Algonquin Highland Backpacking trail

Its the first of August today. There are 141 days until the first day of winter, and around 90 days until prime October canoe trips. With this in mind, Its time to focus on as many peak summer quick escapes as possible.


Last week Mike Walker and I were determined to get away to Algonquin Park for a quick hike. Neither of us had ever hiked in Algonquin and we were looking forward to it. Our goal was a quick two day one night hike on the first loop of the Highlands Trail, with a short detour to the only site on Faya Lake for the night- as recommended by Darren.


To get an early start on the hike, we decided to head up on Sunday evening and camp at the Mew Lake campground. I took advantage of the online reservation system and booked a night at Faya and the Mew Lake camp, where we arrived around 7:30pm. I was a bit surprised to learn that I wasn't allowed to pick up my Faya Lake back-country permit that night, but would have to wait until they opened at 8:30am Monday morning- completely ruining any benefit by arriving Sunday night.


Monday morning rolled around and we were at the Mew Lake Gate to pick up our permit right at 8:30am. After signing a “bear aware” clause we were on our way to the trail head where we were greeted by more bear notices and warnings. It turns out quite a few campers try to get “selfies” with wildlife or leave food out overnight- causing problems for all parties.


The weather was humid and the Algonquin mosquitoes were in full force as we started the loop in the easterly direction; more hiking day one (about 15km) to Faya, then a quick 6km back to the car Tuesday. The hike itself is beautiful, some good climbs and descents with some nice vistas and lake views. We stopped at an unoccupied campsite about 6km in and took a break. (Note: the site is actually right on the trail! Its circled on the attached map) From there we continued on the trail west around Provoking Lake and finally to our camp on Faya Lake.


The site, the only one on Faya, is extremely well used. Firewood is scarce and people have begun cutting down trees- against the rules of the Park. We easily found enough sticks to boil water on the stick stove and relaxed and fished for the afternoon. Rain started early evening, heavy at times, and we were reminded that tent location is key. After redirecting the small streams around Mikes tent, the downpour subsided and we were met with a great sunset. The site is on a small peninsula, allowing for exceptional views and evening breezes- keeping the mosquitoes away. We ended the evening tying the food-pack between two trees and turned in for the night.


We broke camp around 10am and make our way back to the trail-head. It was nice to see several hikers starting their trip and many were travelling solo. We need to take full advantage of the long summer days and breezy nights while we can, and even just having two days off to do a 20km hike is more than enough time to get away. Check out the Highlands hiking trails, you wont be disappointed.


Getting there: kilometre 33(ish) off hwy 60 from the West gate

Permit: Main gate or Mew Lake Campground