Location: Algonquin Provincial Park
Where to Park: Parking lot at the trailhead (off Highway 60)
Public Transport: N/A
Hike Distance: 10.4 km
Hike Duration: 3 hours and 45 minutes
Elevation Gain/Loss: 438 m
What makes it challenging? Elevation gain over 10 kilometres
Park website: Click here
Finding the Trailhead
The trailhead for Centennial Ridges is just off Highway 60, about an hour's drive from the West Gate of Algonquin Park. There is a spacious parking lot with two entrances where you can park for the hike. Campers who have registered their vehicle to a campsite don’t need to pay for parking here–just make sure the campsite registration is displayed on the dashboard. If you’re doing the hike as a daytime visitor to the park, scan the QR code posted on signs in the parking lot to register for daytime parking with Ontario Parks. Daily permits must be purchased online and cost $21 per vehicle, per day.
The parking lot tends to fill up quickly during the summer months. If you’re planning to hike this trail during July and August, plan to arrive and park in the morning to guarantee a parking spot.
The Hike Itself
The Centennial Ridges trail starts with level terrain from the parking lot for the first few hundred metres. There is a large map steps away from the trailhead where hikers can see an overview of the loop trail and pick up a pamphlet with interesting facts about the trail’s history. These pamphlets are worth grabbing because they provide details about the story of each viewpoint, which makes it easier to appreciate what you’re seeing along the way. The first uphill portion of the trail comes just minutes into the hike, with a small incline that builds excitement for the views to come.Robynne Trueman
After the path levels out, hikers come to a fork in the trail and a sign indicating the start of the loop portion of the trail. I chose to start by taking the right turn in the trail so that I would come back from the left fork, travelling counterclockwise.Robynne Trueman
From there, the terrain is a variation of dirt paths with protruding rocks and low-lying sections of trail which can become muddy when wet. All of this is shrouded under the canopy of the forest (perfect for hiking on a hot summer’s day) until the first lookout point. The trees clear and give way to a rocky ridge with far-reaching views of Whitefish Lake below.
This ledge and rocky area are the first ideal photo spots on the trail, but don’t linger too long here—there are many more to come!Robynne Trueman
Follow the blue circle markers on the trees to find your way back to the trail in the forest.Robynne Trueman
The path leads down to a scenic pond before returning to the woods. Hike for another 20-30 minutes and you’ll arrive at another overlook, this one providing a view of the expansive green forest down below. This is a perfect mid-way point in the hike to stop for a snack and water break while appreciating the scenery.Robynne Trueman
Once you pack up your picnic and continue on the trail, you’ll walk through the dense forest again for a few minutes before reaching a low-lying portion of the path alongside a pond. There is a wooden boardwalk to help you cross the marshy area while staying dry. This is a good point to remind you that wearing mosquito repellant is a good idea—the bugs can be persistent in these wetland sections of the trail.Robynne Trueman
Another 45 minutes of hiking in the forests and you’ll come out on the final big ridge of the trek. Sweeping views from this high-up point make it all worthwhile. You’ll traverse along the narrow section of the ridge for a few minutes to reach the ultimate viewpoint over the lake.
Snap some photos at the best viewpoint of the hike and then follow the blue circular marker back into the forest to make your descent. It’s mostly downhill from this point. Watch your step because many points of the trail are rocky. Eventually, you’ll reach the sign that indicates a fork in the trail, where you started the loop. Then, follow the stretch of path you already hiked and back to the parking lot.
Before You Go:
- There are no places to fill up drinking water along this route—be sure to pack enough hydration for the entire trail.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots with grip because a lot of this trail traverses two rocky ridges, the terrain of the Canadian Shield. The trail can become slippery on rainy days.
- There are no garbage cans along the trail or in the parking lot, though there is an outhouse. Be prepared to pack out all trash. Keep Ontario Parks clean and wild!