Recently my girlfriend and I spent a few days camping at one of the best provincial parks in Canada – Algonquin Park.
We ended up staying at the Pog Lake Campground because it was closer to the all the hiking trails in the area.
If you’re not backcountry camping or portaging then hiking is the next best thing when it comes to experiencing everything that Algonquin Park has to offer.
After hiking the Mizzy Lake Trail on our previous trip we knew that the Centennial Ridges Trail wouldn’t be a problem even though it’s known as one of the hardest day-trails in the park.
At Mizzy Lake we saw a moose jump into the water only 50 feet ahead of us and saw a ton of evidence that wildlife was abundant in the area.
There was bear and wolf scat everywhere, and a bunch of their footprints as well.
We were hoping to see some good wildlife on the Centennial Ridges Trail as its quite long and winds through a remote area of the park.
The trailhead is located between KM marker 37 and 38.
If you’re driving towards Whitney the entrance will be on your right.
You have to drive about 1 KM down a dirt road so make sure your car can handle hard-packed gravel and some steep climbs.
After parking the car we grabbed our bug spray, some snacks, a few water bottles, and headed out into the woods.
Bug spray turned out to be incredibly important as a lot of the trail takes you through lowlands and past lakes and bogs.
I’ve never experienced mosquitoes this bad so I was glad we brought the bug spray.
The sign at the trailhead claims that the trail is 10KM in length but I think it might be a tiny bit longer.
It starts in some beautiful lowlands before bringing you to one of the many steep climbs you’ll experience along the way.
If you simply want to enjoy one of the best views the trail has to offer, go right at the first fork and in 10 minutes you can reach an incredible view.
We planned on doing the whole trail so we went left and were merrily on our way.
After a while we reached one of the many ridges along the trail.
These areas are covered in huge rocks and there can be some very light climbing involved.
The view was incredible and you could see many other ridges out in the distance.
It was the peak of summer so everything was a different shade of green.
There are markers along the trail with numbers on them and if you pick up a book at the trailhead there is some information relevant to each number you come across.
The history of the park, the trail, and information about the wildlife in the area is just some of what you will find in the trail guide.
Once you get to the ridge you’re immediately brought back down into the lowlands.
That’s what this trail is all about.
You’re continuously walking uphill and downhill and enjoying the views along the way.
Right after the great views you’re tossed back into densely packed bush.
It had recently rained so it was very humid and the mosquitos were ridiculous.
I couldn’t even open up my backpack to grab a drink of water without having 50 or so mosquitos flying over everything.
My girlfriend wore a mesh face covering and I wish I had brought one as well.
We had to reapply bug spray every 30 minutes just to keep them at bay.
The muddy trails resulted in some tricky hiking areas.
Many times throughout the hike we had to hop across slick rocks and rotting logs just to get to the dry area.
It was actually scary because there were enormous moose prints, bear prints, and bear scat throughout the entire trail.
Just the day before we were exploring an abandoned trail but we decided to leave because there was just too many signs of bears.
Near the end of the Centennial Ridges Trail, in the last 2 KM or so, there is a very tedious hike.
You’re simply walking up over small ridges without any views, and back down to different lakes, over and over.
At one point you’re expected to cross this enormous rock and for us it was damp and slick with moss.
My girlfriend had a hard time but eventually we made it. A
fter a few hours with the bugs and humidity we were about ready to get back to the campsite but we still had another hour or so left of the hike.
I was walking 100 feet or so ahead of my girlfriend when I turned a corner and spotted something. A
cross the lake was this black shape and it took me a second to register what it was – a black bear!
I motioned to my girlfriend to rush over quickly and she whipped out her camera and got some great shots.
For a minute it didn’t even notice us and continued to eat grass quietly.
Then for some reason it looked directly at us, stared for 10 seconds or so, and then made its way back into the bushes.
This was an incredible experience and after all the hiking we did it was nice to have received such a great reward.
I don’t think it’s common for people to see black bears in the park, especially on such populated trails.
The scary part was that it was so quiet when it was walking back into the woods and it made us think how close we might have come to walking past other bears.
Seeing the bear was incredible but we still had another few kilometres of the trail to go.
We hiked back up to one more ridge, which offered the best view of the entire trail.
Finally, after taking a short break here, we made our way back to the car.
The hike from the final ridge to the car was quite treacherous and seemed pretty long since we were tired and just wanted to relax
. At one point we thought we got lost since the markings weren’t very clear but in the end we made it without any issues.
The bear experience is one of the best I’ve ever had while camping in Algonquin Park and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to see it in its natural habitat.
The Centennial Ridges Trail is fairly difficult and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with any health issues or who isn’t that interested in hiking.
Overall it took us close to 5 hours but this includes a few breaks including stopping for lunch and the time spent watching the bear.
It’s hard to compare this trail to the Mizzy Lake Trail but this is truly one of the best hiking trails in Algonquin Provincial Park.
Looking for some free camping near Algonquin Park?
Check out the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve!