Booth's Rock Trail

In early November we hiked around the Booth's Rock Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. This is an interpretive walking trail, accessible from Highway 60 near the east gate of the park.

November 10, 2006.

The weather forecast for November 10th was good, promising a break between the rain on preceding days and the wet snow predicted to follow, so Bob and I decided to go for a hike in Algonquin Park. Since the First Nations moose hunt was on in our usual stomping grounds around the Achray Road, we thought we would investigate walking trails along Highway 60.

When we left home the sky was overcast, with a chilly breeze at 2C. We stopped at the east gate of the park, bought some trail guide brochures (a bargain at 50� each), and decided to visit the Booth's Rock Trail.

As we started walking, the overcast was thinning and hints of sun were showing through, though the breeze was still chilly. The first part of this trail trends gently upwards but is relatively easy walking, except for a few detours around some very muddy and wet spots. Fall has been very wet this year, and water levels are close to what they would usually be in the spring. Near the start, the trail passes tiny Rosepond Lake, then continues on to Gordon Lake.

eroded trail in hemlock forest along Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

Bob on the trail through hemlock forest between the two lakes. Some of this area was once a farm, though little evidence of its existence remains other than a few rotting logs and suggestions of clearings. Trail erosion from heavy use is clearly visible here.

From Gordon Lake the trail begins to rise steeply and the terrain becomes rockier and more rugged.

bedrock exposed along Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

A section of the trail ascending the hill, showing how the thin soil has been worn down to bedrock by hikers' feet. There are also some very wet spots on this part of the trail, even approaching the top of the hill.

As we ascended the hill, the clouds were gradually breaking and clearing away, and the sun shone through. The day was turning out to be even more pleasant than the forecast had suggested, and the warmth of the sun made it much more comfortable in the cool breeze.

muddy section along Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

A muddy section of trail near the top of the hill. Much of the forest along the trail consists of hemlock trees, with some birch. Due to the deep shade cast by the hemlocks, the underbrush is quite sparse - even more noticeable at this time of year when what little there is has lost its leaves. Some young hemlocks are visible beside the trail.

After a fairly steep climb, we reached the first lookout area, an open space on the rock with a spectacular view to the west and north. We ate lunch there, then continued on to the higher lookout area. This part of the trail is on rock; there are many exposed tree roots from a combination of erosion and human traffic, and a couple of difficult places have short wooden staircases. The view from the higher lookout is even better, and includes a view to the south as well. By this time the sky was mostly clear, the sun was shining, and the breeze had dropped.

view south from lookout on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

The view to the south along Rock Lake.

view west from lookout on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

Looking west across Rock Lake.

view northwest from lookout on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

The view northwest. The end of Rock Lake is at the left side of the picture, and Whitefish Lake is just visible as a thin line of blue in the distance, to the right of the centre of the picture. The light patch on the shore of Rock Lake near the point is the parking lot at the beginning of the trail.

view north from lookout on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

Diana taking in the view to the north. Some of the forested bluffs and hills in the background are visited by the Centennial Ridges Trail and the Lookout Trail.

After enjoying the view for a while and taking some photos, we started the descent. The altitude of the high point of the trail is approximately 1700', while the start point is just above the level of Rock Lake, which is about 1282', so the difference in height is over 400'. The descent is much more abrupt than the ascent.

staircase down from Booths Rock on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

The trail descending from Booth's Rock includes several wooden staircases that provide a safe way down some steep sections of the trail, and also help to prevent erosion from the pounding of many feet.

As the trail approaches Rock Lake again, there is a side trail to the former site of the Barclay Estate, once a palatial lakeside retreat for a relative of lumber baron J.R. Booth. Not much is left except a few remnants of tennis courts and various bits of concrete foundations. The area is gradually being reclaimed by forest.

Barclay Estate lawn on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

Lawn of the Barclay Estate, with Rock Lake in the background.

Barclay Estate boathouse on Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

Remains of the boathouse foundation at the Barclay Estate on the shore of Rock Lake.

From the Barclay Estate side trail, the return to the parking lot follows the abandoned railbed of the Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway, once the busiest rail line in Canada. The section through the park was last used in 1944. A couple of short sections pass through cuts blasted out of solid rock; other sections were obviously built up using the debris from the rock cuts.

abandoned rail bed along Booths Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

The abandoned railbed provides a wide and level trail along the shore of Rock Lake.

There are some nice views across Rock Lake from this section of trail, and we saw a couple of loons fishing in the lake. At one point it is possible to look back up the hill and see the lookout.

By the time we arrived back at the parking lot, the temperature had risen to 5C, but clouds were starting to move in again, some of them trailing streamers of snow. After briefly investigating access to the Centennial Ridges Trail, we headed home.