Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area (PCCA) Trails in North Frontenac: Hiking Guide

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Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area (PCCA) Trails – are fantastic. Why? Because there are multiple trails, some decent elevation for Ontario, and two lookouts. Can it be one of our favourites? I know…there are plenty of “favourites”. Let’s just say it was completely enjoyable and exactly what was needed.

The Low Down

  • Distance from Ottawa: 120kms (1hr 40min)
  • GPS Coordinates: Unknown.
  • Address: Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area, Arcol Rd, Ompah, ON K0H 2J0
  • Directions:
  • Entrance Fee: Free.
  • Parking: Large parking lot at Palmerston Lake. Also and active boat launch, park with this in mind and kindly don’t block boaters.
  • Trailhead: The trailheads for trillium and pickerel are across from the main parking lot.
  • Number of Trails: 7 (300m to 1km trails).
  • Total Distance of Trails: Up to 5kms.
  • Elevation Gain: 100m
  • Washrooms: One outhouse, follow Leave No Trace toileting guidelines otherwise.
  • Cell Reception: At the lookouts, spotty on trails.
  • Season: All seasons.
  • Features: Two lookouts, pond, public beach.
  • Activities: hiking, snowshoeing, birding (saw osprey and nuthatches!).
  • Dogs: Permitted on leash.
  • Suggested Stops:
  • Nearby Hikes: Schooners Trail (not recommended yet, still being developed), Blueberry Mountain, Baird Trail.
  • More Information: Visit North Frontenac for more information and trail map.

What to Bring

Besides the 10 essentials and what I would normally suggest for hikes, here are the highlights for this particular hike:

  • Bug hat/gear: Typical Ontario with the abundance of mosquitoes in the late spring especially. So if there’s no wind, you might want to think about bug gear, or at the very least, bug spray.
  • Swimwear: Plenty of nearby lakes to enjoy a swim in afterwards post hike!

In Good Company

This was an epic Canada Day celebration to spend the whole day outdoors in nature and be thankful for the incredible landscape our country provides. Now if we could only put more of our efforts into respecting and supporting mother nature… Which is why you’ll see more educational and awareness pieces here.

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” – E. B. White

Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area Trails

The trails at Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area are very well marked with a clear trail map at everyone major intersection. There are seven trails total varying from 300m to 1km and can be combined to hike up to 5kms.

The paths vary between being wide enough for ATVs (not allowed, just giving a visual here, ha ha) and being 1 person wide only with some overgrowth. There are decent elevation gains on trillium, pickerel, and cattail. The most challenging section is along cattail trail just prior to reaching the vista lookout if hiking counter clockwise.

  • Cattail Trail: 1km, vista lookout.
  • Crow Trail: 720m
  • Sumac Trail: 725m
  • Trillium Trail: 300m, sheltered rest area, lakeview lookout.
  • Pickerel Trail: 420m, lakeview lookout.
  • Beaver Trail: 475m
  • Juniper Trail: 740m, beach at parking lot.

Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area Features

There are a few great features on these trails such as a rest stop on Trillium Trail which is good break while hiking up 100m to the lookout. There’s a ton of wildflowers along the routes to enjoy as well as a pond. And for that post hike bonus? A beach at the parking lot for Juniper Trail along Arcouroad.

Canonto Trail ViewPoints

This. Won. Me. Over.

Imagine hiking to these views and having them all to yourself on Canada Day?!?! Not even sure how that’s possible. Maybe it’s because it was 40’C and I was a little nuts for being out. Or maybe it’s because there are so many incredible trails in Frontenac County that there’s more than enough to share. Whatever the reason, this was an ah-mazing perk to the hike. Complete bliss to just take in the views and have time to relax and reflect. I heart you Canada. #wildontario

Lakeview Lookout

Lakeview lookout gives you a panoramic view of Canonto Lake. And if you look behind you, over the picnic table, there’s a decent view of Palmerston Lake too. It’s a large lookout with a secondary viewpoint to the right near the trail.

You can use beaver, trillium, or pickerel trail to get here.

Vista Lookout

The vista lookout is no second prize either. Beautiful panoramic views over looking the hills and lake below. This is where the trail book is found – be sure to add your notes! It was a scorcher of a day, but oh so nice to catch a breeze and watch the osprey soaring over the valley.

Wildlife

You’ll have no complaints from me about the birds on this trail! besides a bunch that I couldn’t identify, there were osprey soaring at both lookouts and white breasted nut hatch that decided to join me along trillium trail

Accommodations

Well, if it’s great campsites with a nearby lakes you’re after then North Frontenac may be you’re new BFF. There are over 180 campsites available for booking and with the bulk of them only being accessible by water! Don’t worry, there’s a good 20 sites that are road accessible. I mean, maybe not as Canadian AF as canoeing to your site but…

Nourish Thy Self

This is how I discover most things: drive down roads I’ve never taken, fly by a point of interest, pull a u-turn, and go check it out. Same same when it came to finding Harvest Bakery on my way to hiking the PCCA Trails! Flew by, then it took a solid 5 seconds to register that there was a bakery and it looked fun. They are located at 2988 Elphin Maberly Rd in McDonald’s Corners. Aaaand the may have the best lemon tarts I’ve ever tasted. #justsayin

Wrapping Up

How did you celebrate Canada Day? Any hiking? I ended up hiking two trail systems and then just into a lake…completely thankful for our “true north strong and free”.

The next big adventure after that was Wabun Lake in Calabogie, which has a fantastic lookout as well. I’m on a mission to hike absolutely all trails within two hours of Ottawa and share some insights on safe/respecful/responsible hiking along the way.

Victoria xo