Hiking in Frontenac Provincial Park

Length of stay1 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.

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My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

64 thoughts on “Hiking in Frontenac Provincial Park

  1. Lookoom says:

    There has been a major effort to develop boardwalks with signs, plus information on past uses of the site. This is a change from pure nature walks but adds an interesting cultural dimension.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Sometimes boardwalks are constructed to protect a sensitive area or simply to help hikers keep their feet dry over marshy areas. I’ve come to appreciate these boardwalks, especially in the spring when the trail is usually sodden. It’s also neat learning more about the history of a park through signs and panels found along the trail. It’s a good way to add some education in with the exercise.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. It always helps to have blue skies and sun when hiking. We’ve been to Frontenac in the fall and winter before, so it was nice to return during the spring to see how the landscape looks in a different season. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kagould17 says:

    It must be a fine line between the green of spring and mosquito and fly season with so much water around. We have stayed away from one hike with boardwalk here, as it presents distancing challenges when things get busy. Thanks for sharing and stay well. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The mosquitoes usually come out to play in Southern Ontario in mid-May. We usually steer clear of wetlands then until late in the summer. Boardwalks have definitely become a bit tricky during the pandemic. So far we haven’t had too many issues as we tend to hit the trails pretty early before the crowds arrive. Given how cases have been rising here, we haven’t been doing as much hiking, or if we do go hiking, we try to go to less popular parks that are further from the city. Thanks for reading. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ab says:

    How beautiful in the Spring time. It’s always interesting to note how vastly different the experience is from season to season.

    I love a good boardwalk hike. Something about it just feels so calming.

    It’s such a nice day out today and makes me restless for nature. 3.5 months till summer roadtrip and counting down every minute! 😄

    I can only imagine how full the trails are going to be now with the warmer weather. Stay safe and enjoy! And Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed, it’s always nice to return to a place in a different season for a different experience. We’ve been to Frontenac in the fall and winter, so it was neat to visit in the spring, especially when we had such beautiful weather and blue skies. It’s always good to have a trip to look forward to. I just reserved our final campsite for our Northern Ontario road trip a few days ago and I too am counting down the days!! Fingers crossed it’s not too busy. I can only imagine what they must think of all us folks from Toronto coming down to visit!! Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        Congrats on getting your roadtrip booked. What a great feeling that must be. It is going to be nuts this summer, I can imagine. I was reading a guy on social media was like 1,900 on the waitlist for a campsite with a federal park. Crazy. Which park did you reserve at – out of curiosity? No worries if you’d rather not spoil the surprise for your readers!

        I would like to hope the locals welcome the tourism – in a safe way. I can only imagine how the economies in the rural parts must be during this pandemic, especially when they really on the tourism.

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Oh gosh. I’m glad we decided to just stick with camping at provincial parks this year. Who knew camping would become so popular?! We’ll be staying at a different park most nights on our 2-week Northern Ontario road trip. We plan on driving up through Timmins and along Hwy 11 to Thunderbay. From there we’ll head to Kenora, come back to Thunderbay, and then drive along Hwy 17 around Lake Superior on the return trip home. I’m sure us tourists are a double edged sword for the locals. In some ways, it’s a good way to bring in money to the area, but on the other, if it becomes so crowded that the locals can’t enjoy their parks and attractions, well, I’m sure that’ll bring resentment. We booked our road trip for September, so we’re hoping it won’t be too busy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        I hear you and can totally understand about the over crowdedness and resentment. I suspect the more local parks near Toronto and GTA will be crowded. Fingers crossed not as crowded out North.

        That’s amazing you’re going up to Kenora. We thought about it but it’s too far for our little one. Maybe one day when he’s older; we want to home the Top of the Giant trail with him one day.

