I have been wanting to go back to Frontenac Provincial Park for a while now. This South Eastern Ontario park is without a doubt one of my favourites of any I’ve visited so far. And since I had never been there in winter, I took the opportunity to go snowshoeing on two of its trails: the Doe Lake and Arab Lake Gorge trails.
Located north of Kingston, Frontenac Provincial Park is part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, a granite region recognized by UNESCO for its importance to biodiversity. A transition zone between the boreal forests of the north and the Appalachian forests of the south, the provincial park is a natural gem and a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
My last visit to Frontenac Provincial Park was when I walked through it as part of my long hike on the Rideau Trail. I had then been completely blown away by the raw beauty of the park, and I was really looking forward to visiting it again, this time under a thick carpet of snow.
Doe Lake Trail
The Doe Lake Trail is a three-kilometre loop that begins at the Park Office. As the park has about twenty lakes, in addition to being bordered by six others, it is not surprising that many of its trails highlight these lakes.
The Doe Lake Trail actually begins on the shores of South Otter Lake, which I arrived at after following the trail for a few metres through the forest and along rocky cliffs. South Otter Lake was completely covered in snow, but the winter silence made it look rather imposing.
The trail follows the shore of the lake for several metres. Like many other trails in the Frontenac Arch, the trail is steep and rocky and offers an interesting physical challenge, without being too difficult. The trail was in good condition, well groomed and well marked. I had put on my snowshoes, but I think I would have done not too badly with my hiking boots.
At some point on the trail, a side trail leads to the ruins of Kemp Mine, an old mica deposit worked by a family who had a homestead in the area in the late 19th century. This side trail was not groomed and completely covered by fresh snow, and since I couldn’t find any trail markers, I wisely decided to stay on the main trail rather than risk getting lost in the forest (anyway, I have already see several old mica mines during my hike on the Rideau Trail).
After leaving the shores of South Otter Lake, the trail climbs a bit in the forest, this time to bring me to Doe Lake.
This portion was gorgeous! A lookout at the top of a rocky escarpment offers a nice view of the lake, but the trail also descends closer to the shore, follows a pretty boarwalk and passes under tall fir trees. The landscape was quite peaceful under the thick snow cover, and I imagine it must look completely different in the summer.
After Doe Lake, the trail goes back through the forest, where there are several climbs and descents and a few beaver ponds. After this three-kilometer hike, I eventually got back to my starting point.
Arab Lake Gorge Trail
The Arab Lake Gorge Trail starts at the same location as the Doe Lake Trail. This is a short 1.5-kilometre easy loop that goes through the Arab Lake Gorge, as the name suggests.
The first part of the trail follows a long boardwalk along the cliff. This trail usually showcases the biodiversity of the valley floor, bordered by high granite cliffs. This is apparently a great place to observe various varieties of fern up close. In winter, it is a little less interesting.
But the trail still allows for a short and pretty hike. After the boardwalks at the bottom of the gorge, the trail gained some elevation and allowed me to admire the area from the top of the cliff, before bringing me back to the Park Office.
In all, my snowshoe hike on both trails totaled just under five kilometres. These short trails are ideal for getting a taste of what Frontenac Provincial Park’s 160 kilometres of trails have to offer!
For a list of Ontario’s provincial parks that I have visited, check out the National, provincial and state parks page.