Hiking in MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: December 2022

MacGregor Point Provincial Park is located on the stunningly sandy shores of Lake Huron. The park is open year round, but boasts of having the biggest waves during the off-season in the fall and winter. The park offers several hiking trails and other activities depending on the season, like fishing and swimming in the summer and cross-country skiing and skating in the winter.

Day 1: Lighthouses and Strong Winds

One of the downsides to visiting the Great Lakes in the off-season is that it can get quite windy, which creates amazing waves, but can be tough to be outside for a prolonged period of time. And today there was a warning for strong winds in the wake of a strong cold front. And it was raining. According to the weather forecast, the rain was supposed to subside before lunch, but not so much for the wind.

We took our time getting ready and opted to take the scenic drive to MacGregor Point, which involved stopping at a couple of lighthouses along the way. We started with the Point Clark Lighthouse, which was built between 1855 and 1859 and is still in use today. It is one of six nearly identical towers, which are known as the Imperial Towers, built on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It was later designated a national historic site of Canada.

We then drove to the Kincardine Lighthouse, a charming lighthouse built on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. The octagonal tower was built above a two-story keeper’s house and supports a twelve-sided lantern where the light can be seen from a distance of up to 30 kilometres. It is still functional and is used to guide boaters into the safety of the harbour.

It looked like the clouds were starting to clear and we even enjoyed a bit of the sun, but that was short-lived. We arrived at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in the early afternoon and it was back to being overcast and gloomy. And it was still super windy outside. This meant the park was pretty much deserted, which is just how we like it.

After eating our lunch in the car, we hiked the Lake Ridge Trail (4km loop, rated moderate). The trail loops through the forest, wetlands and abandoned fields. It features a series of storyboards along the way that provide more information of the history and geology of the area, and about early settlement.

The trail was named after the shoreline ridge of glacier Lake Nipissing, which existed here thousands of years ago. Evidence of this lake can be seen throughout the trail. When Lake Nipissing began to recede some 4,000 years ago, it left behind an exposed and barren lake bottom with poorly drained soil. This had a significant impact on the types of vegetation that can grow here.

Early settlers had a hard time farming in this area because of the stoniness of the soil and high water table. The farms were soon abandoned and the fields were left to revert to their natural state, which explains why some areas of the forest are not as mature as others. While all the buildings from the early settlers have been removed, there are other clues from the past that were left behind, like lilacs and apple trees.

For the most part the trail is easy to navigate as it is signed with a combination of light brown diamond shaped markers with a snowshoeing symbol and some yellow or orange blazes on the trees. There were a few spots through the dense cedar lowlands that were a bit tricky though. The real obstacle, however, was dealing with all the puddles (more like small ponds) on the trail, especially through the swamp forest section.

The terrain along the trail was also very rocky in some sections. As the glaciers retreated through this area, they deposited stones and pebbles in a mixture of clay and sand. Over time, the waves of glacial Lake Nipissing washed away the small debris, leaving behind a boulder pavement of various sized rocks resting on the remains of the till plain.

We then drove to the beach area. From the parking lot there’s a short boardwalk through the forest that leads to the sandy shores of Lake Huron. The beach is located in a small bay, which provided some protection from the wind so the waves here weren’t nearly as fierce.

We decided to save the remaining trails in MacGregor Point for tomorrow as the wind was getting a bit too much for us. We hopped back in the car and hit up another set of lighthouses nearby. We went to McNab Point Lighthouse, but that was a bit of a bust as it’s located on private property. While we could partially see it from the road, we didn’t feel comfortable walking across someone’s lawn to get a closer look.

We had better luck at Southampton where there’s two lighthouses that were built in 1903. We started with the Southampton Front Range Light, which is located at the end of a narrow pier near the mouth of the Saugeen River.

The second lighthouse, the Saugeen River Light, is located on the north side of the Saugeen River and acts as a back range light. It is nearly identical to the front range light located a few hundred metres away.

We called it quits after that and headed towards Owen Sound to visit with some family that live nearby.

