As an avid outdoor enthusiast and photographer, it was sad that I have not camped in the last two years, but I made the promise to make this my year, even though we were going through a global pandemic. In this blog, I will share with you my camping stories along with recommendations on where to camp and what to do in Algonquin.
In early July, I asked around my friends to see if anyone was up for any wild adventures this summer because a few weeks prior, after months of waiting, I finally received my new 2p REI tent in the mail. One of my old-time work colleagues replied to see if I was still up for that adventure. How could I say no? The following week we booked a backcountry campsite in Algonquin, rented a canoe, and took off into the unknown.
This was our first of two trips to Algonquin, and because we were hauling a lot of expensive camera gear by canoe, we didn't want to risk camping deep inside the park. For our first trip, we booked a backcountry site at the most Southern point in Algonquin at Kingscote Lake, which was just over a 3-hours drive from downtown Toronto. We rented our canoe from Deep Roots Adventure, which was only a 20-minute drive from the lake access point. If you're camping in this area of Algonquin, I highly recommend renting from Deep Roots Adventure, they are incredibly friendly, very comforting, and they do their best to accommodate you for your camping and canoeing needs. They also offer additional services, guides, and workshops which I would suggest you check out!
BOOKING TIP *
When booking your backcountry site in Algonquin, it is on a first come first serve basis. You reserve a campsite in a general area, which may contain anywhere from 1-50+ campsites spread throughout the area.
Upon arrival, you will have to canoe and find an unoccupied campsite. Designated campsites will have a bright orange sign posted on a tree (as seen pictured below).
I recommended arriving early between
9am and 12pm to find a good campsite. This time frame I found to be ideal because you are early, but not too early where previous campers still may not have left their occupied site.
When booking your site, it will indicate how many sites are in the area and how many available sites remain. If you are going during a busy time of year, it's best to be there early to find a good site.
From the lake access point, it took us about an hour to canoe our campsite. When we arrived at our site at sunset, we experienced the most surreal golden colours in the sky. Of course, we went out and took pictures! But what we experienced later that night was probably the highlight of the trip.
After the sun went down, the stars came out, twinkling against the black backdrop. We were feeling brave, and even though we could barely see our hands in front of our faces, we hopped in the canoe and paddled out into the middle of the lake. The stars were shining above and reflecting against the water. It felt like we were floating in outer space. Truly breathtaking.
The following morning we woke up, and I made myself a cup of tea in my favorite camping mug. The quietness, the peace, the nature all around us, it was a blissful morning. It was a great time to reflect on the beauty we experienced the night before.
Two weeks after camping in Algonquin for the first time, we decided to embark on another camping trip, this time camping in central Algonquin at Lake Opeongo for two nights and on the far eastern end of Algonquin in Achray at Grand Lake for another two nights.
Lake Opeongo & Surrounding Area
Lake Opeongo is the largest lake in Algonquin located smack in the middle of the park. This location is very popular as it is along Highway 60, where you can easily find dozens of hiking locations with stunning lookouts.
We hiked 3 trails in the area, Lookout Trail, Centennial Ridges Trail, and the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail. There were many more trails to choose from, but because we were there for such a short time, we chose these three.
Achray & Surrounding Area
The second location on the eastern side of the park is situated in a more bear dense region. It is less popular as getting there can be a bit of a pain. Although it's not far, it's over a 2-hour drive, and half the time you're driving on an unpaved gravel road. But the reason why we chose this spot is because of the Barron Canyon, which was a short 30minute drive away.
After the first night in Achray, we woke up early to catch the sunrise in the canyon, but when we woke, up the skies were gloomy and didn't look very appealing or photogenic. We stepped out of our tent and heard the faintest sounds of rain as droplets hit the treetops above us. We quickly grabbed our gear, set the canoe onto the lake and took off to the mainland. The moment we got in, it started pouring hard, and it just wouldn't stop. We paddled for over half an hour in the torrential downpour watching as our canoe slowly filled with water. Luckily we were prepared and wore raincoats to keep us dry, but with all that rain and waves splashing in our faces, we were still completely soaked.
After a short 30 minute hike up a hill, we could see the end of the path ahead. We were hoping to arrive at the Barron Canyon in the morning to see the beautiful golden light hitting the treetops, but instead, we were in for a better surprise. The entire time since we left our campsite, it was raining very hard, and that formed a precipitation fog that strolled through the entirety canyon as far as the eye could see.
We spend the next several hours at the top of the canyon snapping photos while soaking from head to toe, but the shots we managed to capture were breathtaking, and the memories will stay with us forever. Well worth getting soaked.
A funny thing happened when we got back to our campsite that afternoon. Before we left, I left the air vents closed because I thought that water could get into the tent if I left them open, but I was wrong. I should have left them open. Water seeped in and soaked all of our sleeping bags. Later that night, there was also a tornado warning in the area. It was a scary night, but luckily, everything ended up being fine.