Summary of our Ontario Parks Challenge

At the beginning of 2021 we decided to set an ambitious goal for ourselves. Ontario was in a strict province-wide lockdown and travelling abroad was not looking promising. So we created the Ontario Parks Challenge where our goal was to visit as many provincial parks as we could.

There are over 330 provincial parks scattered across Ontario. Some of these parks are operational and offer camping and other facilities and activities, while others are wilderness preserves or non-operating parks with limited services. Either way, some of the best hiking trails, canoe routes, and sandy beaches in Ontario can be found within the boundaries of these provincial parks.

By the end of year we managed to visit 107 provincial parks. Below are some highlights from our challenge:

Algonquin Provincial Park – Exploring the backcountry by canoe

With hundreds of interconnecting lakes, ponds, and river systems Algonquin is easily one of the best places in the world to explore the backcountry by canoe. It’s become an annual tradition for us to head into the interior of the park by canoe for a few days every summer. In 2021, we went to Manitou Lake, which involved the most intense paddle of my life against the wind and waves, but we had an incredible campsite complete with our own private sandy beach.

Batchawana Bay Provincial Park – Dipping our toes in the water

Batchawana Bay features a beautiful sandy beach and is reputed to have the warmest water along the Lake Superior shoreline. It took a bit of convincing, but I somehow managed to convince everyone that we should dip our feet into the freezing cold water. It felt oddly refreshing after a long day of hiking.

Blue Lake Provincial Park – Feeling swamped (but in a good way)

A fen is a unique type of peat-forming wetland that supports a diverse plant and animal community. During our two week road trip around Northern Ontario we stopped at Blue Lake to hike along the Spruce Fen Trail to take a closer look at the species found in this acidic environment. The trail is short and sweet and follows along a boardwalk. There are also interpretive signs along the way that provide more information about the importance of fens and the types of plants that can be found here.

Fushimi Lake Provincial Park – Soaking in the sun

We fell in love with Northern Ontario when we visited (not once, but twice) in 2020 that we decided to return, except this time for longer. We planned a two-week road trip to return to some of our favourite parks and to explore many new ones as well. We had a bit of a rough start in terms of the weather, but things were finally starting to look up when we visited Fushimi Lake. We arrived just in time to watch the sunset on Achilles Lake. It’s amazing how all it takes is some nice weather to lift our spirits.

Inverhuron Provincial Park – Swimming in the waves

Located along the shore of Lake Huron, Inverhuron boasts of having one of the nicest sandy beaches in southern Ontario. We visited early in the summer during a road trip to Manitoulin Island on a particularly hot and humid day. Even though it was overcast and there was a threat of rain on the forecast, we enjoyed swimming in the refreshingly cold wavy water.

Killarney Provincial Park – Staying warm in a cabin

Killarney is located along the rugged shores of Georgian Bay. It is open year-round and provides a variety of camping options, including a couple of heated cabins. We visited Killarney in December after a fresh snowfall and experienced a quieter side of the park when there aren’t too many people around.

Lake Superior Provincial Park – Camping on the beach

Lake Superior is one of the oldest and largest provincial parks in Ontario. It is located along the eastern shore of Lake Superior and features some pretty awesome trails that showcase the rugged beauty of the area. Lake Superior also offers a few different options for camping, including right on the beach at Agawa Bay. This was easily one of the best places we’ve ever camped. Talk about a room (or rather campsite) with a view.

MacGregor Point Provincial Park – Trying winter camping for the first time

Ontario was under a strict province-wide lockdown at the beginning of 2021, so we decided to try winter camping at MacGregor Point. In a tent. We had no issues keeping ourselves warm during the day as there are plenty of trails throughout the park. It was a bit of a struggle in the evening though, especially since the sun sets pretty early. But we survived. Overall it wasn’t too bad, but we don’t have any plans to go winter camping again anytime soon.

Neys Provincial Park – Appreciating nature and its connection to art

Neys? More like yays! The park is located on the sandy shore of Lake Superior and offers a variety of hiking trails that weave through the different habitats in the park, including ancient sand dunes, dense forests, pebble beaches, and rocky overcrops. It’s no surprise that this scenic landscape and wild shoreline provided much inspiration to the Group of Seven painters.

