Rock Dunder – A not-to-be-missed hike in Eastern Ontario

Not being able to travel, I have hiked a lot of trails in Eastern Ontario and in Western Quebec in recent months. And I loved Rock Dunder so much that I have no hesitation in ranking it high on my list of favourite hikes this year.

Located northeast of Kingston in Eastern Ontario, Rock Dunder is not very high (barely 190 metres above sea level) but offers a great view of the Rideau Lakes region. The trails are well laid out and I really, really had a lot of fun hiking them.

Rock Dunder trails
After hearing so much about it… finally exploring Rock Dunder!

Like Foley Mountain in Westport, Rock Dunder is part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, a granite arch recognized by UNESCO for its importance for biodiversity. And just like Foley Mountain, Rock Dunder is also mostly made of pink granite and was born from seismic activity millions of years ago. Over the centuries, ice, water, and wind have sculpted Rock Dunder granite to give it its particular shapes.

The 230-acre protected area has three trails: the approximately 4-kilometre Summit Loop (which goes to the summit of Rock Dunder), the 2-kilometre Morton Bay Loop, and the 1-kilometre Cabin Trail. I started my hike with the Summit Loop because after hearing so much about it, I really wanted to see this famous summit.

Summit Loop
On the way to the summit

The trail is steep from the first few metres so I immediately liked it. Without being extremely difficult, it has several climbs and descents which makes it a good physical exercise. It is above all well maintained and well-marked. There were a lot of rocks and roots, but the trail was not muddy or slippery. The perfect ingredients to make it a pleasant hike!

Rock Dunder trail
Rocky trail

The Summit Loop follows several granite ridges. On these, blue arrows have been painted on the rock to indicate the path to follow. I love hiking on granite ridges. There is always something impressive to see all this rocky mass, shaped by the vagaries of time.

Blue arrows on pink granite
Following the blue arrows to the top

After a little over two kilometres, I finally arrived at the famous summit of Rock Dunder. And I admit it took my breath away. The landscape is magnificent and stretches as far as the eye can see. The fall colors were not at their peak yet, but here and there I could catch a hint of red and orange.

Merrell Boots at Rock Dunder
Quite a place to take a break!

I could have been sitting there for hours, but since Rock Dunder is quite popular, I knew I probably wouldn’t be alone at the summit for very long. So I continued my hike and slowly started walking back down towards Morton Bay.

Summit Loop
It’s just so beautiful!

At this point, the trail previously followed the granite ridge along bay, but the great popularity of Rock Dunder in recent months led to an increase of hikers, which eroded the trail, making it slippery and dangerous. The trail was therefore diverted to go through the forest. A less impressive section than the previous one, but still pleasant.

The Summit Loop ends close to the bay and an old cabin (which was previously used by Boy Scouts). From this location it is possible to return to the parking lot via the Cabin Trail or continue your hike following the Morton Bay Loop. Of course, I continued my hike on the Morton Bay Loop (I wasn’t going to miss these additional kilometres of a hike that had been quite fun so far).

Morton Bay Loop seems a little less crowded than the loop to the summit, but it’s just as fun. The trail passes by the shore of Morton Bay, providing yet another beautiful vantage point of the surrounding area.

Morton Bay Loop
Down by the water

In all, my hike to Rock Dunder totaled just over 6 kilometres, with an elevation gain of 148 metres. Above all, it reminded me of how my home province is full of beautiful places!

Note: as Rock Dunder has grown in popularity in recent months and the capacity of its trails is limited, the organization in charge of its protection requires that you book your access online in advance. Entrance fees are $10. Those who show up without booking their day pass in advance may not be able to enter the site.

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