Everyone loves to hate Ontario, or as it’s often referred to, On-terrible. Whether it’s our lack of mountains or distance from the ocean, or how the entire province is equated with Toronto, Ontario does not get a good reputation. What those people don’t realize however, is there are some truly incredible destinations for backcountry camping in Ontario.
First off, I dare you to find a place with more frequent beautiful sunsets. I went to a camp in the area for 13 years, and it’s the place that introduced me to the wild. It’s part of the Canadian Shield, so the terrain is white and pink-streaked granite. Being a windy bay, it’s also home to the Windswept Pine. It’s a 3 hour drive from Toronto.
Check out my guide: How to Experience the Magic of Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Killarney is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The park is a matrix of lakes, joined through portages. It has white rocky hills, the largest known as Silver Peak (which you can hike to for incredible views of the park), and the water ranges from black to Gatorade blue. There were several moments when I had to stop canoeing just to take in my surroundings. I’ve only been once, but I did essentially the entire park with six campers and a co-tripper. Even my most stubborn camper admitted it was amazing. It’s about 6 hours from Toronto, but so, so, so worth it. I wish I had more photos of the place, but here is one from my co-tripper, Chris Brock.
Check out my guide: A Beginner’s Guide to Canoe Camping
I paddled the entirety (all 520 km) of this river over 25 days last summer. It’s remote (some 12 hours from Toronto) and can be a challenging paddle in parts, but if you have the skills this river will not disappoint you. This is hands down the best destination for backcountry camping in Ontario (that I’ve personally experienced).
Check out my guide: How to Get Started in Whitewater Canoeing
Temagami isn’t actually a national or provincial park, though it definitely could be. I’ve done two different portions of it, and both were great. The first, which was a route centered around Paradise Lagoon, I did when I was 15 and it was my first long canoe trip. I returned a few summers ago to lead eight campers through Lake Temagami and the Maple Mountain hike (tallest point in Ontario). It has a much more remote feeling to it, since it isn’t built up like a park and you’re less likely to see other people.
I actually haven’t spent much time in Algonquin park. It’s the most popular park for canoeing in Ontario, and it’s very accessible for a weekend trip. For that reason, it’s usually fairly busy. There’s no denying that it’s beautiful, especially during autumn, but I prefer the aforementioned places. The Lower Madawaska River that leaves Algonquin park and runs south, however, is a fun trip. It’s great for an introduction to whitewater canoeing (most rapids can be run by beginners with support from guides). I took five high school students down the river for a week and it was a lot of fun. It’s not nearly as remote as the parks, but it is a great change from flatwater canoeing.
Backcountry Camping in Ontario: destinations still on my bucket list
Bruce Peninsula: National Park with incredible grotto and cliffs and sparkling water and great sunsets. Definitely put it through Google images.
North of Lake Superior: This is where things start to get really remote. It’s quite a bit of a drive from any major cities, but it’s got some great coastlines and a rugged feel to it.
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park: 2000 km of remote canoe routes in the Boreal forest. Sign me up!
As you can see, there are amazing places to do some backcountry camping in Ontario. Hopefully you feel a little inspired to get outside and explore them yourself. This province has so much to offer if you know where to look!