Camping at Arrowhead Provincial Park

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.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

62 thoughts on “Camping at Arrowhead Provincial Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We visited this park before in the winter, but it was nice to see the landscape in the summer with all the greenery. It’s too bad that a severe thunderstorm rolled through here a couple of days before we visited as some of the trails were really muddy. Either way, we still had a great time. Take care. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Big Bend overlook is beautiful. No wonder the park showcases it on their badges and stickers. I’m not sure what was going on with our original site. It looked like the area around the edges of the site were eroding, which probably explains why they added all that gravel and rocks. The park office didn’t seem surprised when we asked to switch sites, another sign to indicate that it probably happens all the time. Either way, I’m glad we were able to trade up for a better one and remain in the radio-free zone.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ab says:

    Arrowhead looks so beautiful. It’s on my to visit list one of these days! The Big Bend is an iconic view and I see it all the time. Just out of curiousity, how high up are you? It’s hard to tell the perspective from the photos.

    Sorry that K fell in the slippery mud but it definitely is a story to tell!

    Coincidentally enough, I was reading about Arrowhead just yesterday. Their winter skating trail looks magical and is on my to visit list hopefully this winter.

    https://www.blogto.com/travel/2021/11/arrowhead-provincial-park-ice-skating-trail/

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always great to see parks that are open year round and try to offer different activities and experiences depending on the season. We visited Arrowhead during the winter a few years ago and went skating on their ice trail. It definitely looked and felt magical. There was even a fire pit to warm up by afterwards. I’d love to return and see what the skating trail is like in the evening though when the path is lit by torchlights.

      Big Bend is easily the most scenic lookout in Arrowhead. There’s a viewing platform that gives you a good view into the river and valley below. I’m not sure how high up we were though, but high enough to soak in the good views of the surrounding area.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        Glad to hear your great review of the skating trail. Makes me want to Check it out even more.

        Interesting to hear about viewing platform too. Hope to check it out next summer! 🤞🏻

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Same. I know Arrowhead was part of the parks pilot where you were encouraged to reserve your day-use permit in advance. I wonder if that’ll continue in the winter. I remember it being busy a few years ago when we visited so I can only imagine how much worse the crowds are now during the pandemic.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The mud is never fun to hike through. Besides your shoes becoming dirty, you don’t get as much grip and the ground is more slippery. Thankfully we were able to go for a swim afterwards to clean up. Big Bend provides such a lovely view and is easily one of the highlights of the park. The haze from the skies were from the forest fires in northwestern Ontario. The further we drove up north, the worse it became.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. pstachowski says:

    Ah, mud! It brought back a memory of slogging through mid-thigh muck to portage around a beaver dam once upon a time. Little incidents like do indeed make for good story-telling–especially around a campfire.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Now that sounds like a lot of mud and not a fun experience! Hopefully you didn’t get any leeches. Beaver dams can be tricky to maneuver over and around when canoeing. Agreed, it does make for a good story afterwards!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks, the Big Bend overlook was easily the most scenic viewpoint in the park. It’s always neat to learn more about how the landscape was shaped and how it will continue to change over time. Mud seemed to be the theme of that road trip. It’s too bad those boardwalks didn’t extend over the muddy areas though. Going for a swim was a good way to clean up afterwards.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It certainly seems that way! There was a severe thunderstorm that rolled in through the area the day before we headed out for our road trip. As a result, we encountered more flooding and muddy sections on the trail than usual. It could have been worse though. Thankfully we weren’t camping during that storm!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Big Bend viewpoint is easily one of the highlights of this park. It does look very symmetrical. We usually try to book a site in the radio-free zone if it’s offered. We’ve had too many bad experiences. I like to camp to get some peace and quiet and just enjoy nature, not someone’s tacky music. Not all parks have a radio-free zone, but they are becoming more popular these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. coloradochelsea says:

    Big Bend is super cool! I’ve never seen anything like that before! And you’ll have to apologize to K for me, for laughing about them falling in the mud LOL! (ThoughI would have fallen too…) Looks like a nice park except for the mud.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Big Bend overlook is easily the nicest viewpoint in the park. It was neat to learn how it was formed and what it will look like over time. We’ve had our fair share of muddy trails this year, but this one was probably the worst. Thankfully the mud cushioned K’s fall and he didn’t hurt himself. We’ve never been so eager to go for a swim afterwards! It was a good way to clean up and cool down.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Planet Paul says:

    Big Bend and that last pic are great! The colour of the falls over the rocks with a hint of sun too I think, also look good.

    Interesting to see how so many hiking areas in such a vast country have such well maintained man made wooden walking tracks/bridges etc.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The Big Bend overlook is simply stunning and a great spot to just enjoy nature’s work. Given how close this park is to the city, it’s quite popular, even in the winter. It’s always nice to hike along a trail that’s well-signed and is maintained. Too bad they couldn’t have extended the boardwalk over all the muddy sections though!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. I love being by the water first thing in the morning. There are no crowds and the water is usually calm and as smooth as glass. The red sunrise looked a bit erie from all the haze, but it made for a great shot.

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  5. kagould17 says:

    Looks like a great place. I love the Big Bend. It reminds me of a mini Riverbend in Edmonton. Gotta hate wide muddy wet trails, with no bypass. A fair bit of smoke in the sunrise shot, but very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a lovely park and it’s nice that it’s open year round. It would be nice to return through the different seasons and photograph the Big Bend. Ugh, don’t even get me started on the mud. There was a severe thunderstorm that rolled through here just before our camping trip, which made the campgrounds and trails muddier than usual. I guess it could have been worse. Thankfully we weren’t actually camping during the storm. The wildfires were especially bad this year in Ontario. The further north we drove, the worse it got. It does make for some interesting photo opportunities though. Thanks for reading. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  6. BACK ROADS AND OTHER STORIES says:

    You do have an interesting relationship with mud! Arrowhead is a beautiful park though with some nice trails. I just read that they have a special torch-lit skating path for the upcoming holidays. Sounds beautiful. Your pictures and descriptions are fantastic!

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I sure do like to complain about the mud! I just hate getting my shoes dirty and I find I have terrible grip when there’s all this mud caked onto the bottom of my shoes. Arrowhead transforms into a winter wonderland in the winter. We visited in February a few years ago and skated along their ice trail and did some snowshoeing. I’d love to return to see what it’s like in the evening when the path is lined with torches. I bet it’s magical.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Meg says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your adventures and that you included getting muddy on the trail! It sounds like you had a lovely trip overall too!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. Even though it was muddy, I’m glad we explored some of the trails as it’s a great way to see more of the park. It felt amazing going for a swim afterwards to wash away all the mud. We had a great time here and I would definitely come back.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The Big Bend overlook was easily the most scenic viewpoint in the park. It’s amazing how symmetrical it looks. It was neat to learn how it was formed and how it will eventually change over time.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was surprised that was even a site as it looked more like a disaster zone. I’m so glad we were able to switch sites though. The scenery in Arrowhead is beautiful and it’s nice that there are lots of trails, beaches, and other attractions to help spread out the crowds.

      Liked by 1 person

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