turnoff to see a lookout over Cache Lake. Now, the trek up the lookout may seem a bit daunting in the winter. There are these three large sets of stairs. But because of all the snow piled up, it created this shear steep and icy ramp up. We clung to the railings for dear life.
The lookout is located a few hundred metres from the top of the stairs. The hike up was well worth the effort.
Sure, the views were fantastic, but the best part of this detour was the decent down. Or rather, the slide down! We took off our snowshoes and shimmied and slid on our buts down all three sets of stairs. So much fun!
The remainder of the hike was as scenic and fun as the first half. We were starting to get hungry and tired towards the last couple of kilometres though. We were definitely feeling the weight of our snowshoes.
We ate some fruit, crackers and nuts when we returned to our car before embarking on our next hike. We initially planned to hike Hardwood Lookout, but the parking situation was a little confusing. What we thought was the parking lot, wasn’t actually, it was some little road where a few vehicles were parked along. But, turns out this was for some backcountry hike. And we nearly got stuck in a snow bank getting out (largely because a car at the end pretty much blocked much of the road).
Instead we pulled off to hike along Peck Lake (2.3km roundtrip, rated moderate), which was located nearby Hardwood Lookout. The trail hugs the shoreline and offers sweeping views of the snow-covered lake and surrounding trees. It was especially scenic as the sun was starting to set.
After finishing our hike we returned to our hotel to change and shower. We then headed back into Huntsville to grab dinner and drinks at the Lake of Bays Brewing Company. We had to wait about 20-30 minutes for a table, but it’s not like we had much else to do tonight.
On the way back to our hotel, we were pulled over by the cops as part of their roadside safety program to randomly test drivers’ sobriety. K, who was driving, admitted to drinking one drink (plus a few sips of my cider) during dinner. Despite having a drink, K’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.00 (0 milligrams of alcohol in 100mL of blood) according to the results from the breathalyzer. This certainly added more excitement to our night!
Day 2: Algonquin Provincial Park Part Deux
We woke up bright and early, checked out of our hotel, and drove all the way back to Algonquin Provincial Park for another day of fun in the snow. Thankfully the sun was shining and it wasn’t nearly as cold as yesterday.
We started our morning off snowshoeing along the Hemlock Bluff Trail (3.5km roundtrip, rated moderate). The trail winds through the forest and provides sweeping views of Jack Lake.
From there we checked out Mew Lake Campground, which offers 131 sites and is open all year round. We were surprised to see so many people winter camping. While we enjoy the great outdoors, sleeping in a tent in below freezing temperatures seems too intense. Even for us. Especially since the night before the temperature plummeted to -22°C.
Afterwards we hiked along Pine River (2.3km roundtrip, rated moderate). This was probably the easiest trail we hiked along with our snowshoes in Algonquin. The trail is relatively flat and is nestled in between tall pines. The forest looked particularly picturesque with all the snow.
We wrapped up our hike around lunch time, packed our snowshoes away, and headed back towards Toronto.