Hiking Silver Peak in Killarney Provincial Park

June 26, 2021

For several years now my two sons and I have enjoyed canoeing and fishing trips within the interior of this majestic Provincial Park located south of Sudbury Ontario within the rugged wilderness of the Canadian Shield. Our favorite destination in the 645 square kilometre park has been one of the very few lakes there that has a good population of big largemouth bass … with plenty of smallmouth thrown in for heart leaping variety. It takes us several hours and a portage to reach this special lake but like they say, getting there can be half the fun. En route we also make a point to stop and gaze with wanderlust at the majestic Silver Peak – the highest point in the park and easily recognized by the huge slabs of shiny silver quartz rocks that can be seen for miles around.

Almost every time we stop our canoes to admire Silver Peak from below, we speak about our desire to hike the infamous trail that leads up to it, and be able to take in the spectacular view below of the lake we are on as well as some of the other 49 exceptionally clear, sapphire lakes set among the Jack Pine hills. Once up there you can supposedly see both sides of the park at once and beyond to Georgian Bay and even Sudbury on a clear day. We knew however that you would need to devote a full day to hiking the Silver Peak Trail and practically, fishing needed to take a back seat while you endeavored to check this trail off your bucket list. The stars aligned however for my youngest son Izaak and I to do just that in June of 2021 … and this is how it all rolled out:

Getting There:

There are a few ways to access the Silver Peak Trail, but for day hikes, the best and most logical is by canoeing to the trail head via the Bell Lake access route. This is a familiar put-in spot for my sons and I to begin our canoe and fishing trips and we knew roughly where that trailhead was … so Izaak and I decided this would be how we would start our hiking adventure.

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The Bell Lake Access Route is one the Wegman clan has used for many years to reach some of their favorite interior bass fishing destinations and campsites. This time though, they used it to access the trailhead for the infamous Silver Peak Trail in Killarney.

The paddle in Izaak’s canoe from the Bell Lake access point to trailhead reminded us of all the memorable trips we had taken across this large lake but it sure felt weird not to have any fishing rods aboard to try a few casts along the way. We put in that June midweek morning at about 10 am but were advised beforehand that during the pandemic so many people are hiking that trail, that we should get there early to find a spot to place your canoe. With intermittent rain we hoped that inclement weather would scare many off … but when we arrived at the well-planned-out mooring spot (with a nice dock ) and trailhead, we were surprised to see more than a dozen other canoers had already dumped their canoes and gone ahead of us.

None-the-less, well used hiking trails have become the new normal not only for southern Ontario but in the north too, and we accepted this and acknowledged that the surging popularity of hiking, fishing and other outdoor pursuits is exactly what the doctor ordered for all of us otherwise healthy and somewhat sane humans living through Crazy Covid-times.

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The boys just followed the arrow pointing to Silver Peak and the trailhead on that rainy morning.

We found the first section of the trail was gently rolling and went through a number of wetlands and hardwood forests. We were impressed right away that the trail was extremely well-marked with red signposts designating this Silver Peak Trail – which differentiated it from the more intense - multi-day, 100km La Cloche Loop trail. As keen as we are, we didn’t want to end up on that 4-10 day hike by mistake. We passed a small lake that was tempting to fish and for a moment I regretted not bringing a couple of my Rapala pack rods, but knowing we likely wouldn’t have made it past that lake if we got bit, I guess it’s a good thing our focus was on reaching the summit not on shore lunch.

There were a great variety of wildflowers and ferns which thrive in the fertile soils found on the first leg of the trail. The old growth forest canopy was a blessing because it kept us dry from the intermittent showers and even heavy rain that lasted off and on during our entire hike. Eventually the terrain became more difficult and started a gradual and then very steep rocky climb to Killarney’s apex. That last kilometre is rugged and challenging – especially with slick, slippery slabs of smooth wet rock but our high end hiking boots- with Vibram and Keen treads definitely gave us confidence in our footing.

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Interesting Facts about Silver Peak

Silver Peak is part of the La Cloche Mountain range and is approximately 2.3 billion years old and at one time its peaks were taller than the Rocky Mountains. Years of erosion from wind, water and frosts have caused these once massive cliffs to transform into rolling hills. The white quartzite is one of the most recognizable features of Killarney and amazes geologists and tourists alike. Several member of the Group of Seven frequented the park and pushed the Ontario government of the day to declare it a provincial park.

