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.