About two hours north of Toronto, just past the town of Huntsville lies Arrowhead Provincial Park.
Arrowhead has it all, a beautifully maintained park, numerous hiking/biking trails, a well-stocked park store, canoeing/kayaking. All located only a ten-minute drive from one of my favourite cottage country towns, Huntsville.
This review covers my family’s Labour Day 2021 trip, including the campsites, the amenities, and the various trails throughout.
Arrowhead Provincial Park Amenities
Arrowhead is filled with lots to do for all ages and adventure styles. During this visit, we played on the expansive beach, paddled down the river to Stubbs Falls, checked out a few attractions, headed into town for some easy breakfasts, and I still had enough time left over to run four of the five posted trails.
Arrowhead Lake features four interconnected swimming beaches, all on the southern end, accessible via a short to medium walk, or a quick drive, from each of the four campgrounds.
If you’re coming with pets, there are even two dog beaches located on both sides of the entrance to the Little East River. With two dogs in our group, we hung out at the dog beach but were easily able to take advantage of the main beach while keeping the greater group not too far apart.
The main beach is huge, with 250m of near-continuous beach on the north end of Little East River, and another 750m on the south side. Unlike most provincial parks, I couldn’t envision ever having to fight for space at Arrowhead.
With a shallow walkout, no motorized boats, and barely a weed to be seen, the swimming was fantastic.
Less than five years old, the Visitor Centre and Park Store is clean, modern, and has everything you need to make your trip a success, including a well-stocked store, and high-quality exclusive park clothing.
Their exclusive park exclusive, as compared to anything I’ve ever seen at a provincial park, is of impeccable quality, and stylish design, and still remains in my regular rotation of go-to t-shirts.
Firewood that burned, lifejackets to borrow, canoes, kayaks, SUPs, Arrowhead had everything we needed to make our trip a success.
And of course, if you’re looking to keep your trip simple there is all manner of stores and restaurants just a short drive away in Huntsville.
If you have the time, I’d also highly recommend the thirty-five-minute drive to Screaming Heads, located five minutes west of Burk’s Falls, on Midlothian Road.
Created by artist Peter Camini, Screaming Heads is a free-to-enter art exhibit featuring huge cast-iron sculptures all throughout the property.
Here’s another shot of Screaming Heads from my recent bikepacking trip, Exploring Gravel – Burks Falls Loop – West of 11. Click on the link above for a few more pics from that last trip.
South Lumby and East River Campgrounds
The park itself contains three distinct campgrounds including our home for the weekend at North and South Lumby, East River, and Roe.
When we visited Restoule labour day 2020, it was awful, with poor spacing between sites, and kids partying until the wee hours of the night, there wasn’t much sleeping to be had.
Arrowhead didn’t have that.
For sure, there wasn’t the same level of rowdiness around us, but with better spacing between sites, and many more trees, the insulating effect was high.
As you can see the site had a sandy well-drained bottom, lots of space for our main 14 person tent, a smaller 3 person tent, the eating tent, parking, and still lots of space to play.
Although older, the comfort station was kept with the highest care, frequently cleaned, and well maintained.
As great as the comfort station was, do note the rest of the toilets were vault toilets, not vault toilets with flush (no smell) like Grundy is famous for.
While visiting the park we also had the opportunity to check out the East River Campground, and all I can say is WOW! If you can grab a spot here, take it without delay. The road is quiet, the spacing between sites is massive, and the privacy is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a provincial park.
Like this site somewhere in the 300s.
Summer Trails at Arrowhead Provincial Park
Arrowhead is home to six hiking/biking trails, plus Big Bend Lookout.
I had the pleasure of running all but the Homesteaders Trail, due to timing, and the Beaver Meadow Trail, which was blocked off, during my early September 2021 visit.
Big Bend Lookout
Big Bend was a short drive from the park store. Required no hiking and access, took ten minutes of our time to visit, and offered stunning views of the Muskoka landscape and the unique geological formations on the Big East River was a personal highlight from the trip.
Although I didn’t think to take pictures of it, there was also plenty of information detailing how this was formed by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago, and how the meandering rivers will eventually form an oxbow lake.
I only wish my picture did it justice.
Arrowhead Lake (5.1km) and Beaver Meadow Trail (4km)
With a combined 9km of trail, the Arrowhead Lake Trail, with the Beaver Meadow Trail extension was my planned longest run of the trip.
My run started at the dog beach near the main parking lot, headed north along some light trails, before passing some campsites on the eastern end of South Lumby.
After exiting South Lumby, I followed this brief stretch of beautiful road into North Lumby, then onto the main trail towards the Beaver River Wetland Trail.
Unfortunately, it was shortly after exiting North Lumby that I discovered my hopes for a 10km trail run were dashed when I reached the entrance to the Beaver River Wetlands Trail.
