Hiking at Hardy Lake Provincial Park
Spring Hike at Hardy Lake
Recently John and I were out with a client having a final walk around prior to the closing of their new Muskoka cottage on Clear Lake when we noticed Hardy Lake Provincial Park. We weren’t all that familiar with the hiking trails within the park so we thought we’d go and check one out on our way home.
Located about 15 minutes to the west of Gravenhurst on hwy 169, Hardy Lake Provincial Park encompasses an area of 1,900 acres that surround pristine Hardy Lake and extend as far as East Bay on Lake Muskoka.
The park is considered a non-operating park with only a small parking lot and an outhouse so you want to be self sufficient and pretty much ready to roll when you arrive. Camping, biking and the use of all motorized vehicles are prohibited within the park. Hiking and paddling are encouraged as well as snowshoeing during the winter season.
Originally a homestead from the 1870’s the land was later acquired by the province in the 1980’s and designated as an environmental Park. It was created with the intent of protecting the numerous biological, geological and cultural features unique within the area.
This includes several significant species of plants, reptiles, amphibians and birds that are considered rare to the area, threatened or endangered.
When ancient glacial lakes retreated from their hold over most of Ontario, Lake Algonquin left behind a significant grouping of shoreline plants, common to the Atlantic Ocean shoreline as well as an unusual inland shoreline typical of Georgian Bay.
The map posted in the parking lot shows three trails with distances of 3km, 7km and 8km. We decided to tackle the 8km trail that wound its way around Hardy Lake.
What we discovered was a rugged and inviting trail that captured our interest in every sense as we followed the path through diverse forests and over flowing creek beds. Sparse patches of snow and ice remained as the warmth of early spring had only just begun.
Numerous and impressive glacial erratics splattered the landscape, host to mosses, rock tripe and other lichens. We hiked through fascinating wetlands and stopped to admire large pockets of smooth, sloping bedrock surrounding Hardy Lake.
Early spring hiking typically brings flowing run off, a bit of ice and lots of muddy trails but with good footwear, a bit of rock hoping and some agility the trail was quite fun. I should mention at this point how important it is to stay on marked trails so as not to cause unnecessary damage to the vegetation, especially in the spring.
There are several sturdy boardwalks leading across wide creeks or spanning the distance allowing hikers to walk to an island and back to mainland again to continue the loop around the lake.
Good vantage points for long lake views can be found from smooth rocky outcrops or from some of the boardwalks, providing many of opportunities for photography or maybe even a cool dip in the lake during warmer weather. The lake was not yet ice free but we opted out of the polar swim.
While enjoying the remainder of the trail we worked up an appetite for some good local food, so once back at the car we drove into the nearby town of Bala and stopped by the Bala Falls Pub for lunch.
We look forward to returning to Hardy Lake to explore the 3km and the 7km trails in this beautiful part of Muskoka.