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Algonquin Park: Visiting the Oldest and Biggest Provincial Park in Canada.

As summer begins, many nature lovers start making the (sometimes very long) trek to the different provincial parks in Ontario.  We are blessed to have in this province some of the most beautiful places on Earth, and campers can take their pick of a wide array of fantastic places to choose from, one of them being Algonquin Park, located North of Toronto.  This is the oldest provincial park in Canada.  In fact, it just turned 120 years old in 2013 and several additions have increased its size to its current 7,653 square kilometres or 2,955 square miles.  It is said to be one and a half times the size of the province of Prince Edward Island.

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Being relatively close to both Toronto and Ottawa, AlgonquinProvincialPark receives many visitors from both cities during the summer, but it’s especially popular in the fall, when people flock there to admire the changing of the leaves, something that is quite a spectacle in these beautiful forests.  During summer, however, campers have many areas to visit, as camping is one of Algonquin’s most popular activities.  Campers have a choice of staying in any of the serviced (electrical and non-electrical) campgrounds, yurts, ranger cabins or RV camping (there are also many private cottages and resorts all around), but they also have the choice to camp in a more rugged fashion, doing some backcountry camping, by canoeing and portaging, where the Algonquin Park website promises “a vast landscape of maple hills, rocky ridges, spruce bogs, and thousands of lakes, ponds, and streams. By paddle and portage – more than 2,000 kilometres of canoe routes and over 1,900 campsites await those who seek the rugged beauty of AlgonquinProvincialPark. Additionally, Algonquin has three backpacking trails which also probe the heart of the backcountry.” For either of these activities, reservations are always highly recommended.

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Photo Courtesy of The Friends of Algonquin Park

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It is also highly recommended, whether you’re staying in any of the park’s campsites or just spending the day, to make a quick stop at the Visitor’s Centre, to take full advantage and get as much information as possible of everything the park has to offer. “Opened in 1993 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of AlgonquinProvincialPark and the entire Ontario provincial park system, the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre has world class exhibits on the Park’s natural and human history, a relaxing restaurant and an excellent bookstore. A theatre presentation sums up the Park story and then takes you out to the viewing deck from where you can admire a breathtaking panorama of wild Algonquin landscape.”

There is plenty to do at AlgonquinPark, where recreational opportunities range from high-intensity day use to low-intensity wilderness experiences.  Some of the most popular activities include backcountry camping, biking, boating, canoeing, fishing, interpretive walking trails, skiing and snowmobiling in wintertime, swimming, whitewater canoeing and wildlife watching.

Travelling from Toronto, visitors have a few choices to get there, either going through highway 400 and highway 11, or if you’re travelling from east of the GTA and Durham Region, you can either go through highway 12 until reaching highway 11 or a more scenic (but very curvy) route would be travelling on highway 35.  Every route will get you to highway 60 and AlgonquinPark sits on most of the Highway 60 corridor.  It takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to get there.  The closest towns are Huntsville to the west (about 80 kilometres west) or the town of Whitney (about 30 kilometres east of the park’s border).  For more information check the Friends of Algonquin Park facebook page or the Algonquin Park Website.

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Photo Courtesy of The Friends of Algonquin Park

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