Thousand Islands National Park

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: November 2020

Located near the Saint Lawrence River, Thousand Islands National Park is one of Canada’s smallest national parks. The park consists of three sections along the mainland: Mallorytown Landing, Jones Creek and Landon Bay, and 21 islands. While most of the park is only accessible by boat, there are a few hiking trails that can be accessed on the mainland.

In case you were wondering, the Thousand Islands actually consist of 1,864 islands and the Thousand Islands dressing was named in honour of the Thousand Islands where it was first prepared by Sophie Lalonde, an American who made the condiment for her husband’s shore dinner.

Day 1: Jones Creek

We took the week off of work just to get a break from everything (work, house hunting, and the pandemic) and decided to spend some time at Thousand Islands National Park, a place we have yet to visit. We left Toronto early in the morning and arrived at Thousand Islands shortly after lunch time. We drove to the visitor centre at Mallorytown Landing to pick up a park pass, but it was closed for the season. The hiking trails however were still open.

From the visitor centre, we walked down a paved path to the St. Lawrence River. There is a sheltered picnic area here, along with a few signs that highlight the contributions of local landowners for protecting the park ecosystem.

We then drove down the road to the lower section of Jones Creek, which is located between Highway 401 and 1000 Islands Parkway. There are a series of connected hiking trails that weave through the forest and around the wetlands.

Near the trailhead there are a few signs which provide some detail on the history of the park and the Jones Creek area. From there, we followed the path through a small opening until we reached a junction. The path splits off into two trails – Eel Loop (yellow) to the right and Bear Loop (blue) to the left.

We turned right and started off along the Eel Loop (700m, rated easy). The trail is relatively flat and is marked with yellow markers with a hiker symbol. The path winds through a forest of old white pine and red oak trees. There is a side loop that provides a nice view of Jones Creek and the wetlands. The weather was grim and we were thankful that the forest provided much protection from the wind, even though the leaves had all fallen from the trees.

The path then connects with the Turtle Loop (600m, rated easy), the orange path with orange markers on the trees. We hiked along this for a short stretch until it meets up with the Heron Loop (1.0k, rated easy to moderate), the red path with red markers.

The Heron Loop weaves through a hemlock forest to a scenic lookout on a a rocky outcrop above the Mud and Jones Creek wetlands. There are two Red Chairs at the scenic lookout, which provided a nice opportunity to take a break and enjoy the views.

The trail then connects with the Bear Loop (900m, rated moderate), the blue path with blue markers. The path winds through forested ridges and provides another nice viewpoint of the surrounding wetlands. The trail loops back with the main junction and from there, it’s a short walk back to the parking lot.

We took a small break at the car to eat a snack, then drove to the other section of Jones Creek along Mallorytown Road, just south of Highway 401. There is no official parking lot here, so we parked along the side of the road near the trailhead. There used to be four trails in this section, which connected with the lower section of Jones Creek, but two have been closed off.

We first hiked along the Wolf Trail (1.7km, rated easy to moderate), which is marked with red markers. The trail winds through the forest and leads to the trailhead for the Hawk Loop (3.9km, rated moderate). Due to its close proximity to the highway, we could hear the sound of cars zoom by.

We hiked counter clockwise around the loop. The trail continues through the forest. The first stretch follows along the marshy shores of Mud Creek. There’s also a scenic lookout here of the surrounding wetlands.

The path then heads north, before looping back, this time hugging the shore of Polly Creek. Once we looped back to the trailhead, we walked back along Wolf Trail to where we parked our car.

We finished up around 4p.m, then drove to our hotel in Brockville. The hotel was surprisingly busier than we thought. We just assumed we’d be the only people there given the time of the year and the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We ordered take-out for dinner as many of the restaurants were still closed or only open for delivery or takeout.

Day 2: Landons Bay

We woke up to another dark and gloomy day, but at least it wasn’t raining. Today we went to hike at Landons Bay where there are seven trails, many of which are connected to form a larger (or shorter) loop.

The main entrance into this section of the park was closed, so we instead parked at the gate and walked in. The main trailhead is located through a stone arch at the back of the parking lot.

We started off along the Donevan Trail, the blue path with blue markers. After a few hundred steps, there’s a turnoff for the Riverview Trail. It’s a short trail, which loops through the forest and up a ridge to a nice view of the St. Lawrence River. The trail then loops back with the main trail.

We continued along the Donevan Trail and made another detour to hike to the scenic lookout via the Lookout Trail. It’s a steady climb to a rocky outcrop that provides a stunning view of the St. Lawrence River and surrounding area. The Lookout Trail also loops back again with the Donevan Trail.

The trails are all well marked and there are signs at each junction. There is even a sign to mark the halfway point of the Donevan Trail.

We took another detour to hike along the Moran Loop, which passes by a lake before connecting back with the main trail.

The main trail then passes by an osprey nesting area. There’s a viewing platform here with a sign that provides more information about osprey, including their habitat and what they look like. Unfortunately there were no osprey around.

The trail then passes Kay’s Bridge, which was named after Kay Donevan, who, with her husband Charlie, made so many contributions to the park. There is also a sign here that provides more information on the stone bridge. It is is made from dry stone construction, which is quite common in the United Kingdom and Mediterranean. Without mortar, these structures have the ability to flex slightly and so are able to maintain their structure for centuries.

