Killarney Provincial Park in the Spring

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: May 2023

Killarney Provincial Park is nestled in untamed wilderness near Georgian Bay. It is open all-year round and provides plenty of opportunities to soak in the scenery of La Cloche Mountains, as well as many wetlands and lakes. There’s also a range of trails from multi-day backpacking to short and strenuous day hikes.

Visiting Killarney has become a bit of an annual tradition for us since the start of the pandemic. While we typically stay in one of the rustic cabins, this year we decided to shake things up and check out their yurts. Killarney offers six yurts, all of which are walk-in only. Four of the yurts were under renovation when we visited, so the area was pretty quiet.

We drove down Friday night and arrived at the George Lake Campground just after 10pm. From the parking lot, which is located across from the main beach, it’s a short walk to reach our site. The park even provides wagons to help haul your gear. Our yurt was open and the keys were on the table. Our yurt came equipped with two bunk beds that sleeps up to six, and a table with six chairs. The yurt also had lighting, a few electrical outlets and a propane fireplace. Outside there was a sheltered picnic table, BBQ and a bear bin for us to store our food.

We made two trips from the car to lug our gear in. It was quite comfortable inside the yurt so we didn’t need to turn the fireplace on. We simply unrolled our sleeping bags and hit the hay.

Day 1: Hiking the Highlights

There’s a huge circular skylight in the centre of the yurt, so we woke up with the morning light. The park office didn’t open until 8:30am, so we took our time making breakfast. After we finished eating, we got ready to heat out. On the drive to the park office we got a better look at the campground, which was surprisingly pretty full. Looks like everyone had the same idea to enjoy the outdoors before mosquito season was upon us.

After checking in at the park office, we were ready to hit the trails. We started with The Crack (6km round trip, ratted difficult). The trail leads up La Cloche Mountains and through a crack in the rocks to the top of Killarney Ridge. The first kilometre is relatively flat and the path is wide. Spring was off to a slower start here as there weren’t many buds on the trees yet, but we saw some greenery starting to appear on the forest floor.

The trail approaches Kakakise Lake where we met our first obstacle. Part of the bridge was submerged. And there is no other way around. There were a couple of logs placed overtop of the water. We found some walking sticks on the side of the bridge, so we each grabbed two and tested our balance to get across. It was a bit dodgy towards the end, but we managed to make it without getting a soaker (i.e. a boot full of water). We stashed our sticks under a large tree for the return journey back.

After that there were a series of muddy patches, which didn’t seem so bad in comparison to the river crossing. We were able to hug the edges of the path to avoid the worst of it. The trail continues to follow the shore of Kakakise Lake, passing a portage sign along the way.

Once we reached a large pile of small rocks, the real fun begins with the ascent to the top of Killarney Ridge. We scampered up and over large slabs of white granite. The nice thing about the rocks was that there weren’t many muddy patches here. This portion of the trail overlaps with La Cloche Silhouette Trail, a multi-day backpacking trail. The path was signed with a combination of red markers (for The Crack) and blue (for La Cloche Silhouette).

The trail then reaches a large pile of boulders that lead through the crack of the mountains. There is one last push to get up and over to the top of the ridge. We were huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top. So we took a break to eat a snack, cool down, and admire the views. There were only a few other hikers on the ridge when we first arrived, but a steady stream of people kept coming through as we were resting.

From here we retraced our steps to return to the parking lot. The way back wasn’t as challenging as we knew what to expect. And it was all downhill from here. We just had to cross the partially submerged bridge again. This time there was a backlog of hikers on the other side who were deciding how to get across. We saw a few people take off their shoes and socks and just walk through the water. Once it got to our turn, we retrieved our sticks and slowly made our way across the logs. We then handed our sticks to another pair of hikers who eagerly accepted them.

By the time we circled back to the parking lot, it was around lunch o’clock and we were getting hungry. Overall it took us three hours to complete the trail. We returned to our yurt for a long lunch. When we had finished eating, the clouds had cleared and the sun was out again.

