Stephen Gleave’s Picks For Must-Try Ontario Trails

Sure, many people know Ontario for its stellar canoeing, but the province also teems with beautiful trails for hikers and runners.

Though it may lack the spectacular peaks of British Columbia or the Yukon, Ontario still offers some of Canada’s best and longest trails. The idyllic settings of these trails provide gorgeous vistas and the opportunity to push for as long as you want.

Many of these trails have various overnight or camping options to accommodate the athletes working on trail lengths of 100 km, 500 km, or even 800-plus km. From the always-beautiful Lake Superior shoreline to the exposed Canadian Shield, hikers will find First Nations petroglyphs, remnants of French-Indian trappers, and much more.

Here are some of my favorite trails in Ontario.

Pines Hiking Trail - Quetico Provincial Park

Trail length: 10 kilometers

Time: 3 to 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Provincial Park features a tangled network of lakes that in the past were used as water routes by Ojibway and fur traders. While experienced canoeists love this park for its marshlands, it’s also a wonderful place for hikers to find time alone to connect with nature. That includes wildlife sightings, perfect lakes, cascading waterfalls, and dense forests.

The Pines Hiking Trail is an extension of the Whiskey Jack Trail (an easier trail that lasts just 2.5 km) and offers sandy beaches surrounded by pine trees. The trail is moderate with some steep climbs.

Learn more on the parks website.  

Highland Backpacking Trail - Algonquin Provincial Park

Length: 19 km or 35 km

Time: 2-5 days

Difficulty: Difficult

This trail is for the more experienced — or at least ambitious — hikers out there. There are a few ways to do this one, but whichever route you take, know that it will involve several days and at least one night in the wilderness. If that doesn’t deter you, then you’ll be greeted with a plethora of lakes, rivers, challenging uphill hikes and switchbacks.

You can find the Highland Backpacking trailhead at kilometre 29.7 on Highway 60. The trailhead begins near the well-serviced Mew Lake Campground (near the Bat Lake trailhead). Loop back at Provoking lake if you want the shorter loops. Push forward to Harness Lakes for the 35 km route.

Learn more on the park’s website.

Coastal Trail - Lake Superior Provincial Park

Length: 65 km

Time: 5-7 days (or day trips)

Difficulty: Moderate/Advanced

Follow along the unforgettable Lake Superior shoreline with this multi-day adventure starting in Agawa Bay and ending in Chalfant Cove. It’s a straight-forward, well-marked trail, so no danger of getting lost here. The large number of other hikers should also help, if nothing else.

Those wanting to hike it end-to-end in one push should make sure to arrange a shuttle pick-up. It’s also possible to just link together sections over separate day trips, of course. Either way, you’ll find yourself in awe of the lake’s famously majestic cliffs, postcard-worthy beaches, and contemplative forests.

With several access points including Sinclair Cove, Katherine Cove or Agawa, you can plan your time and specific approach as you prefer.

Learn more on the park’s website.

Mizzy Lake Trail - Algonquin Provincial Park

Length: 11 km

Time: 5-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

There’s a sense of mystery and timeliness in Algonquin Provincial Lake that’s hard to deny. Something about the marshlands and misty mornings. Hiking this trail will take you to nine lakes and ponds, with plenty of beaver residents and their unmistakable dams along the way. As it winds through at-risk wetland areas, you’ll have to leave the pup at home.

The Mizzy Lake Trail can be found at kilometer 15.4 on Highway 60. The trailhead is well-marked and should be visible from the road.

Learn more on the park’s website.


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