Pigeon River Provincial Park – Chasing waterfalls

Pigeon River is part of the Voyageur Boundary Waters Canadian Heritage River that protects a system of lakes and rivers that run along the international border of Ontario and Minnesota. It is a day-use park that is open year-round and offers a range of hiking trails that provide countless opportunities to view the river, falls and surrounding area. The trails are all well-signed and the scenery is spectacular.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park – Getting stranded on an (almost) island

Presqu’ile in French means “almost island” as it is joined to the mainland by an extremely narrow piece of land. It is open year-round, features a long sandy beach and has a variety of trails that wind through the various habitats in the park, including forests, wetlands and sand dunes. Presqu’ile is one of my favourite parks in Ontario, so much so that I visited twice in 2021.

Quetico Provincial Park – Sitting by the campfire

Quetico is a wilderness park and is reputed to be an amazing place to canoe, camp and just enjoy the great outdoors. While we were only here for one night, we had a fabulous time exploring the trails. We also had an awesome campsite by the water, which we naturally had to take advantage of by having a campfire to enjoy the views. There’s just something so mesmerizing about watching the flames flicker and dance in the dark.

Sandbar Lake Provincial Park – Watching the (fake) wildlife

Sandbar Lake features a unique hiking trail, the Silhouette Trail, which weaves through jack pine woods, aspen forest and wetlands. Along the way there are signs that provide more information about the flora and fauna in the area, including a series of wildlife silhouettes. A few of these animal silhouettes looked a bit too realistic and took us by surprise, which then resulted in lots of laughter.

Sioux Narrows Provincial Park – Searching for mushrooms

Sioux Narrows is located in northwestern Ontario close to the border of Manitoba. While we didn’t spend much time at this park, we did hike along the Lookout Point Trail, which leads to a nice overlook of Lake of the Woods. But the real highlight of the trail was the amazing display of mushrooms that we found along the way.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park – Hiking one of the best trails in Ontario

Sleeping Giant consists of a series of mesas that when viewed from Thunder Bay, resemble a giant lying on its back. The park has just over 100 km of hiking trails that weave through the forest, past towering cliffs, and along the rocky coast. One of our favourite trails that we’ve ever hiked is the Top of the Giant Trail in Sleeping Giant. The trail leads to the top of one of the tallest cliffs in Ontario and is reputed to provide panoramic views of the surrounding area. Despite its name, Sleeping Giant is anything but sleepy. But hiking to the Top Giant can make you tired as it’s 21.8km round trip. But it’s so worth it.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

84 thoughts on “Summary of our Ontario Parks Challenge

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We typically spend our vacation days outside of Ontario, so it was nice to finally explore more of what’s in our own backyard. It turns out Ontario is pretty scenic, especially up north. And to think, we probably would have never visited most of these parks if it weren’t for the pandemic.

      Like

  1. Ab says:

    One of the blessings of this pandemic was definitely the invitation to explore our Ontario Parks.

    Congrats on the amazing achievement that you and K – and special guests – travelled and visited; and to all those park crests accumulated!

    I enjoyed every update and photo that you shared and felt like I was there with you. I still long for that Lake Superior drive and look forward to visiting places like Neys that we glossed over last time.

    Congrats and look forward to your next adventures this summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Let’s be real, we probably would have never ventured up to Northern Ontario if it weren’t for the pandemic and all the travel restrictions. This challenge provided great motivation to stay local and appreciate what it’s in our own backyard (plus it gave us a good excuse to collect those cute park crests).

      The drive along Lake Superior and visiting all the provincial parks along the way was one of my favourite highlights of 2021. I guess that explains why nearly one third of the parks included in my summary of our Ontario Parks Challenge were along that stretch!

