Top Places to Experience Ontario Nature
When many travelers have Canada in their sights there’s usually a dose of outstanding natural landscapes they’re after. From rainforests and towering redwoods on the West Coast to unique rock formations and incredible coastlines in the Maritimes, Canada is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural scenery and wonders. And smack dap in the middle, Ontario is full of an unbelievable wealth of diverse landscapes, natural wonders, and is a nature lover’s paradise. Explore the top 10 places to experience Ontario nature.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
One of Northwestern Ontario’s best parks is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Not only is it one of the best places to experience Ontario nature but also offers so many rewarding hikes. Set on the Sibley Peninsula that stretches out into Lake Superior, the Park is home to over 80 kilometres of trails, a wealth of natural beauty, and wonders fit for any nature addict’s bucket list.
The Park is home to a wealth of wildlife, nearly 200 bird species, and the grand Boreal Forest. The park has much to offer visitors, from camping to swimming and sea kayaking to hiking in the summer. And boasts the largest trail system of all of Ontario’s parks. But the fun doesn’t end when winter falls as there is snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
But the ultimate prize is summiting the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park’s Top of the Giant Trail. This is a full day hike covering 22 kilometres. While this trail is not for the faint of heart it will be all worth the pain and sweat in the end. And standing atop the highest cliffs in Ontario will blow your mind, making you ask yourself, ‘am I in Norway or Ontario?’
Did you know: There are over 300 Provincial Parks in Ontario, covering a total area bigger than Nova Scotia?
Pelee National Park
Located on the southern most point of Canada’s mainland is Point Pelee National Park and home to the greatest diversity of plants and animals anywhere in Canada, was the first national park created in Canada for conservation. A great place to go camping and a hub for wildlife photographers, Point Pelee National Park sees tons of visitors every spring and fall as a great bird migration goes past. Look to the shores and the skies for beautiful birds.
Located in Central Ontario, this sprawling provincial park is over 7,500 square kilometres and was established in 1893 as Ontario’s first provincial park. For those who love to explore the great outdoors, Algonquin Park is a must visit for camping, canoeing, and hiking. The park also offers a special opportunity with their Wolf Howl, where groups join park staff as they attempt to call to the park’s wolves in hopes they howl back – and they do! Algonquin Park inspired the art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven creating some of my most favourite art pieces and I’m sure it will inspire you too!
If stunning natural features are a must see for you, like it is for me, then head north to Thunder Bay, Ontario to see the second highest waterfalls in Ontario, Kakabeka Falls. Easily accessible from the highway, the Kakabeka Falls (Kakabeka comes from Ojibwe meaning waterfall over a cliff) is breathtaking. As you stand on a boardwalk that wraps around the top of the falls you’ll surely be in awe. The rock face and escarpment along the gorge has been found to actually contain some of the oldest fossils in existence.
Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s most breathtaking parks. Covering nearly 50,000 hectares, it stretches from the northern shore of Georgian Bay to the La Cloche Mountains and is home to over 50 lakes. It’s also home to around 12 different trails, taking you to the tops of the cliffs to the bogs around its lakes. And if you’re looking for a great short hike, then I suggest Granite Ridge Trail. This moderate trail takes you through the forests, across the Canadian Shield, and up to two incredible views. To the north you’ll see the dynamic La Cloche Hills and to the south the grand Georgian Bay waters. For a longer, more challenging, yet astonishingly rewarding hike consider the park’s most famous trail – The Crack. The Crack is a part of the multi-day trail La Cloche Silhouette, crossing 80 kilometres. The Crack is a 6 kilometre segment that will take you approximately 4 hours. But The Crack allows you to see the best Killarney has to offer as you scale ridges, large boulders, and up to one of the park’s awesome views atop rock cliffs.
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Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve & Thousand Islands National Park
The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve is one of Canada’s 16 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves. This protected swatch of land covers 2,700 square kilometres from Gananoque to Brockville. The area is rich in biodiversity, including over 250 species of birds. And the Thousand Island National Park is a within the Frontenac Arch, covering 21 granite islands and was the first National Park east of the Rockies, established in 1904.