Day 2: Boardwalks and Sand

We stayed overnight in a hotel in Port Elgin, which is a few minutes away from MacGregor Point. We had another late start to the day as we were waiting for the sun to rise before hitting the trails. We first hiked the Tower Trail (3.5km loop, rated easy). The trail starts off along a short boardwalk, winds through the forest and passes a few small ponds. The sun was still low in the sky and casted a soft golden glow across the landscape.

Along the trail there’s a series of storyboards that provide more information about the geology of the area and importance of the wetland environment. The trail passes a larger wetland and features an observation tower that offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.

The path follows the shore of the wetland before dipping back through the forest. There is one other point of interest along the trail, a bird blind, which is a shelter with a few openings to better observe the wildlife in their natural environment. We didn’t see much.

Once we looped back to the trailhead, we headed to the Huron Fringe Trail (1.2km loop, rated easy), located by the Visitor Centre. The path follows a boardwalk through the forest, which is part of an old sand beach, and wetlands. It also passes the sandy shore of Lake Huron. Similar to the other trails in the park, there’s a series of storyboards that provide more information about the landscape and the many different habitats that this area provides.

Wetlands and beach ridges are common features of MacGregor Point. The gravel beach ridges were created thousands of years ago when the lake level was much higher. The depression between these ridges trap and collect rain and melt water, which created many of the wetlands found in the park.

Once we circled back to the parking lot, it was then time for us to head home. Until next time.


92 thoughts on “Hiking in MacGregor Point Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    Oh, that opening water shot made me shiver. Nothing like the Great Lakes in December. And no lifeguard on duty…as if one needs a reason not to take a dip. Nice to have the trails to yourselves and uncluttered with snow and ice. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The wind along the Great Lakes can be fierce, especially in the winter during lake-effect snowstorms. Thankfully it wasn’t raining or snowing though as that would have made being outside even more unbearable. It was neat to watch the waves (especially when we were inside the car). Thanks for reading. Linda

  2. leightontravels says:

    What a sight the Kincardine Lighthouse is, such a charming building. I might legally change my last name into Nipissing, ha ha. Despite the coldness that dissipates from the photos, into my living room, I find the gloomy, grey vibe quite calming. The shot from the view point on the Tower Trail is lovely with that burning yellow stripe beneath the menacing clouds. It seems like another memorable day made even better by the lack of visitors. 😉

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m such a fan of lighthouses and I love the style where it’s attached to the keeper’s house. If you change your last name to Nipssing, then you should live in the Nipssing townswhip, attend Nipissing University and swim in Lake Nipissing! There are so many things named Nipissing here in Ontario. Despite the wind and gloomy weather, it was nice to have the trail and beach all to ourselves.

  3. Christie says:

    It can be quite cold, no kidding. A nice collection of lighthouses, but the most picturesque one is Southampton Front Range Light, no doubt, with the splashy waves.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The wind is the worst, but at least it wasn’t raining or snowing! The Southampton Front Range Light was my favourite as well. It was also the only one where we didn’t have to get out of the car to see.

  4. Travel Essayist says:

    Looks like a nice little gem, must be nice in the summertime. Actually, I didn’t know about it, we used to always shoot straight to Tobermory out of Toronto. If I venture that way again we shall stop there to check out. Since relocating to the Rondeau Provincial Park area recently, we go as far as Grand Bend only. It will be easy to just keep going until we can there, looking at the map is not far off.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Lake Huron is always nice in the summer as there are lots of sandy beaches to enjoy and the water can get quite warm. While the scenery in Tobermory is gorgeous, the water is always freezing cold. MacGregor Point isn’t too far from Grand Bend, so you should definitely check it out, same with Inverhuron Provincial Park which has an even better beach.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m such a fan of lighthouses too and will gladly go out of my way to visit them. I just love how each one is so unique and has its own history and charm. The nice thing about the wind and the cold as it tends to keep the crowds away. The weather was much better on the second day and we were able to more fully explore the trails.

