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Last September, on what would surprisingly be one of the hottest weekends of the year, my sister and I decided to once again, spontaneously drive hours up north to go on a hiking adventure. This time around, we decided to visit Killarney Provincial Park in Northern Ontario to hike The Crack Trail. Yes, you read that right! With approximately 645 square kilometres of beautiful wilderness to explore, Killarney Provincial Park is considered one of Ontario’s, if not Canada’s most stunning back country hiking areas. We made the choice to go during the early stages of autumn, so that we could marvel at leaves that change into an array of colours such as bright orange, red and yellow hues every year within Ontario. Although the intense heat in the middle of September didn’t make the trees glow as brightly as we had hoped for, the drive up to Sudbury was still an epic sight to see. I haven’t been up that way in a few years, but the memory of the massive granite rock walls surrounding the highway as you drive further north was something I would always remember and have stuck in my mind forever.
We had planned on hiking the following day, as we wanted to get a very early start on the hike, so we decided to stay a night in Sudbury, which is about 1.5 hours north of Killarney. To be completely honest, we only used Sudbury as a base to sleep because it was the closest main city to the park. Sudbury wasn’t our favourite place to stay, but it was close and affordable for one night at The Best Western (they did have newly renovated rooms, which were nice), so we just ended up there…BUT, we did have dinner at the BEST Italian place I’ve been to in awhile called Di Gusto, so I guess that was a bonus! You should go there if you’re ever in Sudbury. It’s SO delicious! 🙂
We walked around downtown Sudbury for a bit, grabbed a coffee and turned in early, since it was intensely muggy, sticky and unseasonably humid out even at 8pm in September, so we made a dash back to the air conditioned hotel room with some snacks for the rest of the night. We had an early start the next day, had to grab breakfast, pack our things up and head to Killarney and all I could think of was, “If it’s THIS hot out at 8pm, what the hell have we got in store for us tomorrow for this hike?!”
Our drive the next day after a restful night’s sleep in our Sudbury hotel was fairly easy, since we had decided to get up early to do the hike before making our four hour trek back home. There are many route options to take to Killarney Provincial Park in Northern Ontario. We stuck to major highways and roadways for the drive to there and since we were leaving from Sudbury, it took us just under one and a half hours from our hotel. The entrance to the park is located off of Highway #637 in Killarney, Ontario. To see the route we took from there (highlighted in blue), click HERE. The beautiful scenic drive through this part of Ontario made our mouths drop open. With its tree lined streets and scenic lakes with mirror-like reflections that were almost hidden to the eye from the roadside, I opened my window to breathe in the fresh early morning air and stopped to take some early morning snapshots. Whichever way you choose to get there, you won’t be disappointed with the views, that’s for sure! Just make sure to stay alert while driving, as this area is highly known for moose, deer and even bears. Back country equals bear country, just remember that.
The Crack Trail
As soon as you park your car, there is a sign reminding you that you definitely are in bear country. I gave my sister a crooked smile as I pointed out the sign before we headed off on the trail. The beginning of the trail is nice and flat and easily walkable, but that bear country sign did have us turning our heads at every single sound that we heard in the thick bushes that surrounded us. To our delight, some of the leaves were starting to change colour from green to ruby red which is a true sign that autumn has arrived in Ontario.
The forest is densely populated with a fascinating mix of pine, spruce, oak and maple and man made wooden bridges help ease your way across the calm marshes. Killareny Provincial Park was proving to be a Canadian treasure within the first kilometre of our hike. Known for its stunning views, invigorating back country hikes and many sapphire coloured lakes to glide a canoe on, Killarney Provincial Park definitely was living up to the hype as being one of the prettiest places within Canada. As we walked a few hundred feet further, we stopped to admire the views across the marsh and I thought to myself, ” Canada, you’re pretty neat…don’t ever change!”
As we continued on in the scorching plus 40 degree weather, we came face to face with what The Crack Trail is famous for…steep inclines. Although The Crack Trail is relatively short at approximately six kilometres round trip (two hours up and about one and a half hours down), it is still considered to be classed as a moderate to difficult hike due to its steep terrain and the heat and humidity was definitely getting to us at this point. Imagine hiking through a humid greenhouse…it was intense and with my allergies and lack of love for extreme heat, it was definitely not the greatest feeling. To make matters worse, we were in the shade at this point and not exposed to direct sunlight yet, so it would only get worse the further we went, but alas, we powered through nature’s strenuous, yet beautiful staircase and as we came through the clearing at the top, we were in awe of what we saw next.
