Have you explored some of the best hiking trails in Ontario? We experienced a couple during our weekend getaway in Killarney. This post shares our story.
Killarney lies along the northern shore of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada. As mentioned in one of our earlier posts, it boasts magnificent landscapes, majestic and lush forests, ancient white quartzite cliffs, pink granite bedrock. These and its excellent camping and lodging facilities provide all you need for a fantastic hiking experience.
Reasons for and benefits of hiking
Hiking benefits anybody both physically and mentally. Walking through nature and breathing clean air provides us great cardiovascular workout, improves our balance, helps us to relax, and allows us to escape even for a short time the stress of city living. Below are some specific benefits we felt from our hiking adventures in Killarney.
- We believe it contributed to improving our cardiovascular health by enhancing blood circulation. It also contributes to fighting heart disease, high cholesterol levels, and our effort to control increased body fat.
- The rocky uphill climbs for sure helped increase our muscle coordination, flexibility, and balance strengthening muscles and our core.
- Hiking and exploring nature along the trail enabled us to breathe fresh air, forget the stress of day-to-day city life, to think more clearly, improve your moods, and focus on what is ahead of us.
- We also realized social benefits through the quality time spent with the family we had during our hikes and enabled us to meet and interact with other people along the way.
Hiking is of course constrained by harsh weather conditions, comes with safety concerns such as slipping and falling and can be physically demanding to some people. And if you are on a high-altitude hike, you can experience nausea, mild headache, and light-headedness. However, all these can be mitigated by adequate planning and appropriate mitigation measures to ensure you have great hiking adventures in your travels, some of the reasons why traveling is important.
Our first hike – East Lighthouse Trail
This was the best and most convenient option to start our Killarney stay. As we arrived at Killarney around mid-afternoon and the trail beginning on the east side of the entrance of Killarney Mountain Lodge, we decided to head out to this trail immediately after check-in.
This is an easy-moderate trail that would take approximately 2 hours to cover 5 kilometers round trip hike. The course led us through a mixed forest of pine, red maple, and some spruce. At some points, it also gave us glimpses of the open waters of Georgian Bay and its rugged pink granite shoreline.
Upon reaching the lighthouse area entrance, we stopped by to take some pictures of the magnificent view from afar of the picturesque lighthouse sitting on a rocky bluff.
After satiating ourselves with the view from the distance, we headed out to and did a short up Mount East where the lighthouse sits. The lighthouse area provided us an excellent vantage point to have a dramatic view of the unspoiled beauty of Georgian Bay, its north shore, and some of the far-off islands.
Considerations in choosing our Killarney trails
We considered some things when choosing what the trail/s to hiked during our Killarney getaway.
- Time and logistics – We only had a couple of days in Killarney. To optimize our stay, we had to consider the time we had set aside for hiking and the time required to complete the hikes (taking into account how long it would take from our lodging facility to/from the trailhead and whether you need to drive or take a shuttle.
- Distance and logistics – Considering our average walking pace, level of difficulty of the trail, and our overall physical condition, we wanted to make sure that the overall distance to cover the whole route will lend itself to comfortable hiking.
- The elevation gain – Elevation gain is one of the significant contributory factors to the level of difficulty of a trail.
- Time of year and weather – This was not much of an issue for us during our trail hikes considering it was still summer and the weather forecast did not indicate any rain. But depending on the time of the year, some routes may not be accessible in early spring as they will likely still be covered in snow. During fall, you would need to time your hike such that you are not caught after dark as the sun sets relatively early.
- Fitness level – You want to have an enjoyable time out there rather than suffering through a long, strenuous hike beyond what you can take.
There are several ways to find a hiking trail that suits you. Guidebooks and websites are great resources. Seek your friends’ insights and suggestions. You can also find useful information by talking to locals (such as a local hiking organization, a ranger station in the area, or even people at your hotel/lodging facilities.
The most popular trail in Killarney is the Crack Trail, with its top-most lookout providing a magnificent view of the La Cloche Mountains, Killarney lake, and the OSA lake. It is a 6 kilometers non-loop trail, 7 kilometers east of the Killarney Provincial Park office, and joins with the 78 km La Cloche Silhouette. A moderate-to-difficult level of difficulty trail, which would take approximately 4 hours.
The time required to complete this Crack Trail hike, and the degree of difficulty vis-à-vis our physical state did not allow us to go for it. Instead, we decided to go for the Chickanishing Trail for our main hike the following day.
Before heading out to the trail, we grabbed brunch at Gateway Restaurant and Bakery around 7 minutes walk from Killarney Mountain Lodge. Located in the town center, it offers excellent all-day breakfast, as well as bread, pies & pastries, freshly baked daily.
We understand they also provide home-cooked meals. We had a good brunch on one of the benches by the marina. Thereafter, we headed out to explore the Chikanishing Trail.