        2 weeks sound like heaven and they’ll be here before you know it!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The local parks near the GTA have usually been busy even before the pandemic. I can’t imagine what they’ll be like this summer!! I’m really excited to spend more time around the Thunder Bay area. Last summer we didn’t make it as far as Thunder Bay and turned around at Sleeping Giant. The Top of the Giant Trail is probably my favourite hike in all of Ontario. We’re hoping to hike it again on our road trip. Who knows, if we’re still in pandemic mode next year, you can always plan to visit Kenora then!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        I can’t remember if you did Ouimet and Eagle Canyon. You can do both on the same day as they’re so close each other. Highly recommend them!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. Frontenac has such a neat landscape with all its rocky outcrops, ponds and marshes. It was nice to visit on such a beautiful day, even though the trails were a bit muddy. We’ve had an unseasonably warm start to April, but it’s cooled off considerably the past week. Apparently we’re supposed to even get some snow again on Wednesday!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I am extremely grateful that we have so many parks and green spaces here in Ontario and that we’re able to enjoy them during the pandemic. Frontenac is one of my favourites. We’ve visited a few times over the past year since it’s close to our cabin. Canada is known for its nature and wilderness, but we don’t have those charming towns and villages and historic sites that are scattered around the UK. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You bet! It’s good to take advantage of the nice weather during the spring and go for a hike. The downside to hiking during this time of the year is the mud. And yes, it can definitely be slippery!! If the trail is really bad, I’ll stop a few times and use a stick to try to scrape the mud off my boots to make them less heavy and to get better traction.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. We’ve been here in the winter when the landscape is covered in snow and late in the fall after all the leaves had fallen from the trees. It was nice to return in the spring for a different perspective and to see hints of growth.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ourcrossings says:

    This looks like a wonderful hike. It found that my personal levels of happiness were higher when I was spending time outdoors rather than indoors even during the cold and breezy winter/early spring days. Being outdoors provides opportunities to escape from the stresses of being confined at home, maintain social relationships with others, and engage in physical activity – all of which can improve mental health. Thanks for sharing and happy trails. Aiva 🙂 xxx

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I am at my happiest when I’m surrounded by nature. The nice thing about the pandemic is that we’ve been spending more time outdoors exploring new parks and trails. We try to go for at least one hike every weekend, assuming it’s not raining. It’s nice to see how the landscape changes throughout the seasons. It definitely is a good way to release some stress and helps keep me grounded and balanced. Thanks for reading. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was very thankful for those boardwalk sections as it meant we didn’t have to wade through the puddles or maneuver around the mud! Frontenac is such a beautiful park and the scenery is incredible. There are lots of rocky outcrops, beaver ponds and marshes. It was nice to visit on such a beautiful day and soak in the views.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It helped that we had such fabulous weather, which makes the landscape seem even more vibrant and lively. We’ve been to Frontenac a couple times before, but never in the spring, so it was nice to visit during a different season for a different experience. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    That’s a big park! I agree with Allan about boardwalks and distancing. Will your parks get busier with the newest restrictions? Looks like a great walking/hiking park but yes, you might need bug spray a bit later on with all that water!

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s great visiting parks like Frontenac where there are more opportunities for people to spread out. Boardwalks can definitely be a bit tricky. We went to a conservation area last year where they made one of their trails that followed along a boardwalk one-way, which helped. But that doesn’t always work well if the trail doesn’t form a loop. So far the new restrictions don’t impact our parks too much, besides the fact that camping and backcountry camping are closed. Our government has made parks free to visit on Monday to Thursday during the summer to encourage more people to visit. They also reduced the price of annual passes and made them valid for two years instead of one. While I’m all in favour of free, I’d rather just pay the full price to ensure our parks continue to receive the support they need, especially to deal with more visitors. And yes, soon I’ll have to start packing bug spray with me. I stocked up last year when it went on sale at Costco. I have enough bug spray to last 2-3 years!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks, it helped that we had such wonderful weather to go for a hike. My pictures always turn out so much better when the sun is shining. The wildflowers are just starting to bloom here, so we’re looking forward to going on another hike this weekend. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Live Laugh Dis says:

