17/06/2024

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Hike the Crack in Killarney Provincial Park

8 min read
Hike the Crack in Killarney Provincial Park

The Crack hike in Killarney Provincial Park is a fun one to do – but only if you’re prepared and experienced. It’s the hardest day hike in the park by far and one of the most difficult day hikes in Ontario. Even if you have a lot of hiking experience, don’t underestimate it. The hike up the Crack is steep, the boulders are massive, and you may be scrambling more than hiking on a few occasions.

The reward for such a short hike (3 km one way) is a superlative view of the stunning lakes in Killarney Provincial Park, the white quartzite hills, beautiful forests that are bathed in magnificent fall colours come October, and stellar views of the Georgian Bay if you catch a clear day.

Most hikers of the Crack are day hikers though anyone sporting a large backpack is likely doing the full 78-km La Cloche Silhouette Trail. Some will be finishing the week long hike while others will be just starting out.

In just a few short hours from leaving the parking lot, day hikers can be standing on top of Killarney Ridge enjoying lunch with a view. It’s a worthwhile hike for sure, but if you’re coming all the way from Toronto or further afield, plan to camp or stay in the area so you can take advantage of more hikes or even a canoe, kayak, or SUP experience. Killarney Outfitters can help set you up with that.

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View from the top of the Crack in Killarney Provincial Park
View from Killarney Ridge at the top of the Crack in Killarney Provincial Park

Summary of how to hike the Crack in Killarney Provincial Park

Distance: 6 km round trip as an out and back hike.

Elevation gain: Approximately 245 m

Elevation of the high point: 355 metres

Level of difficulty: Difficult. This is not a hike for the novice.

Time needed: 4 – 5 hours depending on your pace, fitness level and hiking experience. Plan to be down an hour before dark. Add an extra hour two if hiking in winter.

Dogs: Permitted on a leash, but it’s not a great trail for them. Small dogs will have a very tough time and you might end up having to carry them. Older dogs with arthritic joints will not like this trail. If you do bring your dog, carry water for them (I like this collapsible water bowl for my dog) and some heavy duty dog poop bags.

Bears: There are black bears in Killarney Provincial Park though on our week-long La Cloche Silhouette Trail hike we didn’t see one. Make noise if you see fresh bear scat and be bear aware.

Permits: You need a daily vehicle permit (cost of $18) to hike the Crack in Killarney. If you want to guarantee your spot you can reserve a daily vehicle permit up to five days in advance of your planned hike. Be careful where you book your day use location as there are 10 available in the park.

Where should you park? The place to park is at the trailhead for the Crack, 7 km east of the permit office at George Lake. Parking is not permitted on the roads.

Camping: There is no camping near the Crack. Backcountry camping a few kilometres away from the Crack on the Silhouette Trail is an option (and must be booked months in advance), but your best choice is to book a campsite in the George Lake Campground.

Campfires: Only permitted at designated campsites.

Precarious looking boulder on the Crack hike, Killarney Provincial Park
Precarious looking boulder on the Crack hike, Killarney Provincial Park

The best time to hike the Crack in Killarney

If you’re keen to hike the Crack in Killarney the best time to go is from late spring until mid-fall, ideally on a day without thunderstorms or rain in the forecast. As this is a difficult hike, you really want to avoid hiking on slippery rocks. The top of the Crack is very exposed and not a good place to be in a thunderstorm. If you do decide to hike under adverse conditions, go prepared with rain gear and hiking boots with a good tread.

Killarney Provincial Park is open year-round, so in theory you could hike the Crack in winter. If that’s the plan and you have the skillset to do it, you still need to check in at the park office and let them know of your intention. You should dress appropriately, carry an emergency device like an InReach and take ice cleats like those made by Hillsound or Kahtoola.

The Crack is beautiful at the top but it is exposed
The Crack is beautiful at the top but it is exposed

Where to park for the Crack hike in Killarney

Take note of the parking location on the map below. You’ll find a parking lot dedicated to the Crack hike in Killarney on the north side of Highway 637. It is approximately 7 km east of the George Lake campground and 1.5 km west of the Carlyle Lake Access Road.

Me almost through the worst of the Crack section (or best part depending on your viewpoint)
Me almost through the worst of the Crack section (or best part depending on your viewpoint)

Location map of parking and The Crack

                                                                             

How do you know if you’re on the right trail?

Red signs on trees, poles, rocks, stumps – indicate you’re on the Crack hike in Killarney. Some of the trail is shared with the 78-km-long La Cloche Silhouette Trail marked by blue signs, so there will be times you see both red and blue signs on the same post, tree, etc. 