The exposed quartzite peak is rewarding with a spectacular 360-degree view of Killarney and her beautiful lakes: Boundary, David and Panache as well as the vast waters of Georgian Bay. To the east you can barely make out the city of Sudbury and some of her tall smokestacks that (when I was a kid) were responsible for spewing chemicals that caused acid rain which affected lakes far and wide – including throughout Kilarney. Today several fisheries management actions are as a result of those old acid rain days and some lakes still remain as sanctuaries with no lake trout fishing permitted.

At one time, Silver Peak was even destined to be a ski resort that would compete with Mount Tremblant. However, due to its steepness and isolation the project was cancelled and Silver Peak’s natural beauty was protected. Despite the lack of ski facilities, Silver Peak’s mixture of pink granite and white quartzite still draws tourists to its base.

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Izaak and Wil both agreed that climbing up the 553 meter tall CN tower would have provided only a mediocre urban landscape view, so they decided to hike the spectacular Silver Peak Trail and the 543 meters to its breathtaking wilderness summit instead :)

This hike is definitely an unforgettable adventure that will give you a great sense of accomplishment. Interestingly enough too, although several websites said the hike was 4.5 km each way, I looked at my Apple watch when we reached the summit and it actually called it at 5.2 km.

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Although the terrain for the last leg of the trail was rugged and steep, it was just as well marked as the beginning with red sign posts (as seen below)

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About 2/3’s of the way up we got a nice partial view of the vista that awaited us at the very top of Silver Peak.

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The father-son team simply called this section “The Wall”

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At the top, the hiking duo of Wil and Izaak experienced rapidly changing weather. A five minute respite from the wind and rain allowed them to have a quick bite to eat but it was not long afterwards when the wind suddenly picked up and sent the pouring rain sideways … as seen in the photo below.

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Izaak almost appears as ghostly figure – a photo his dad took while trying to remain upright against the rain and wind

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Wil and Izaak managed a quick selfie just before they began their scurried decent in the rain back down the Silver Peak Trail and their canoe.

Notables:

  • There are several interior camping options that would enable you to paddle to the Silver Peak Trailhead on Bell Lake, but Wil and Izaak decided to car-camp at George Lake – about a 25 minute car ride to the put-in spot on Bell

  • George Lake Campground offers small yet private and well treed campsites. Wil reserved the site back in February- the morning of the first day reservations opened for 2021.

  • They continually saw hikers of all skillsets coming and going from the La Cloche trailhead. One couple arrived late with just 30 minutes or so until dark. As well as conventional backpacks – they had also had additional ‘luggage’ on rollers, plus a large cooler and they were each carrying a duffle bag. Bewildered and slightly amused onlookers (most of whom were avid hikers as are many who camp in Kilarney) were concerned for their safety. The couple stopped at the bottom of the incline and looked up to where they had to climb. We could all sense the tremendous angst they were feeling. Less than 10 metres up, when their rollers became stuck in the rocks, they looked at each other and began an animated discussion. This continued for several minutes until a well-seasoned couple took it upon themselves to walk over and gently remind them that the 100 km trail is no picnic and the lightest of gear is critical to success and nightfall is no time to begin such a challenge even for veteran hikers. They took that advice under advisement for several minutes then sanity prevailed and they sulked back down the laneway –rollers and luggage clicking and clanging on the uneven serface to head back from whence they came.

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The Wegman's campsite was within view of the lake and directly across from the steep and rocky trailhead of the La-Cloche 100km trail. One day while they were there, a rescue and EMS crew descended upon the trailhead and planned their ascent to where an injured hiker required medical attention and extraction to safety. About three hours later, they all came out carrying her on a stretcher where she was in good spirits and appreciative of all the work the crew did to bring her to the waiting ambulance.

There are several very good, easier and shorter day hikes right at the George Lake campground and we were very impressed with the varied terrain and beautiful views it offered Wil and Izaak. These too can be rugged with many jagged rocks so good hiking boots are a must for any of the park’s trails.

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For more information on beautiful Kilarney Provincial Park and to book a campsite or canoe rental please visit: https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/killarney