Algonquin Provincial Park in the Winter

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: February 2022

Algonquin Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in Ontario and is open all year-round. In the winter the Highway 60 corridor, which travels 56 kilometres across the southwestern corner of the park, is regularly plowed. Along this stretch there are plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating and even winter camping. 

Day 1: Bat Lake

It took us longer than expected to get to Algonquin. We left the house later than usual as we had to first shovel the driveway. We got 15cm of snow the day before and because of all the wind overnight, most of the snow we shovelled the day before ended right back on our driveway. Then the drive took us nearly twice as long as there was a snow squall warning in effect and the blowing snow across the highway significantly reduced visibility. Traffic was slow. There were even a few accidents, including one where part of the highway was closed so we had to go on a bit of a detour. But eventually we made it to Algonquin with a few hours of daylight left. 

We checked in at the West Gate to pick up a map of the trails. We then drove to the trailhead for Bat Lake Trail (5.6km, rated moderate), which is located about midway along the Highway 60 corridor. There were a few cars in the parking lot, but we had no issues finding an empty spot at this time of the day. From the parking lot we found the access point to the trail, except we ended up going the wrong way around the loop. No big deal though.

By the time we hit the trail, the wind had subsided and we were quite sheltered in the forest. Temperature-wise it wasn’t too bad. It was -4°C and felt like -11°C with the windchill. It was mostly overcast, but we could also see the sun between the clouds. The trail was packed down with snow and marked with 13 numbered posts.

The trail winds through a variety of forests, including an impressive hemlock stand, features a lookout of the surrounding area and contains two viewpoints of Bat Lake, a naturally acidic lake that does not have any fish. Since we hiked the loop backwards, the first part of the path was relatively flat. After passing the viewpoints of Bat Lake it’s a super steep climb to the top of the ridge, which leads to an overlook. Since we had a significant rainfall a few days earlier followed by a snowstorm, there were some icy patches. We were glad we wore our snowshoes.

From the overlook it’s a gradual descent into the valley. The real highlight of the trail was the frozen waterfall near viewpoint #4. With the help of our snowshoes we were able to get up close to check it out.

We continued along the main path through the dense forest. The remainder of the trail was relatively flat and we were back at the parking lot in no time. Overall it took us two hours to complete the trail.

On the drive out of the park, we stopped at the turnoff for the Western Uplands, which contains a long multi-day trail with backcountry campsites (32km, 55km and 88km loops). We’re not that hardcore to attempt even the shortest loop, let alone in the winter. But we stopped here to watch the sunset. We walked a few hundred feet to the start of the trail and enjoyed the nice views of the setting sun on the bridge.

We hopped back in the car to warm-up and drive to our accommodations. The downside to visiting during the Family Day long weekend meant that all the hotels and motels within a 50km radius of Algonquin were completely booked. Instead we had to drive just over an hour to Bracebridge to some sketchy motel. Options were limited. The 2 star rating was very appropriate.

Day 2: Mizzy Lake

We woke up to another blustery day outside. Since it was the long weekend, we decided to get an early start to the day to beat the crowds. We planned to hike the Mizzy Lake Trail (10.8km, rated moderate), which is reputed to be a great spot for moose sightings.

We first checked in at the West Gate to inquire about the conditions on the Mizzy Lake Trail and to use the heated washrooms. By the time we got to the trailhead it was just after 9:30a.m and we were the first car in the parking lot. We strapped on our snowshoes and headed out into the forest. This time we hiked the proper way along the trail.

Mizzy Lake Trail loops through the forest and wetlands and visits nine small lakes and ponds. There was a narrow path through the forest that was mostly packed down in the snow. There were also 13 numbered posts and a series of blue circles on the trees to help with navigation.

The first part of the trail was pretty straightforward and scenic. The path hugs the shoreline of a small lake and winds through the forest, providing much protection from the wind. The trail then follows the eastern shore of Mizzy Lake.

Near viewpoint #3, there’s a junction and map of the trail system. For those who have had enough and want to head back, they can take this turnoff to form a smaller loop. At this point we were feeling pretty good, so we continued onwards along the main trail.

The next stretch is entirely flat and winds through a valley. The trail was less packed down with snow here, but we could still see footprints and snowshoe prints in the snow. Once we reached West Rose Lake we were out in the open wind and the blowing snow made it a bit hard to navigate.

At viewpoint #5, there’s a turnoff for the bear’s nests. According to the sign, none of the black bear nests were visible at this time, so we decided to skip it since it would add an additional 1-2 kilometres to our hike and the path did not look well travelled. We would rather save our energy.