From what I can find while scouring the Internet it sounds like Beaver River passes through wetlands, along various boardwalks, that were in a sad state of disrepair. Hopefully, with all the recent renovations at Arrowhead, this won’t be too much further down the list.
If you’re in the area and have an update, please let me know.
I might not have been able to run Beaver Meadows but at least I had fantastic views of Arrowhead to look forward to. Unfortunately, with heavy tree cover, even that was a bit of a stretch.
The Arrowhead Lake Trail was a light trail run, an easy hike, or an easy mountain bike suitable for the whole family.
The trail was flat and fast, with only this one 15m hill, just north of Roe Campground, of any significance.
Stubbs Falls and the Stubbs Falls Trail (2.6km)
Located about 1.5 km down the Little East River is Stubbs Falls.
If you’re up for the hike, you can take the 2.6km loop trail that starts from the main parking lot; navigate the paddle from Arrowhead Lake, or park in East River Campground followed by a two-minute walk to the falls.
From the parking lot, you’ll take a few steps down, then enjoy the view as you cross the new bridge.
Past the bridge, a few more short trails past some massive boulders, barely visible on the left, then you’re at the falls, with lots of space for all to enjoy.
Looking south from Stubbs Falls.
My first trip to Stubbs Falls started with a short run down the east side of Little East River, before turning north on the west side.
As I headed north I came across this navigation aide, which introduces Hardwood Ridge, a moderate-difficulty snowshoe trail as found on the Winter Trail Map.
About halfway up I encountered the most technical part of the trail, which as you can see is pretty mild, making this trail suitable for almost anyone.
Lookout Trail (3km)
My final run started at the main beach, followed the steep incline of the main access road to the main gate, then just past the washrooms, the entrance to the 3km hiking and biking trail known as the Lookout Trail.
Although not technical, the trail was moderately hilly.
At pretty much the halfway point you reach the lookout, and its fantastic views of the park and beyond. Although not visible from the lookout, Stubbs Falls would be located almost directly below.
Mayflower Lake Trail (1.5km)
After exiting the Lookout Trail, I headed past the permit office and into the moderately technical Mayflower Lake Trail.
Although listed as a 2km loop, my Garmin tracked it at only 1.5km.
The loop starts at Mayflower Lake.
Follows a variety of rocky and rooty terrain.
Onto a short boardwalk, and includes a brief hilly part just past the lake.
Although shorter, thanks to the hilly terrain, slightly more technical terrain, this was perhaps my most memorable run of the trip.
Paddling to Stubbs Falls
If you have access to a kayak or canoe, I would highly recommend the paddle to Stubbs Falls.
With rental canoes located just at the entrance to Little East River from Arrowhead Lake, and short-term rentals available, the paddle is easy to access and definitely worth the thirty minute to hour-long trip.
The paddle follows the winding, and often times narrow, Little East River from Arrowhead Lake to Stubbs Falls, bypassing lots of deadfall along the way.
Although not captured in any of these pics, the paddle was probably the busiest part of the trip, with quite a bit of traffic near some narrow, hard to navigate sections.
Danger, waterfall ahead.
Although the current didn’t pose a risk during our visit, it’s now time to keep your heads up as the falls aren’t too far off.
And now we’ve arrived, with the falls straight ahead just passed this bridge.
If you’re looking to get out and enjoy the falls, this rock on the right serves as the perfect short-term parking space for you canoe or kayak.
The final part of the paddle, and the most challenging of all, fighting the shallow rapids, with short, well-timed, paddle strokes back into Arrowhead Lake.
Winter at Arrowhead Provincial Park
I haven’t had a chance to explore the park much at all in the winter, save for a quick skate a few years back while visiting Deerhurst, Arrowhead is famous for its winter activities, and cabin rentals.
With over 25km of cross country skiing trails, 5km of snowshoeing, and the famous 1.3km skating loop Arrowhead offers lots to do.
Although I haven’t personally been, I know someone who stayed at one of the cabins earlier this winter, and I hear they are both hard to come by, but worth the effort if you can make it happen. The only issue I heard is that, of course, they don’t have plumbing/washrooms, and although the comfort station was in tip-top condition before the skating loop opened for the winter, they went considerably downhill once skating opened, and visitation skyrocketed.
To wrap it all up, we came to Arrowhead with the extended family and everyone loved it. I’ve been trying to think about where it ranks in all the different parks I’ve visited and that’s a hard one because they are each special in their own way, but I will say this is one that along with Grundy will definitely be a part of our permanent rotation.
My favourite parts are the great sites with reasonable privacy, a massive beach with connected dog beaches, and of course all ten minutes away from Huntsville. The only knock, the trails were great, maybe even worth the walk, I only wish they were a bit more challenging, but that’s definitely a personal thing that not everyone would agree with.
Thanks for reading,