5 Of The Best Provincial Parks In Cottage Country

We’ve all heard of Algonquin Provincial Park and with good reason.  Covering over seven thousand square kilometres and less than 3 hours from the city, it’s a magnet for back country canoeists and campers as well as those who want to just do a day hike or picnic by one of the many lakes easily accessible from Highway 60.

What you may not know is there are 329 other Provincial Parks in Ontario providing hiking, biking, camping and exploring opportunities. Some are tiny and a few off the beaten path, and all worth a visit.

Here’s five that you should think of visiting on your next trip to cottage country – some you may never have heard of…

Petroglyphs Provincial Park – North Kawartha

McGinnis Lake – Petroglyphs Provincial Park

If you are in the north Kawartha area don’t miss a visit here.  With the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings (petroglyphs) in Canada, depicting turtles, snakes, birds, humans and more; this sacred site is known as “The Teaching Rocks”

There’s an indoor centre that focused on the traditions of the Ojibway (Nishnaabe) people, some great opportunities for wildlife viewing on numerous hiking trails and the brilliance of the blue/green McGinnis Lake which is a meromictic lake, meaning that layer of water don’t intermix.  Camera is essential!

Where:  Northey’s Bay Road just north of Stoney Lake

Ferris Provincial Park – Northumberland County

Photo by Robert Taylor on Flickr

Located in the town of Campbellford, Ferris Provincial Park is home to the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge.  Built by engineers from CFB Trenton, the bridge was completed in 2004 and gives access across the Gorge into the Park.  It’s a fun thing to do in the park while on a hike.  There’s over 10kms of woodland and forest trails.

Don’t forget a visit to Dooher’s Bakery after! 

Where: Ferris Provincial Park – Campbellford

Killbear Provincial Park – Parry Sound

There’s a few explanations of how Killbear got its name – the most likely is from the Ojibway Mukwa Nayoshing which translates to ‘Bear Point’. Maybe because bears have been seen to swim back and forth from the tip of the point to Parry Island, where the Wasauksing First Nation is located.

Bears aren’t the only wildlife that inhabit this varied landscape – barren rocky outcrops, wetlands and mixed forests.  You might see white-tailed deer, porcupine, fishers, and a variety of birdlife including woodpeckers, herons and hawks.

There’s a mix of sandy beaches, iconic windswept pines and spectacular views of the 30,000 islands and plenty of trails to enjoy.

Where: Killbear Provincial Park – Nobel, Parry Sound District

Bon Echo Provincial Park – Cloyne

Renowned for the 100 metre high Mazinaw Rock featuring over 260 Indigenous pictographs, Bon Echo offers hiking trails, boat tours and art exhibitions. Rent a canoe or kayak and go exploring on the water or enjoy a mild to strenuous hike.

Where: Bon Echo Provincial Park – Cloyne

Frontenac Provincial Park – Eastern Ontario

Photo by Bobcatnorth on Flickr

If you are up for a challenge, this is the park to visit. There’s over 100km of hiking trails and you can either just enjoy a trail or two, or take part in the Frontenac Challenge and hike them all. The challenge has to be completed between September 1st and October 31st and you’ll need to hike all 11 loops (or 6 for the Frontenac Trek). Sounds like a good plan to book a cottage for a week and get hiking!

Where: Frontenac Provincial Park – Sydenham

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