Red signs indicate you're on the hike to the Crack in Killarney
Red signs indicate you’re on the Crack hike in Killarney

The Crack hike description

The hike to the Crack in Killarney Provincial Park starts off flat on an old logging road. It travels through forested lowlands to meet up with the La Cloche Silhouette Trail. From the junction on the two trails until the top of the Crack you will see blue and red markers leading the way. If you only see blue signs, you are not on the right trail.

Enjoy a section of boardwalk around Kakakise Lake and then a reroute to bypass a badly eroded section with signage describing why its being done. It does add another 300 m in each direction. After you pass Kakakise Lake the trail gets more rugged as it starts to climb, but it also starts to get more interesting. 

I loved the next part of the Crack hike as the landscape is more open and you get some views, though nothing like what you get on top of the Crack. 

The Crack is just that – a large boulder-filled chasm between quartzite rock cliffs. Going up is almost always easier than coming down – unless it’s your first day on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail with an extra heavy pack. Take your time – and don’t rush those ahead of you. Accidents in here could result in bad sprains, breaks or worse. 

Depending on your perspective, the hike up the Crack in Killarney is the best part of the day. If you’ve done a lot of boulder hopping over the years you’ll have no problem. With three points of contact on the rocks at all times, you should be at the top of the Crack in no time.

Sit back, enjoy your snack or lunch and the exceptional view of the surrounding hills and Killarney and O.S.A. Lakes that you’ve earned.

Retrace your steps, being particularly careful on the descent through the Crack. You’re home free after that.

The hike to the Crack starts off in the forest on a mostly flat trail
The hike to the Crack in Killarney starts off in the forest on a mostly flat trail
Kakakise Lake seen on the Crack hike in Killarney
Kakakise Lake
Look for bright blue posts with the telltale red markers on the Crack Trail
Look for bright blue posts with the telltale red markers on the Crack Trail
It can be tight going through the Crack
It can be tight going through the Crack
About to start the descent from The Crack
About to start the descent from The Crack
This is the jumble of boulders you have to negotiate going up and coming down from the Crack in Killarney
This is the jumble of boulders you have to negotiate going up and coming down on the hike up the Crack in Killarney
n places it's easier to downclimb facing into the rock - don't rush this section
In places it’s easier to downclimb facing into the rock – don’t rush this section

What to take on the Crack hike in Killarney 

You should always carry the 10 hiking essentials – and that covers off things like sun protection, rain gear and a first aid kit.

I’d recommend a map of Killarney Provincial Park

On the Crack hike in Killarney I’d also suggest carrying at least 2 litres of water per person – and a water filter or water purification tablets or drops in case you need more water to get back to the trailhead.

Be sure to pack layers of quick dry clothing in case you get caught in a rainstorm.

You’ll need good footwear for the Crack hike in Killarney. I personally love the Salomon brand – and these trail hikers in particular.

In case you run into an emergency, I would suggest carrying an InReach Mini 2 or similar device. You should know how to use it too.

Looking down on The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park
Looking down on The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park

More trails to hike in Killarney Provincial Park

The Chikanishing Trail would be a great choice if you’re hiking with your family. It’s a beauty as it takes you to the shore of Georgian Bay with it’s pink and red granite rocks. As its only about a 90-minute hike, it can easily be combined with another short hike.

The easy 4 km return Cranberry Bog Trail takes you through an area of swamps, bogs and marshes where you might see beavers and turtles and plenty of red granite rock.

The more difficult 3.5 km Lake of the Woods Trail travels between old growth forest and rocky outcrops affording views over to Silver Peak. Walk a boardwalk from the lake to an island in the lake.

You can see kayakers and the Georgian Bay on the Chikanishing Trail hike
You can see kayakers and the Georgian Bay on the Chikanishing Trail hike

Where to stay nearby if you don’t want to camp

For those of you you love to hike but hate to camp you are best off staying somewhere around Parry Sound, if you’ve come up from southern Ontario, or Sudbury if you’re coming from northern Ontario. Both places will allow you to start the hike to the Crack in Killarney at a civilized hour.

If you want to stay on the French River check out the Lodge at Pine Cove.

Parry Sound area

The Grand Tappattoo Resort is on a lake south of Parry Sound. You’ll feel like you’re on a holiday if you spend a night here.

In Parry Sound check out the Best Western Plus Hotel.

Sudbury

There are loads of chain hotels in Sudbury. One of the better recommended ones is the Hilton Garden Inn Sudbury.

Sunset at the Grand Tappattoo Resort
Sunset at the Grand Tappattoo Resort

Interested in more hikes in Ontario?

Multi-day hikes

Day hikes in Ontario

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How to hike The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park - one of the toughest hikes in Ontario

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