We then passed by Wolf Howl Pond. While we didn’t hear any wolf howls, we sure felt the wind howling. The wind had also blown a lot of the snow over the trail, which made navigation a bit tricky. The worst were the boardwalk sections. If you strayed from the main path, which was packed down, you could end up knee deep in the snow.

We were thankful to be back in the forest, even if there were some rolling hills to tackle and a few smaller lakes along the way. We even took a break at one of the benches at viewpoint #11 to eat a snack and drink some water. The trail was harder than we anticipated and we were getting tired. As we were sitting on the bench, we kept thinking about how awesome it would be to see a moose right about now and how that would give us some extra energy. Except we didn’t see a moose. And the issue of taking a break while hiking in the winter is that if you slow down for too long, you can start to feel the cold. So on we went.

After passing Dizzy Lake, it’s a short stretch through the forest and back to the parking lot. There were still some rolling hills to climb up and down, which we were getting real tired of. We were very happy to see our car again. We took off our snowshoes and were ready to head home. Despite the challenge, we were thankful to get some fresh air and exercise. Plus Algonquin just looks so beautiful in the snow.

L

64 thoughts on “Algonquin Provincial Park in the Winter

  1. Dee Min says:

    Ok first thing that reconfirmed you’re such a trooper: “Temperature-wise it wasn’t too bad. It was -4°C and felt like -11°C “. Wasn’t too bad?!?! The sentiments of a trooper indeed. Love the pix especially those of fri.en water fall and the dinse

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Haha, thanks!! I guess it’s all relative. The weekend before we went to Arrowhead Provincial Park and the temperature was nearly -30C when we left in the morning! I can deal with the cold, but it’s the wind that’s always tough. It was all worth it to see the frozen landscape. I’m glad the timing worked out and we were able to pullover somewhere to watch the sunset.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      If you can’t beat the winter, you might as well join it … or rather find winter activities to enjoy the snowy scenery while staying warm! I imagine the waterfall isn’t all that special in the summer, but in the winter, it looked gorgeous with all that frozen ice.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ab says:

    Algonquin is the park I’ve been to the most but never in wintertime. I would love to visit and hike the trails one day during winter. The frozen waterfalls look awesome.

    Those trails – we take the 400 – can be quite treacherous during winter and I can only imagine the frustration when it’s twice as long and with less daylight!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the great things about Algonquin is that there’s a bit of something here for everyone. It’s also neat to see how the landscape transforms through the different seasons. I love how waterfalls just look so much more impressive in the winter when they are frozen.

      Blowing snow is no joke. A few times we considered turning around, but the traffic looked so much worse going the other way that we decided to just keep going. Thankfully we made it in time to hike at least one of the trails, which was better than nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. John says:

    So many beautiful views along your hike, I love it! The waterfall is beautiful, the view of the valley and lake could make a great decoration on your walls at home. -4C is -4F, isn’t it? That’s darn cold!

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  4. Linda K says:

    Another fantastic post that makes me want to head to the Ontario lake area! Seems like all seasons are just magical there. Those waterfall photos are incredible and I love the sun setting behind that bridge.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. There’s just something so enchanting about hiking through the forest when it’s blanketed in snow. It felt very enchanting and was so peaceful and quiet. I’m glad we found a turnoff where we were able to watch the sunset as it was stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It is hard to believe how people back in the day once travelled. The good thing about Algonquin is that it was probably easier (and faster) to travel by canoe, which is still the case today if you want to access certain parts of the park.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Even though most of our day was spent in the car, I’m glad we managed to squeeze in one hike before it got dark. The timing worked out wonderfully as we were able to catch the sunset as well before we headed out of the park.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Book Club Mom says:

    These are great pictures. Like the other commenters, I love the frozen waterfalls. Also, I hadn’t seen modern show shoes before. They look a lot easier to walk around in than the older style!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Exactly. Up until a few years ago we never used to go hiking in the winter, but now we’ve come to enjoy it. Mostly. The wind is always the worst. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the weekend. Linda

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  6. Bama says:

    “We left the house later than usual as we had to first shovel the driveway.” At least it made a good exercise, I guess? While snow might look very magical for us from the tropics, I realized it also demands hard work for those who live in places where thick snow is the norm in winter. That frozen waterfall looks like out of a movie!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Shovelling is definitely a good workout and a wonderful way to stay warm while being outside. Even though we got to Algonquin much later than we expected, at least we managed to squeeze in one hike before it got dark. Plus, we got to enjoy that beautiful sunset as well. Even though it’s cold, at least the snow looks pretty!

