Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: February 2020
Frontenac Provincial Park is classified as a natural environment park. It is situated above an ancient granite ridge linking the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains and consists of forests, wetlands, marshes, lakes and granite outcrops. The park contains canoe routes through 22 lakes, over 100km of connected backpacking and hiking trails and four season interior camping on 48 campsites. Throughout the winter, the park maintains 12 km of hiking trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Day 1: Bufflehead Trail
We planned to spend the Family Day long weekend at the cabin, a small log cabin with no running water and no electricity. The property has been in K’s family since the early 1900s and is nestled in nearly 100 acres of untamed forest bordering onto a lake close to Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Along the way to the cabin we stopped at Frontenac Provincial Park to do some winter hiking. We arrived at the park just before 12:30p.m and checked in at the Park Office to get our parking permit and a map of the park.
We then parked our car (there is only one parking lot open during the winter) and set on a very ambitious hike along the Bufflehead Trail (8km roundtrip). In order to get to the trailhead to the Bufflehead Trail, we first had to hike along the Corridor Trail, a linear trail that starts at the parking lot adjacent to the Park Office and ends at the south shore of Big Salmon Lake.
The path was well trodden as it serves as both a cross-country ski path, hiking trail, and a route to a few campsites for backcountry winter campers. We followed the path for a couple of kilometres until we reached the trailhead for the Bufflehead Trail, which overlaps with part of the longer Arkon Lake Loop Trail.
The trail meanders through the forest, around frozen beaver ponds and over the barren granite forming part of the Canadian Shield.
The trail eventually loops back to the Corridor Trail, which we followed to return to our car. From there we drove for about an hour or so to the cabin. Except you can’t actually drive up to the cabin as the road isn’t maintained. Instead, we parked our car at the top of the road and had to walk about a kilometre to get to the cabin. In the snow. With all our food, water and other supplies.
We strapped on our snowshoes and forged a path through the (deep layer of) snow.
Once we made it to the cabin, we unloaded our gear. I made two more trips back to the car to haul the rest of our stuff in while K stayed behind to start a fire and boil some water for tea. By the time I finished up it was starting to get dark outside. We made some dinner and spent the remainder of the evening sitting beside the wood stove.
Day 2: Doe Lake Loop and the Arab Lake Gorge Trail
We initially planned to stay for another night at the cabin, but we were running low on firewood. The temperature overnight was expected to plummet below -15°C so we didn’t want to take a chance.
We spent the morning lounging around by the warm wood stove and brought the remainder of the firewood from the outhouse to the cabin. After eating lunch, we packed up and left. This time it wasn’t too bad hiking back to the car as our packs were lighter and we had already carved out a path through the snow from the day before.
We decided to return to Frontenac Provincial Park to hike along the remainder of the trails that are open in the winter: Doe Lake Loop and the Arab Lake Gorge Trail. Both trails originate at the Park Office. We followed the steps down to the boardwalk to get to the trailhead.
We walked first hiked along the Doe Lake Loop (3km loop, rated easy to moderate). The trail runs along the shores of South Otter Lake and Doe Lake, forming a loop back to the trailhead.
The trail was relatively flat for the most part. There were a few downhill sections that were a bit dodgy, so we just slid down (as gracefully as we could) on our butts rather than try to navigate the steep path on foot.
When we looped back to the trailhead we veered right to hike along the Arab Lake Gorge Trail (1.5km loop, rated easy). The first part of the loop is along a wooden boardwalk that runs parallel to the edge of a frozen pond along the side of the gorge. We were quite pleased to have left our snowshoes in the car as they would have been a bit tricky to navigate along most of the boardwalk.
The remainder of the trail weaves through the forest and eventually connects to the boardwalk that leads back to the Park Office.
We wrapped up our last hike in the late afternoon. From there we drove back to Toronto. While we initially planned to spend an extra night at the cabin, it was nice to return to our (warm) apartment and sleep in our own bed.