a peek inside the fishbowl

13 Aug, 2015

Camping at Achray, part three (a bit about the trails)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

Going camping at Achray? You may want to read part one and two.

I like to write about our travel and camping adventures, but to be honest, I’m never sure how to approach it here on the blog. I want to write it all down for myself, for my own family, but I also want to share some helpful information if you happen to be interested in family camping or checking out the scene at Algonquin Park. I am also very bored of headlines that scream things like: MY DAUGHTER PICKED UP A SNAKE AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT or TEN WAYS TO SURVIVE CAMPING WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND NOT LOSE YOUR MIND.

I will say this, there’s no shortage of things to do at Achray, although, as I think about it, they may not be the kind of activities families are looking for. There are no camp movie nights here, no playgrounds, children’s programming, gift shops or grocery stores. There’s no bike rental, no laundry, no showers. There are no radios allowed, no motor boats on the lake. There are 45 spots at Achray and everything is pretty near silent at 10 p.m. If this seems like your idea of hell on earth, maybe camping isn’t your thing or you need to consider a place like Sandbanks. If you’re like me, and this sounds like CAMPING NIRVANA, read on.

As I mentioned previously, we like to go for a hike after breakfast and save our relaxing for after lunch. I find this adds a welcome structure to our days and makes those dips in the lake so much more rewarding. There are a few trails at Achray: including Jack Pine, Barron Canyon, Berm Lake, and High Falls.

Jack Pine Trail (which I mentioned) takes you to where the famous Jack Pine painting was sketched by Tom Thomson. It’s quite pretty, and an easy walk.

Barron Canyon is a fantastic trail. It’s very scenic, with an element of danger which is irresistible to some hikers. It is however, important to note that people have died here. So proceed with caution!

Warning signs at Barron Canyon Trail

Here’s my youngest and Mark, peering over the edge together, in 2009 and 2015:

Five years ago, at Barron Canyon Algonquin Park

Mark and S. peek over the edge

Barron Canyon trail is short, only 1.5 km, but it feels longer because of the terrain. It’s totally worth it.

Overlooking Barron Canyon Trail, at Achray campground in Algonquin Park

Barron Canyon from the trail, Achray campground in Algonquin Park

Here’s Mark and I:

Barron Canyon Trail, Achray campground in Algonquin Park

And although I am stating the obvious, I will say that going down hill is easier than up, which makes the hike back to the parking lot a little sweeter.

Barron Canyon trail, Achray campground in Algonquin Park

Mark and I hiked Berm Trail together. It’s 4.5 kilometres, and is also quite pretty with a unique ecological profile. I really recommend buying a trail guide before you set out so you know what you’re looking at! (Do yourself a favour and bring bug spray too.)

I think our favourite was the High Falls cheater trail (yes, this is what it’s called). I must give some backstory first. High Falls is the secret almost everyone knows about. It’s a natural “water slide” that can only be reached by canoe (including a short portage a.k.a “divorce court”) or by a 50-60 minute hike. The last time we were at Achray in 2009 we decided to canoe to High Falls. That trip has become a Tomkins family legend (which I wrote about here) but we decided we would try the alternate route this year.

The “High Falls cheater trail” isn’t marked on maps, but there’s an official sign on Barron Canyon Road that will direct you to a parking lot. The trail is well-travelled and clearly marked at the outset, so you don’t need to worry that you’ll end up stranded in the woods. Funny story: ONE member of our party, who shall remain nameless, neglected to wear runners that day. We decided to forge ahead, knowing we may possibly regret it. The path was level at the beginning but later turned into something a little rougher. Thankfully, young ankles in flip-flops were able to navigate it without issue. Sigh.

Hike to High Falls

The payoff for 50 minutes of sweat and constant mosquito swatting is the kind of landscape you don’t get to see very often. It’s the perfect destination, as it gives you something very fun to see and do for the rest of the afternoon. It’s quite the reward for a hot summer day, especially if you bring a picnic.

We jumped off a mini-cliff into the water, about seventy million times:

Mini cliff jump at High Falls

Swam in deep pools:

Pond at High Falls

And of course, there was that water slide (basically, a very flat rock with water pouring down it):

High Falls

View of "waterslide" at High Falls

Stunning, isn’t it? Suffice it to say we all slept well that night.

Part four is coming next, and I’ll talk about some of the other things we like to do when we camp.

6 Responses to "Camping at Achray, part three (a bit about the trails)"

1 | Lynn

August 14th, 2015 at 10:38 am


I think you know that camping is my ultimate vacation hell, and this kind of camping – totally off the map – gives me nightmares. But I love these posts – it’s so lovely and peaceful to me that you, as a family, have found your identity. You’re making such fantastic memories together and bringing your family together. I love it!

2 | Tricia

August 14th, 2015 at 1:16 pm


Heaven…absolute heaven.

3 | Jen_nifer

August 19th, 2015 at 8:11 pm


I love that those screaming headlines just aren’t your thing.

4 | carol

May 6th, 2016 at 6:22 pm


Achray is our favourite place to camp. It is quiet and serene. If you want to camp these days you either go interior camping or to Achray. Otherwise you may as well be in the middle of a subdivison in any city.

5 | Francisco

April 19th, 2019 at 8:44 am


Thank you for your post about your visit to Achray. I am planning to visit this campground, but I just noticed there is no shower facilities. As an inexperienced camper, do you mind me asking what do people do given the lack of showers?

I really appreciate your help. Thanks in advance.

6 | andrea tomkins

April 19th, 2019 at 4:46 pm


Hi Francisco! We make sure we go for a good swim every day to get rid of sweat, sunscreen and bug spray. You can bring eco-friendly soap but we don’t bother. I bring face wipes to clean my face before bed. That’s it! :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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