I just came back from a short stay in the Midland region of Ontario, south of Georgian Bay. As our cottage was located not far from Awenda Provincial Park, I took the opportunity to explore the park and hike some of its trails!
In fact, it has become a bit of a tradition for my sister-in-law Mireille and me. Every year we try to find a provincial park near where we vacation, and we explore it as much as possible. Last year we hiked a few trails in Mashkinonje Provincial Park in West Nipissing; this year it’s the turn of another park with an aboriginal name, Awenda Provincial Park.
Awenda means “word of a man binds him” in the language of the Wendats. This name was given to the provincial park to honor the Wendats who lived in the region for hundreds of years. Archaeological research in the park has even revealed traces of human presence dating back more than 10,000 years.
In addition to its important cultural heritage, Awenda also includes one of Ontario’s largest old-growth deciduous forests and a few beaches overlooking Georgian Bay. There are also more than thirty kilometres of trails there, including a few that we have hiked! (click here for the trail map)
Beaver Pond Trail
On our first visit to Awenda Provincial Park, Mireille and I were accompanied by my nephews and my niece. With three children under the age of five, we opted to hike the easier trails in the park. The Beaver Pond Trail is only 1 kilometre and is considered universally accessible.
The trail mainly follows a long boardwalk built under the large trees of the park. It passes through an environment that has been shaped by the activity of beavers (hence its name). It includes some interpretive panels. Nothing too difficult, but the kids liked it!
The Beach Trail is 4 km round trip and, as the name suggests, provides access to the beaches of the provincial park. The trail and the beaches were pretty busy on this beautiful summer day. Our goal was to hike the trail and find a quiet spot on one of the beaches for a snack. Finding a quiet spot was ultimately more difficult than walking the trail.
The trail is wide and flat, and Georgian Bay is clear and beautiful. So easy to see why this is the most popular part of the park.
Mireille and I came back the next day to continue exploring the park, this time only accompanied by my one-year-old nephew, who slept quietly on his mum’s back. Our plan was to hike the longest trail in the park, the Bluff Trail, but to get to this one we had to go through the Nipissing Trail, which connects the Bluff Trail to the parking lot.
The Nipissing Trail is only 500 metres but it includes a staircase of 155 steps. The Nipissing Trail features one of the park’s main geological features, an elevated beach created 5,500 years ago by glacial Lake Nipissing. The staircase leads up to the top of the 32-metre promontory.
The map showed the location of a lookout on the trail, but the view from it was obscured by trees.
At 13 kilometres, the Bluff Trail is the longest trail in the park. As the name suggests, it is mainly located on the bluff and makes a large loop through the park. From the Nipissing Trail, we decided to follow Bluff Trail clockwise.
The trail was pretty flat and not very difficult to hike. At first it mainly followed the top of the bluff. It was possible to get a glimpse a the blue waters of Georgian Bay between the trees. Apparently, the view is sublime in fall or spring, when the trees are bare.
After nearly 3 kilometres, we arrived at the junction with Wendat Trail. This 5-kilometre trail circles Kettle Lake. We followed it for a few metres to get to the lookout that has a pretty view of the lake. Hard to believe that there was no one other than us on the shores of this beautiful lake! I guess it is difficult to compete with the pretty beaches of Georgian Bay nearby …
We considered hiking the rest of the Wendat Trail, but we instead decided to retrace our steps to get back on Bluff Trail. Baby Toma had just woken up so we figured it was best to finish following Bluff Trail and postpone the hike around Kettle Lake until next time.
The Bluff Trail continued to meander under the tall deciduous trees in the park. It took us across the park main road, then we came across an intersection with another trail (Robitaille Homestead Trail, another trail that will have to be postponed for another time). As we approached the provincial park campgrounds, we met a few more hikers on the trail.
Passing by the campgrounds, we got a little lost. We lost track of the trail and had to retrace our steps a few times before realizing we had missed a trail marker. Baby Toma was getting a little impatient, so we picked up our pace to get back to the car as quickly as possible.
When we saw the Georgian Bay between the trees again, we knew we had almost reached our starting point. One last little effort, and we found the Nipissing Trail again. We just had to go back down the stairs and we had completed our hike for the day.
Without being highly thrilling, the hike on the Bluff Trail was still enjoyable. It offers a beautiful and long walk in the forest, which allows you to fully appreciate the tranquil beauty of Awenda Provincial Park.
For a list of Ontario’s provincial parks that I have visited, check out the National, provincial and state parks page.