Kayaking is one of the most popular ways to explore the area. Enjoy the tranquility of the waters, see the wealth of birdlife, and stop at one of the islands for a perfect picnic lunch. Another great way to explore the Frontenac and National Park is by hiking one or more of the over 20 trails. One of the popular trails is Jones Creek, taking you through old-growth forests and wetlands.
The Bruce Peninsula
Located a few hours north of Toronto, the Bruce Peninsula is home to a ton of places to experience Ontario nature at its finest! Starting at its base, you’ll find Sauble Beach, the world’s second longest freshwater beach in the world. Second only to Wasaga Beach, another Ontario gem. Sauble Beach is also home to a pretty park home to a beautiful cascade waterfall.
The Bruce Peninsula is also home to Ontario’s epic hiking trail, the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail stretches nearly 900 kilometres, from Niagara in the south to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. And many of the stunning sights along the trail can be found along the Bruce Peninsula, with cliff top views of Georgian Bay, and the famous Grotto.
The Grotto is found within the Bruce Peninsula National Park, another must stop to experience Ontario nature. The Park is one of Ontario’s top National Parks and home to incredible hiking trails, rare orchids, and diverse landscapes. Another great park is Lion’s Head Provincial Park. Set right on the cliffs of the Bruce, it’s great for hiking and birding.
This is just a glimpse at the wealth of nature to explore on the Bruce Peninsula…
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Located in Northern Ontario, Lake Superior Provincial Park hugs the eastern shores of Lake Superior. Lake Superior is the world’s largest lake, and the park covers 160, 810 hectares. With a wealth of natural and historic wonders to explore, Lake Superior Provincial Park is an Ontario nature lover’s gem. From waterfalls to inland lakes and stretches of beach, it will never cease to amaze you. And the park also boasts 11 different hiking trails, for all levels of ability.
A few must stops include; the Pinguisibi Trail – a trail winding along the Sand River that’s home to three waterfalls, canoe along Lake Superior’s shore for breathtaking views, and pause at Old Woman Bay in the shadow of an over 600 foot cliffs rising up from the lake, or hike the 5 kilometre Nokomis Trail for epic views of the Bay and the Park itself.
Forget about heading to the United States folks, we’ve got our very own Grand Canyon. Affectionately dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of the North’, Ouimet Canyon is a remarkable sight. Located 1 hour north of Thunder Bay is Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. A one kilometre loop trail takes you to two viewing platforms overlooking the canyon. The canyon is 500 feet across, 3 kilometres in length, and has over 350 foot vertical cliffs plunging into the delicate canyon floor. Oddly, on the canyon floor rare Arctic flora lives, and this flora is usually found 1,000 kilometres to the north.
The views from the platforms are breathtaking. From the sheer cliffs to the fragile canyon floor and out to Lake Superior in the distance, it’s hard to image this grand canyon is still so unknown. From one of the platforms you can see a large rock formation that appears to be watching over the canyon. Named ‘Indian Head’, the rock formation has a legend behind it – like so many natural wonders in Northwestern Ontario.
You can also cross the canyon on Canada’s longest suspension bridge, 600 feet long. Or for the more adventurous, zip across, hanging over 150 feet above the canyon floor, on Canada’s longest, highest, and fastest zip line!
The area of Hamilton, Ontario is home to a plethora of trails and waterfalls. Said to be “The Waterfall Capital of the World”, with over 100 waterfalls, it’s a surprising Ontario nature lover’s paradise. Why are there so many waterfalls here? The area is a part of the Niagara Escarpment, one of the world’s natural wonders that’s also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Created over 100’s of millions of years ago by glaciers, water, and more, it’s created towering cliffs, canyons, and more natural marvels including waterfalls.
A few must see waterfalls in the area include; Webster’s and Tews Falls – located in Webster’s Falls Conservation Area, Albion Falls is another grand sight, Tiffany Falls, Sherman Falls, Chedoke Falls, and the Devil’s Punchbowl.
Where is your place to experience Ontario nature?
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