Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: June 2020
Located on the crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay, Killarney Provincial Park is nestled in untamed wilderness, which include forests, mountains and wetlands. The landscape is so incredibly scenic that it inspired many members of Canada’s Group of Seven painters. It is also fitting that Killarney became a provincial park in large part because of the conservation efforts of these painters.
Killarney is considered a wilderness park, which means that large areas of the park are left to nature. As a result, the park contains one campground (with nearly 150 sites) on George Lake. It also offers a number of backcountry campsites that can be accessed by foot or canoe.
Day 1: Cranberry Bog
We spent the morning hiking at Grundy Lake Provincial Park. After eating some lunch, we packed up our gear and headed out. From there it was about an hour drive to Killarney. We arrived just after 2:30p.m, picked up our park permit, and headed over to our site to set up our tent. Since we planned a rather ambitious road trip around Lake Superior, we booked a regular campsite in the radio-free zone.
After that we headed back out to hike along Cranberry Bog (4.0km loop, rated moderate). The trail passes by a series of bogs, marshes and swamps. We parked at the second beach area and walked a few hundred metres to the trailhead. The trail weaves through the forest and first passes by Proulx Marsh, which is the last in a chain of wetlands to empty into George Lake. In 1997 Proulx Marsh was nearly covered in water, but today most of the water is gone and is instead filled with reeds and other plant life. The path then continues to another marsh before opening up to Cranberry Bog.
Shortly after the path connects with La Cloche Silhouette Trail, a strenuous 80km trail that typically takes anywhere from 7 to 10 days to complete. We followed this trail around A.Y Jackson Lake, which was named after the Group of Seven artist who was instrumental in preserving and protecting Killarney’s wilderness. From there it was a few hundred metres from the lake back to the trailhead.
Afterwards we headed down to the beach area and dipped our feet and legs in the water in an attempt to cool down and wash away all the bug spray.
On the way back to our campsite we picked up some firewood as we planned to roast some veggies and veggie burgers on the fire for dinner.
Day 2: The Crack
We woke up earlier than usual to hike The Crack (6.0km round trip, rated difficult), which is reputed to be the most popular trail in the park. The trailhead is located just 7km east of the George Lake Park Office. We arrived at the trailhead just after 7a.m and were probably the first people on the trail.
The first 2km of the trail is relatively flat and uneventful. But as you near the base of the mountains this is where the fun begins. At this point the trail runs parallel to the La Cloche Silhouette Trail and is marked with red (for The Crack) and blue blazes (for La Cloche Silhouette). The trail leads up and around large boulders and rocks along the white cliffs of the La Cloche Mountains, through a crack between the range, and up to the top of Killarney Ridge.
The top of the ridge provides panoramic views of the mountains and surrounding area. We found a spot in the shade to take a break, eat a snack and soak in the views before heading back down.
We finished our hike at around 10:15a.m. We’re glad we got up early for this hike as we passed a bunch of other hikers on our return journey and the parking lot was nearly full when got back to our car. The rock scramble through the crack and up the ridge would have been a bit challenging with other hikers in the way as some of the spaces are quite narrow and there is little opportunity to pass people.
On our way back to the campground we stopped to hike along the Granite Ridge Trail (2.0km, rated moderate), which is located on the other side of the road from the George Lake Park Office. You know this hike is going to be a good time when as soon as we parked the car, all these horse flies started to swarm. And this was before getting out of the car.
The first stretch of the trail winds through a forest and an old field. It wasn’t particularly eventful, but that could also be because I was preoccupied with keeping the flies from swarming around my head. The path then leads up a granite ridge, providing a nice lookout of the park and La Cloche Mountains.
When we finished our hike we returned to our campsite to start a fire to use the rest of our firewood and roast some veggies for lunch. We then packed up our tent. We left the campground shortly after 12:30p.m and drove to the trailhead of the Chikanishing Trail (3.0km loop, rated moderate), which starts at the end of Chikanishing Road, 2km west of the Park Office. The parking lot was rammed as this is a popular place to canoe and go boating.
The trail is marked with a series of red markers on trees or red paint on the rocks. The path crosses over a series of small granite ridges overlooking Georgian Bay and eventually leads down to the shore.
There are a series of interpretive signs along the path which provide some interesting history of the area, including the vegetation. The shallow, acidic soils and harsh growing conditions along the coast of Georgian Bay have stressed the vegetation along the trail. It was hot outside (27°C) and since there was little protection from the sweltering sun, we didn’t linger long.
After our hike we returned to the beach area to go for a swim. The water was refreshing and it was a good way to rinse off all the sweat and bug spray. We left the park shortly before 2:30p.m. From there it’s about a five hour drive to our next stop on our Lake Superior road trip at Pancake Bay Provincial Park.