Our main event – Chikanishing Trail
Chikanishing Trail is a moderate-to-difficult loop trail involving a total distance of 2.4 kilometers located in Killarney, Ontario, around a kilometer from the Killarney Provincial Park office trailhead between 10-15 minutes drive from the Killarney Mountain Lodge.
The trail takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to cover, depending on your condition and the number of stops you make, as there are several beautiful sceneries you will see along the way. Before we headed out, we made sure we had all the things we needed, considering our expected duration, what we knew of the trail, weather conditions at that time, among others. We then packed our stuff in our backpacks we got from a special deal from a great source.
We first dropped by the Killarney Provincial Park office to register and obtain a parking permit, we reached the starting point of the trail that also serves as a launching point for those kayakers and canoers at the Chikanishing Creek. Following a quick toilet stop, we headed to the portion of the trail that travels along the creek.
This part of the course has lots of ups and downs over pink granite outcrops. We navigated carefully through the rocky paths, aided by our trekking poles and appropriate walking footwear. It was a good thing that it was not raining then. We were wondering how difficult the trail would have been otherwise. Along the way, we stopped by the two lookouts. They had signs explaining the significance of the place as well as providing us a good view of the people navigating the creek in their canoes or kayaks. It must be an exciting and refreshing feeling for them.
From the second lookout point, we had a view of the highest peak where the third lookout was situated. We did not think the challenge of the final climb required was something that we can tackle and were about to head back. However, we encountered a mother-and-daughter tandem, with the mother clearly much older than us. They thought we can easily make it and encourage us to go for what could be a once-in-a-time opportunity while we were then. So, we challenged ourselves and moved on.
After a long and challenging climb – taking necessary breaks and catching our breaths along the way, we finally reached the third lookout point at the peak. And what an unexplainable and satisfying feeling it was! The lookout unveiled a fabulous view of the lake and islands below, clear skies above, surrounding rocks and forests. We then lounged for some time among the rocky outcroppings and immersed ourselves in a great feeling of achievement of conquering one of the best hiking trails in Ontario from our perspective.
From there, we could have proceeded on a downward trail that would take us to the water (with an excellent area for swimming we were told) and a forest trail back. However, while more challenging, we thought of retracing our route and spend the rest of our time in the area enjoying further the views on our way back.
Choosing your gear & other reminders
You just need a minimal amount of stuff to head out there and explore, one of the reasons why we like hiking. You just need to follow some essential guidance such as below, a positive disposition, and a sense of adventure. However, do not forget your smartphone and/or camera. To have quality and vivid shots, it is always good to have a quality camera on top of your smartphones. Check out our previous post, comparing the camera to smartphones.
Your hike will likely give you great memories, which you would want to capture through your photos and videos. Our experience has indicated that such pictures and videos will become handy when recalling our adventure while winding down at the hotel, conversations during the ride back home, and reminiscing them and sharing them with family and friends.
Other than bringing your phone or camera, we also recommend several things.
- Wear appropriate footwear – While it can be down to personal choice, our anticipation of the fact that the trail terrain will turn tricky on some stretches based on our advanced research, we made sure that we had comfortable but appropriately protective footwear.
- Don the appropriate clothing – This can include your base layer (if in a cool to cold temperature), your hiking layer (e.g., nylon/polyester pants, shirts, and hat), something for insulation (like a vest, jacket, pullover, hat, gloves), and rainwear if required.
- Follow trail etiquette – This includes respecting the right of way rules along the trail. For example, hikers going uphill have the right of way, mountain bikers generally yield to hikers) and exhibit a “Leave No Trace” behavior to contribute to a sustainable way for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.
- Carry emergency essentials – This includes navigation items and illumination for darkness. Also, sun protection, insulation (depending on the season and time), first aid kit, nutrition and hydration items, and emergency shelter (if deemed necessary).
- Bring some essential-for-travel items we discussed in a separate post. They can make your trip not only memorable, but also attach colors and drama to each experience of stunning landscapes, wildlife sightings, the challenge of the climb, the good feeling of conquering the peak, and the like. Check out our earlier post on the items we brought during one of our trips involving similar travel experiences.
Best hiking trails in Ontario – this is one of them!
Indeed, Killarney boasts magnificent landscapes, majestic and lush forests, ancient white quartzite cliffs, and pink granite bedrock, contributing some of the best hiking trails in Ontario for a fantastic hiking experience. After our well spent 3-days-2-nights getaway, we started our 5-hour easy drive back to Toronto.
We hope this post has picked your interest in this fantastic hiking destination. If you want to know more about the rest of our stay in Killarney, check out our other post by clicking the banner below.
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If you have tried these trails or other similar trails, kindly share your thoughts and experience by leaving your comments below.