Outdoor Recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing Area — Local Suggestions

There really is quite a lot to do around here, but it’s not always evident. Sure, there are the usual tourist attractions, like the lodges that offer boat rentals and access to fishing to their guests. But there are also inexpensive adventures for the independent explorer. By no means an exhaustive list, here are a few of my favourite spots for outdoor recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing area.

Outdoor Recreation at Provincial Parks in the French River and Lake Nipissing Area

The area is blessed with three provincial parks, each with its own distinct attractions.

French River Waterway Provincial Park

It’s free to poke around the Visitor Centre’s interactive exhibits, take in the views from the suspension bridge overlooking the river, and walk the 30-40 minutes along a linear trail following the river to Récollet Falls, a historical landmark.

Update: I hear there’s a small fee now — perhaps a few dollars.

Outdoor recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing area at historic Récollet Falls, French River Waterway Provincial Park.

Paddlers and boaters wishing to camp along the river’s shores must obtain a park permit.

Read more about the Visitor Centre and Récollet Falls in Reverse Tourism: Seeing Home Through the Eyes of Visitors in French River.

Mashkinonje Provincial Park

With about 35 kilometres of looping trails, barrier-free access, a viewing tower over an important wetland, canoe and kayak access to Lake Nipissing, and water access from two beaches in the West Arm, this free park rocks!

Rest bench: A break from outdoor recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing area along Heron Trail in Mashkinonje Provincial Park.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park

With three hiking trails, a campground, backcountry campsites accessible via water routes, picnic areas, and a beach, this park at the junction of Highways 69 and 522 is a popular destination, and can therefore be busy.

It’s also subject to regular park fees.

Outdoor recreation on the rocky shoreline of winding waters at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

Local Walks and Swimming Holes in the French River and Lake Nipissing Area

Lac Clair

From Noëlville, go south on Highway 64 towards Alban, but only a few minutes, taking a left on Wolseley Bay Road. It feels like a long drive to Highway 528A, which branches off to the right. Take it.

A few turns later, you will get to the bottom of a right-curving hill. The road straightens for a bit, and there’s a rock outcrop and a lake on the right.

This local fishing hole known as Lac Clair provides space for outdoor recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing area.

There are a few places to park along the road here. The spot next to the outcrop can be used to launch a small boat.

Locals go to Lac Clair to fish (on the ice or from a boat), swim, picnic, walk on the road (or snowshoe on the lake in winter)…

There isn’t much traffic, but it’s just as likely as not that there will be other people there.

Jurassic Road

From Noëlville, head North on Highway 535 towards St. Charles for about five minutes. Take a right at Whitetail Road and drive nearly to the end. Park in the crook of the Y at the junction to Bons Vivants Road.

The walk begins across the street, down the road which almost forms an intersection with Bons Vivants and Whitetail Roads. It’s unofficially known in the area as Jurassic Road.

Panoramic view from a hilltop on Jurassic Road in the French River area.

There are some nice blueberry spots along both sides for part of the first half of the walk, and at the right time of year, a few blueberry pickers may be parked alongside the road. From Whitetail and Bons Vivants, it’s about 15 minutes to the fork in the road — take a right if you decide to continue on (the short walk to the left ends in private property). Shortly before reaching the fork, at the top of a long, steep, left-curving hill, keep an eye out for rock outcrops heading towards Lake Nipissing — they can be followed to the shore for a better view.

It’s about another 20 minutes from the fork to the top of a high hill, and the roadside is full of wild flowers in the spring, raspberries and field strawberries in the summer.

At the top of the hill, it’s private property on the right, but the rocky cliffs on the left are a good place to take in the scenery. The road ends about five minutes later on private property.

Pine Creek

Further on down Highway 535, there’s an old logging road on the right about 5 minutes before reaching West Arm (about 10 minutes from Noëlville). The trail starts just before the highway passes through a wetland, and it can be muddy when wet. There’s enough space to park in the entrance and still leave room for other vehicles to get by.

These trails are used by ATVers and snowmobilers now, as well as hunters and at least two hikers — my partner and me.

Rustic scenery and outdoor recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing area at Pine Creek in West Arm.

The trails back there are unmarked, and some are long. Remember which way you came from, because there aren’t any loops!

All on crown land with a few private properties to the right of the main trail, hunting watch towers here and there sometimes afford a nice view.

We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife, too — plenty of deer, a wolf, snakes, frogs and toads, turtles, birds and waterfowl… The muddy (and frequently wet) trails make good breeding grounds, and it’s fun to go in spring to see the eggs, and later, tadpoles.

If you can find the right trail, you can even get to Jack Lake, which is otherwise accessible only via private land.

Outdoor Recreation at Beaches and Rest Stops in the French River and Lake Nipissing Area

MTO Rest Area, Monetville

On Highway 64, north of Monetville and just beyond the Sucker Creek public boat launch on the left, there’s an MTO rest stop along Lake Nipissing with a small beach, plenty of parking and picnic tables, shady trees, and lots of room to play. Consider coming here just to relax with a book or a fishing rod, or make an afternoon of it with the kids and dogs. There are two driveways that connect in a semicircle, so if you miss the first one, just take the next.

Knights of Columbus Beach, Alban

The Knights of Columbus Beach just outside the village going towards Noëlville, at the bottom of the big hill on the left, is a great spot for a picnic or take-out lunch. The large, grassy area overlooking the French River is perfect for energetic kids and pets. There are change rooms and restrooms, trees for shade as well as picnic tables beneath a covered shelter, and plenty of parking.

More Info on Outdoor Recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing area


3 Thoughts on “Outdoor Recreation in the French River and Lake Nipissing Area

  1. jp morin:

    hi , great site, learning a lot about the area…..one question….your directions to lac Clair seems to indicate Ash bay on the French…at least according to google, lac Clair is off Mayer rd…please correct me if Im wrong… thanks for your info

    1. Thanks for checking out the site, I’m glad you like it! I’ve never heard of a Lac Clair off Mayer Road but it’s a common enough name for a lake so there very well may be one down that way, too. The one I’m referring to is on Highway 528A, passed Ash Bay Road off of Wolseley Bay Road. Click here to see it on a map — added it to Wikimapia for you… Cheers!

    2. Hi JP, I just wanted to let you know I found the Lac Clair that you were talking about. It wasn’t hard — lol! The French River Multi Use Trail Association has opened up access to the lake via the Pioneer Trail. Check out the article Pioneer Trail to Lac Barbotte Lookout: An Autumn Afternoon Walk in French River for more info. Cheers!