With about 35 kilometres of hiking and snowshoeing trails in various loops, a canoe route, barrier-free access, two beaches, and an observation tower, visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park is always a blast. The park is one of the best outdoor destinations in the French River and West Nipissing areas.
Location and Directions
It is crossed from north to south by secondary Highway 64, providing multiple convenient access points for both paddlers and hikers.
Two beaches also give boaters the opportunity to stretch their legs and explore, and hikers the chance to take a quick dip.
Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park from Highway 17
Via North Bay and Sturgeon Falls
Head West to Verner, then take a left on Highway 64 towards Lavigne. Musky Island road, for the Martin Pond Access Point, is approximately 13 kilometres passed Lavigne. All other access points are further south along Highway 64.
Head East to Hagar, then take a right on Highway 535 to St. Charles. Follow the highway right at the stop sign, continuing on through West Arm to Noëlville. From the main intersection, marked by the church on the southeast corner, take a left onto Highway 64, driving passed Monetville and North Monetville. The first access point is Blandings, and the rest are further north.
Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park from Highway 69
Via Parry Sound
Highway 69 will soon be no more, but for now, it still leads north! Motorists recognise the French River Bridge and the French River Trading Post, both landmarks that indicate Highway 64 heading into the French River area is coming up soon. It’s currently a right-hand turn (thankfully with a turning lane!), but the big yellow machines are busy, busy tearing up the intersection. There is now an overpass, so there will soon enough be an exit to Highway 64, with a name and number.
For those coming to the French River area via Highway 69 South, the ever-lengthening four-lane is making the trip faster and faster. For now, a left-hand turning lane leads onto Highway 64.
Access Points to Mashkinonje Provincial Park
Hike and Snowshoe
Blandings Access Point
Just north of Samoset Road on the west side of the highway, the Blandings Access Point has a large parking lot, washroom facilities, an information board and park map, and a guestbook.
Loudon Peatland Access Point
A few kilometres north of Memquisit Road on the east side of Highway 64, this access point is situated at a lovely viewpoint and conveniently has picnic tables and waste bins available, as well as all the amenities found at Blandings. It serves well as a rest stop for those with little time to spend visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park.
Martin Pond Access Point
Canoe and Kayak
Muskrat Creek Access Point
Since we aren’t paddlers, we’ve never used its facilities, but we do know where it is — approximately halfway between Memquisit Road and the Loudon Peatland Access Point, on the east side of the highway. There’s no signage and it looks like a driveway, so drive slowly or you’ll miss it. There’s sufficient parallel parking, an information board, and a small launching area. The creek heads east, first to Muskrat Bay, then on to the West Bay of Lake Nipissing, passing through a few areas which do not form part of the park.
Arriving by Boat
Lapin Beach Access Point
Pebble Beach Access Point
Those coming from West Arm will find Pebble Beach in the bay south of Mashkinonje Island. There are a small dock and outhouse facilities, which help make visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park a little more convenient.
A Note on Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park in Winter
Where to park a vehicle can be an issue during the winter months. The Blandings Access Point isn’t consistently ploughed during the winter months, whereas the Loudon Peatland Access Point is always maintained.
For those who are visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park who wish to make use of the Blandings Access Point, there are a few other parking options. Sometimes, a space has been cleared on the side of the road in front of the entrance to the Blandings parking lot. There is also usually a small clear area on the east side of the road, just north of the bridge which is located about a kilometre south of the Blandings Access Point. People out ice fishing often park here, so there may be other vehicles.
As for the Martin Pond Access Point, it may require a four by four, or even a snowmobile.
But those who have snowmobiles can also access the park via Lake Nipissing and the two beach access points. The machines aren’t allowed in the park, though.
Trails of Mashkinonje Provincial Park
Loudon Peatland Trail
This is a popular trail for family outings and casual excursions. With picnic facilities, a barrier-free trail, and, for those continuing the hike past the barrier-free point, a lookout tower, it’s easy to plan a day for everyone here. Just under 3 kilometres long, part of the trail forms a loop that adds variety on the way back from the tower. There are several other lookout points as well, and lots of rest benches, especially in the barrier-free zone. Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park, and this trail in particular, highlights the importance of wetlands and the biodiversity that surrounds them.
