Canada is home to some of the best snowshoeing destinations worldwide. 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? If you’re tired of the same old trails and 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 North America’s best winter camping and snowshoe trails. Not to mention the picturesque maple hills (syrup, anyone?) and an abundance of wildlife (try identifying the tracks you find).
Moreover, 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 this park an excellent destination for a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city or as part of a two-city visit to Canada’s most popular showcase cities.
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Snowshoe Trails 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 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 online.
If you don’t have a pair of snowshoes or poles, you can rent them at outfitters outside the park. For example, Algonquin Outfitters offers adults and kids snowshoe rentals and poles.
Interpretive Walking Trails
A great place to start your snowshoeing adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park is one of several interpretive walking trails.
The 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, which is open year-round. Check the events calendar for winter operating hours, as they may fluctuate.
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Minnesing Wilderness Ski Trail
Go snowshoeing on the Minnesing Wilderness Ski Trail, an ungroomed trail with three different loop options. The trail is rated moderate to difficult, with a warm-up shelter cabin available for breaks. Since this is a shared trail, ensure to follow winter trail etiquette.
Read More: Winter Trail Etiquette for Snowshoeing and Hiking
Old Railway Trail
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.
This trail is typically groomed for cross-country skiing, but all winter enthusiasts can share this trail. Also, since the Old Railway Trail is relatively flat, it’s one of the easiest in the park and great for families.
Read More: How To Plan a Snowshoe or Hiking Outing With Kids
If backpacking overnight is your thing, check out the two longer and more difficult 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 courses in winter.
Read More: Tips and Tricks for Cold Weather Backpacking and Winter Camping
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. However, 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 species of inter finches, spruce grouse, chickadees, and Canadian Jays, can be 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 visitor’s center’s observation deck are popular birdwatchers’ destinations. You can also stop in the visitor center and have a friendly conversation about bird and wildlife watching with the knowledgeable park staff. I’m sure they know all the best spots and even a few secrets!
Read More: A New Found Passion: Wildlife Tracking & Identification
Winter camping is permitted in Algonquin Provincial Park backcountry, accessible only by ski or snowshoe when the snow is deep. Just make sure you’re prepared before 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 nine 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.
Before visiting, check out additional information about Mew Lake campground, including the campground’s rules and regulations, nearby attractions, and a large map. Also, visitors must have a valid permit to use the campground. Check for pricing and fees. You can also winter camp in the park’s backcountry with a valid permit.
Read More: Winter Camping Checklist: What To Bring on Your Trip
Head 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 minimal 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 four different options that range from $15 – $25. Becoming a member offers discounted rates at workshops, 15% off purchases at select park facilities, and updates on upcoming special events.
Enjoy your time snowshoeing and exploring Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario! Please share your favorite trails in the comments below.
This article was first published on February 14, 2020, and was most recently updated on January 17, 2023.
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