Canada is home to some of the best snowshoeing destinations anywhere in the world. Packed with historic parks, backcountry ski lodges, snow-capped mountain peaks, and plenty of gorgeous views, it’s a snowshoer’s paradise. But Canada is a big place you say! Where should you go? Well, if you’re tired of the same old trails and you’re looking for a new snowshoeing adventure, look no further than Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. You won’t be disappointed.
About Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Established in 1893, Algonquin Provincial Park, located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River is the oldest provincial park in Canada. It’s also one of the most popular parks in the country and it’s easy to see why. Larger than the state of Delaware in the United States, it’s home to over 2,000 lakes, 805 km (500 miles) of rivers and streams and some of the best winter camping and snowshoe trails in North America. Not to mention the picturesque maple hills and an abundance of wildlife.
Algonquin Provincial Park is about 300 km (186 mi) north of Toronto, Ontario and about 260 km (162 mi) west of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital. This makes Algonquin Provincial Park a great destination for a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city or for visitors that want to visit two of Canada’s most popular showcase cities.
Snowshoeing In Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Snowshoeing enthusiasts can go virtually anywhere in the park, presuming you are an experienced snowshoer. For beginners, it’s best to stay on marked trails. Please be aware though that not all areas are plowed during the winter, so please check the trail for winter access. Also, make sure to purchase your park pass ahead of time at the West or East gate of the park.
If you don’t have your own pair of snowshoes or poles, you can rent them at outfitters located outside of the park. Algonquin Outfitters offers adults and kids snowshoe rentals, as well as poles.
Interpretive Walking Trails
A great place to start your snowshoeing adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park is one of several interpretive walking trails. The Hemlock Bluff Trail (3.5 km, 2.2 mi loop), Bat Lake Trail (5.8 km, 3.6 mi loop), and Mizzy Lake Trail (10.8 km, 6.7 mi) are all moderate trails located in the plowed areas of the park. Each of these trails explores a specific aspect of the park and you can pick up trail guide booklets at the visitor’s center, open year-round. Check the events calendar for winter operating hours, as they may fluctuate.
Additional Snowshoeing Trails
Go snowshoeing on the Minnesing Wilderness Ski Trail, an ungroomed trail with 4 different loop options ranging from 6 to 32 km (3.7 to 20 mi). Alternatively, you can also explore the park’s vast network of portages, and the multi-use Old Railway trail, which follows the abandoned bed of the Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound Railway.
If backpacking overnight is your thing, check out the two longer overnight backpacking trails, Western Uplands Backpacking Trail and Highland Backpacking Trail. Each backpacking trail consists of loops ranging from 19 to 88 km (12-55 mi), respectively. The park plows the parking lots for both trails in winter.
Don’t Forget The Wildlife
For the animal lover, there’s plenty of wildlife to see at the park, including deer, moose, fox, and wolves. Though you might see more tracks than animals unless you’re an experienced watcher or it’s your lucky day. The park is also a popular bird-watching site. Several varieties of birds including ravens, chickadees, northern goshawks, purple finches, red crossbills, and Canadian Jays are frequently seen. Check out Algonquin’s birding report for the latest sightings and pictures and to learn more about the variety of birds found in the park.
The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Opeongo Road, or visiting the observation deck at the visitor’s center are popular destinations for birdwatchers. You can also stop in the visitor center and strike up a friendly conversation with the knowledgeable park staff about bird and wildlife watching. They know all the best spots and even a few secrets I’m sure!
Winter camping is permitted in Algonquin Provincial Park backcountry, which is accessible only by ski or snowshoe when the snow is deep. Just make sure you’re prepared prior to winter camping for the first time. Mew Lake Campground is open year-round with reservable campsites and sites open on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The campground also features seven yurts (tent-like structures with furniture and electric heat) available by reservation only. Plus, there’s a fully winterized comfort station, including laundry facilities on-site.
Electric hookups are available on most campsites. Furthermore, there’s even a skating rink with lights and a hot tent for the whole family to enjoy. Of little to no surprise, playing hockey is a favorite activity of many visitors that visit the campgrounds. This is Canada of course! The homes of the Maple Leafs and Senators are just a few hours away.
Ensure you have more information about Mew Lake campground including the campground’s rules and regulations, nearby attractions, and a large map prior to visiting.
Visitors must have a valid permit to use the campground. Check for pricing and fees. With a valid permit, you can also winter camp in the park’s backcountry.
Getting To Algonquin Provincial Park
In the winter, the best access to Algonquin Park is along Highway 60 which travels across the park’s southwestern corner. Please prepare accordingly. There is very limited cell phone coverage in the area.
If you’re a regular visitor, you can also purchase a membership. Memberships are available for purchase through the park’s website. They have 4 different options that range from $15 – $25. Becoming a member offers you discounted rates at workshops, 15% off purchases at select park facilities, and updates on upcoming special events.
Go enjoy your time snowshoeing and exploring Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario! Please share your favorite trails in the comments below.