On Saturday April 30th, Mark Highfield and I returned from our trip around the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park (trail details found here: http://quickescapes.ca/trips/la-cloche-silhouette-trail-killarney-provi…). This was our second time around the loop (once clockwise and once counter clockwise). This second time around proved easier for both of us and when we boiled down the reasons why, it slowly became clear that the experience from our first trip greatly helped with our second outing.
In the spirit of sharing this knowledge we have put together some trips to help you enjoy your trip on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
- Plan Ahead and Book in Advance: Hiking the La Cloche trail is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. This is an advanced trail and it requires a fair amount of time and planning. You need to be self-sufficient and be prepared for any eventuality. Given the popularity of Killarney it is recommend that you book your sites in advance. There are few things worse than adjusting your trip plans at the last minute because your preferred sites are not available. Please also pay close attention to point 5 below when selecting site locations. It has long been considered that completing the trail clockwise is the easier of the two directions so if you are new to the trail this may be a good way to start. If you are new to the La Cloche trail try to search out some resource on Youtube or Vimeo in order to get a visual of the terrain.
- Go Slow and Be Safe: There seems to be a certain mindset that people need to complete the La Cloche loop as quickly as possible. I have personally fallen into this trap, but on reflection this trail is best enjoyed like a fine scotch. Take your time and enjoy the trip. Don’t rush and make sure that you soak it all in. It goes without saying that if you rush to complete the La Cloche, you increase your chances of injury as fatigue sets in.
- Plan Your Water Stops: We have always travelled this trail in the spring and as a result we have better access to water. During the summer and fall months however, you may have limited access to water and you will likely require more with the hotter temperatures. Campsites all have ready access to water but a lot of the ridge sections will not. You can travel The La Cloche trail for hours without finding quality water sources so plan to fill up when you can and carry a reserve supply. Always filtering, treating or boiling water before drinking it.
- Hiking Poles: Hiking poles can be a wonderful addition to your trek. The question is, do you need 1 hiking pole or 2 hiking poles? 2 hiking poles can be an advantage in some areas of the trail, however in the more advanced sections, 2 poles can be a liability. There are numerous sections that require a free hand to grab onto nearby trees, roots or a handhold in a rock face. We put forward that 1 pole is sufficient. We should also note that a rubber tipped pole works well on the rocky terrain of Killarney.
- Take Care Of Your Feet: 78km is a long way to walk and your feet are guaranteed to take a beating. If you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you. See this article on foot care for some great advice: http://quickescapes.ca/trips/10-tips-blister-free-hiking
- Killarney Isn’t Algonquin: So you’ve backpacked in Algonquin, that’s cute! Don’t expect that backpacking in Killarney is the same as Algonquin. By virtue of the terrain and elevation changes Killarney (a full loop has 2620m elevation change) is far more challenging. If a comfortable hike day for you in Algonquin is 15km, plan for 10/12km days in Killarney.
- Silver Peak – Climb It or Skip It?: Silver Peak is the highest point in Killarney Provincial Park. It offers incredible views of the park, Georgian Bay and the surrounding landscapes. That’s the good news. The bad news is that climbing Silver Peak will add an addition 4 (hard) kilometers to your trek and a solid 2 hours. We recommend that if you have never been to the top of Silver Peak before, schedule your hike days accordingly to be able to accommodate this aggressive side trail (Elevation change is 279m / 915ft). If you have seen it before you may think about skipping this section.
- If You Can’t Find a Tree Marker Ahead, Look Behind:The La Cloche trail is very well marked, in theory. Over the years markers have fall off trees, trees themselves have fallen down and there are sections of the trail where markers are not readily noticeable. If you find yourself without a blue trail marker in sight, start looking back in the other direction. The trail is marked clockwise and counter clockwise and you will increase your chances of finding a marker to orientate yourself by checking in both directions.
- If You Still Can’t Find a Marker, Find the Most Ridiculous and Challenging Route: The philosophy of ‘the path of least resistance’ does not apply in Killarney. More times than not, the trail leads the hiker through the most difficult and challenging terrain. When in doubt the trail usually goes up and over obstacles that most other trails would avoid. To highlight this, there is one section of trail that requires the hiker to climb up a 50ft waterfall.
- Advil: You’ll Want It and You’ll Need It: The grind of hiking long distances with heavy packs day after day will eventually catch up with you; especially considering the Killarney terrain. A little Advil can work wonders to take the edge off and get you started in the morning. Just take care not to overdo it.
- Remember Why You're Doing It: In today's hustle and bustle world it's easy to forget to stop and smell the proverbial flowers. Remember why you've taken the time and put the effort into tackling this journey. Make certain that you pause to take in the complete La Cloche experience.
See below for the video from our 2016 adventure on Killarney's La Cloche Silhouette Trail or read about it here: Hiking Killarney's La Cloche Trail - 1 Year Later
Still have questions? Still need help planning your trip to Killarney? Don't be shy. Please feel to reach out and we will try out best to help you.