KILLARNEY—The Point Grondine Park officially opened to the public this summer, offering hiking trails, canoeing and camping in Wikwemikong’s traditional territory in Killarney.

The development of the trails started five years ago, headed by Wikwemikong Tourism Development, and this summer saw the opening of three trails, including a 6 km day loop, a 21 km overnight loop that includes backcountry camping and canoeing and kayaking water trails with backcountry campsites.

The Expositor was on hand for the grand opening of the park and had the opportunity to hike one of the trails and explore the beautiful mountain range.

Hikers enjoy the view from Recollect’s Summit as part of the Merv’s Landing 6 km looping trail.
Hikers enjoy the view from Recollect’s Summit as part of the Merv’s Landing 6 km looping trail.

Merv’s Landing, the 6 km looped hiking trail, is self-guided and perfect for a day hike.

The trail leads you to the summit that overlooks the Killarney mountain range. The single track, naturally surfaced trail flows through hardwood and pine, crossing beaver damns via handcrafted pine bridges, until you reach Recollet’s Summit. The view from the top is breathtaking, and interpretive signs along the trail explain the Anishnaabek cultural significance of the trail and area.

The Wemtagoosh Falls Georgian Bay Coast Trail Loop is a 21 km loop which takes you on a self-guided adventure hike and backcountry camping. The trail begins at the trail head at Merv’s Landing and includes a water crossing at the Mahzenazing Lake via a self propelled raft, the Water Spyder. It then guides hikers through the interior of Point Grondine Park along rugged trails and pine forests and along the Mahzenazing River to Cedar Lake, with an overnight stay along the Georgian Bay Coast Trail.

The journey also includes a hike along the river to the stunning Wemtagoosh Falls and concludes with a hike along Cedar Lake, down the narrow passages to the lookout site at Smugglers Canyon.

For canoe and kayakers, the Kaa-Gaa-Genhs Water Trail connects paddlers to the French River and Killarney Provincial Parks. Beginning at the French River Park at Hartley’s Bay, paddlers make their way to the southern coast of Point Grondine to Collins Inlet with campsites nestled along the sheltered pink granite bay.

This journey follows the historical trade routes of the Odawa of Manitoulin and the French River.

In 2016, the park will expand its offerings to include canoe tripping with routes through the interior of the park, traveling to the eight interior lakes that connect paddlers to Georgian Bay. Construction is underway, with the routes to include portages and canoe camp sites.

For those looking for guided hikes or other adventures there are a variety of historical and cultural experiences offered through Wikwemikong Tourism, including the ‘Making Footprints Interpretive Hike’ at Merv’s Landing.

“This education experience has a focus on the way the Anishnaabek use plants for utility, edibility and medical purposes,” states the Point Grondine Park website. “Our knowledgeable guide Joseph has devoted his life to learn the ways of his people, and through his wealth of knowledge, will connect you with nature by showing you the traditional uses and sciences behind the teachings.”

Through the tour, individuals will also learn about fire making, cooking and building a shelter and will walk away with a new understanding and appreciation of Anishnaabek culture.

The view from Recollet’s Summit is breathtaking.
The view from Recollet’s Summit is breathtaking.

Point Grondine Park is open from Canada Day weekend until Thanksgiving weekend.

Merv’s Landing passes are $14 for vehicles and $100 for buses and include access to Mahzenazing Lake.

Wemtagoosh Falls permits are $24 per person/per night, $12 for youth ages 6-17 and free for children under 6. Additional nights are $15 per person/per night.

Kaa-Gaa-Gehns Water Trail permits are $24 per person/per night and $8 for youth with school groups/per night.

More information and reservations are available online at www.grondinepark.com or by calling 1-844-945-8687 or 705-859-3477.

Also, be sure to check out Wikwemikong Tourism’s Bebamikawe Memorial Trail in Wikwemikong.  The trail features an outdoor fitness park, 1.5 km double tract trail with five outdoor fitness stations, 12 km of easy to moderate single tract hiking trail along the Niagara Escarpment, three lookouts with educational signage describing the historical and ecological significance of the area and a picnic pavilion and eco-friendly restroom facility at the trailhead.