Saturday, October 17, 2020

Algonquin Park Travel Guide

The pandemic may have halted international leisure travel but it has also inspired me to explore more of Ontario and appreciate nature on a deeper level. This year I’ve embarked on more road trips than ever before and I’ve discovered the great Canadian wilderness.
Algonquin Provincial Park has been on my bucket list for years and although it is only 4 hours from the GTA, I’ve delayed the trip to visit other countries. This fall I finally booked a hotel and finalized my plans but after a thorough internet search, I couldn’t find much information about the region.

If you’re considering a fall trip to Algonquin, this guide will help you discover the best sights and stops along the way.
The Best Time to Visit
Algonquin is beautiful year round but peak seasons for tourism is summer (when the forest is warm and green) and autumn when the leaves have changed color. Although there is no wrong time to visit, you might want to avoid the fall-winter transitional period – when the leaves have fallen, the trees are bare and the forest looks a bit bleak. In the winter, after a fresh snowfall the park is peaceful and beautiful.

To enjoy the fall colors at their peak, it is best to visit early to mid September. We were there in the second week of October and most of the trees in Algonquin had already shed their leaves. To see the burnt orange and bright yellow you may have to hike a little deeper into the woods.
Don't be discouraged if you arrive late in the season. There are many other places to see the fall colors. In mid-October the foliage becomes sparse after you pass Dwight Bay Road on Highway 60 (just before you reach Algonquin). The trees south of this point are still bursting with color. This is because Algonquin Park is further north and the vegetation is more susceptible to cold weather and early winter conditions (the leaves shed faster in the park).

The Best Place to See Fall Colors in October

For the best fall foliage in early to mid-October, head to Orillia, Muskoka and Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville.

Things to Bring for a Day Trip/Weekend Getaway

Autumn in Algonquin can be cold and damp so check the forecast in advance and prepare for the weather.

Road Trip Checklist:

-Jacket, warm clothing, scarf and extra socks. (When hiking, it is best to wear long sleeve tops and pants to shield from mud, tics and poison ivy).

 -Rain gear/umbrella (if necessary).

-Hiking/waterproof shoes or boots (the ground can be quite wet).

-Park map and compass if you plan to hike off trail.

-Cooler with drinks, food, snacks and lots of water. (For your safety, make sure to dispose of garbage in bear proof bins located throughout the park).

-Bug Spray

-Cell Phone (make sure you have reception).

-Bear repellent (Algonquin is black bear territory. Also be on the lookout for wolves and moose which can be aggressive).

-Backpack (for weight distribution and hands-free hiking).



-Camping + fishing gear (if you aren't staying at a hotel). I prefer luxury accommodations so I’ll leave this category to more experienced campers.

-Canoe and life jackets (if you plan to make use of the many lakes). Canoe rentals are also available (check with visitor information).

-Beach/swimming gear (if you visit during the summer).

Getting There

The drive to Algonquin along highway 11 towards Muskoka is beautiful! Orillia is especially vivid because the road is lined with colorful trees as far as the eye can see.

**Travel tip: When you reach Muskoka keep an eye out for the Visitor Information Center on the right side of the highway. It is a great place to get free maps and ask questions about points of interest.

Stops to Make Along the Way

Before you reach Algonquin Park there are many places to stop and explore.

A few of my favorites are:

*Gravenhurst and Muskoka Wharf. There is a farmers market, picturesque boardwalk, lakeside resorts and a few restaurants. Steam ships also depart from the dock (tour schedule is available at the visitor center).

*Deerhurst Resort and Golf Course (great place to snap a few photos)



Places to Stay

There are several towns surrounding Algonquin and the park itself has a few lodge-style accommodations, cabins and campgrounds.

**Travel Tip: read reviews and choose a hotel based on budget, comfort, location and the experience you wish to have. Always book well in advanced during peak seasons.

Lodges and log cabins aren’t really my style so we booked a king size room at the Holiday Inn Hunstville based on reviews and ranking on Expedia. It was clean, comfortable and located close to the old town.

Keep in mind that remote accommodations near or inside of the park are surrounded by forest and at night it is pitch dark. In the evening, there isn’t much to do in these areas, dining options are limited and it is not safe to wander off into the wilderness.

Huntsville is approximately 34 - 40 mins from Algonquin (not a not a big deal if you have a car) and the cute little town has a variety of shops and restaurants.

I highly recommend Belly Artisan Ice Cream. Their delicious, non-GMO natural flavors made in house with no artificial colors. They also offer vegan and nut-free desserts.

A few of their unique flavors include: basil lemon, blackberry earl grey, buttertart, carrot cake, chocolate dipped strawberry (my personal fave), cinnamon bun, melon with prosecco, maple mocha, rhubarb ginger, scotch whiskey with smoked almonds and caramel (another one of my favorites), sticky mango rice, wild blueberry with lavender and more.
For more info visit their website at

Other areas to stay near the park include:

-Oxtongue Lake
-Lake of Bays

Visiting Algonquin Park

We entered at the west end of the park. Day passes can be purchased at the visitor center (located at both entrances) for $18 per car. It must be displayed on the dashboard at all times.

**Travel tip: Make sure to grab a free map at the visitor center to see all the points of interest and decide which stops to make along highway 60. The map also lists all the trails, how long the hike will take and level of difficulty.

~Turn your car radio to channel 102.7 for more park information.

Best Places to Stop in Algonquin Park:

-Whiskey Rapids
-Tea Lake
-Hardwood Lookout
-Canoe Lake
-Mizzy Lake
-Peck Lake
-Mew Lake
-Bat Lake
-Lake of Two Rivers
-East Lake Trail and Lookout
-Rock Lake

**Travel tip: be EXTRA vigilant when hiking trails through black bear country in Algonquin Park. During autumn the bears prepare for hibernation and moose may be aggressive during mating season. Remember to keep a safe distance, have bear spray ready and do not approach wild animals.

Arrowhead Provincial Park
If you arrive late in the fall season and miss the colors in Algonquin Park, head to Arrowhead Park instead. (Park day pass is $15.50 per car).
In the winter park officials cover the trails in ice so you can skate through the forest at night! If you visit Algonquin Arrowhead Park is not to be missed!
Alternative Fall Road Trip
If you don’t feel like driving 4 hours to Algonquin from the GTA, one of my favorite places to see the fall colors is Caledon Ontario.

Head north on Highway 10 and turn left onto Forks of the Credit Rd. The winding hilly lanes and thick tree line along the Bruce Peninsula is perfect for fall photography.
**Travel tip: Only stop in areas where there is enough room to pull over on the shoulder. Avoid stopping in front of houses, gates or private property. Residents in the area have complained about an increased number of tourists stopping along the road.

Drive to Bell Fountain. My family has been picnicking in this park since I was a kid and it is still gorgeous! There are nature trails along the river, lakes and a suspension bridge over an impressive waterfall.
I  hope you enjoyed my fall foliage photography. 
Follow me on Instagram @DiaryofaTrendaholic 

Happy travels. Stay safe.

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