    We were actually supposed to visit here early last fall…but Covid had its own idea. So….still on the bucket list. LOL As usual, your pictures are beautiful! Thanks for the article. -Andrea

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Hopefully you’ll be able to visit Frontenac once this pandemic becomes more under control. It’s such a lovely area in Ontario with its rocky outcrops and wetlands. The scenery and hiking are fantastic. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Like

  7. alisendopf says:

    It’s funny how certain words or places filter down the line. I’ve heard of Frontenac, but had no concept of why it was popular. I can now fully appreciate why this is spoken of so much and so highly. The canoe routes sound particularly interesting. Have you done them? Overnight canoe trips through there?

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Our cabin is located in Frontenac County, so naturally we’ve spent a bit of time exploring some of the trails in Frontenac Provincial Park. The landscape is beautiful with its rocky outcrops and abundance of lakes and beaver ponds. We’ve only ever visited for the day and explored the park on foot, but would love to go backpacking here and check out some of the canoe routes. There are a small number of campsites available year-round, but they tend to book up quickly, even prior to the pandemic. We might try to visit later in the fall depending on the weather.

      Liked by 1 person

      • alisendopf says:

        Oh, I didn’t realize that’s where your cabin is. Beautiful country. I love the maze of lakes you have. It is endless adventure. I officially nominate you to do a multiday backpack or canoe trip this year!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Ha, thanks! We were hoping to buy a canoe this summer, but it looks like equipment for any sort of recreational activity has become harder to find because of the pandemic either because of limited supply or increased demand (or both). Either way, looking forward to being out on the water and away from the crowds. While backcountry camping involves more work and energy, it’s usually worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • alisendopf says:

        Tell me about it. We had to build some bikes for our kids because trying to find what we wanted was impossible. We are bringing in parts from all over the world, because our local bike stores can’t get anything for us. You know how bad it is when the bike shop is telling us to go online to purchase…

        I say wait a year or two. There will be lots of folks who bought a lot of pandemic toys that are now sitting idle in their garages. You might be able to pick up some pretty nice equipment at a great price.

        We have a pine strip canoe that my father-in-law made for my wedding present. It’s a lake canoe, and would look absolutely gorgeous paddling all around Ontario. Why pine and not cedar? We only have pine trees in Alberta, so that’s the wood he used.

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Wow. First of all, that’s amazing that you even know how to build a bike. Sounds like such a hassle to have to order parts from all over the world due to lack of availability. I hope your kids will get a lot of use and enjoyment from their bikes after all that hard work to put them together!

        Good point about waiting a year or two to buy a canoe. There are lots of impulse purchases going on. Canoeing, and just even strapping the canoe onto your car, can require a lot of effort. I’m sure some people will realize that it’s not the activity for them or get bored with it. That’s incredible that your father-in-law made a canoe. It sounds like such a special wedding present.

        Liked by 1 person

      • alisendopf says:

        For building the bikes, thankfully there’s a youtube tutorial for that 🙂 Not that I’M doing any of it. My hubby is the handy one in the house. I’m relegated to bringing him cold water and making sympathetic noises. Plus, we got super lucky. One of his co-workers used to be a bike mechanic. He has all the tools, and is coming over next week to do the final build!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thank goodness for the internet and for knowing people who are handy! The other day, one of my coworkers mentioned that he sold some of his kids’ old bikes and made a great profit. Looks like bikes are in high demand everywhere it seems. That’s exciting that the bikes are almost built!! I’m sure you’re planning a great cycling route for your kids to test them out.

        Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There is no shortage of beautiful lakes in Ontario. This means there are great opportunities for swimming, canoeing and hiking along the water! I was actually planning on visiting Utah last year, but we had to change our plans because of COVID. I’d love to take a road trip through there and visit all the various national parks. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s amazing! We’re hoping to visit Utah next year or perhaps later in the fall after we are fully vaccinated. The hiking there looks incredible! I’ll have to read more of your posts for inspiration and ideas!

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