Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: July 2021
Arrowhead Provincial Park is located near Huntsville in the heart of Muskoka and is open year-round. It offers plenty of opportunities to connect with nature in all four seasons. In the summer Arrowhead offers camping across three campgrounds, has 15km of hiking trails and three sandy beaches and provides rental canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and mountain bikes.
Day 1: The Main Attractions
We arrived at Arrowhead in the mid-afternoon. After checking in at the Park Office, we drove to our site to set up our tent. Except it was terrible. Sure, it was secluded, but the whole site was covered in gravel and rocks and there were a bunch of trees that had fallen over near the edge of the site. Since neither of us were looking for an excuse to buy a new sleeping pad, we decided to drive back to the Park Office to see if we could switch sites. They gave us a list of six options that were in our current campground in the radio-free zone (we weren’t about to give that up). We then drove back to the campground to scope them out. We found something that we liked and drove back to swap sites. Crisis averted.
Since the Mayflower Lake Trail (2km loop, rated moderate) is conveniently located by the Park Office we figured we might as well hike it. The trail follows along the shore of Mayflower Lake and then winds through the forest. There are some hilly sections and the trail was a bit muddy in places, especially near the amphitheatre, but overall it wasn’t bad.
Afterwards we drove to the Big Bend Lookout. There’s a short path that leads to a viewing platform. It is apparently one of the best places in Ontario to view the inside of a glacial delta.
Big Bend is a delta that was formed thousands of years ago from the melting of glaciers. The melt waters collided with Lake Algonquin and was forced to slow down and drop its load of sand and silt. Eventually the ice melted and Lake Algonquin drained away to form Lake Huron. Over 10,000 years ago, the Big East River gradually carved into this valley, exposing the sandy layers of the delta. The East River flows into Algonquin and has been eroding Big Bend around one metre each year. Over time Big Bend will become an oxbow lake and sediment will eventually fill in the old channel.
We then went to hike along Stubbs Falls (2km loop, rated easy). There are a few access points to the trail, but we parked in the East River Campground, which is closest to the falls. The path meanders along the river. There are a series of wooden steps down into the gorge and a bridge to cross over the river. We climbed over and around the rock piles to get a nice view of the rushing water.
Most people only stop to check out the falls, but we continued on the main trail through the forest. It soon became apparent why there was no one else on this portion of the trail as oh wow was it muddy and wet. We contemplated turning around a few times, but we continued onwards thinking it couldn’t possibly get any worse. It gets worse. K even slipped and fell in the mud. That’s how bad it got.
The trail then connects with the road. We crossed the bridge and hiked on the opposite side of the river. This portion of the path was much better as it was on higher ground and the path was flat and sandy.
We returned to our site to change into our bathing suits to was away all the mud on our legs. Arrowhead has three sandy beaches, including one in our campground, so we decided to just walk to that one. The water was nice and refreshing. We swam to the beach area on the opposite side of the river and back again. We then returned to our campsite to start a fire and eat a late dinner.
Day 2: Arrowhead Lake
We woke up to another hazy day outside. I walked down to the beach area and took a couple of pictures and then headed back to pack up.
After eating breakfast we headed out for one last hike along the Arrowhead Lake Trail (5.1km loop, rated easy), which circles the shore of Arrowhead Lake. There are a few access points to get to the trail, including down by the beach area in our campground. There were a few sections that were a bit tricky to navigate as the path wasn’t clearly marked, but we tried to stick to the shoreline as much as possible. Thankfully this trail wasn’t very muddy.
Once we wrapped up our hike we were ready to return home.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here