After a successful entree into back country camping this summer in Algonquin Park, I started to research other trails in Ontario I could do. Being a bit of a Group of Seven nut, the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Canada’s Killarney Provincial Park immediately grabbed my attention. Envisioning hiking through landscapes that inspired their paintings felt like a dream come true.
I hadn’t traversed this stretch of highway since I’d driven up to Thunder Bay and couldn’t recall what it was like. How crazy would I have to be to actually consider doing this trail?
I decided a weekend visiting Killbear Provincial Park to do some photography, and conquering “The Crack” in Killarney was the smartest thing to do to get a sense of the terrain. “The Crack” section is the final 3km of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, and on the ‘to-do’ list of most Ontario hikers.
Staying at Killbear Provincial Park was a great way of splitting up the drive. I arrived in time to drive around to the main sites and grab photos before sunset.
This obviously had to include Canada’s famous windswept tree. Aside from my trek through Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so connected to a tree before. She’s a beauty!
If you haven’t visited Killarney, I highly suggest it. The highways are amazing, the views are stunning and the fall colours shout out at you! It’s a long drive from Toronto (about 5 hours) but you are definitely rewarded.
I didn’t fill up my tank when passing through Britt, which was a bit of a mistake. There were no gas stations in sight between there and Killarney. I was running last bar low by the time I arrived at Killarney Outfitters.
For anyone who is used to Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville or Oxtongue Lake, you may find yourself a bit disappointed in the selection here. That said, the customer service is awesome, and they’re one of the only Canadian distributors of Give’r clothing brand. I was lucky enough to snag a Give’r shirt and a sweet pair of Killarney sweat pants for 30% off!
Thankfully, they told me where I could gas up in town (and shed a pretty penny in the process). For those who don’t know, you can gas up (or put enough to get back to Parry Sound) behind Pitfield’s General Store. It’s unassuming and took me asking how to find it, but I was grateful for it.
After gassing up, I made my way back to the George Lake Campground Office to pick up my park pass and find out how to get to the trailhead.
Finding the trailhead is a bit tricky if it’s your first time. There’s no signage, so you pretty much have to watch your pedometer for the driveway into it. I’d never have found it had the George Lake Campground employee not told me to drive 7km towards the highway.
That said, it is pretty spot on 7km. Naturally, I passed it and had to turn around but I found it. A sign would be helpful for newcomers.
The parking lot was almost full by the time I arrived around 12:30pm. I secured one of the last spots. A few cars came in right after I did. On a beautiful day, I’d suggest arriving earlier in the morning, or mid afternoon to nab spots of returning morning hikers.
The trails are kept up very well and include areas covered completely with boardwalk. I was impressed with how clean and maintained the trail was. I don’t recall seeing one piece of garbage the entire time. I love seeing how respectful people are of our parks!
The first section of the trail is mostly flat and easy for anyone to do. In the fall, it’s a sea of gold leaves, with white and silver birches lining the path. I couldn’t help but smile thinking I was walking along a Yellow Brick Road. It was glorious! So pretty!
The weather in Killbear was fairly cool and windy the night prior, so I was very happy to have it turn out to be such a beautiful day. Feeling the afternoon sunshine throughout the entire hike was lovely; especially at the top!
Lots of people were out with friends, children, and their dogs. I’m always heartened to see families doing hikes like these with children in tow. It is such a valuable experience to share with younger generations. I know the sense of achievement I feel upon completing these hikes and what an incredible gift that is to give a child. I can only imagine the impact it has on their confidence and self esteem. The sky is the limit!
About 45 minutes into the hike, you cross a bridge and follow along the side of Kakakise Lake. This is where the ups start and they don’t stop until you arrive at The Crack.
There were points where I wished I’d remembered my hiking poles. I left mine in the car and could’ve used them on some of the more technical sections. Very few people had them though, so it’s completely doable without.
Over time I’ve come to learn that the hiking community is truly that; a community. If it wasn’t for the fantastic scenery and the challenge of the trail itself, I’d have to say the kindness and care of fellow hikers was probably my favourite part. Everyone was saying hello, encouraging each other, joking about the challenge of the climb and taking each others photos.
I tend to be a friendly and out-going person, so cracking jokes comes naturally to me. This happened pretty much every time I got caught way off trail with a number of hikers in tow not far behind. Apparently people follow you when you appear confident, regardless of whether or not you know where you’re going.
The terrain looks all the same so it can be tricky. Coming back down looked completely different so I got off track a few times on my descent. I found the middle section the most disorienting because of all the white rock. You could get lost and (happily) be left exploring it all day. For me, this goes back to the importance of taking your time and not rushing to the top, or bottom. You’re bound to get off track, but you’ll also miss the enjoyment of the experience. Don’t rush! Soak it in!
This is one of the most stunning hikes I’ve done thus far. There is so much to see. It’s awe-inspiring. Keep an eye out for the plastic markers and cairns on the trail. You do have to search for them at times, but they’ll always be around to guide you back in the right direction.
Arriving at the bottom of the crack takes your breath away a bit. It is massive and daunting.
For this part of the trek, you will literally be using your hands and feet to make your way up the labrynth of boulders, jagged rocks and crevasses. This part was the hardest, but SO MUCH FUN!
You have to work in this part. Slow yourself down, think about where you’re putting your feet, and watch your balance. I toppled a couple times, as did hikers all around me. The rocks can be a bit slippery, if you’re not watching your footing.
Slowly but surely you make your way up through the jungle of stone, arriving at the most fantastic view! As I said to friends, why the Group of Seven found inspiration for their paintings in those woods, overlooking those lakes and on those cliffs is no longer a mystery to me. It really takes your breath away!
As I’m generally hiking solo (I’m trying to change that!), I typically don’t get many photos of myself. I was super grateful to have a woman generously take photos of me at the top. These are some of my favourite photos I have of myself. I felt so amazing after this hike and it’s wonderful to have them to look back on.
This view, my goodness. Oh, Canada. I love this country! We’re so lucky to have places like this to explore! If you’ve ever considered this hike, I HIGHLY suggest doing it. You won’t be disappointed!
You may even be inspired, like I am, to continue the full 78km afterward!
Wild and Found