Ever since our summer trip to Algonquin Park when we hiked Mizzy Lake and the Hardwood Lookout trail we’ve been dying to go back. On our last trip we were really hoping to see wildlife which is why we selected the Mizzy Lake trail. This time around, we were excited to see some epic fall views and the trails we chose did not disappoint!
Day 1: Friday September 28th
We left Toronto around 7:15am so that Elowyn would sleep in the car and be awake to enjoy our hike. Knowing that the park gets very crowded during peak weekends in fall we booked our trip on a Friday which turned out to be a great idea. There was zero traffic in the park and we got our visitors pass from the West Gate in less than two minutes. There was also ample parking at the trail-heads. If you’re planning on hiking Centennial Ridges this is especially important because if the lot gets full and you have to park at the gate it will add 4 kilometers to an already long trail. We prepared by packing plenty of water and snacks in addition to some yummy sandwiches for our mid-hike picnic.
Centennial Ridges Trail 11 km
Hiking boots are a must for this trail especially with unpredictable fall weather. It features rugged terrain, a few steep inclines, and hiking along cliffs that get slippery when wet. When I was reading reviews for Centennial Ridges most of the negatives had to do with the length/difficulty of the trail. Many people expressed finding the trail muddy, slippery, and difficult to traverse.
This didn’t detour us because we’ve completed rigorous trails with Elowyn before and knew we would be wearing reliable hiking boots. But I will say that although Centennial Ridges is the same length as Mizzy Lake and is rated the same difficulty by the park it is not even really comparable. Centennial Ridges is significantly more challenging.
If you’re not used to hiking long trails with steep inclines while carrying a necessary backpack with food and water then this trail may not be your best option.
The much shorter “Lookout Trail” also offers excellent fall colour views. I don’t mean to detour you though, because Centennial Ridges is our new favourite trail in Algonquin Park! It offers multiple lookout points with breathtaking fall views. You’ll encounter a diverse landscape along your journey including some spectacular lake views and an impressive beaver dam!
Even though we got trapped in the rain for the last few kilometers of our hike, we finished the trail in good spirits and we couldn’t stop talking about what an incredible hike we just had.
It took us around 4.5 hours to complete the hike and that was with many stops for photos and videos.
We kept up a good pace throughout the hike but I remember at one point a bit before the half-way marker when I started to slow down. My quads were getting sore from one of the inclines and I was loosing steam. Luckily we had packed sandwiches and fruit and after a short snack break I felt much better. Don’t forget to eat well before this hike and to pack lots of water! I can’t stop thinking about how majestic the views from this trail were, it was truly magnificent.
Centennial Ridges Trail Guide Video
We stayed in Deerhurst Resort again because we had such a positive experience on our last trip. I had forgotten we had selected the Fall Colours Hiking package until we checked in and received our complementary parking pass for Algonquin Park. Our room also had a surprise waiting for us! Two bags packed with water, juice, fruit, cheese, and lots of hiking snacks including some very delicious trail-mix. My family was meeting us at our resort for dinner and we chose the Compass Grill since we didn’t get a chance to try it last time. They had a wide variety of Tapas on the menu; my favourite was the Gyoza.
Next stop was a walk in the resort to digest a little before swimming. Elowyn played in the indoor playground for a bit but then saw the pool and kept saying, “pool! swim swim! I want it! pool!”.
So we headed back to our condo style room to get ready. That’s when I noticed the room had a DVD player so it was lucky we brought along a few favourites for family movie later in the eve. The swimming pool is huge and heated and when we first arrived we had the entire pool to ourselves! They have lots of life-jackets in all sizes and surprisingly Elowyn didn’t mind it this time around.
Elowyn really wanted her Yiayia to come into the water with her but alas Yiayia had forgotten her swimsuit! So she put her feet in the pool to splash around, much to Elowyn’s delight.
After our swimming party we settled in for family movie night. That’s when waking up at 5:45am was starting to hit me.. There’s only so long that excitement and adrenaline will keep you going.
Day 2: Saturday September 29th
We woke up around 8:45am and I’ll confess I didn’t have a great sleep. My tummy wasn’t feeling 100%, also Elowyn had fiddled with the alarm clock the night before so it ended up going off at 5:00am and 6:30am before Dave unplugged it. Luckily we were in no rush to get out the door and enjoyed breakfast in our spacious condo style accommodations. I had packed some Mediterranean meatballs and cornbread that made for a nice hearty breakfast.
Exploring Algonquin Park
A great way to see fall colours in Algonquin Park is driving through the park along highway 60. We entered from the West Gate, which was significantly busier on the Saturday compared to the day before, and we drove through the park to the visitor center.
The visitor center has a fully accessible short trail perfect for junior hikers that still offers a beautiful view! Elowyn ran up and down the trail numerous times and I loved seeing her safely explore the trail independently.
We also got warm beverages from the visitor center before continuing our exploration of the park. Next stop was the Lake of Two Rivers Picnic Area where we enjoyed some beautiful lake views and Elowyn got another chance to run around and discover hidden paths through the forest. Then it was time to hit the trails! For day two we chose a shorter trail because let’s just say I don’t come from a line of avid hikers.
Two Rivers Trail 2.3 km
The Two Rivers trail is a short 2.3 km loop that features an ascent to a pine-clad cliff where you’ll still get some fall colour views in the distance. The forest had an assortment of interesting mushrooms and the climb was fun including getting to run up some smooth giant rocks.
My family enjoyed it and there were some great spots for photos at the top of the cliff. The trail did have uneven terrain and I can imagine it would get slippery when wet especially along the smooth rocky areas but I still think it’s a good option to take children on due its short length and gentle ascent. Another fantastic option is the Hardwood Lookout Trail but keep in mind you would need to go on a weekday as it is closed on peak fall weekends.
Two Rivers Trail Guide Video
Algonquin Art Centre
Before heading home we stopped to see the Algonquin Art Centre. Pictures were not allowed inside the Art Centre but you can take my word for it that this gallery is definitely worth stopping to see! They featured a wide-range of styles and I appreciated the way the paintings of animals were arranged. It felt like you were entering a wild forest where predators were eagerly eyeing their prey from across the room.
What To Bring for Fall Hiking in Algonquin Park
- Hiking Boots
- Wear Layers
- Trail Map
- Rain Jacket
- Lightweight Backpack
- Snacks and Lunch
- Plenty of Water!
Benefits of Visiting Algonquin Park in the Fall
- No mosquitos!!! I can’t stress how awesome it was to not have hoards of mosquitos hunting you down as you’re trying to enjoy the moose you spotted.
- Better weather for long hikes. It’s easier to complete an 11km hike, with numerous ascents, in good time when it’s not extremely hot. I enjoyed the crisp fall breeze and even the rain was tolerable.
- Amazing views. From the moment you enter the park, to the picnic spots you visit for lunch, to the cliff tops you hike to on the trails, you’ll be surrounded by unforgettable vivid fall colour views.
Have you been to Algonquin Park? What’s your favourite trail?
Travel Blog by Sofia Martimianakis