Last year, I really enjoyed hiking the trails at Charleston Lake Provincial Park in Eastern Ontario. I visited the park twice during the summer and hiked most of its trails. All except one: the trail leading to the top of Blue Mountain, since you need a kayak or a canoe to access the trailhead.
There is, however, an alternate trail that allows you to get to the top of Blue Mountain without having to paddle on the lake. A 10-kilometre round trip, this trail begins along Warburton Road and it is where I went on a sunny Saturday in May.
A side note: Blue Mountain is located in the provincial park, but the alternate trail to get there goes through private lands. You must therefore make sure to stay on the trail, to leave no trace and to respect the guidelines so that this trail remains accessible to all in the future.
So I started on the trail after reading a bit about the history of Blue Mountain on an interpretive sign at the trailhead. Highest point in Leeds & Grenville United Counties, Blue Mountain has attracted many generations of hikers, apparently.
The first portion of the trail follows an ATV trail along agricultural fields. Under the May sun, it was pretty, but not very exciting. Luckily, the route eventually leaves the ATV trail and goes deep into the forest, over rocky and rugged terrain.
Blue Mountain (and Charleston Lake Provincial Park) is located within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, a granite arch recognized by UNESCO for its importance for biodiversity. I love hiking in this region, because there is an interesting elevation gain and it is often possible to walk directly on the pink granite of the Canadian Shield.
The trail to Blue Mountain is no exception. The trail crosses a mixed forest typical of that found in the region. It goes through more rocky places and around a small deep blue lake. At one point, between the trees, I could see the big rocky ridge of Blue Mountain.
The climb is very gradual, but it was a little steeper in the last metres. I crossed the fork leading to Huckleberry Hollow Bay, the official trailhead via Charleston Lake Provincial Park, then found myself ascending a rocky ridge, along which the trees were smaller and sparser and I knew I was nearing the top.
At 194 metres above sea level, Blue Mountain can’t really be considered a very high mountain, but the summit offers an almost 360-degree view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Adirondacks to the south.
It seems that the mountain would have been so named because there are many bushes of blueberries and huckleberries on its slopes. It’s not berry season yet, so I just enjoyed the view and then slowly walked back down following the same trail.
I can see why this hike is so popular! A long trail, well-groomed and not too challenging, which leads to a nice viewpoint. Next time, when I feel a bit more comfortable with my kayaking skills, I’ll attempt the climb via the official trail. That gives me one more reason to go back to Charleston Lake Provincial Park!
Elevation gain: 155m
Distance (return) : 10 kilometres
Access : Warburton Road
I didn’t know that there was an alternative way to hike this trail without paddling to the trailhead. I’ll have to add this to my list for the next time we’re in the area. I’m in love with the Frontenac area too. It’s very pretty with all the exposed rocky outcroppings and marshy areas.
Yes, this area is beautiful! It’s not an official park trail, but it is well-marked and there is even a small parking area at the trailhead!