We were still a bit tired so we decided to drive to Killarney, the town, located about 10 kilometers outside of the park. The town is nestled on the northern shore of Georgian Bay and has a population of about 500 people. We went to the East Lighthouse, which is located along a short gravel road with a warning sign that the road wasn’t maintained. The road was in pretty decent shape though. From the small parking lot, there’s a short path along a causeway that leads to the lighthouse.

Before roads were built, all transportation to and from Killarney was by boat. Killarney was originally established as a fur trade outpost in 1820, but later became a fishing village. The lighthouse was used to help ships find their way into the remote harbour. There were two lighthouses built in 1867: the East and West lighthouses. The two lighthouses were rebuilt in 1909 and automated in the 1980s. Today they are used by snowmobilers who travel across the ice.

This seemed to be a breeding ground for midges, so we didn’t stay long. We drove through the rest of town and headed back to Killarney, the park, to hike the Chikanishing Trail (3km loop, rated moderate). The trailhead is located at the end of Chikanishing Road, just west of the campground. The trail crosses a series of cranberry coloured granite outcrops and ridges, passes numerous windswept pines, and leads down to the shore of Georgian Bay.

The trail is signed with red markers on the trees and red circles painted on the rocks. There are also a few interpretive signs along the way that provide more information on the history of the area, including about the First Nations people who once lived here and about how this area was once used for logging.

Once we reached the shore of Georgian Bay, we turned around. The path splits off after crossing the wooden bridge and short boardwalk to form a loop back to the trailhead. This portion of the path weaves through the forest and winds up, over and around more pink granite ridges and rocks. The trail was in pretty condition compared to the Crack. It helped that there were several boardwalks and wooden planks to avoid the worst of the mud.

We headed back to our yurt to cook some dinner on the BBQ, which consisted of roasted veggies and burgers. We then walked down to the main beach area to watch the sunset.

Day 2: Avoiding the Rain

We woke up to a dark and dreary sky. The forecast was calling for a bunch of rain this morning and even more in the afternoon. So we took our time getting out of bed and had a bit of a late start. Since it was still dry outside, we made a couple trips to the car to drop off our sleeping bags, pillows and some other stuff that we didn’t need anymore. We then fired up the BBQ and cooked some hash browns, eggs and vegetables for breakfast.

By the time we checked out of our yurt it was just before 10am and the rain had begun. We didn’t feel like going for a hike, especially given how the trails were already a bit sodden from all the spring melt. So we decided to head home and see if we could make a stop somewhere along the way to stretch our legs.

We settled on the French River Provincial Park, which is located just off the highway. This provincial park is mostly wilderness. It offers many backcountry campsites and is a popular spot for paddlers and boaters in the summer. In the winter, the park is a popular spot for snowmobiles and contains a snowmobile suspension bridge that crosses the French River. It was built in 2005 and is considered the largest of its kind in the world. It is over 155 metres long and can carry over 100 snowmobiles at a time.

The snowmobile bridge can be found behind the visitor centre. We followed the path to the bridge and crossed over to get a nice view of the French River. The French River spans 110 kilometres from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay. It flows through an ancient fault system that was here long before the glaciers melted and reshaped the landscape. As the river flows towards Georgian Bay there are unusual sculpted features on the rock surfaces which are thought to have been created from flooding underneath the retreating glaciers thousands of years ago.

We then headed back to the car and continued the drive home. The rain eventually caught up to us again and progressively got worse. We had no regrets about leaving early.


79 thoughts on “Killarney Provincial Park in the Spring

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      And it’s a great park to visit regardless of the time of year. It’s never fun to camp in the rain, but at least we made the most of the nice weather on Saturday to hike our favourite trails.

  1. Ab says:

    Killarney was one of the highlights in our northern Ontario Roadtrip in summer 2020 and really helped bring so much joy and light during the dark pandemic years.

    Rain or shine it is so beautiful and it was nice revisiting the Chinakashing trail through your post. We hiked that with T, who was 5 at the time, holding two large cooler bags and towels and we found a private spot by one of the rocks and swam in the water all afternoon and enjoyed a picnic. I can’t wait to go back there next weekend!

