Algonquin Park Guide
Plan Your Park Visit
As the first provincial park in Ontario, Algonquin is also the oldest one in all of Canada. Established more than 126 years ago, the park attracts thousands of visitors each year because of its natural beauty and abundance of outdoor recreation. Find out what makes this park so special as well as some tips for planning your visit.
Getting To The Park
The park’s more than 7,600 square kilometers are located in south-central Ontario near the towns of Whitney and Dwight.
Toronto, Ontario is approximately 300 kilometers south, while Canada’s capital city of Ottawa sits around 260 kilometers to the east.
The northwestern section of Algonquin Park is unofficially considered to house the dividing line between Northern and Southern Ontario. The park is also situated between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay. It is home to a number of different types of forests types ranging from northern coniferous trees to deciduous species.
It therefore contains very diverse flora and fauna, making it an attractive spot for ecological research.
In all, the park has 29 different access points, many of which will take you to backcountry areas. When it comes to vehicle access, most visitors enter Algonquin through either the East or West gates.
Accessible via Highway 60, both of these gates are open year round. Enter through the East Gate if you are coming from Whitney, Ontario or plan to visit the logging museum. Choose the West Gate if you plan to travel to or from the town of Dwight, Ontario.
For backcountry areas in northern and eastern area of Algonquin, take Highway 16, which is also known as the Trans-Canada Highway. Use Highways 62, 60, or 127 to reach backcountry access points in the southern part of the park. A number of backcountry access points can be found by traveling north on Highway 11 through the town of Huntsville, as well.
Your Guide To Visiting
Learn About The Rich History
The park was established in 1893 by a Royal Commission whose members were concerned that logging would destroy the area’s forests. The goal was to make Algonquin Park an example of good forestry stewardship. Although it was deemed a national park, the province of Ontario has nonetheless remained responsible for managing it since its inception.
Algonquin originally covered an area of 3,797 square kilometers that spanned more than 18 townships. However, numerous expansions over the years have more than doubled the park in size. In fact, the year after its inception, Algonquin was expanded to cover six additional townships. Today, the park is larger than both Prince Edward Island and the U.S. State of Delaware.
Railroad expansion during the late 19th Century allowed more people to access the park. It also brought lumberjacks and railroad workers, who were among the few allowed to settle inside the boundaries. In 1908, the first hotel opened inside the park, and many campgrounds and vacation cottages soon followed. In 1992, it was named a National Historic Site of Canada by the country’s Minister of the Environment. That same year, the logging museum was opened to preserve the park’s logging heritage.
Although it was formed primarily to protect forests, some logging has nonetheless been permitted over the years. In 2013, changes were made to the park’s management plan that allowed logging over nearly 500,000 hectares of recreational area. The management plan is constantly under review to allow a balance between responsible logging and forest preservation. Currently, it is Ontario’s only provincial park that allows for any form of logging.
Camping remains one of the most popular activities inside Algonquin Provincial Park. The park offers everything from primitive, backcountry sites to enclosed cabins that can sleep up to eight people. Many of its backcountry sites are accessible only by backpacking trails or canoe. Permits are required, and may be obtained up to five months in advance of your trip.
Several mountain biking trails exist throughout the park as well. One of the most popular is the Old Railway Bike Trail, which follows the path of an old abandoned rail line. The Byers Lake Mountain Trail is a shorter path that connects with Gut Rapids, where you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
If you prefer hiking over biking, you can take advantage of more than 140 km of trails. These trails will take you to a few designated backcountry campsites, and are a great way to view much of Algonquin’s wildlife. While hiking, you may encounter the remains of some old logging camps as well.
Several lakes are found throughout the park. Many of them such as Bonita, Opeongo, Cedar, and Kingscote allow motorboats. The rules do vary, and there are also restrictions as to the size of a motor on certain lakes. Accordingly, you should check with park rangers before launching any motorboats.
Motorboats may be restricted; however, many people prefer exploring Algonquin’s waters by canoe. The park is home to a canoe trail that spans more than 2,100 km and will provide you access to some of the most scenic backcountry areas.
Whether exploring by motorboat or canoe, you’ll have a chance to take in some amazing fishing. Algonquin Provincial Park is home to some of the largest Smallmouth Bass, Brook Trout, and Lake Trout in the region. Good conservation practices means there are plenty of fish available and that you can safely enjoy eating your catch without worry.
Cross Country Skiing
Officials restrict park access during the winter months. However, certain areas such as the Leaf Lake Trail System provide opportunities for cross-country skiing. Snowshoe enthusiasts may also access any of the shorter trails along Highway 60 as well as a number of other off-trail areas. Please check with park rangers concerning road closures, avalanche warnings, or any other weather-related advisories.
Beauty Unlike Anywhere Else In Ontario
Algonquin Park offers scenic beauty and outdoor adventure in an unspoiled natural habitat. At the same time, it is less than a day’s drive from many Canadian cities.
With so much to offer, the park is the ideal place to host a day trip as well as an extended vacation. Plan a visit soon so that you can enjoy everything this iconic destination has to offer.