The trail ends near the main road. We followed the paved walking path for a few hundred metres back to the park gate where we parked the car. We wrapped up our hike shortly after 10a.m and from there drove back to Toronto. While the weather wasn’t ideal, it was still nice to take some time off of work and explore a new area in Ontario.


43 thoughts on “Thousand Islands National Park

  1. Little Miss Traveller says:

    What beautiful trails to enjoy in the National Park. I loved the look of that pair of red relaxation chairs at the lookout point. So pleased to read that you are able to get out and about. Hope your weekend is going well. Marion

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, the trails are also very well marked and easy to follow. Parks Canada placed a number of these red chairs in special locations across the various national parks in Canada and are all about taking time to connect with nature. It’s been neat trying to visit all the locations. Hope you enjoyed your weekend as well. Take care.

  2. kagould17 says:

    Some interesting walks and structures. I like the dry stone bridge, but wonder how sturdy the handrails were. Had the bird life mostly gone? We have been the 1000 Islands park, I camped there once in 1972 on a cross Canada Drive, but have never hiked there. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Those handrails certainly don’t look very sturdy and we didn’t exactly test them out. It’s funny how COVID has made us more mindful of touching things. At this point in the year most of the bird life was gone and the park pretty quiet. We didn’t encounter a single hiker during our visit. It really felt like we had the place all to ourselves. How lucky that you got to camp at Thousand Islands as options are rather limited. There are only 25 campsites, all on the islands and 5 oTentik roofed accommodations on the mainland.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Parks Canada placed a number of these red chairs across all the various national parks in Canada a few years ago and it’s been fun trying to discover all the locations. It was the perfect place to take a break and just enjoy being surrounded by nature.

  3. Ab says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you did this recap. We always drive by the Thousand Islands en route to New Brunswick and have always wanted to do a detour. It looks and sounds wonderful. It sounds like a summer trip we may want to take this year. And I learned about the salad dressing. I always wondered about that and thought it’d be too big of a coincidence. I guess not!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve driven by the Thousand Islands a number of times over the years too and I just always assumed that all the attractions were on the various islands. Turns out there’s quite a few hiking trails on the mainland. It would be neat to return and explore some of the islands though. And maybe eat a salad with the 1000 islands dressing while I’m there. Ha.

  4. Flying Squirrel says:

    Just wanted to say I’m impressed about how all year you have managed to keep going, despite COVID and travel issues, and capitalize on the smaller, out of the way places, and find adventure around every corner. Inspiring persistence!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. We tend to take where we live for granted, so it was nice to finally be able to explore more of what’s in our own backyard. It also made me realize just how fortunate we are to have access to all this green space during the pandemic. I have no idea what my life would have been like last year if we couldn’t have gone hiking or camping.

  5. carolinehelbig says:

    I always thought of the Thousand Islands as a place you visit on a boat tour (like I did a million years ago as a kid). It’s great to see the mainland trail portions as well. Despite your grim weather, I like the moody and uncrowded look of November.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s exactly what I thought too! I just always assumed that the park was only accessible by boat, similar to Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Turns out there’s quite a few hiking trails on the mainland. While the weather was gloomy, at least it didn’t rain. And yes, the one benefit of visiting in November was that it wasn’t very crowded. In fact, we didn’t encounter a single person during our visit.

  6. Lookoom says:

    This is another aspect of the Thousand Islands. I like to drive along the Thousand Islands Pkwy and see these odd houses on miniature islands. I always wonder why people go to so much trouble to complicate their lives.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed! We drove along the 1000 Islands Parkway a couple of years ago on our way to Charleston Lake Provincial Park. We had a very wet spring that year and water levels were really high. Some of the houses or cottages were clearly flooded as the water came all the way up to the front steps.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Yikes. That’s the risk you take to building a home so close to the water. I can’t imagine what a headache it would be to a) build the house in the first place then b) have to repair and renovate due to water damage. Their insurance must be through the roof.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The red chairs were such a great idea from Parks Canada. It’s been fun trying to discover their locations and they’re usually placed at a nice lookout, so it makes for a great excuse to take a break.

  7. alisendopf says:

    You have no idea how happy I am to read this. First off, I was SO surprised to realize (as a kid) that Thousand Islands dressing was named after a real place, and that it was in Canada! I can’t remember the last time I had that dressing.

    The actual location is gorgeous. Thank you for the virtual tour!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s too bad that the person who invented the Thousand Islands dressing wasn’t Canadian though! But hey, we’ll take what we can get. And yes, it’s such a beautiful area and I’m glad part of it has been protected for all to enjoy. I would love to come back someday and visit the islands that are part of the national park.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Between national and provincial parks, Canada does a pretty decent job of protecting its wilderness. I hope that they’ll continue to expand the park system though. This year has really demonstrated just how popular these places are. Thanks for reading.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The red chairs were a lovely surprise and a good sign that we should take a break and just enjoy the views. A few years ago Parks Canada started a “Red Chair” program and scattered a number of these chairs, usually in pairs, across many of the national parks. It’s been fun trying to discover their locations. I could of course cheat and look online, but where’s the fun in that?

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s such a great idea. I’ve always appreciated when there is a bench located along a trail. The fact that some of them are in memory of someone is all the more special.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve driven by Thousand Islands a number of times over the years, so it was nice to finally stop and check it out. Since we were visiting in the off-season we could only explore the hiking trails on the mainland. I would love to come back during the summer and explore some of the islands that are part of the national park. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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