    We won’t be staying in a yurt but will need to really look one of these up one of these days.

    Hope there will be no submerged bridges during our hike!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We visited Killarney during our first Northern Ontario road trip in 2020 as well and it was definitely at the top in terms of our favourite parks. We’ve been back every year since then, mostly in the late fall or early winter. This was our first time staying in one of their yurts, which was pretty comfortable and spacious. It wasn’t as nice as their rustic cabins, but it sure beats sleeping in a tent!

      The Chinakashing trail is one of our favourite trails in Killarney. It’s impressive that you managed to go swimming in the frigid waters of Georgian Bay. I bet it felt refreshing on a hot day. That’s a great idea about bringing stuff for a picnic.

      Enjoy your time in Killarney this weekend. Hopefully you’ll have fabulous weather and that the trails will be less muddy than in the spring.

      • Ab says:

        We went in August so the water was very warm. I’m doubtful it’ll be quite as warm this weekend. 😆 At least it’ll be nice with a high of 24, which is ideal hiking temperature for us.

        Enjoy the rest of your week!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery along Georgian Bay is spectacular with all those windswept trees and rocky outcrops. Killarney Mountain Lodge sounds like a great way to pamper yourself while still being able to enjoy the wilderness. The stretch along Lake Superior is among one of the most scenic drives we’ve ever done.

  2. John says:

    Wow, this is such a beautiful place! So much rock too, I’m guessing that it’s Canadian Shield rock. Thanks for the tour! 🇨🇦❤️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s right, Killarney is situated on the southern border of the Canadian Shield. The landscape in this area is incredibly scenic with white quartzite mountains and a pink granite shoreline. No wonder we keep coming back to this park every year.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The trail conditions can be a bit sketchy in the early spring from all the rain and snowmelt. But we’ll take a little (or even a lot) of mud over the mosquitoes any day!

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    I used to spend a lot of time in that area years ago, including the Bruce Peninsula. (We used to have a cottage near Markdale.) It’s Group of Seven country and in my opinion, stunningly beautiful in such an elegantly spare way. Sorry to hear that the weather wasn’t the best but your photos are beautiful.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m such a fan of the area around Georgian Bay, especially up along the Bruce Peninsula, Manitoulin Island and the stretch around Killarney. Sounds like a lovely spot to have a cottage. I can easily see why the landscape is featured in many paintings from the Group of Seven. I’m not a fan of hiking in the rain, but at least we had fabulous weather on Saturday and made the most of it.

  4. kagould17 says:

    Spring hikes can be fun or not, depending on rain and trail conditions. The hike you did the first morning looks challenging with all that rock. I do love the scenery in this area, forest, rock and water all mixed in provides some stellar photos. Too bad about the rainy 2nd day. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Hiking in the early spring comes with its own challenges in terms of the trail conditions, but it’s better than when the mosquitoes come out to play. The nice thing about navigating up and around all that rock meant that we didn’t have to worry about the mud or puddles. It’s too bad about the rain the following day, but at least we made the most of the nice weather while we had it. Thanks for reading. Linda

  5. elvira797mx says:

    Wow! So beautiful place, looks so relaxing walking there, a cozy cabin and the light house beautiful. Thank’s for share Linda. Keep enjoying. Happy day!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. It was fun to stay in the yurt, and it sure beat sleeping in a tent. The scenery was gorgeous, especially those pink granite rocks along the shoreline. Take care. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The yurt was surprisingly quite spacious and let in a lot of light. It sure beat sleeping in a tent! Killarney is one of my favourite provincial parks in Ontario, largely because of the stunning scenery.

  6. alisendopf says:

    What a gorgeous area Linda – and you have it ALL to yourself. So lucky! That tree growing out of the solid rock. How? Right? Just… how is that possible?

    Your photo of the sun reflecting in the water. Beautiful composition. Well done!

    The yurts truly look like a welcoming and cozy home. They would be great in the winter too.