      This year I haven’t made any ambitious challenges for ourselves, but we are still enjoying Ontario’s provincial parks.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I had a blast exploring Ontario’s provincial parks and making the most of all the travel restrictions from the pandemic. And hey, I’m glad we took all those road trips last year when the price of gas was much lower!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kagould17 says:

    Excellent summary Linda and some beautiful photos. Congrats on seeing almost 1/3 of the parks. That is a real achievement. There are some beautiful places to visit in Ontario for sure. Thanks for taking us all along. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It was an ambitious challenge, but overall I’m pretty pleased with our progress. It was a great reason to explore more of our home province and spend more time outdoors. It also makes me appreciate just how many provincial parks we have! Thanks for following along on our adventures. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  3. wetanddustyroads says:

    Wow … 107 parks!! Well done Linda 👏👏. I remember your canoe weekend at Algonquin (and that sandy beach) – that was one of my favourites too. Those views at Lake Superior must have been one of the best during your hikes in Provincial Parks. One of my favourite photo’s however is that one with the campfire at Quetico 😉. You have seen so many beautiful hiking trails at these Provincial Parks – hats off for being a true ambassador!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! I’m such an Ontario Parks fan girl! This challenge truly made me appreciate just how many wonderful provincial parks we have right here in Ontario. We had a lot of fun trying to visit as many as we could and exploring the different areas in our province. Plus, it was a great reason for being outdoors. Cheers. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. Many thanks for following along on our adventures. I had an amazing time exploring more of my own backyard. It goes to show just how important it is to have provincial parks and green spaces for all to enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was quite the ambitious challenge and overall I’m happy with how many parks we managed to visit in a single year. It was a great excuse to explore more of our own backyard, something we often neglected prior to the pandemic. We certainly made lots of wonderful memories and have a newfound appreciation for living in Ontario.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    So great 👍🏻🌷🙏 I really enjoyed this travelling video , super view of lakesides , the calm waves of
    The oceans, amazing waterfall, the Bear , very majestic rocks and above all the beauty of your
    Country nature 🌷🙏♥️👍🏻🌷thank you for sharing and grace wishes 👏🖖🌸

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Isn’t it amazing just how many provincial parks we have here in Ontario? It was such a fun challenge and it was nice to have something to work towards in 2021. As for what’s next, we actually haven’t set a goal or challenge for ourselves for this year. We’ve been spending quite a bit of time at home and fixing up our backyard. I have really embraced gardening, which shouldn’t be all that surprising given my love of the outdoors. We have a few trips planned to explore more of Canada though.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. salsaworldtraveler says:

    That you made it to more than 100 provincial parks in one year is pretty amazing. Having read the posts from many of those visits I see that your task was very enjoyable. Ontario has many places to experience the varied beauty of nature and history of the people and places. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I tend to take where I live for granted, so this challenge was a great opportunity to explore more of my home province. I had no idea that Ontario’s wilderness was so beautiful. I still can’t get over just how many provincial parks we have!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Our Ontario Parks Challenge gave us a good reason to spend more time outdoors and explore areas of our province we’ve never been to before. We made a lot of wonderful memories and it’s made me realize just how important it is to have all these green spaces for all to enjoy. Thanks for reading and following along on our adventures.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s hard to believe just how many parks we visited in 2021! Overall I’m super pleased with our progress on our Ontario Parks Challenge and it was a great way to visit many places we’ve never been before. Many thanks for following along on our adventures.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    That’s a fabulous accomplishment, Linda, and such a great project. Congratulations! Thanks for providing this review with your wonderful photos. I think my favourite is of the water lilies and bow of the canoe – so iconically Canadian. I really enjoyed following along as you explored so many of Ontario’s parks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for following along on our adventures. This challenge was a great way to see more of Ontario and it’s made me realize just how beautiful it is. There’s so many fabulous parks and different ways to enjoy the outdoors. Our pristine wilderness is one of things that makes Canada unique. I hope we’ll never lose sight of that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I had a wonderful time with our Ontario Parks challenge and it was a great way to explore more of what’s in my own backyard. It makes me appreciate just how many provincial parks we have.

