Highway 60: A Slice of Paradise
Highway 60 is 250 km long, and stretches from Huntsville in the west to Renfrew in the east. It’s located about three hours north of Toronto off of Highway 11 in the Muskoka District. Highway 60 is part of the Fall Loop in the Ontario Highlands Rides, and is the only highway that cuts through iconic Algonquin Park, Canada’s oldest provincial park. It's a must ride for anyone who's spent any time motorcycling in Ontario.
Wanting to take in some fall colours, I timed my trip using The Friends of Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report and rode Highway 60 the last weekend of September. Colours are good right until mid-October, so there’s still time to enjoy this road at the peak of its beauty.
Highway 60 is also called the Frank MacDougall Parkway, in honour of the man who was instrumental in setting up the forestry service in Algonquin Park. A veteran of WWI, MacDougall was injured with gas during the war, and since his lungs were compromised, he decided a career outdoors in fresh air would be best for him. Algonquin must have been the perfect location with over 7,500 square km of fresh air and wilderness.
MacDougall used a bush plane to get through the park, but if a motorcycle is your preferred vehicle, Highway 60 is your road. The highlight of the road is the 68-km section that traverses the park. It is an immaculate piece of asphalt, with plenty of twists and turns mixed with stretches of straight road as it climbs through the hills. Development in the park is restricted, so you can experience the pristine wilderness, pulling off at the scenic rest stops to take in the breathtaking views. Just beware of the leaf viewers and animal lovers; they can stop unexpectedly, or cross the road without looking, their minds only on capturing that selfie or photo of a roadside moose.
If you want to stretch your legs, there are several hikes that you can take, some leading to a lookout. I did the Lookout Trail, which is a moderate climb up to a cliff. It’s a short hike that takes less than an hour but worth the excursion, especially in the fall.
One stop must be The Visitors’ Centre near the east gate. It shows the history of the park and area, from its earliest settlers, to the logging industry, the creation of the park (and displacement of those settlers), and its modern history. There’s a lot of educational material on the ecology of the area, and a section that pays tribute to Tom Thomson, the famous painter who discovered the artistic potential of the park and whose work was influential in establishing the Group of Seven, arguably Canada’s most renowned group of artists.
Be sure also to stop at the Algonquin Art Centre, which has of course reproductions of Thomson’s and the Group of Seven’s paintings, but exhibits of contemporary artists as well. If art is not so much your thing, the Logging Museum is also worth a rest stop. It’s an outdoor museum on a trail that literally walks you through the history of logging in Algonquin.
Accommodations & Food
Highway 60 has plenty of accommodations of various kinds. Clustered just outside the east and west gates are some motels and inns, like the Algonquin Lakeside Inn, which backs out onto Oxtongue Lake and has swimming and kayak rental options, and the Blue Spruce Resort, to name just two. Back in Huntsville, there’s a tried and true Comfort Inn, and two more large inns just off 60 on Highway 3. Within the park, there are three lodges: Arowhon, Killarney, and Bartlett. They offer an all-inclusive package in a remote location, allowing a unique experience in true wilderness. In fact, Bartlett Lodge is located on an island only accessible by boat. The cuisine is fine dining, with the option to BYOB.
And, of course, for the hardy who like the rustic life, there are five campgrounds along Highway 60 within Algonquin Park. Lake of Two Rivers Campground has a grocery, campstore, and restaurant. Also in the park is the Portage Store on Canoe Lake, with a restaurant, store, and canoe rentals. Ontario Parks should be commended for preserving the natural beauty of Algonquin Park while tastefully accommodating its many visitors.
Outside the West Gate in Dwight are the Moose Cafe, the Cookhouse, and the Eclipse Dining Room. The Moose Cafe offers soups, burgers, chilli, salads, and baked goods for breakfast and lunch. The Cookhouse is casual and friendly, and if you are in the area Sunday morning, then you must take in the brunch at the Eclipse. It is so popular, be sure to make a reservation.
If you are riding east toward Ottawa, be sure to stop at the Wilno Tavern. They are renowned for their authentic Polish food, and Thursdays are Blues Nights, with live music.
I met up with Ryan Hawkins from Canuck Powersports on Sunday at the Shell station in Dwight, and we rode through the park together. The air was cool and the riding comfortable. The sun finally came out and Highway 60 lit up! We were torn between wanting to ride and wanting to stop and take in the views. It’s almost like you need to do this road twice—once to enjoy the road, once to enjoy the park.
But Highway 60 is not just about the park. After Ryan and I parted, I rode it east all the way to Renfrew, just west of Arnprior, on my way back to Montreal. Be sure to stop in Barry’s Bay at the park commemorating Jan Zurakowski, WWII flying ace and chief test pilot of the Avro Arrow Program. The road through Golden Lake and Eganville is rural, rolling farmland, with plenty of places to gas up along the way and a Canadian Tire in Renfrew if you need it. If you have the time, the Bonnechere Caves just east of Eganville are also worth a stop.
It’s no wonder that Canada’s most famous landscape artists were drawn to this area. Highway 60 is simply beautiful, with plenty to offer visiting motorcyclists. It’s a road not to be missed, especially in the fall.
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