    Thank you for the tour!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The campground was surprisingly much busier than we were expecting considering it was in the beginning of May. But then again, I’d rather deal with cooler temperatures than the bugs later in the spring. Our strategy has always been to get an early start to the day to avoid the crowds, especially on the popular trails. It’s pretty amazing how trees can grow in the most unlikely of spots.

      Staying in a yurt was a nice treat. It was quite spacious for the two of us and let in a lot of natural light from the circular skylight in the roof. And it came with a BBQ outside for us to use. We’ve been to Killarney in the early winter before, but we typically stay in one of their rustic cabins. That’s actually my favourite time to visit as there’s hardly anyone in the park.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We’re not into frontcountry camping in the summer anymore and instead have been trying to explore our provincial parks in the off-season. We also don’t like camping in the cold so we’ve been trying out some of the different types of roofed accommodations offered. Staying in a yurt was a real treat, especially given the rain on our last day. And the best part was that the yurts were tucked away in their own section and were quite private. So it was nice and quiet.

  7. grandmisadventures says:

    That bridge and the logs looks a little precarious to cross- but my goodness what beautiful views your bravery was rewarded with! I really love those rocky stretches, especially next to the water. Even with the weather it seems you managed to see a lot of this beautiful park. 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was definitely sketchy having to cross over the river by balancing on those logs since the bridge was submerged. There’s no way we could have done it without having those walking sticks. Although I guess we could have just taken off our hiking boots and walked in the water, but that didn’t seem appealing as the water was freezing and we weren’t sure how to dry off our feet afterwards. I’m glad we didn’t turn around as it’s a fantastic hike. And the views from the top of the ridge are gorgeous.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s true! And at least the nice weather fell on a Saturday when we had the full day to explore the trails. We were planning on leaving the next day after lunch anyway, so we didn’t miss much with the rain. It would have been nice to squeeze in another hike, but that’s okay. We’ll be back.

  8. wetanddustyroads says:

    Oh, I like your accommodation – the yurt looks a lot like our “rondavels” here in SA (except we don’t have a skylight in ours). You were clever with the sticks at the river crossing – I bet other hikers’ thoughts were “why didn’t we think of that” 😁. It’s always nice to see a lighthouse in your post … and a beautiful sunset. I agree that staying out of the rain was a good choice!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Staying in a yurt was a real treat. It was rather spacious for the two of us and it was nice how it had a lot of natural lighting as well as electric lighting from when it got dark. But my favourite feature was the BBQ. Booking one of these yurts is very competitive. Our strategy is typically to visit during the off-season so it’s much easier to book one of the roofed accommodations. It’s more expensive than a regular campsite, but worth it when the weather isn’t ideal.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. Glad you’ve been to Killarney to experience its beautiful landscape firsthand. It’s one of my favourite parks in Ontario and we try to visit at least once a year.

  9. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Killarney looks a great place to visit even if the weather isn’t playing fair. Your yurt looked spacious and comfortable and the trails scenic, if muddy in places. I like it that you both make the most of life and are always ready for a weekend jaunt into the countryside. It’s the best way to be!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The rainy weather sure made staying in a yurt even more comfortable. But at least we had one day of sunshine and we tried to make the most of it. It’s always good to take advantage of a free weekend and getaway. Even though it can be a lot of work to pack, prep and drive, I always come back feeling refreshed. Agreed, it’s the best way to do things!

  10. Diana says:

    I love the Georgian Bay! Killarney looks like a great place to spend the weekend (aside from the rain… I feel like you guys get rained on a lot during your travels).

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        This was a newer yurt too, which is much more spacious compared to the older version in our provincial parks. My favourite feature was the skylight in the middle of the ceiling, which surprisingly let in a lot of natural light. Having a BBQ outside was also really nice.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The area around Georgian Bay is one of the most scenic spots in Ontario. There’s a good reason we keep returning to Killarney every year. It was still early in the spring so we figured we might as well stay in a yurt just in case it was cold or the weather wasn’t ideal. I’d say it worked out rather well!

