Are you road tripping in Ontario? Then I guess Algonquin park is already on your list of things to do in Ontario. And also, I’m sure you have already heard that the best season to visit Ontario’s most popular provincial park is from mid-September to late October when the leaves turn with the fall season and the scenery is just spellbinding.
But, while the spectacular foliage and colourful nature attracts tourists to Algonquin Park in the fall, the infinite number of outdoor activities have a special appeal all year around.
Where is Algonquin Park?
Algonquin Provincial Park is located in south-central Ontario, Canada and it covers 7,630 square kilometres (2,946 square miles). Its forests, rivers, and numerous lakes are home to moose, bears, and common loons (we didn’t see anything).
It is about 250 km north of Toronto, Ontario and about 260 km west of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital. Its size, combined with its proximity to major urban cities like Toronto and Ottawa (it’s only three hours from Toronto and about four-and-a-half from Ottawa), make Algonquin Provincial Park one of the most popular parks in the province of Ontario and the country itself.
Best way to drive from Toronto to Algonquin Park.
Most people drive north on the 400 to Barrie and then take the exit to Highway 11 (towards Huntsville). From there drive through Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and Huntsville. At Huntsville, you take the exit to Highway 60, which goes right through Algonquin Park. The Highway 60 Corridor is measured by kilometre markings from west (West Gate [km 0] to east (East Gate [km 56]).
Huntsville is the last sizeable town before the park and the best place to stop if you realize you’ve forgotten something.
The best way to visit Algonquin Park is driving with your own vehicle, but if you don’t have one available, you can check out this “adventure tour from Toronto to Algonquin Park” offered by Get Your Guide website. A knowledgeable guide will lead you throughout the whole trip and this tour is great for solo travellers as well as couples, families and small groups.
Admission fee to Algonquin Park.
A 56 km highway corridor (Highway 60) runs through the park from the west to the east so the entrance to the park is ticket free if you don’t stop your vehicle along the way. Otherwise, you must have a valid Park Permit. We were driving to Algonquin Park from Toronto and just before the west entrance (and I think also at the east entrance for the people who start from the other side) there is an information point where you can get informative leaflets and tickets.
We paid for our day Vehicle Permit 17 Canadian Dollars. It included access to trails, museums, lakes, picnic areas, and many other park facilities. A park permit is absolutely required and it must be well displayed on the dashboard of the vehicle. I highly recommend you do that.
They also sell seasonal packages and multiple entry packages.
Things to do at Algonquin Park.
The information paper we received at the ticket office was perfectly done and it helped us a lot to best manage our day in the park. It shows the names of all the trails with their km and walking time so that you can choose the better one for you according to your available time and physical conditions.
In our case we had reserved only one day in Algonquin Park so we had to hurry a bit. We visited only the Canoe Lake, Lookout Trail, Art Centre, Spruce Bog Trail, Visitor Centre, and the Museum. We would have liked to spend at least 3 days in Algonquin Park because all of these activities really excited us.
Some considerations on what we did:
- Lookout trail is the most popular trail in Algonquin Park. It is only 2.1 km and in less than 45 minutes it leads you to the viewpoint. The view at the top is probably the best of the short hikes so I especially recommend this one for those short on time.
- Spruce Bog Trail is probably the easiest one and it is the only one with wheel chair access. It takes less than an hour to do the loop and along the way, there are some benches where you can sit and relax. That is a perfect solution for all ages and mobility levels.
- The Art Centre, Visitor Centre, and the Museum are very informative. Exhibits and interactive displays are suitable for children too.
- Because the one-hour drive of highway 60 passes through conifer and hardwood trees, in September and October it’s one of Canada’s most spectacular road trips.
How much time you need at Algonquin Park.
Algonquin Park covers 7,630 square kilometres, so you could stay there for a year and you still wouldn’t have seen it entirely. Believing you can spend only one day in Algonquin Part really isn’t enough to do it justice. It deserves more time, but it’s true that there are so many things to see and do in Ontario that tourists often don’t stay longer. In case you decide to spend only one day in Algonquin Park, you better decide ahead of time what you want to see and do.
Unfortunately, we had just a few days available for our road trip in Ontario and all our stages were previously planned so we couldn’t change the dates. We really felt like we missed a huge part of the park.
Where to sleep in Algonquin Park
I slept at Barry’s Bay Golf Resort Motel. It is close to the east gate out of the park area. It was a wonderful place to stay but I think you probably can’t go wrong with any other places in the area. The nature, the silence, the sense of peace and relaxation are elements that will surely complete your experience.
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Algonquin Park: Things to know.
- Created in 1893, Algonquin is the oldest provincial park in Canada and the largest in Ontario.
- A permit is not required to enter the park if you are camping overnight in the park.
- The East Gate is located just west of the town of Whitney, Ontario. The West Gate is located just east of the town of Dwight, Ontario.
- If you are driving Highway 60 which runs through the provincial park, you do not need a permit.
- Although black bears and moose are reasonably common in Algonquin Park, you will have to be very lucky to see one. We saw none of them.
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Final thoughts about Algonquin Park.
Not only has the fall colour in the Algonquin Provincial Park impressed us, but so has everything.
I can’t wait to return to Ontario’s most popular provincial park and probably on our next trip to Ontario we should stay at least 2 days in the Algonquin Park area. I’m sure we won’t get bored.