Killarney Provincial Park
By David Richardson, Trails and Tamaracks
Absolutely breath taking is really all that needs to be said about this wilderness designated Provincial Park. Whether your view is from the top of the white quartzite La Cloche Mountains or from the crystal clear water of one of the sapphire lakes nestled between the quartz, Killarney has pleasures to experience around every bend. Considered one of Ontario Park's crown jewels, this area is near the top of our list of favorites at Trails and Tamaracks with some of us going back year after year and never seeing enough.
The park owes its creation to the efforts of A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven artists who petitioned the government to protect what is now named O.S.A. Lake (Ontario Society of Artists). Other members of the Group of Seven also spent time in this area and helped set aside more land to create the park. To this day the park is still very popular with artists of all kinds.
The main campground at George Lake offers all the amenities of a popular Provincial Park and is surrounded by pink granite that is typical of Georgian Bay's north shore. George Lake is a beautiful spot to spend your time but to really see what the park is all about the interior needs to be experienced. With a canoe and two short portages you can find yourself on Killarney Lake which finally gives you a sense of why artists love the area. You can even park your canoe at the west end of Killarney Lake and walk to the shore of O.S.A. One look at this lake and it's perfectly clear why A.Y. Jackson needed to save this area. This can all be done in a day trip if you're not the backwoods type.
If canoeing isn't for you than you can consider hiking up to The Crack, a large fissure in the quartzite ridge that offers a great view of the interior lakes below. Be sure to pack plenty of water for this hike. The quartzite hills here were once taller than the Rockies and in spots the trails can be quite steep. There are several other day hikes to explore during your stay. Looking for a longer hike? The park offers the La Cloche Silhouette Trail which is a 100km loop through some very rugged terrain and takes 7-10 days to complete.
In winter Killarney offers camping opportunities and it is not uncommon to see people with cross country skis or snowshoes heading out into the wilderness. Archaeologists often come to the area and it is said that artifacts just lay on top of the ground here. Trails and Tamaracks has had the opportunity to take an archaeologist into Killarney's interior for the first time and it was a delight to see the immediate love and fascination come over their face when hiking along the portages. If you are lucky enough to find artifacts from long ago please leave them where you find them.
Killarney is very much a wilderness area and is home to an abundance of wildlife. Whether you're camping at George Lake or within the interior please remember to be bear wise. I tell everyone I take into the park "I have never been to Killarney and not seen a bear but I camp smart so I have never seen a bear near my campsite in Killarney". The park is their home we are only visitors there to enjoy the view.
Killarney Provincial Park
By Ontario Parks
Considered one of Ontario Parks' crown jewels, this majestic, mountainous wilderness of sapphire lakes and jack pine ridges so captivated artists - including The Group of Seven's A.Y. Jackson - that they persuaded the Ontario government to make it a park. Once higher than the Rocky Mountains, La Cloche's white quartzite cliffs gleam like snowy peaks from afar. Where paddlers, hikers, skiers and snowshoers now journey through in this craggy, imposing landscape, there is evidence that others passed thousands of years before.
Visit the Friends of Killarney web site. (Park Tabloid Available under Publications)
George Lake Campground has 126 campsites and is open all year
Picnics and Day Use
Come for a day at the beach, a picnic or barbecue or a hike along the trails.
At two Outpost shops, operated by the Friends of Killarney, you can buy maps, trail guides, educational books and souvenirs. The Outposts are located at the George Lake park entrance and at the Bell Lake access point.
Showers - Yes
Flush Toilets - Yes
Laundromat - Yes
Boat Launch - Yes
Rentals - Canoes, outfitters
The Park Office parking lot is plowed in winter and there are groomed cross-country ski trails. Backcountry and off-season fees apply.
All Killarney's hiking trails cover uneven and rocky terrain. Sturdy footwear is recommended.
Chikanishing Trail 3 km (1.5 hours) moderate
Winding to the park's southern boundary, this trail crosses a series of small ridges and ends at a wave-washed point on Georgian Bay. Vegetation is typical of the rocky, windswept terrain of Georgian Bay, though taller pine and oak have flourished in wind-sheltered spots where soil has accumulated. Old iron rings used for mooring lines during logging days can still be seen along the trail. Interpretive plaques tell the colourful history of this part of Georgian Bay.
Cranberry Bog Trail 4 km (2.5 hours) moderate
This trail passes some of the park's loveliest scenery. Bogs, marshes and swamps are home to sundew, leatherleaf, pitcher plant and cranberry. Beaver feed piles can be seen along the way. Many birds frequent this trail's habitats and Blanding's turtles make an occasional appearance in Cranberry Bog. Look for evidence of glaciation -- smooth rock surfaces, striations and chatter marks.
Granite Ridge Trail 2 km (1 hour) easy
This trail provides views of the unique La Cloche Mountains for which Killarney is renowned. It winds through old fields and forests and climbs to a ridge with two lookouts over the park. To the south, your eye moves along the shore from Collin's Inlet and Philip Edward Island to the expanse of Georgian Bay. To the north, see the spectacular La Cloche Mountains.
La Cloche Silhouette Trail 100 km loop (7-10 days) strenuous
Although this trail takes up to 10 days to do in its entirety, hikers can take shorter hikes starting from two trailheads in George Lake Campground. (Day hikers should leave sufficient time to retrace their steps along the trail back to the campground.)
The west section of this trail is moderate, heading to Acid and Lumsden lakes over rolling forested hills. It crosses small streams and rivers, occasionally following the rocky shores of small lakes. Keep on the lookout for wildlife, or clues of their presence.
The east section of this trail heads uphill to the Crack, a ridge with a vista of rugged and scenic landscapes. Considered strenuous, this section passes through forests and wetlands and over rocky ridges. It takes 12 hours of steady hiking and you have to climb over large boulders to reach the top of the ridge. Do not try to reach the Crack unless you are in good shape and can get an early start.
One hundred and forty backcountry canoe-in sites and 33 backcountry hike-in sites are available all year.
Natural heritage education programs are offered during July and August at George Lake Campground.
Many of Killarney's lakes are fish sanctuaries. However, limited fishing opportunities are available in the park's eastern and northern sections.
Moose, deer, wolves, bobcat, marten and beaver live in Killarney along with over 20 species of reptiles and amphibians. Over 100 species of birds come here to nest or to rest during their migration.
Boating - Canoeing only
Swim at two beaches in the campground or in any of the interior lakes and rivers.
Twenty kilometres of cross-country ski trails are tracked from the Park Office. You can also ski and snowshoe well into untracked backcountry. Call ahead for snow and ice conditions.
For more information:
Killarney Provincial Park