  5. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Thanks for that great tour! I spent quite a bit of time in that area years ago but didn’t do much hiking at the time. The lighthouses are not only functional but beautiful. It looks like you braved some very cold wind! Cheers

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. We used to go camping every summer at Pinery Provincial Park, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that I realized that there were other provincial parks along Lake Huron that were worth exploring. There isn’t a big selection of trails, but they are all very well maintained. I especially enjoyed all the storyboards along the trails at MacGregor Point. The wind was very fierce, but it kept the crowds away, so I’ll take it. And hey, at least it wasn’t raining!

  6. Ab says:

    Even on a gloomy gray day, the water and beach area look beautiful. I can see hints of that Lake Huron blue on a clear sunny day.

    The lighthouse against those high waves really drove across how windy and cold that day must’ve felt.

    Happy new year to you and K!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Happy 2023 to you as well. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your time off. We’re currently in Utah just outside Zion National Park.

      I love being by the water, even when it’s miserable outside. The waves are so mesmerizing to watch. Given the wind, it was nice to be in the car and just go outside for a few minutes to explore a new lighthouse along the way. Thankfully the wind subsided and it wasn’t so bad the next day so we were able to hit more of the trails.

      • Ab says:

        Oh my goodness, Utah. Am I ever envious! Please do a recap post soon. Can’t wait to see the photos and details. Enjoy every moment – and warmer weather!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thanks!! The weather has been surprisingly cooler than we thought (and we’ve even had some snow), which has been good for hiking, but it can be tough to get started. I’ll take the cold over the scorching heat in the summer though! The landscape is absolutely breathtaking. I wish we could stay for longer.

  7. Rose says:

    Lighthouses always have an interesting history.
    Storyboards are a great way to learn the past of parks and their environment. I always enjoy reading them in our local parks.
    It looks chilly out, but I was surprised to not see any snow on the ground in December? We’ve had snow on the ground since November 14. Snow dumped on us in October but that melted, thank goodness.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, and I love how each lighthouse is so unique. I completely agree about how storyboards are a great way to add in some education with out exercise. They were very well done and had such catchy titles. We had a huge snowstorm in mid-November too, but then all the snow melted. We got some more over Christmas during a wild winter storm, but then that melted too. It’s been a weird winter in terms of the weather and with crazy temperature swings.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The wind is tough to deal with and I hate that it always makes my skin so dry. I’ll take it over the rain though. The only plus side to the wind was that the waves were awesome. Oh, and no one was around. Thankfully the second day was much better and we were able to explore more of the trails.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Kincardine lighthouse was my favourite. I like the style of lighthouse where the keeper’s house is attached. It was super crazy windy outside, so it was nice to be in the car for most of the day driving from one lighthouse to the next.

  8. thehungrytravellers.blog says:

    Lighthouses do have a kind of romance all of their own, don’t they, especially the more remote ones. You can’t help but imagine the lonely life of the keeper. Great trail again even if you did have to battle the winds.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      They sure do. Plus there’s always something so soothing about being by the water. Even though it was super windy, the waves were mesmerizing. Thankfully it was less windy the next day and we were able to more fully explore the trails in the park.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, it was still nice to make the most of it and spend our weekend down by the lake. It was definitely peaceful. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Linda

      • elvira797mx says:

        Always a pleasure visit your blog.
        Thank’s Linda. Sounds amazing.
        Yes, si kind yo ask, was great, hope yours too. Great week ahead!

  9. salsaworldtraveler says:

    I related to the weather and scenery of your hike on the second day. It was very much like a hike in Jugs Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Maryland. Thanks for reviving mostly pleasant memories, except for the wind.😊

  10. Bama says:

    That last photo looks… cinematic! I can’t find a better word to describe it, but when I saw that I immediately thought of some scenes from a few movies I had watched. It’s a kind of landscape that is so different from what we have here in Indonesia, and probably that’s why I find it really intriguing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We have a lot of marshy and swampy areas here in Ontario, which are among some of my favourite places to explore (except in the spring with the mosquitoes will eat you alive). I appreciated the boardwalk that allowed us to get a closer look at the wetlands that otherwise would have been inaccessible to us hikers.

