Bryant Ridge is located in Algonquin Provincial Park and is perhaps the best example of a peak from within the hilly confines of Canada’s first provincial park. Most of the ridges in this part of the province (Haliburton Highlands) are covered in trees and offer little opportunity for ones who love open rock and soaring vistas. This is where Bryant Ridge is a rarity as its bluffs tower some 70m above the trees and overall some 125m above the waters of Whitefish Lake.
Bryant Ridge is part of the Centennial Ridges Trail, a 10km loop which traverses two high parallel ridge systems that dominate this quadrant of the park, and offers some of the best views in the park. There are five separate cliffs which rise anywhere from 50-125m above the surrounding forest and lakes. The trail was opened in 1993 to commemorate the park’s centennial. At 11 selected points the trail honours some of the most influential people from the park’s storied history who helped shape the park into what it has become today. The trail wends it’s away along open ridges for about 2km which for Ontario is impressive… as most trails usually meander through forests without ever opening up.
Also part of the Centennial Ridges Trail is the second highest point in the park. While MacDougall Mountain rises to a height of 565m (a full 55 meters higher than the highest point on Bryant Ridge) the views form near its summit are nowhere near as impressive… and in all honesty are somewhat disappointing. The views from Founders ridge and Bartlett’s Bluff are also excellent. This is also the first part of the trail where the pathway opens and traverses a long open ridge system.
Algonquin Park was founded in 1893. Robert Phipps set aside the land as he was worried that a more balanced approach to resource management was necessary in order to maximise the utility and profit of Ontario’s forest reserves. Strangely enough the creation of Algonquin was not brought about by artists, environmentalists or poets, but rather a coalition of loggers, hunters and bureaucrats.
Algonquin is Ontario’s largest park at 7725km². There are over 150km of trails and 2400km of canoe routes throughout the park. The southern section of the park is very developed. Highway 60 cuts through this part of the park and as a direct result of this there is a very steady flow of traffic year round as it is a major east-west corridor for this section of the province.
Much like Killarney Provincial Park, Algonquin was one of the favourite haunts of Canada’s world renowned Group of Seven painters. It was Tom Thomson whose depictions of varied Algonquin landscapes really helped put the park on the map and helped shape people’s early appreciation of Canadian wilderness. Tom Thomson died mysteriously in 1917 when his canoe capsized and he drowned, forever ensuring his name will always remain synonymous with that of the parks.
To get to Bryant Ridge from Toronto take Highway 400 up to where it splits (just after Barrie). The 400 continues northward where Highway 11 continues to the northeast. Follow highway 11 for about 125km or so until you reach the exit for Highway 60. You will continue along Highway 60 for about 50-60km until you enter the park proper.
Stop at the West Gate Information Center and purchase a day pass and then continue eastwards along highway 60 for just under 40km until you reach the clearly marked turnoff to the parking lot and trailhead for the Centennial Ridges Trail.
The trail itself moves to the north and doesn’t reach Bryant Ridge until kilometre 8.5. It is asked that you follow the loop in only one direction, though the trail sees little traffic and if one wanted to simply climb to the top of Brant Ridge to take in the views you could simply move to the south and then turn around after you’ve taken in the views from the top. One would miss some of the other really beautiful sections of the trail however and a chance to see some of the other myriad faces that the park offers to visitors.
To use the park you either have to purchase a day pass or purchase a permit to camp overnight. Day passes cost $12.50 while overnight camping costs anywhere from $22-30 a night per vehicle. One can easily camp at the nearby Lake of Two Rivers campground, though if one is looking for a serene place to camp overnight this is not it. The only spot one can truly find that is in the interior.
Permits can be picked up at the West Gate Information Center and reservations can be made year round by calling 1 888 668 7275 from 7am to 11pm daily
When To Climb
You can visit the park year round. The Visitor’s Center (at kilometre 43) is open daily from April 24 to October 31. The normal hours are from 10-5, with extended summer hours from June 18 to September 5.
In late fall, winter and early spring the Center is open on weekends only. From Halloween until January 30 the office is open from 10-4, and from January 31 to April 24 the office is open from 10-5.
The best time to hike up Bryant Ridge is during late spring, summer or early fall. During the peak season the access road closes daily at 7pm so it is best to get your hike done early unless you are planning on staying overnight. The trail isn’t officially open in the winter, but is well marked and if one were careful and came prepared for 1.5m of snow or more it is possible that you could comfortably reach Bryant Ridge on snowshoes… especially in February after the snow has firmed up significantly.
For park info. you can call 705 633 5572 or visit The Friends of Algonquin park web page at www.algonquinpark.on.ca.
There are literally dozens of campgrounds in the park with upwards of 1500 campsites available. The main campgrounds are those found along Highway 60. The first established and the most popular of these is the Lake of Two Rivers.
Other popular campgrounds are located at Canisbay Lake, Mew Lake, Pog Lake and Rock Lake.
All of these campsites have one thing in common. There is little in the way of serenity to be found, for that one must be prepared to paddle and portage their way into the interior. As previously mentioned prices per night run between $22-30.
Also available for public use are ranger cabins ($100 or more per night) and yurts, which are eight sided tent-like structures that are heated and have insulated floors. They cost $65 per night and require a $100 deposit.
To check out the weather conditions for the park one can check www.theweathernetwork.ca and check their parks forecast which gives up to date and long term forecasts for the park year round.
Failing this one can check the weather conditions for nearby cities on the same website such as Dwight or Huntsville, or you can call the Visitor’s Center at 705 633 5572.
Flora and Fauna
The park is home to an abundance of wildlife. The park offers over 20 kinds of reptiles and amphibians and more than 130 species of birds. One can readily see moose, otters, black bears, beaver and white-tailed deer. Also if you keep your eyes pealed you may be able to spot a scarlet tananger or an immature bald eagle.
The wolf has been making a comeback in eastern North America. In Algonquin there are over 40 healthy packs. Algonquin is the largest protected area on the continent for the eastern wolf. The Ministry of Natural Resources, in conjunction with Algonquin park officials work tirelessly to monitor the health of the packs year round by means of radio collars.