A fun trail for ridge walking, Heron Trail is moderate in difficulty, mostly due to its length — nearly 5 kilometres linear. It’s also a great trail for snowshoeing. There are only two marked lookout points on this trail, but many more unmarked beautiful views. The junction to Atakas Trail is over a kilometre from the Samoset junction. At about its midpoint, Heron Trail meets with Bobcat Trail. Martin Pond Trail is located at Heron’s northernmost end.
This is a short, easy trail that simply serves to connect Heron and Atakas Trails, but the walk is nice and there’s an awesome viewpoint over a wetland.
The park’s longest trail at about 5.5 kilometres linear stretching between Heron and Coastal Trails, Atakas is probably also the park’s most challenging trail. Because of its length and isolation, being the only trail that cuts through the heart of the park, its paths can often be overgrown. In recent years, the trails have been improved tremendously with boardwalks over key wetlands and marshes, but there is still a dry meadow somewhere between the Coastal and Beckett Lang Trail junctions that can be quite challenging. Long pants and sleeves and sturdy footwear are definitely recommended on this trail! Local history buffs will likely enjoy visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park just to stop and check out the ruined cabin, said to have been occupied decades ago by an American draft dodger.
Lapin Beach Trail
From Samoset Trail, there are two options: left or right. Both lead to the beach, so if you plan on heading back the same way you came from, choose one and return the other way. The trail is easy, and the loop is only about 1.5 kilometres long, but please beware of poison ivy on this trail!
From Lapin Beach, it’s possible to follow the coast of Lake Nipissing all the way to Pebble Beach. The trail skirts in and out of the woods, with many gorgeous views and benches to rest, but because it can get overgrown in some places and because it’s so long — about four and a half kilometres linear — it’s a moderately difficult trail that can sometimes be challenging enough, depending on the season and weather. Not too far north of Lapin Beach, Coastal Trail meets the Beckett Lang Trail, while it joins Atakas Trail more than a kilometre south of Pebble Beach.
Beckett Lang Trail
This short and easy trail connects Coastal and Atakas Trails, creating a loop.
Pebble Beach Trail
The junction from Atakas provides two directions to Martin Pond. The first cuts east through the woods, while the other continues to the beach. From there, Pebble Beach Trail follows the shoreline for quite some time, going over rock outcrops with excellent views of the lake. It then again cuts east through the woods to connect with Martin Pond Trail and its access point. The Pebble Beach Trail loop is about 3.5 kilometres long, and easy to moderate in difficulty.
Martin Pond Trail
This 4 kilometre loop trail circles an impressive wetland and offers views of another. From here, it’s also possible to connect to the Pebble Beach and Heron Trails. Mostly easy, it can be moderately difficult at certain times of year or in inclement weather.
Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park on the Trans Canada Trail
A portion of the park’s trails also form part of the Trans Canada Trail. The 7.4-kilometre route leads from the Martin Pond Access Point along Martin Pond Trail, Heron Trail, and Samoset Trail before finally exiting at the Blandings Access Point. View it on this interactive map.
Beaches at Mashkinonje Provincial Park
When water levels are low, lots of sandy beach is exposed the length of the bay, though it’s fairly weedy towards the south. When water levels are high, only a small strip of sand is visible near the park sign. Those visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park should beware of poison ivy growing in the bushes along the beach!
This is a larger beach with a designated campfire pit and more space on land for kids and pets to play.
Suggested Hiking Routes for Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park
- Loudon Peatland loop (land access)
- Samoset loop (land access)
- Lapin Beach loop (water access)
- Samoset – Lapin Beach loops (land or water access)
- Martin Pond loop (land access)
- Pebble Beach loop (land or water access)
- Samoset – Heron – Bobcat – Atakas – Heron – Samoset loop (land access)
- Pebble Beach – Martin Pond loop (land or water access)
- Coastal – Atakas – Beckett Lang loop (water access via both Lapin and Pebble Beaches)
- Samoset – Heron – Atakas – Coastal – Lapin Beach – Samoset loop (land or water access)
- Martin Pond – Pebble Beach – Coastal – Atakas – Heron – Martin Pond loop (land or water access)
- Samoset – Heron – Martin Pond – Pebble Beach – Coastal – Lapin Beach – Samoset loop (land access via both Blandings and Martin Pond Access Points or water access via both Lapin and Pebble Beaches)
Camping at Mashkinonje Provincial Park
Resources for Visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park
For those contemplating visiting Mashkinonje Provincial Park, maps, including trail descriptions, are available at many lodges and retail locations in the French River and West Nipissing areas. They are generally dollars.5 to 8