The Fall season is here and one of the best places to enjoy it is at an Ontario Provincial Park. Minimal bugs, cooler temps for hiking, darker skies for star-gazing, and gorgeous fall colours. The Fall season at an Ontario Park also means less crowds, but it depends on the park. Algonquin Provincial Park, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, and Bon Echo Provincial Park are all popular in the fall season, for good reason. But if you want to avoid the crowds and feel like you have the park all to yourself, here are 2 less-visited Ontario Parks to enjoy the fall colours.
Restoule Provincial Park
Restoule Provincial Park is located just southwest of North Bay. All the chatter you’ll find online is that it’s quite the hidden gem in the area, and it really is. Tucked along Highway 534, Restoule Provincial Park spans an area of over 26 square kms. Stormy Lake is found entirely in Restoule Provincial Park, along with Clear Lake to the north and Restoule Lake to the south. The park features 2 sandy beaches, a variety of camping options, including car camping, walk-in camping, and even backcountry camping, lots of trails for cycling (over 8kms of double and single track trails with a large range in difficulty) and hiking, plus endless opportunities for paddling and exploring the park from the water.
If you’re like me and hiking is your jam, there are 2 trails you can’t miss. The Rangers Point Trail is an easy 860m loop trail that’ll act as a great introduction to the landscape and views you’ll enjoy at the park. The trail is mainly flat, with some elevation gain as you near the shores of Stormy Lake. The views from the point are gorgeous and on a clear, calm day, the mirrored effect from the lake is incredible. Pack a lunch to enjoy at one of two picnic sites with views of the Stormy Lake Bluff and historic Fire Tower.
Speaking of which, the Fire Tower Trail is the most popular trail in the park and definitely worth the hype. It runs 4.1km in total and is best if completed counter-clockwise. Taken at a leisurely pace, you’ll spend about 2 hours on the trail. You’ll begin in a red pine forest (a great spot to snap some pics), and continue across boardwalks and up a few rocky spots to Amber Lake for a rest stop. From there you’ll continue past the historic Fire Tower and on to an incredible panoramic lookout atop the 100m Stormy Lake Bluff. The view from the lookout is spectacular. Probably one of the best lookouts from an Ontario Park. Take a few moments or enjoy a lunch break and soak in the beautiful scene.
For more information about visiting the park in the fall, check out Restoule: a fall colours paradise. Restoule Provincial Park is open until October 10th, 2023.
Bonnechere Provincial Park
Another option to enjoy the fall colours without any of the crowds is to visit Bonnechere Provincial Park. It’s located in the north-east part of the province, just outside the Ottawa Valley. The drive alone to Bonnechere Provincial Park is incredibly beautiful, especially during the fall season. Depending on where you’re travelling from, you’ll spend the majority of time along 2-lane highways that weave and snake their way to your destination.
Bonnechere Provincial Park sits on the shores of Round Lake and boasts a huge sandy beach. Cutting through the park is the Little Bonnechere River. It flows from Algonquin Provincial Park to Round Lake and has significant natural and cultural heritage. Visitors can enjoy the park for the day or book into one of their car-camping sites, rustic cabins or even a full cottage. The sites are generous in size and offer a good amount of privacy. I highly recommend booking into a site that sits on the river’s edge. The views are gorgeous.
In terms of recreational offerings at the park, consider paddling along the Little Bonnechere River. Canoe and kayak rentals are available through the Park Store on a first-come first-serve basis. If you prefer to stay on land, the McNaughton FIT (Footprints in Time) Trail is an easy 2km out and back loop trail that follows the Little Bonnechere River. It pays tribute to the Indigenous caretakers of the land with interpretive signage, detailed information, and 12 points of interest along the way, including two restored park ranger cabins.
Bonnechere Provincial Park also believes that camping should be for everyone and therefore includes a number of amenities for those with accessibility needs. There are 2 barrier-free camp sites (meaning they’re level, and close to water and comfort stations, often with a paved path), barrier-free access to the beach with Mobi Mats and all-terrain wheel chairs suitable for use on land and in the water for free use, and 2 accessible trails, including the brand new Nàdòbìkana FIT Trail near the boat launch site.
One thing you can’t miss at Bonnechere Provincial Park is the cute Free Little Library near the Park Shop. But this isn’t just any Free Little Library though. It’s a Free Book Tree Library! That’s right, a library cut into a large tree trunk with a huge canoe resting on top. Leave a book or take a book, and grab your selfie with the tree library before you go!
Being located so close to the Ottawa Valley, Bonnechere Provincial Park is also the ideal spot to set as your home base while you explore the surrounding area. The Bonnechere Caves, Pembroke, and the Town of Renfrew are all nearby. Check out how to use Bonnechere as a basecamp to explore the nearby Ottawa Valley to learn more. Bonnechere Provincial Park is open until October 15th, 2023.
*This post is sponsored by Ontario Parks, all views remain my own.