  11. ourcrossings says:

    I love your lighthouse photos, especially the historic Kincardine Lighthouse! I once read in a surf magazine that Lake Huron in beautiful Kincardine is one of the lakes where you can, when the conditions are right, surf. How cool is that! . Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The Kincardine lighthouse was my favourite too. I’m such a fan of the style of lighthouses where the keeper’s house is attached. That’s right, Kincardine is apparently the most popular spot to go surfing on Lake Huron. We didn’t see any surfers that day, likely because it was freezing cold and that wind was insane. I imagine that there would have been a strong current or undertow. Thanks for reading. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Linda

  12. alisendopf says:

    The ‘boulder pavement’ is just too cool! That you can still see it after how many thousands of years? Wow. My daughter is taking geology at Trent, and learned all about the ice sheet that covered Ontario. I’ll have to show her your post so she can visit.

    I love how all the light houses are white and red. Is this a provincial thing, or just a coincidence? Either way, it makes for beautiful photos.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s pretty incredible how our landscape has been shaped and created. That’s neat that your daughter is studying geology. I’ve always been fascinated by that subject. It’s been fun to learn more about the geology of Ontario through visiting some of our provincial parks.

      I’m obsessed with lighthouses. Even though many of them are red and white, I love how each one is so unique and has a different size and design. Plus they are next to the water, which automatically makes for a beautiful backdrop.

  13. travelling_han says:

    I love your photos of the lighthouse and the wetlands. The wetland photos remind me of where I live here in England as we live in the area all built on huge marshes – I find them in equal part beautiful and frustrating as they are forever flooding.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I know what you mean about having a love/hate relationship with wetlands. They are fascinating, but they can also be extremely annoying to hike through as there is a higher risk of flooding (even with a boardwalk) and the bugs are absolutely bonkers in the late spring. I still can’t help myself though and will always risk it to visit a marsh, bog or fen.

  14. Dawn Minott says:

    Hi Linda. Just realized I missed a few of your “wandering” experiences. Great I get to binge-travel. Looking forward to reading and getting caught up on my vicarious adventures. Cheers 🥂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always fun to go on a scavenger hunt for lighthouses. I love how each one is unique and has a different size or design. Plus they’re always located by the water, which is always an added bonus.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Being in the wind was a bit rough, especially by the shoreline, but it was neat to see the big waves. Thankfully the next day wasn’t too bad and we were able to more fully explore and enjoy the trails.

  15. wetanddustyroads says:

    Ah, it’s always nice to see lighthouses in your posts! I like the Kincardine Lighthouse and that’s such a pretty picture of the Southampton Front Range Light. I’m not a big fan of hiking in a strong wind – then, it’s better to be indoors! But you were rewarded with a good second day – you had such beautiful views on the Tower Trail.

  16. BrittnyLee says:

    Looking at these photos of the water, I could tell that wind was wicked . Ugh 😩 that’s hard to hike and take pictures in that kind of cold. Yours looks incredible though 🙂 it’s amazing to think that some of those lighthouses were from 1855 and still standing tall and holding strong 🙂 I really liked the one that had that chasing Tudor home look.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The cold I can deal with, the wind not so much. It was brutal, especially by the shoreline. It was so worth it though to watch the waves. Agreed, it’s pretty cool how some of these lighthouses have been around for awhile and are still in use today. The one in Kincardine with the keeper’s house attached was my favourite as well. Thankfully the next day wasn’t as rough and we were able to explore the trails.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        That’s good to hear ! I’m glad that you had a better weather day the next day. The wind is really tough in front of my one client’s school. She enjoys the cold like I do but has actually been asking to go inside haha 😂. I am not sure why but it’s a wind tunnel there. I’m glad you got to enjoy the chaos in the waves. They are something incredible to marvel at. I enjoy the cold, too. 🙂 Great post ! So beautiful ❤️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The weather can be hit or miss when visiting in the off-season, but it’s a great way to avoid the crowds (and the mosquitoes). We’re actually planning on returning to MacGregor Point next month.

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