Algonquin Provincial Park, about a three-hour drive from Toronto, is well known to be a sort of holy grail of nature and Canadian-ness in the province of Ontario for its hiking trails, lakes, cottages and autumn colours.
And if I know that, as a year-old expat in the country, then it really must be quite concrete.
In fact, since moving to Toronto, I almost immediately declared Algonquin Park as the place I may even achieve one of my stereotype Canadian dreams: see a moose.
Now, as a lovely little writing technique, I could build up suspense through this whole post before revealing whether or not I saw a moose or not on this trip I’m going to talk about. But frankly, I’ve lived a year so far in suspense hoping to see a moose, so I’ll get this overwith… I did not see a moose. I am yet to see a moose. The search for a moose is still ongoing and bitterly disappointing.
This is probably due to the fact that we only did a day trip to Algonquin from Toronto, which is a reasonable amount of effort: we woke up at 5, were on the road before 6 (we hired a Zipcar so we didn’t have to wait for a rental car place to open at a less ungodly hour), got there for 9, hiked trails and were on our way back at 1pm so we could get back at a good hour and before too much traffic.
I’ll be honest: this is a day trip to do if you want an easy, relaxing day but still get there before too many crowds – from about 11:30 to midday-ish, the park started to get a lot busier, with trails and parking lots more clogged up. Although still entirely worth it, the early morning vibe of the park was my favourite, with especially crisp air and complete silence on the trails.
Our stops for this stress-free day included a few stops on Highway 60 (within the park) whenever we saw a gorgeous looking lake, Peck Lake, Two Rivers trail and Lookout trail. We chose these last two trails because they were short (about 2km each) and promised autumnal colours – our main reason for making the trip to Algonquin in October. If we were here for a weekend, we’d definitely have done a few of the fun-sounding 5k+ hikes (and then probably seen a moose…).
It felt so good to be out of the city and in a natural setting; immediately the air smelt so much crisper and cleaner when we stepped out of the car with bleary eyes to collect our park permit ($17 a vehicle for one day).
I’m usually not a huge autumn lover and had some doubt as to whether the colours would impress me, but it’s safe to say I loved them and have never been as in awe at an autumn view. I think the season has grown on me…
Algonquin Park Day Trip from Toronto Tips and Tricks
- Start early to avoid crowds and see the pretty morning mist over the lakes – if you don’t have your own car, I highly recommend signing up for Zipcar
- Take snacks and your own lunch if you want to keep the trip cheap – the park permit is already $17 for the day
- Grab a map when you get your permit – it’s got all the trails and info on it
- Wear sensible shoes! Even if it’s a sunny day like it was for us, the ground can still be wet and some trails get steep (like Lookout trail)
- If you’re big on taking photos, think about where the sun will be at the time of day you’ll be at a scenic lookout – it’s a shame when the sun gets in the way of a good shot because you’re too early/too late