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  7. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    A wonderful video 🌷👍🏻🙏Gorgeous photos of winter season and so beautiful explanation from you that
    I’m so much enjoyed 😃 👌♥️The sunset view marvellous photography,thank you for sharing 🌷🙏♥️🌷

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thankfully the landscape looks beautiful in the winter when it’s covered in snow, otherwise it would be such a struggle to head outdoors when it’s cold and windy. Even though we arrived at Algonquin late in the day, I’m glad we still managed to go for a hike. The timing also worked out wonderfully with that sunset.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. wetanddustyroads says:

    If I had to shovel the driveway, I would probably just go back inside and find a cozy spot next to the fire … you guys are brave! But wow, maybe the fire at home wouldn’t make such an amazing photo like that frozen waterfall (and the lovely sunset) … so, it was probably well worth in the end to go out! Though you didn’t saw any mooses, you must felt quite happy with the views you had … though tiring!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a bit of a rough start to our trip because of all the snow. We should have clued in after shovelling that the roads were probably in bad shape. We contemplated turning around a few times because of all the blowing snow on the highway, but traffic in the opposite direction looked so much worse. Eventually we made it, and just in time to squeeze in one hike before it got dark. It was definitely worth it. We’re heading back to Algonquin this summer for our annual canoe trip, so hopefully we’ll have better luck with the moose sightings.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rose says:

    Like other commentors mentioned, the frozen waterfall also caught my eye. All your photos are gorgeous and refreshing! Thank-you for continuing to share your journeys with us.

    Like

  10. leightontravels says:

    Some particularly special shots from this hike guys. The frozen waterfall… just wow! And a lovely sunset to boot. As someone who has never worn a pair of snowshoes I am left fascinated…

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Snowshoes are such a game changer when it comes to hiking in the winter. They provide much better traction than our boots, which is helpful for hiking up and down hilly sections. They are also super helpful when breaking a new trail through the snow. I’m glad we packed our snowshoes with us when we visited Algonquin otherwise the hiking would have been much more tiring.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! I’d say it was well worth the drive, even if it was a bit treacherous with all that blowing snow, to enjoy the snowy scenery. I’m glad the timing worked out well and we were able to catch the sunset as we were heading out of the park.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. ourcrossings says:

    Nature has a lot of beautiful faces, and winter time, when everything is frozen, is no exception. However, and this is in my humble opinion, the most extraordinary thing for sure is to see frozen water from the low temperatures, especially waterfalls. Can you imagine how a waterfall can be stopped by frozen temperatures, becoming just ice? It’s as if you’ve taken a picture and it’s stood still. Aiva 🙂 xx

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It is pretty amazing how water, especially moving water, can freeze over. Frozen waterfalls are beautiful with all those icicles and columns of ice. In many ways, they look more impressive in the winter compared to the summer. Take care. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  12. annemariedemyen says:

    Looks beautiful but I can feel the cold! Isn’t it amazing how in any snowstorm, the snow ends up in the most inconvenient place. We get half an inch of snow but it drifts a foot deep on our Jeep. Every time!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s the worst! I actually don’t mind the winter, but I can’t stand when it’s windy. It’s also never fun to drive when there’s blowing snow. Despite our slow start to the day because of the wind, I’m glad we managed to at least squeeze in one hike before it got dark.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We really embraced winter this year and tried to make the most of it. Algonquin is one of those parks that is fabulous to visit in every season. There’s a nice range of winter activities and the snowy scenery looks beautiful. Best of luck dealing with the heat wave!

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  13. Steve & Cheryl Retired Adventures says:

    I enjoyed your outing as if I was there…the sunset, bridge, waterfall, and 2 star rated motel! I’m definitely a warmer climate girl but love being in our mountains. I get teased about how cold I get, but can handle it sans wind. I’m also always very happy to see my car at the end of a hike. That made me chuckle. Lol.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. It was quite the adventure to get to Algonquin, but I’m glad the timing worked out well and we were able to squeeze in a hike and catch the sunset on our first day. I tend to get cold easily too, so it’s all about wearing the right clothing, applying layers and staying active. I think we might have overestimated our abilities on the Mizzy Lake Trail, but thankfully we made it back in one piece!!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were definitely motivated to visit Algonquin. We contemplated turning around at one point on the drive up, but the traffic looked much worse on the other side and we figured that it would probably be more dangerous. I’m glad we made the most of it and had enough daylight to hike one of the trails on our list. Watching the sunset on our drive out of the park made it all worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The frozen waterfall was very impressive. I’m glad I had my snowshoes on so I could get up close without having to worry about slipping. In retrospect we probably should have turned around at the first sign of blowing snow, but we were committed. Then it got to the point that traffic on the other side of the highway was awful so we figured we might as well keep going.

      Liked by 1 person

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