      Like

  7. Bama says:

    I found your blog along the way, when you were in the middle of completing the challenge, and it’s been great to see Ontario’s provincial parks through your perspective. Having managed to visit 107 of them is no mean feat! It’s nice to know that across the globe, one thing many of us share during the pandemic (and lockdowns with different levels of strictness) is how it brings us closer to nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I couldn’t agree more about how this pandemic has really encouraged more people to embrace the outdoors. It’s also provided a great opportunity to stay local and explore closer to home. This challenge has really made me appreciate all the green spaces we here in Ontario. Thanks for following along on our hiking adventures. Cheers. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ourcrossings says:

    Congratulations on visiting 107 parks, Linda, That’s a fantastic achievement! I love your wonderful photos – it goes to show you how much beauty can be found in your backyard and that we don’t always have to travel overseas to have a proper adventure 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It’s funny to think that we probably would have never visited many of these parks if it weren’t for the pandemic. Our Ontario Parks challenge has really made me appreciate where we live and all our green spaces we have.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It was the perfect challenge to keep us busy and it gave us a good reason to explore places (or rather parks) closer to home. I continue to be amazed at how scenic my home province of Ontario is, especially up north.

      Like

  9. Josy A says:

    I have been loving following your onario parks adventures! You are showing their parks off so well- I feel like the tourism ontario should sponsor your adventures (or at least, give you a bunch of the patches that you love!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s hard to believe that we had a lot of rain earlier in the day. It’s funny how all it takes is some sunshine to make us feel good again. Watching the sunset was a great way to end the day. While we’ve finished our challenge, we still plan on visiting a few Ontario parks this year. We’re also hoping to see more of Canada.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. alisendopf says:

    CONGRATULATIONS on completing your challenge. 107 parks! Wow. You really went for it. Well done!!! What a great way to spend your year.

    Thanks for the fantastic round-up. It was like going down memory lane for me too, as I easily recognized all of the spots in your photos. I can see this being a wonderful photo book – My Year of Ontario Parks 🙂

    I can’t wait to see what you think up next. Your 52 Hikes inspired me, 100% by accident. After reading along on your 52 hikes, I realized at the of 2021 that I had indeed done 52 hikes! I need to find the time to write about it, but I’ll be thanking you when I do.

    Alisen

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! I’m thrilled at how many provincial parks we managed to visit in a single year. It was a great way to explore more of Ontario and to keep us active. We sure racked up a lot of mileage on our car, but I’d say the timing worked out well considering that gas was half the price then compared to what it is now! I like the idea of making a photo album to showcase all the parks we visited!

      That’s amazing that you completed 52 hikes last year!! That’s very impressive, especially considering how many of the hikes you do have significant elevation gains and losses. You should definitely do a recap post to summarize the highlights and how much distance you covered!

      Liked by 1 person

      • alisendopf says:

        I agree – you picked the right time to go as you had many of the parks to yourself, and gas was cheap. I’m now rethinking my trips to the mountains as it costs me over $100 to fill up my car, whereas it used to be anywhere from $50-$60. I’d camp overnight, but those spots fill up months in advance. Just a no-win situation.

        I actually just wrote up the 52 Hike Challenge 🙂 It will be out soon. I thought I only had 51 hikes, but found an extra one when making a final list for something else. Woot! Woot! You definitely inspired me.

        Like

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The price of gas is just outrageous these days and unfortunately it just keeps going up. I hear yah, it’s hard to justify certain day trips. It’s certainly made hiking more expensive. Speaking of hiking, I’m looking forward to hearing about your 52 hikes challenge!! Sounds like it was meant to be with hiking exactly 52 times!!

        Like

      • alisendopf says:

        My subconscious was working in the background to get me those 52 hikes, that’s for sure. You were a massive inspiration for that Linda. Thank you for the motivation 🥰💖🥰

        Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! It was the perfect challenge to get us through another strange year and a great excuse to explore more of Ontario. It sounds like you’ve already hit up a few of the popular parks. I would highly recommend taking a road trip along the northern shore of Lake Superior. Some of my favourite parks are along this stretch. Plus the drive is incredibly scenic.

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  11. usfman says:

    I do not not read many travel blogs that fulfill such place ambitions as you do.If you could pick just one or two us for us Americans to visit, what would they be?

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was tough to even come up with this summary post to highlight a few of the parks that we visited as part of our Ontario Parks Challenge. But, if I could just pick one park to recommend, it would have to be Algonquin. It’s not too far from Toronto and there’s a nice range of outdoor activities and camping options. There’s a bit of something here for everyone.

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