Justin, Melanie, and I visited the Wolf Den Hostel and Nature Retreat, cozy log cabin accommodations located on the Oxtongue River in the Algonquin Highlands, just 9 km outside of the West Gate of Ontario’s incredible Algonquin Park.
Jen and Jacques, our hosts, became owners of the Wolf Den about 2 years ago, after more than 20 years of active humanitarian work behind concrete and barbed wire in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Chad, Bosnia, Mongolia, and Peru. They decided it was time to change their lifestyle. They wanted to be closer to nature.
After coming to Algonquin Park to explore the outdoors, they became engaged in the Park, and soon after bought the Wolf Den property, where they now live with their son, Tom.
Wolf Den mission: Connecting people with nature, and each other
Aside from providing accommodations, Jen and Jacques encourage meaningful connections between guests, the community, and nature. During our winter stay, we very much enjoyed an internet-free environment that encouraged our group to spend more time outdoors exploring the forest, lakes, rivers and wetlands.
After returning from a visit to the Algonquin Visitor Centre and Fat Biking with Algonquin Outfitters, we met a guest from Germany. He told us that he had come to visit Algonquin Park to get away from his big city life, and to explore the Canadian wilderness with his girlfriend who was to arrive in 2-weeks time. We invited him to join us in a board game in the common lounge, which he enthusiastically agreed to, and we began a game of Blokus, an abstract strategy game, while sharing assorted fruits and s’mores (sandwiches of toasted marshmallows and a layer of chocolate between two piece of graham crackers), before resting for our next day’s adventures.
We stayed in private guest rooms at the Main Lodge during the winter season, but if you stay in the summertime, there are shared sleeping spaces available to backpackers. Our rooms were simple, with a country-like vibe and earth-toned bed sheets in rustic oranges, reds, and browns, with many wooden room accents including the carved wood bed backboards, the wooden table stands, stools, and dressers, and our lamps with log bases.
If you’re looking for something more private, you can stay in the independent eco-cabins across the highway, with your own kitchen and bathroom facilities. At the Main Lodge, there are shared bathrooms, and a shared kitchen space, stocked with dishes, utensils, and an oven, with generous countertop space for cooking and preparing meals.
There are also a range of other shared accommodations on-site including the Wolf Den Bunkhouses, and Hostel Cabins, that range from $82 to $141 per night, plus tax. Staying at the Main Lodge ranges from $43 to $84 per night, plus tax, depending on your room.
The Algonquin landscape
Algonquin Park is a very natural expanse, based primarily in the Canadian Shield. To the south of the park, there are cottages and tourist areas, but the area where the Wolf Den resides is filled with incredible nature settings to as far up as to James Bay.
The surrounding landscapes are so breathtaking; that Canada’s renowned artist, Tom Thomson, painted his piece Northern River in the same area during the early 20th century. It truly is a place of inspiration, and a great destination to take in nature and create, and it doesn’t matter if that’s through a camera, or with a paintbrush.
Hiking and Trails
In terms of exploring, we visited Ragged Falls on the Oxtongue River, and I would definitely recommend reading our story to learn more about this must-see waterfall that you could even hike or paddle to right from the Wolf Den. It is much closer than the much larger Algonquin Provincial Park, just East on Highway 60.
“What makes Algonquin Park stand out is the management of trails and waterways that make it accessible and safe for tourists. You have maps and clearly marked territories that enable you to know exactly where you are,”Jen explained to our team.
One example of a trail in vicinity to the Wolf Den that we came across is Timber Trail Lane, an old logging road that runs north up to Ragged Falls Park and into Algonquin Park. In the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing and snowshoeing on this trail when conditions are good.
Wildlife viewing opportunities
When we asked Jen and Jacques about wildlife on their property, they told us about all about the animals that come across the Wolf Den, including moose, deer, wolves, and smaller mammals like squirrels, chipmunks, river otters, and beavers.
As we crunched on our breakfast cereal, I watched from the window to notice a red squirrel swinging from the bird feeder, trying to grab a few morning seeds.
I told Justin, and we immediately dashed outside with our cameras to capture the moment.
We also found a few feeding black-capped chickadees waiting patiently by the feeder for the chipmunk to leave, so they too could have their turn.
Get involved with Wolf Den Community Initiatives!
Jen and Jacques support the local community, and here are a few of their current initiatives that they told us about, should you wish to get involved:
The Wolf Den welcomes volunteers all summer, and sometimes in the winter too. Opportunities include assistance with gardening and the enhancement of their permaculture strategy. Jen says that it’s a great way to bring your own experiences to help beautify Algonquin Park.
The Great Algonquin Cleanup
Over the last 12 years, the Wolf Den has partnered with Algonquin Outfitters to host The Great Algonquin Cleanup, a fun initiative where the Wolf Den provides reduced accommodation and Algonquin Outfitters provides canoes free of charge for teams who go out into the park to remove garbage that has been left by campers.
The Pollinator Garden
The Wolf Den has started a pollinator corridor with nectar-based plants where pollinators like butterflies and monarchs can feed throughout the year. In Northern Ontario, it is challenging to keep pollinators alive since the flowering season for many plants is quite limited. Hopefully, the garden at the Wolf Den will make life easier by helping these vital insects survive in Oxtongue Lake.
Magic of the Wolf Den
I’d like to leave you with a quote from Jen, which succinctly describes the magic of the Wolf Den nature experience. I don’t think I could have summed it up any better:
“Those beautiful little moments that you might experience in the city once in awhile are how we live our lives up here. It’s one great, big, beautiful Canadian moment.”
About Wolf Den Hostel & Nature Retreat
The Wolf Den Hostel and Nature Retreat is a beautiful log cabin lodge situated on the Oxtongue River in the Algonquin Highlands, in the community of Oxtongue Lake, on the traditional lands of the Algonquin First Nation, located just 9km outside the West Gate of Ontario’s world famous Algonquin Park.
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