  11. Bama says:

    That river crossing seems to be quite a challenge. One wrong step, and you’ll end up getting a soaker. But I know it’s worth the risk after looking at your photo of that view from the top of the hill.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was definitely a bit dodgy having to cross over the river. There’s no way we could have done it without those walking sticks that we found. But I’m glad we continued as this is my favourite trail in the park. The views from the top of the ridge were spectacular.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Killarney is a beautiful park all around. The trail conditions can always be a bit of a gamble early in the spring, but we made it work. It’s always so rewarding to watch a sunset, especially by the water, to close out the day.

  12. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    So wonderful photos to view 🌷🙏👍😍 gorgeous nature , so many varieties of stones,
    The Shelley’s to stay , mesmerized sunset , nice waterlines all so fascinating scenes 👍🌷
    Thank you for sharing these earth wonders 👏🏼💐 All The Best dear friend 🥰🧚🏼‍♀️

  13. leightontravels says:

    Another highly handsome trail guys. Wow, those bridges looked a touch precarious, you did well to get through those tricky parts without sloshing your boots up. Sladja would’ve hated negotiating this bridges ha ha. You picked a great spot for a snack. I would love to see some First Nations spots one of these years, thanks for fuelling the wanderlust!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Crack is one of my favourite trails in Ontario. This was our first time hiking it in the spring, which presented its own set of challenges. Thankfully we made it over the submerged bridge without getting a soaker. I’m glad we didn’t turn around as the best was yet to come. The views from the top of Killarney ridge are outstanding.

  14. NortheastAllie says:

    The Chikanishing trail looks amazing, and very interesting history as well. Also, the lighthouse is very beautiful. Thank you for sharing these great travel tips!

  15. MichaelStephenWills says:

    I remember in a previous post you stayed in a yurt (might be wrong). From the lake views I understand why they named it “Killarney” — the views are almost a match to the “Ladies View” on the road to Killarney, Ireland.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve stayed in a few yurts before, but never in Killarney. We typically book one their rustic cabins, which is a bit nicer (and I imagine warmer in the winter). While most yurts have a similar style, they’re all a bit different in terms of size and what kind of furniture is included inside. We found this one quite spacious for the two of us. Given how much we like Killarney in Ontario, I’m curious to compare it to the Killarney in Ireland. Someday.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a beautiful sunset to close out the day. It’s funny because I typically only tend to pay attention to the sunset while on vacation or away from home.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though we visit Killarney and the Georgian Bay area pretty often, we’ve actually never been canoeing here. I’m thinking we should change that as a canoe is always a good way to get a different perspective of the landscape. It’s neat to hear that there are even yurts in central Asia! I never would have guessed!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I had no idea that they originated from Central Asia and Mongolia. As soon as you mentioned it, I couldn’t help but look it up to read more about yurts. It’s pretty incredible to hear how long they have been around for and that we’re still using concepts from those structures today.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s never fun to camp or hike in the rain. I’m so glad we booked a yurt, which kept us warm and dry. It was quite spacious inside and made for a more comfortable camping experience.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Killarney is one of our favourite provincial parks in Ontario. The scenery along this part of Georgian Bay is absolutely stunning with the pink granite overcrops and windswept pines. Even though the trails were a bit wet and muddy early in the spring, at least the bugs weren’t out yet. Thanks for stopping by. Linda

  16. BrittnyLee says:

    The water looks so pristine !!! The hike must’ve been fun 😌😊 I love obstacles like that. They make new places so much more exciting than they already are. I’m glad you both didn’t get soaked though. Being soaked isn’t fun while hiking. I’m glad you had a good trip . I would love to view the lakes there . They look so pure . The scenery looks beautiful too

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Hiking in the spring can be a bit unpredictable in terms of the trail conditions. But you’re right, it does make for a more adventurous and exciting hike. I’m so glad we didn’t get a soaker, or worse, turn around, as this is one of my favourite trails in Ontario. The views from the top of the ridge are fabulous. Plus it’s also a lot of fun to scramble up all those white boulders and outcrops.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Killarney is one of my favourite provincial parks in Ontario. Even though the trails were a bit dodgy from all the spring melt and rain, it was nice to get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery before the mosquitoes came out in full force. It also helped that we were staying in a heated yurt overnight!

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