7 cottage-country hiking trails

Our top picks for where to take scenic autumn hikes

By Emma WoolleyEmma Woolley

HIking trails

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These are our picks for day hikes of varying difficulty all over cottage country.

1. Sandstone Island Trail
Charleston Lake Provincial Park

Gananoque, Ont.

Length: 3.3 km loop (about 2 hours)
Difficulty: Easy
Map: Available at the park

Charleston Lake sits about halfway between Algonquin Park and the Adirondacks, smack in the middle of one of North America’s most diverse ecosystems. Hikers on this trail will witness not only the stunning wildlife and geology of the area, but get a lesson in history too, passing by Native rock shelters and the old foundations of pioneer buildings. Other trail options

More on Charleston Lake:
Friends of Charleston Lake

Canada Trails Info

2. Cranberry Bog Trail
Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney, Ont.

Length: 4 km (about 2.5 hours)
Difficulty: Moderate
Map: Available at the park

Perched at the north end of Georgian Bay, Killarney is a hiker’s haven, featuring stunning blue waters inland and spectacular views out to the bay. Those interested in Ontario wildflowers will particularly love the Cranberry Bog Trail, where they’ll find orchids, water lilies, pitcher plant, and sundew, depending on when they visit. The trail also winds around AY Jackson Lake, named after the famous Group of Seven painter, who was also an early advocate for the park. Other trail options

More on Killarney:
Friends of Killarney

Canada Trails Info

Killarney Tourism – Hiking Trails

3. Lakehead Loop Trail
Silent Lake Provincial Park
Bancroft, Ont.

Length: 1.5 km (about 30 minutes)
Difficulty: Easy
Map: Available at the park

Families with kids looking for a short, easy hike are well suited to this wooded trail, which winds through stands of hemlock, maple, and red oak. Eventually, the forest gives way to an excellent view on Silent Lake. Other trail options

More on Silent Lake:
Canada Trails Info

4. Beaver Meadow Trail
Arrowhead Provincial Park
Huntsville, Ont.

Length: 7 km (about 2 hours)
Difficulty: Moderate
Map: Available at the park

The Beaver Meadow Trail is Arrowhead Provincial Park’s longest hike and the one to hit if you’re keen on spotting wildlife, including beavers, otter, moose, great blue heron, and tree swallows. The best time to tackle this trail is in the spring and fall, when you can clearly see Porcupine Bluffs, the remaining shoreline of an ancient lake. Other trail options

More on Arrowhead:
Canada Trails Info

5. Osprey Heights Trail
Halfway Lake Provincial Park
Onaping, Ont.

Length: 6 km (about 1.5 hours)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Map: Available at the park

Halfway Lake Provincial Park lies about 80 km northwest of Sudbury and has four marked trials, most of them challenging. The Osprey Heights Trail is among the most strenuous, and for good reason: Hikers here climb over many steep and rocky areas to reach some beautiful rewards, including a spectacular lookout over Antrim Lake. Other trail options

More on Halfway Lake:
Canada Trails Info

6. Brûlé Trail
Awenda Provincial Park

Penetanguishene, Ont.

Length: 4 km (about 1.5 hours)
Diffiiculty: Easy
Map: Available at the park

Although this area was once home to stands of towering white pine, lumbering in the late 1800s has cleared the way for a mixed deciduous forest to prosper. If you’re looking for a place to admire the fall colours, this trail, with it’s fiery sugar maples and red oaks, won’t disappoint. Other trail options

More on Awenda:
Canada Trails Info

7. Cliff Top Trail
Bon Echo Provincial Park
Cloyne, Ont.

Length: 2 km (about 1 hour)
Difficulty: Moderate
Map: Available at the park

This trail leads hikers along the backside of a 100 m high, sheer rock face adorned with more than 260 native pictographs; it’s the largest visible collection in Canada. Approach the trail by boat or on the Mugwump Ferry for a great view. What the trail to the top lacks in ruggedness—there are built-in stairs and pathways—it makes up for in reward once you reach the spectacular views at the end, overlooking Mazinaw Lake and its surrounding landscape. Other trail options

For more information on Bon Echo and the surrounding area:
Canada Trails Info

Friends of Bon Echo Park

This article was originally published on July 5, 2009

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Emma Woolley