Dripping in sweat and panting like tired dogs, we poked through the forest at the clearing and were greeted by blindingly bright white quartzite rock surrounding us everywhere we looked. The autumn colours were starting to peak through within the trees in the distance and we were awarded with beautiful views of the park and we haven’t even neared the top yet. With the sun gleaming so brightly on the quartzite rocks, you certainly had to wear your sunnies, which I stupidly forgot at home. I have blue eyes, and it’s been proven that people with light eyes are more sensitive to brightness. Well, it must be true, because my eyes were just streaming with tears because of the light bouncing off the rocks. Maybe it was tears of joy for making it so far in the heat? LOL. We met a nice Belgian couple here as we took a short break for some water and a protein bar and chatted with them about their travels through Canada so far. They were telling us that they were not prepared for the intense heat and they thought because it is Canada, it would be colder. No, we don’t all live in igloos, guys!
We said our goodbyes to the Belgians and continued on in the blistering heat. After a little while, we were then face to face with what the trail is named after; The Crack. This area involved climbing, scaling and scrambling up large massive boulders through a crack in the earth to reach the top. After vertically scaling the large granite and quartzite rocks, we were finally greeted with a beautiful and commanding view overlooking the La Cloche Mountain Range and the gorgeous blue O.S.A. Lake in the distance. Now THIS was the view that we hiked in the heat for and it had to have been one of the most jaw-dropping views I’ve ever seen. There were even hawks floating above in the distance. It was easy to see why Killarney Provincial Park captivated so many famous artists from The Group of Seven. Artists A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson (we have many of his prints within my home, as he is a favourite) absolutely adored this area and incorporated the landscapes in many of their paintings (the tall bare pines are a signature tree within many of The Group of Seven’s artwork), that they went directly to the government of Canada and brought forth the idea that this particular area should be classified as a park and now it is what it is today because of their dedication to the conservation of natural and beautiful Canadian land. After gazing upon the scenery laid out before my eyes, I couldn’t doubt that nature itself was the true artist.
After spending some time enjoying the view and taking a much needed water and snack break, we decided to make our decent and head out, since the heat was just blazing and we were literally melting into puddles of sweat. Not to mention I was starting to get sun burnt as I just kept sweating my sunscreen off. The one thing to remember about The Crack Trail is that it’s not a looped trail, meaning you have to go back down the same way you came up. If you continue to follow the blue markers and go on, you’d eventually connect to the 78km long, multi-day hike called the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, which takes you across the quartzite peaks of the La Cloche Mountain Range. Another important thing to mention about the blue markers for The Crack Trail is this: they aren’t really marked very well. I actually got us semi-lost on the way down and started to go off the trail into the bush, but I decided the best thing to do was just to backtrack and go back up before we actually got lost. Once we got to the top, we were looking around for the markers and they almost seemed hidden from view. I read a few hiking blogs online that mentioned the same thing about the markers being poorly visible, so I knew it wasn’t just me thinking that.
Important Tips for Hiking in Killarney Provincial Park
- Wear shoes or boots that support your ankles. Irregular walking surfaces are everywhere.
- Make sure you are in good physical condition. When in doubt, let your doc check you out.
- Bring at least two litres of water, as this trail does not have any drinkable water source available.
- Bring snacks packed with protein and carbs for energy. You burn calories fast as you climb and the trail we did was steep.
- Bring a basic first aid kit. You never know if you’ll take a tumble and cut yourself.
- Wear breathable layers. Be prepared for weather changes.
- Use walking sticks if you have them. They will alleviate pressure on your knees, especially on the descent.
- Bring a light source such as a small flashlight or headlamp in case you get stuck past sunset.
Hiking in Killarney Provincial Park is something I’ve always wanted to experience and I’m finally glad I had the chance to. As with any hiking, safety is a top priority of mine, as it should be with you too. Remember, a safe hike is a successful hike. Don’t ever try to out do someone, or put your life, or others’ at risk and never try to hike beyond your physical capabilities. Stop, take breaks, eat snacks and always remember to hydrate!
Tell me what your favourite hikes are! Have any of you ever hiked The Crack Trail, or visited Killarney Provincial Park? If so, what other activities and hikes did you do while you were there? Did you visit for the day like we did, or camp overnight? Let me know in the comments below. xo
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