Our family loves to go out on adventure, especially if that adventuring involves camping and getting to play in the great big Canadian outdoors. But with three young children (and one who refused to sit in a hiking backpack!), our outdoor adventures were often limited to activities that were within a very short walking distance or 100% stroller friendly.
This summer however, at ages 5, 6 and 10 our kids were ready (and asking) for a family camping trip complete with daily hiking, so we packed up the truck and headed to Algonquin Provincial Park. When you think of Algonquin, many think of the huge interior backcountry that is only really accessible by canoe, but there are lots of no-canoe-required camping sites and hiking trails available right off highway 60.
Here are our favorite kid-friendly hiking trails in Algonquin Park:
This 1.3km hiking trail takes about 1.5 hours to walk with lots of stopping to look at all the exhibits along the way. This one starts with a short (approx. 10 minute) video about the logging history in Algonquin and while it is very informative, it’s in need of a little updating. My kids lost interest but the video is worthwhile because when it was over the screen rolled up like a garage door to reveal a logging cabin exactly like the one in the video. This was your exit from the museum and your starting point on the trail (super cool according to my son!).
The Algonquin Logging Museum trail is a true outdoor exhibit that clearly and interactively explains the logging history of Algonquin (and much of Canada as well!). My kids definitely learned a lot and had an opportunity to get out and explore on what was a very flat and easy trail, from walking through re-created logging camps and even climbing on and through a tug boat called an Alligator.
Though this trail is less than a kilometer long (0.8 km to be exact) it was a great introduction to real hiking to the kids and took us just over an hour to complete. The path was flat in some areas but involved lots of not-too-steep-but-steep-enough uphill hiking and avoiding of large rocks.
I was a bit surprised my just-turned-five year old daughter hiked the trail without any complaining, but I know stopping at the numbered posts along the way helped. Each number coincided with a number in the trail guide available at the starting point and gave brief kid-friendly information about the Algonquin Hardwood Forest and the trees and animals found within it. Within minutes of our hike, my kids were pointing out trees, naming them by name and examining leaves and bark.
You know you’re done climbing when you reach the lookout point and the view of Smoke Lake.
I hesitate to even call this a hiking trail because it’s only 100 meters (or 330 feet), fully board-walked which makes it accessible to strollers and wraps around the Algonquin Visitor Centre (which means easy access to real washrooms and ice cream!). While it’s not exactly a “hike” my kids loved checking out the Visitor Centre, running up and down the boardwalk and getting a beautiful view of Sunday Creek Valley from the replica of a cupola – the wood structure at the top of the original Algonquin Fire Towers.
We made many family memories on our Algonquin camping trip, including yummy campfire meals, listening to the wolves, seeing wildlife and most of all, walking behind my children on the hiking trails thinking about just how grown up they were starting to look and wishing for more of all Algonquin has to offer.