Hiking Granite Ridge Trail in Killarney Provincial Park
I was drawn to Killarney Provincial Park for many reasons. But the driving force was its sweeping vistas of astounding wild, untamed natural beauty. A beauty that inspired my favourite artists, the Group of Seven. Their paintings of landscapes across Ontario bring the outdoors to life. And still, nearly 100 years after their creation, continue to inspire many to seek out these remarkable locations.
While Killarney Provincial Park may not be as popular as Ontario’s famous Algonquin Park, it is just as spectacular. Covering nearly 50,000 hectares, Killarney is home to a wealth of wildlife, a dozen hiking trails, and over 50 crystal clear lakes. One of its top trails is The Crack, a difficult 6 kilometre hike to the top of the Killarney Ridge. While it may take four to six hours, The Crack Trail will lead you to arguably the most breathtaking view in the Park.
While I would love to return to Killarney Provincial Park is do this hike, I knew I would not have enough time to complete it during my short visit on my Northwestern Ontario road trip. So, I chose a short trail, but still a great one, the Granite Ridge Trail. I’m a hiker who has a bit of an obsession with epic views. And I wanted to choose a trail that didn’t sacrifice that. So, the Granite Ridge Trail offered exactly what I wanted and needed. I needed a short trail but one that would provide me with what I wanted, the view!
Granite Ridge Trail
The Granite Ridge Trail access is right across from the Killarney Provincial Park Visitor Center. This trail is perfect for most hikers with only a couple of hours to spare. Granite Ridge Trial will take between one to two hours, is moderate, and two kilometres.
The initial trail led us into the woods. Enveloped by the darkness, my lungs filled with the rich smell of the dense cedars that surrounded me. Here in woods, among the cedars, with remnants of yesterday’s rain, made for a perfect party for the masses of mosquitoes. Moving at a faster pace to out run the buzz of bites, we passed an old farm vehicle, now being reclaimed by the forest floor.
Then, off to the left, I caught a glimpse of another trail. This is where we would turn to continue on the Granite Ridge Trail. This narrow path, where I could barely see my feet from the tall grasses, was in stark comparison to the large wide trail we began on. But alas, here we broke free into the light again. And boy was it a glorious day. Since it was still early, around 9 am, the temperature was mild, and the humidity was at bay.
After a boardwalk we started our ascent. Any ascent, while it tires me, it excites me. I know that when I reach the top I’ll be rewarded. With the sun shining down we clambered over rocky and rooty terrain, up and up. Sheer swatches of incredible Canadian Shield underfoot now became our new trail.
The wind started to pick up and I knew we were almost there. And after a few more steps I was there, atop one of Killarney’s peaks. There in the distance was the astounding and majestic La Cloche Mountains. Large lush rolling hills, some ending in gleaming white cliffs, filled my view and my heart. My mind’s eye conjures up images of some of the Group of Seven’s paintings. They could have sat on this very rock and let the awe and beauty of this view bleed into their art.
When I was able to tear myself away from that awe-inspiring view I noticed that the trail continued along the peak to the south. And I couldn’t believe my eyes! There, beyond the trees, was yet another epic view. And this one was entirely different than the last. Here before me was the mighty Georgian Bay. Dotted with small islands and the larger Phillip Edward Island, people on boats enjoying the heart of summer, was a familiar sight yet a new perspective. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe my fortune with hiking the Granite Ridge Trail. It rewarded me with not one but two epic and vastly different views.
The Granite Ridge Trail can be hiked in a linear way or in a loop. When we descended the peak we opted to take the loop back for new scenery. And again almost immediately we were thrust into the forest again. But not the dark, dense cedar trail at the beginning. This one was a typical woodland trail with streams of brilliant sun peeking through. The birds chirped and a woodpecker that seemed to be following us from the peak made his way down with us. It was a charming trail over boardwalks, and even passed a massive fallen tree whose roots system appeared a work of art.
But again the granite of the Canadian Shield made its appearance. At first, we cautiously made our way across it, stealing glances at the views to the right. And then I realized, this must be where the Granite Ridge Trail got its name. We slowly made our way down what turned out to literally be a granite ridge. It was steep and needed chess work thinking to scale down. But once we were back on solid ground I looked back at it and again was in awe. It solidified that a trail doesn’t need epic views to make it worthwhile, sometimes these works of Mother Nature are just as fulfilling.
The loop trail leads back to the path that takes you back down your initial steep ascent, and then back to the wide cedar forest trail. And even on a Saturday in the middle of summer, the trail was not very busy. We passed less than a half of dozen people, and that was only coming back down as they were beginning their ascent.
Where to Eat
After our early morning start, and a great hike our bellies were starting to rumble. So after hearing from the staff at the Park’s Visitor’s Centre that the small village of Killarney was only another 10 minute drive further down 637, we heading in. And the lovely lady at the Centre recommended we try the Sportsman Inn.
This Inn has a great restaurant with the vibe of summer getaway meets sports bar. And the best part, it’s right on the water. You can eat inside or dine on the veranda. I opted for the chicken club wrap with pesto mayo and it was delicious!
Tips on Hiking in Killarney Provincial Park
- Bring plenty of water and snacks
- Bring sunscreen and a hat
- Wear proper hiking shoes
- Be aware you’re in bear country, plus other wildlife
- Pack bug spray
- Note that from the Highway to the park, along 637, it’s at least a half hour drive
- Educate yourself on the trail; its length, difficulty, and more, before heading out
Have you hiked Killarney Provincial Park?
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