I have been going to Algonquin Park for as long as I can remember. My parents were avid backcountry campers (my mom still is) and passed on a love of the outdoors to me. A few visits to the park a year, since I was a child, has left me with a pretty good collection of personal favourite locations. With that in mind I have collected my top ten places to visit in Algonquin park.
I have yet to fully explore the east side of the park, so this top ten will focus on south, central and west Algonquin Park locations.
10. Beach campsite on Penn Lake
I would reserve this destination for the off season when it is less likely to be really busy, but in the fall on a hot weekday this is an awesome campsite. It is the third campsite on the east side of the lake after the Night Lake portage and is a huge beach. It is on a peninsula too, so you get sun for most of the day. This is a great way to get a private beach while backcountry camping.
9. Mizzy lake Trail
I am including this trail because at 11km there are few casual walkers to encounter. It also has many boardwalks and a different feel than some of the hiking trails in the park. For this reason, I have been lucky enough to see lots of wildlife on this trail.
8. Island site on Rain Lake
I like ruins and this site happens to be the location of an old ranger cabin. Only a chimney is left, but it is interesting in the interior of Algonquin Park. The site itself is beautiful with a rocky shoreline and lots of tent space. This lake is busy, but if you are planning to camp on Rain Lake, I would highly recommend this spot.
7. Island campsite on David Lake
This is a beautiful site if you want an island to yourself. The site has a neat “fireplace,” but the opposite end of the campsite is my favorite part; a huge rock to lie on in the sun. The swimming from this side of the site is also really nice. Only downside is that the island is so small you will have to paddle to the mainland to collect firewood.
6. Lookout point on Lookout hiking trail
Okay, this one is fairly well known, but I think a top 10 places to see in Algonquin needs to have it. It’s a short 1.9m loop to the look out and a relatively easy hike. It is uphill, so keep that in mind while planning. I would go during the week and highly recommend after the leaves have changed. It is an incredible view that cannot be beat.
5. Old lumber site on Timberwolf Lake
Granted there is not a WHOLE lot to see here, but as a lover of history and abandoned places, this sort offers great exploring. We camped on the second campsite on the east coming out of the mouth of the river. To mix things up, we entered Timberwolf via to 160m portage from Misty Lake. Although there is a note about an old tote road obstructing the river, we were able to cross it with little trouble. From the second campsite, it took a fair amount of bush whacking to get there, but we found it by sticking to the shoreline. You almost hike to the next campsite, so make sure not to disturb fellow campers. There is a small meadow where you can imagine buildings once were and it is full of wild raspberries (NOTE: do not eat berries unless you know how to recognize safe ones from poison ones!).
4. Tim River
This one is a bit obvious, but I really like Tim River. It used to be less traveled, but now is a well used destination. The possibility of low water and having to walk a canoe up a boggy river does seem to deter some people. I really like river paddling. I don’t mind big lakes, but there is something adventurous about a winding river with something new to discover at each turn. I have also seen a lot of moose here, so Tim River is worth a visit.
3. Waterfall on Head Lake
The last campsite on the south-east side of Head Lake shares a bay with a pretty cool waterfall. Although Head Lake is close to HWY 60, it tends to feel more remote as it takes “work” to get there. From Cache Lake it involves a 1640m portage or several hours meandering through rivers on the Madawaska River and Head Creek. There are other ways to get there, but they involve more paddling and portaging. If you can grab this campsite (which is a nice one) you have a personal waterfall. You can either do a hike from the campsite or swim across the bay to the waterfall. It is tall, but easy to climb from the sides. You can also hike the river back from the waterfall, although I never made it all the way to Kenneth Lake. It is a lot of fun, but use caution when climbing.
2. Picto Bay on Rock Lake (Pictographs)
This is a more recent discovery for me, but a new favorite. The sheer cliffs in Picto Bay themselves are worth seeing. You don’t really get a feel for them until you paddle the shoreline below these giants. If you are looking at the cliffs, about a ¼ way from the right is where you will find the aboriginal pictographs. They are difficult to find, but it is amazing to see a piece of history still out in nature. Floating at the base of cliffs in a canoe, in the middle of Algonquin, really is an experience.
1. Madawaska River from Lake of Two Rivers at the 50m portage.
This one is a catch 22 for me, as my number one. This was my favorite spot until they put in the bike trail a few years ago. Maybe it is more about the memories here, but I just love this spot. We used to launch a canoe from the Lake of Two Rivers beach, paddle the Madawaska River until this portage and then pack a pic-nic lunch to enjoy here. On a hot summer day after lunch we would swim in the falls. There are several small falls with pools of water between each. It was a great place for an afternoon swim.
As I mentioned, I have yet to visit the north and east sides of the park, so next up on my list is the Barron Canyon, the Water Slide and High Falls.
What is your favorite place in Algonquin? Why?