Can you believe that Thousand Islands National Park is the closest national park to my home and that I had never been there before? Since this is a very small park (in fact, one of the smallest in the entire national parks network), I wasn’t sure what hiking options there were, but after doing a bit of research I found that there were a few interesting trails, starting with those at Jones Creek.
Thousand Islands National Park is one of the oldest in Canada (it has been in existence since 1904), but the land where Jones Creek is located was not transferred to the national park until 2005 (which at the time almost doubled the size of the park). It is not located on one of the famous 1000 islands in the St. Lawrence River (sorry to disappoint you here), but rather is on the mainland, between Highway 401 and the Thousand Islands Parkway.
Jones Creek trails are divided into two sections: the lower section (southeast of the creek) and the upper section (northwest of the creek). The two sections were previously connected, but it appears the floating bridge that crossed the creek was damaged in a storm last year. It was still closed when I visited.
The Jones Creek area is described as a wild oasis that protects many species of plants and animals. It includes wetlands, streams and a rocky forest, where there are several hundred-year-old pines.
The lower section is arguably the easiest to access. It has four trails (Eel, Turtle, Heron, and Bear) which are all interconnected.
The weather was rather gloomy when I visited the are and from the parking lot, I could hear the waves of the St. Lawrence crashing on the shore. But once under the tall pines, the wind seemed calmer to me.
I started by following Eel Trail which quickly brought me to Turtle Trail. Under the carpet of pine needles and fallen leaves the trail seemed to disappear at times, but as it is fairly well marked, I did not find it too difficult to follow. Here and there between the trees I could see Jones Creek.
The hike definitely got more interesting once I got to Heron trail. The Thousand Islands National Park is located in the Arch of Frontenac biosphere, a granite arch recognized by UNESCO for its importance for biodiversity. The Heron Trail reminded me of other trails not too far from there, such as those on Foley Mountain and Frontenac Provincial Park. It included small climbs along granite ridges.
Heron Trail also has the most beautiful views of the wetlands of Jones and Mud creeks. The famous red chairs, emblems of Parks Canada, are also located on a small rocky promontory overlooking Mud Creek. Across the stream I could see the floating bridge, which has definitely seen better days …
I finally finished my hike with Bear Trail. Like Heron Trail it also had an interesting drop in elevation and a few rocky spots.
Following a large loop going through all trails, my hike in this section totaled almost four kilometres, with an elevation gain of 39 meters.
Since I still had energy and time, I decided to explore the trails of the upper section of Jones Creek as well. As the floating bridge is currently closed, the only way to access the upper section is via an entrance on County Road 5. There is no parking lot, so I did as the only other car there and I parked along the road.
At the trailhead, a small wooden footbridge, a large trail map and a sign indicating the closure of Deer Trail. The latter also have been permanently damaged, making part of the section inaccessible.
But I figured I could still hike Wolf Trail and Hawk Trail to give myself a little idea of what that section looked like.
If the sound of the waves accompanied my first few metres in the other section, it was the noise of traffic on Highway 401 that accompanied my first steps on Wolf Trail. Luckily, the trail is quite interesting and quickly made me forget the noise of the cars.
After following the base of a small rocky ridge, Wolf Trail crosses Potty Creek on a wooden walkway, almost overgrown with weeds.
Then Wolf Trail joined Hawk Trail which forms a large loop. Hawk Trail made me feel like it doesn’t see many hikers. In some places the trail was almost completely covered with brush. In other places it disappeared under pine needles. It included several ascents and descents along small rocky ridges in the forest.
I have to admit, I expected my hike in Thousand Islands National Park to be relatively leisurely and not very difficult. Hawk Trail showed me I was wrong. After more than ten kilometres of hiking, my legs were getting tired and I was starting to count the kilometres that remained to complete the loop. I almost screamed with joy when I finally got back to Wolf Trail.
My hike on the Wolf and Hawk trails totaled over 7 kilometres with an elevation gain of 114 meters. So I hiked almost 12 kilometres in total on the Jones Creek trails. It really made me want to discover the other trails in this small national park! I’ll be back!