The ridges that make up Killarney’s landscape are a tale of time. They are estimated to be a staggering 3.5 billion years old (give or take a hundred here or there). The La Cloche Mountains are believed to be one of Earth’s oldest mountain ranges and that at one point, were higher than today’s current Rocky Mountains. WHATTT? That’s just crazy! Hard to imagine since they are now just big hills and mini ridge lines. Still pretty epic considering that Ontario’s terrain, for the most part, is pretty flat. But don’t let their size fool you; you’ve been forewarned! What they lack in elevation, they make up for in rugged terrain and hardcore hiking.
Silver Peak is a 1.9 km (one way) spur trail off of the La Cloche Trail in one of the hardest sections of the La Cloche. It stands a whopping 539m tall, the highest point in Killarney Provincial Park. Part of the beauty of this trail is, unlike the more popular “Crack” trail in Killarney, this one requires a bit more effort to reach as there is no direct road access. There is more than one way to access Silver Peak, depending on what your schedule looks like and how much effort you want to put into getting there:
Bell Lake: This is the easiest access point. Canoes can be rented at Bell Lake from Killarney Kanoe. It’s about a 3km paddle from their dock to the Silver Peak trail access point. From there, it’s about a 2km hike to the La Cloche where another 1.6 km is required to reach the Spur Trail to Silver Peak. (5.5 kms hiking, 3km paddle one way).
David and Boundary Lake: A short trail from David Lake (Boundary Lake on the other side) connects with the La Cloche for 3.4 kms before reaching the Silver Peak Spur Trail.
Johnnie Lake: take a 800 m portage into Clearsilver Lake and access the short trail that will connect you to a 1.6 km section of the La Cloche before reaching the spur trail for Silver Peak.
Via the La Cloche: Most who hike the La Cloche in its entirety, will add the Silver Peak trail onto their hike.
NOTE: If you want an awesome map of Killarney, I can’t say enough good things about Jeff’s Map. They are extremely detailed with distances, estimated times, things to watch out for, campsites, canoe and hiking trails and portages. They are worth their weight in gold for navigating the park and trip planning.
On my trip, Silver Peak was a day hike that was tacked on to a multi-day backcountry canoe trip, using David Lake as a home base to tackle the Silver Peak Trail the next morning. There are several campsites along David lake which are a stones throw from the Silver Peak access trail. Having a base camp on David Lake was a great way to make the day a bit easier for travel, planning and enjoying more time at the top. The hardest part of the hike, was waiting on a perfectly sunny day (especially with May’s fickle weather) to take in the peak, because whats the point of getting all the way up there to barely see your hand in front of your face? The smooth white quartzite rock that makes up the peak is treacherously slippery in wet weather, and the wind at the summit can be quite strong. Trust me that you will want a nice day to make it to the top.
From David lake, the portage access trail was just a few mins paddle from the campsite (#105). As soon as our feet hit the La Cloche at the top of the portage trail, the rugged terrain ensued. After a short climb, the first ridge overlooks David lake on one side, and Boundary lake on the other. Silver Peak still seems so far away at this point.
The rest of the 3.4 kms to the spur trail (marked by red signs on the trees) has gradual uphills through wetlands and stands of hardwood forest. The last 1.9 kms is a climb to the top of Silver Peak and is rugged and aggressive. The terrain reminded me a bit of Maine, with cascading creeks and waterfalls along the hike up.
A large group of hikers were filling up their water bottles direct from a little cascading creek. “Fresh mountain spring water” they said. I do believe most if not all of them, failed to realize that the creek was not a natural spring and the hill was not a mountain and the water was therefore not fresh nor safe to drink without treating. Don’t be these people.
Other than a couple stray hikers and a group hiking along the trail, the summit of Silver Peak was enjoyed without crowds. The reward for waiting on a clear day paid back in spades. The views from atop Silver spanned all the way to Sudbury on one side, and as far as the eye can see to the Georgian Bay on the other. The rolling quartzite ridges frame in lakes all around. In the distance, it gets hard to decifer where the lake meets the sky.
The wind was gusting at the top so it was crucial to find a low-lying area near the summit for an afternoon picnic lunch. Even on a sunny warm May afternoon, the wind brought on a chill rather quickly. Hold on to your hat! One gust may send it flying.
Though the elevation seems minuscule compared to its Canadian counterparts, this little “mountain” was something quite spectacular. Given the 360 views from atop Silver Peak, I felt like I was on top of the world. Maybe it doesn’t have all of the “criteria” of a mountain, but what really makes something a mountain anyway? It had a definable summit, barren of trees with an alpine like feel. Dammit, I’d say that’s a mountain, and the climb up it sure felt like one.
It was hard to pull away from the solitude, views and beauty of Silver Peak to make the hike back down to the canoe. Mother Nature granted the most beautiful of days to hike a special place. With the warm sun and view for days, this hike is worth all of the effort and makes me curious what other treasures the La Cloche has hidden away. For an added treat, a little black bear was foraging along the shore on the paddle back to the campsite that afternoon, a special sight and the cherry on the cake to an epic day.