Algonquin Park and Baptiste Lake- Perfect Canadian Fall.

Travel PeriodOctober 2018
Length of itinerary3 days
Mode of travelRoadtrip

This is the first post of Wagging Tales and it is fitting that it is a trip taken with the one with the wagging tale, Tangy. More on her name later. This was her latest trip and thus makes to do the top of the list as the first post on our site.

Canada is one of the few countries which still has all four seasons and arguably, fall season is one of the most photographed one. Some pictures below will communicate better:

While the pictures above were not clicked by us, this is what we wanted to experience first hand and Algonquin park is one of the best places for that in Ontario. It also happens to be a day’s drive from Toronto with plenty of accommodation options around the park.

Good to know:
Algonquin Park is a vast expanse of wilderness and lakes. Only some parts of the park are open to tourists with almost all tourist traffic concentrated on the Highway 60 corridor which passes through the park.

Good to know:
Highway 60 has a East-West orientation through the park. The west gate of the corridor is closer to Toronto and consequently, has more stay and see options. However, this also means that on a long weekend the west to east drive gets very busy in the morning and vice-versa in the latter half of the day when the crowds turn back towards the west gate.

Itinerary Overview

  • Saturday: Leave from Toronto for our resort on Baptiste lake. Plan to reach the resort by early evening
  • Sunday: Sightseeing and activities in and around Algonquin Park
  • Monday: Drive back to Toronto, aiming to reach home by early evening.

Day 1: Saturday- Drive to Baptiste Lake with sightseeing along the way

We had packed our bags the night before so the day started with packing in some last minute essentials including Tangy’s bed, bowls and eatables. Our plan was to take the Gardiner Expressway East, go north on Don Valley Parkway, pass Peterborough and Kawartha Highlands to reach our resort on the Southern flanks of Baptiste Lake.

We had breakfast before leaving home so that we can zip through the city’s roads and the busy Highway 401 East. A typical uneventful, smooth drive along the city’s internal and external arteries with only one stop to top the fuel tank.

The landscape began to change a bit once we left Highway 401 and started going north from Newcastle towards Peterborough. The leaves started to change color the further we went away from Peterborough and water bodies became more prominent to the extent that we often had streams and lakes along the road for kilometers. Spoilt for choice in terms of where to stop to stretch our legs, we finally stopped at countryside road between Youngs Point and Burleigh Falls on the Stoney Lake- a reminder of why we avoid major highways. A bit of sunshine would have been a perfect add on but were happy that rain gods were keeping away at least.

Our next stop was Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. The drive was scenic, smooth and after a point our eyes got used to so many colors of leaves around us. After paying the entrance fee at the park (based on per vehicle and quite reasonable), we drove in. Canada’s air quality is one of the best in the world but even then you can smell a good difference between the freshness of highway air and park air, less than a kilometer in.

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is the quintessential cottage country which is yet to be run over like Muskoka. There are ample camping, trek, kayaking and fishing opportunities as long as you are careful of which road you turn in to. Many small diversions from the main road in the park are roads leading up to private cottages and end there. We drove around the park and finally decided to stop at a lake side with portable toilets. There was no one around and you could only hear the birds, wind and the rustling of leaves it brings with it. Some pictures from in and around the park:

After some shutter-happy moments and leg-stretching exercises, we loaded back in the car and continued on the final stretch of the day- to our resort on the shore of Baptiste Lake.

We had booked our accommodation on south flank of Baptiste Lake, a highly rated resort called Birch Cliff Lodge. The property is made up of multiple cottages on the lake. Parking is mostly next to each cottage and a private beach, children play area, rental kayaks, private BBQs and outside seating are other features of the property. Given that it was fall season, the lake waters were already pretty cold but what we saw made us sure that it is a summer paradise. Highly recommended!

Day 2: Sunday- Drive through Algonquin Park

This was what had brought us over three hundred kilometers from home. With some food in our and the dog’s belly and post the ritual morning walk, we bundled up in the car and left for Algonquin Park at about 7:30 am – an hours drive from our cottage with a fuel stop in between.
The route takes you through hills, of which some provide vantage view of red and orange forest canopies, and valleys which were inevitably alongside a water body and sometimes two different ones on both sides of the road. This is CANADA!

With hardly any traffic, we reached the East Gate of the park in a little over an hour. It is mandatory to take a day pass if you plan to stop at any of the viewpoints or attractions in the park. However, if you are just driving through, the day pass may not be needed. But a quick check at the offices on any of the gates would be better than getting a ticket!

We got the day pass in less than 10 minutes, picked some maps and brochures and were on our way. You could either keep a physical map handy (remember to pick one from the park office) or you can use the map available on the park’s website.

Good to know:
x Algonquin Park has multiple attractions but except for two or three which we will list on this page, all are treks and hikes of varying difficulty which take you to view points and other attractions in the park. It is impossible to do all the hikes and treks in one visit so do your homework and plan well.

x On a long weekend, the wait times at the selected restaurants and eateries are insane. So pack and bring food with you especially if you have kids accompanying you.

Algonquin Logging Museum
Located close to the East Gate, Algonquin Logging Museum is not just a pit stop. It provides a glimpse into the history of the area which is now called the Algonquin Park. Apart from the exhibits, the museum runs a short movie on how logging is done in the Museum while maintaining the delicate ecosystem and nature at the park. Once the movie ends, the screen opens up to a sort of backyard which has exhibits in open along a short hike in the forest. It demonstrates how people used to live, devices and equipment used and much more.
Algonquin Logging Museum is a must see for those who want to know the park’s history and appreciate the current ways of maintenance of this incredible natural asset.

Algonquin Visitor Center
The visitor center is further into the park and provides a viewpoint for the wilderness, a nature museum, restrooms and a restaurant to eat. The place can get very busy so do not be in a hurry.
Some pictures from the museum and the viewpoint at the visitor center:

The drive from East to West gate took us about four hours including stops at the Logging Museum, Visitor Center, a small trek and some photo-ops. Once we were out of the park, there were few places to eat but nothing too fancy. We stopped at a multi-cuisine cafe offering pizza, pasta and Canadian cuisines.

The journey back from Algonquin Park to Birch Cliff was through some more secondary highways and roads, offering us an opportunity to appreciate the fall colors even more. Passing some smaller towns and cottage areas, we agreed to be confused if these folks were isolated, lucky or both!

Additional pictures from in and outside the park are available at the end of this page.

Day 3: Monday- Drive back to Toronto

We checked out around 9 am from Birch Cliff and started our journey back to Toronto with some stops on the way. We moved west towards Lake Simcoe, passing near Kawartha Lakes and many other picturesque locations, before going south towards Toronto.

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