The Mizzy Lake Trail begins at Arowhon Road, 15km in from the West Gate of Algonquin Park. Mizzy Lake is one of your best chances to see wildlife in the park, particularly moose and beaver. It’s an 11km loop with an optional 2km side trip to view bear nests (they are up on living Beech trees so are not visible in the summer months). It’s difficulty level is “moderate” due to the rugged terrain, muddy sections, and length of the trail. The park recommends allotting yourself 6 hours to complete the Mizzy Lake loop, it took us 4.5 hours.
Pro Tip: The best time to view wildlife is early in the morning and your chances of seeing Moose improve in the Spring
Why I Chose Mizzy Lake
Since we were only going for the day, I was researching trails off of Highway 60 (the main road that goes through Algonquin Park) close to the West Gate. What was I looking for? Our best chance to see wildlife! We hike every opportunity we get but the GTA doesn’t afford us many spots to view moose, unless you count the Toronto Zoo. I wasn’t concerned about the length of the trail, though I will be honest I did downplay the level of difficulty to my husband who had a conference presentation the next day. My description went as follows, “It’s a really easy trail, flat the entire way barely any inclines and we’ll see cool wildlife for sure!”. What I failed to mention was that there was definitely no guarantee we would see any wildlife. I had read many reviews from hikers who took 6-7 hours to complete the trail and didn’t see any wildlife.
I took the risk because something told me that this would be the first time we would all get to see a moose in the wild!
The Inside Scoop on the Trail
Let’s start with my most important piece of advice if you’re thinking of hiking the Mizzy Lake trail: Wear hiking boots! Your footwear should offer solid support and be water resistant. Significant portions of the trail are very muddy. Despite trying our best to navigate around the muddy areas there were points that I was especially grateful I wore my hiking boots, like when I sunk into half a foot of mud and needed my husband to rescue Elowyn and I from falling in completely.
Several trees have collapsed on the trail so you may need to climb over and other times go underneath some fallen trees like we did. In certain areas prone to severe muddiness logs have been placed down to act as a bridge. Prepare to do some balancing! Due to the pools of stagnant water, (if you go in the summer) you’ll encounter no short supply of mosquitos throughout the trail. Don’t forget bug-spray!
Bring plenty of water and sunscreen as it is a long trail with some of the best spots for wildlife viewing being in direct sunlight. There are trail guides available to download online or you can get them at the information desk upon entering the park like we did. Trail guides are nice to have so you know which areas you’ll be more likely to encounter wildlife in and maybe plan to spend more time at those spots.
Note: Dogs are not allowed on this trail because their presence would disturb many wildlife species whose viewing the Mizzy Lake trail was designed to encourage
Hiking with a Toddler
I had Elowyn, who weighs 25 pounds, in a back-carry for this entire trail. She loved the higher vantage point the back-carry allowed and was amazed with our wildlife encounters. This trail didn’t offer many safe opportunities to let Elowyn run free so we needed to keep her happy and engaged using other methods:
- Snacks she could eat on the go
- We took turns singing her favourite songs
- I asked her questions about what she was seeing
- We encouraged her to look out for her favourite animals
- Making sure she had lots of water
- Teaching her new things about the animals we saw
Warning: If you’re not used to carrying your toddler for extended periods of time I wouldn’t recommend this trail. The uneven terrain is hard on the joints and the muddy areas require good balance to navigate. With the added weight of your toddler, the risk of injury goes up.
We were fortunate to come across a lot of wildlife! The highlight being coming across a Moose in a lake feeding on the leaves, roots, and flowers of water lilies.
We saw beavers working hard on their dam by collecting sticks.
We also came across two types of frogs, two types of turtles, a garter snake, chipmunks and a very cute baby squirrel. Wildlife we could have seen but didn’t come across on this trip: otters, deer, black bears, wolves, and a great blue heron.
I’ll never forget our Moose encounter. It was an incredible experience and it made the challenging aspects of this trail 100% worth it! And now Elowyn can’t stop taking about Moose. We got a lot of great video footage of the trail and of our wildlife encounters. Even if Elowyn can’t remember her fist trip to Algonquin Park, it’ll be nice to be able to show her how engaged she was in our family adventure. I can’t wait to go back in the fall! The fall colours in the park are sure to be unreal.
Check out our video to see the wildlife in action!