Lookout Trail is a reasonable 2km loop that treats you to one of the most perfect Algonquin landscape views, period.
But it’s not my top recommendation. You see, it’s so beautiful, that it’s a victim of its own success. It can get so busy, that during the now world famous “fall colours” season, it feels a little bit like Canada’s Wonderland of hiking. It’s a convenient trail with a postcard perfect lookout view. Your total hiking time is about an hour (or less, if you want to rush). And it’s directly along the Highway 60 corridor.
So that’s why I recommend this trail in the winter time. Having Lookout Trail all to yourself in knee deep snow, on snowshoes, with nobody around?
Please remember, parking along Highway 60 is illegal. To safely enjoy Lookout Trail during winter, you must park at the “Big Pines” parking lot. The Big Pines parking lot is an official winter-maintained parking area. You won’t get towed, and if an emergency happens, your car will be an ideal place for EMS to respond to.
The extra distance between Big Pines parking lot and Lookout trail adds about 2km to your hike, making this about a 4km winter experience. Exercise common sense/caution while walking on Highway 60 from Big Pines to Lookout.
Another legal precaution: Lookout Trail is not officially “open” during the winter. The general public is still allowed to use this trail year-round (as long as you park your car properly), although the park staff do not maintain Lookout during the winter. This means that they don’t perform regular “trail sweeps” and search-and-rescue calls are more difficult to execute.
You move a lot slower in the snow, especially if you’re doing a trail that is harder to access, like Lookout in the winter. Because you’re parking at Big Pines budget enough time and energy so that you don’t get caught hiking back in the dark. I would budget approximately 3 hours total snowshoeing time – to do it comfortably. Athletic and experienced snowshoers could probably do it faster, and less experienced may easily take 4 hours. Use proper judgment as you plan your trip.
Of course, if you need winter gear, there’s always Bongopix Winter Outfitting located conveniently near the park East Gate! The village of Whitney, only 5 minutes from the East Gate, is a great place to warm up, grab some food, and maybe even stay the night.