Algonquin Park, the granddaddy and crown jewel of the Ontario Parks system, is one of our go-to places when needing an outdoor fix. Lynn and I have been going there at least once a year for over 25 years. I made my first trip there over 40 years ago, while still in high school.
We’ve done everything from Highway 60 corridor car camping, back country canoe tripping, to hiking most of the trails. Unfortunately, work schedules, plus distance to get there at times make it a challenge. But when we decide to go, it is always well worth the effort.
Having family not far from the Park, we decided to combine a visit with them and a 2015 fall colour hike in Algonquin. One minor issue we have is an older dog that is not able to navigate our lengthy and sometimes treacherous hikes. So, heading out at times involves getting someone to at least feed and let her out to the bathroom when we’re away for the day.
Family came through for us once again. They said, “Come for a visit and just leave Katie with us for the day. We’ll keep her occupied and happy when you’re gone. Pick her up on your way back.”
Of all our times in Algonquin, the one spot that we had not hiked was the Centennial Ridges Trail. Everything we knew and read said it would make for a great hike(10 kilometres) and would provide excellent vantage points for fall colour viewing and photographic opportunities. We gave our northern family some notice; checked the fall colour report from the Friends of Algonquin Park(FOAP) website, and off we went.
One small issue – the colours weren’t at their peak as the FOAP website stated. Peak colours ended up being about a week later. Oh well!
We set out for Algonquin from our relative’s home, just north of Huntsville. It was one of those beautiful October days where the temperature was just about perfect for doing anything outside. Arriving at the West Gate to buy our day pass, it seemed that we weren’t the only ones thinking the same thing – it was busy! That’s alright, everybody’s allowed to enjoy Algonquin.
The Centennial Ridges Trail was opened in 1993 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Algonquin Park. The trail highlights the contributions that many people have made to Algonquin over the Park’s first 100 years. The road to the trail is at the 37.6 kilometre mark on Highway 60(from the West Gate). From this point, it’s about a 2 kilometre drive to the parking lot for the trail head.
As mentioned above, the trail is 10 kilometres in length. The guide-book for the trail indicates the trail to be demanding and requires 6 hours to complete. I would suggest that those figures could be open to interpretation depending on your ability.
We stopped countless times along the route for Lynn to take pictures; we stopped for lunch; dwelt for long stretches along the ridge lines, admiring the view. So, moving at a slower than normal pace for us and stopping a lot, it took us 5 hours. I would think that keeping a moderate pace and with an average amount of stops, you could complete it in 4 to 5 hours. However, it should be noted there are a significant number of deep ravines to hike into and out of. As such, everyone needs to judge their own ability and time requirements accordingly.
Nevertheless, like all things Algonquin Park, the Centennial Ridges Trail is a can’t miss hiking destination. If you’re into history and specifically the history of many of the men and women who over the years have contributed to some aspect to the Park’s existence, then this is the trail for you.
Using the interpretative guide books found at the trailhead, you can read a brief history regarding these interesting individuals and their specific contribution to Algonquin Park, spanning the past 100 years.
Unfortunately I didn’t keep many notes from our hike, so kind of going from memory here. Nevertheless, Lynn’s pics hopefully provide an incentive to get to Algonquin to hike Centennial Ridges or any of the many other interpretative trails available.
A few shots of Whitefish Lake from one of the escarpment ridges. Really, could the view be any better. As they say, “The more effort required to get there, the better the reward!
Some other great views from the escarpment ridges. Can never get enough.
I do enjoy the solitude on a trail being by myself. However, seeing many couples, groups, and families on the trail that day was gratifying in a unique way. I guess it was my hope that on this day Algonquin Park was giving them far more in terms of soul satisfaction then they could have ever hoped for. Perhaps it would plant a small seed that would grow and encourage some of them to discover what the great outdoors has for each and every one of us.
As well as the great views from atop the ridge lines, the trail also visited a couple of smaller lakes.
Typical trail along the upper ridge lines. I love how Lynn captured the sun filtering down through the trees.
Although Highway 60 brought us to Algonquin, it unfortunately also leads us back home again.
All in all, our October 2015 hike along the Centennial Ridges Trail was a resounding success. Maybe the leaves weren’t at their peak just yet, but the colours nonetheless were still outstanding.
The Centennial Ridges Trail is certainly one not to miss at any time of the year. If this trail isn’t your cup of tea, there are lots of other interpretive trails in Algonquin to suit any ability. Just pick one. You won’t be disappointed.
We would love to hear what your favourite Ontario Parks trails are to hike. Feel free to comment at our blog here; or at our Facebook page www.facebook.com/justabitfurther or on Twitter www.twitter.com/justabitfurther
Here are two additional links providing more information on great activities to be found in Algonquin:
Ontario Parks: www.ontarioparks.com/park/algonquin
Friends of Algonquin Park website: http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/foap/