Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2021
Frontenac Provincial Park 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 and offers over 100km of connected backpacking and hiking trails. Frontenac is open year-round and offers great hiking opportunities regardless of the season.
We arrived at Frontenac just before 10:30a.m and parked at the parking lot near the Park Office, which is the only parking lot open during this time of the year. There are two additional parking lots located along Big Salmon Road, but the road is typically closed from mid November to late April.
We spent the previous day hiking at Sandbanks Provincial Park and were a bit tired, so we decided to hike the two shortest trails in the park, Doe Lake Loop and Arab Lake Gorge Trail, both of which conveniently originate at the Park Office. Several of the other trails are accessed via another trail to start and since the Big Salmon Road was closed, would require even more hiking.
The path to both trails starts off along a wooden staircase and boardwalk that crosses the tip of South Otter Lake. At the end of the boardwalk there’s a junction and sign to indicate that Doe Lake Loop is to the right and Arab Lake Gorge Trail to the left.
We first hiked along the Doe Lake Trail (3km, rated easy to moderate). The trail winds through the forest and wetlands, follows the shores of South Otter and Doe Lakes, and passes several beaver ponds along the way. The trail was a bit sodden and muddy in places, but much of the ground was still frozen from last night. The sun was shining though and warming everything up, including the mud.
The trail is well signed with blue markers with a hiker symbol and contains a series of numbered posts from #1 to #12. Apparently there is an interpretive brochure available, but the Park Office was closed for Easter. The trail also contains a few signs to indicate distance travelled and distance remaining to get back to the Park Office along with a few benches, often at scenic viewpoints.
Midway through, there is a small detour along the trail that leads to the Kemp Mine, which is really just a pit that has since been fenced off, but you can somewhat peak inside. As early as 1860, William Kemp began building a homestead around Otter Lake. The farm remained in the family for four generations. They added barns, increased acreage under cultivation and worked the mica mine located here along the trail. After George Kemp’s death in 1909, the property was rented out to local farmers and summer rental cottages were added on the point near the Park Office. The Kemp home was destroyed in a fire in the late 1940s. Many of the other buildings that belonged to the homestead have been reclaimed by nature and only an L-shaped section of the root cellar and a rock walled well remains.
The trail loops back to the junction. This time we turned left to hike along the Arab Lake Gorge Trail (1.5km, rated easy to moderate). The first stretch follows along a wooden boardwalk through a wetland in the valley. The path then steadily climbs up the edge of the gorge and leads back to the Park Office. The trail is well signed with blue markers with a hiker symbol and contains a series of numbered posts from #1 to #9.
We wrapped up our hikes just after 12p.m. Even though the parking lot was completely full by the time we finished, we didn’t encounter too many people on the trails. The great thing about Frontenac is that since there are a variety of hiking options, it gives people more opportunity to spread out.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here