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Backpacking Ontario
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Ontario is an interesting place when it comes to the outdoors. While much of the province's south is well developed, the northern regions are very much the opposite. Yet, you'll find a wealth of wilderness adventures on both sides of the fence. In the south you find the longest trail in the province (Canada?) running through one of the the most populated areas of the country but still maintaining a natural setting. The Bruce Trail works it's way from Niagara, around Hamilton and just above Toronto then heads north through cottage country before reaching it's terminus at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. It's only one of many trails you'll find in the provinces' southern reaches. Traveling north, things get a little more rugged, with long distance trails including some of the finest hikes in the east, such as the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park and the Voyageur Trail which makes it's way through both Pukaskwa National and Lake Superior Provincial Parks (in both instances it's referred to as the Coastal Trail within the respective parks boundaries).

 
 
For a listing of Ontario's day hikes have a look at our Ontario Hiking page.
 

Ontario

Abes and Essen Trail

The trail consists of three overlapping loops. The loops from shortest to longest take about 1.5, 4 and 7hrs to complete and provide a great weekend getaway or a single overnight trip. There is an excellent lookout above Essen Lake providing a nice panoramic view. All of the campsites are lake side, a pleasant setting for a weary backpacker which of course also offers the possibility of a refreshing swim. *For more information contact Bon Echo Provincial Park or the Friends of Bon Echo through their web site. - Ontario East Ontario Parks

Beausoleil Island Trial - 24km, Novice/Intermediate

Georgian Bay Islands National Park The park is in a spectacular setting in Georgian Bay, just off shore. The backpacking trail is on Beausoleil Island, which is only accessible by water. Beausoleil is the parks main island and consists of lightly wooded areas mixed with rocky shores and sand. The trails are most secluded on the back side of the island which also unfortunately provides the longest stretch without a campsite. There is 24 km of trail and there are 15 camp areas along the way. If you want an extended outting.head south from Cedar Springs campground Beausoleil Point campsite along the Huron Trail. The next day head north along the islands west coast on the Georgian Trail where you can connect with either the Rockview or Massassauga Trail and head for one of several campsite in the north of the park. You can return to your kick off point by following the Huron Trail (branch off on the Treasure if you want another route) back to Cedar Springs. This is only one of several routes you can stitch together on the island which can range from an overnight to several days.The island is only accessible by water so if you don't have access to a boat you can hire a water taxi in honey harbour. Contact the park for campsite reservations and fees. Canada's National Parks

Eastern Pines Backpacking Trail - Novice, Intermediate

Out-There's Algonquin Park - A set of loops located in the parks eastern section, outside of the main corridor its accessible from Hwy 17. This is a great place to bring novices since the trail provides camping not far from the trail head. There are other options that are more challenging for the more experienced. *For more information contact the Friends of Algonquin or Algonquin Provincial Park through their web site.* Ontario Parks

Highland Backpacking Trail - 33km, Intermediate, Loop

Out-There's Algonquin Park - Intermediate, Loop. Located in the center of the park's main corridor off highway 60. The trail consists of two loops with a total length of about 33km. The shorter most accessible loop circles Provoking Lake. *For more information contact the Friends of Algonquin or Algonquin Provincial Park through their web site.* Ontario Parks

Towab Trail - Out-There's Lake Superior Provincial Park 24km return linear, difficult The trail takes you in to Burnt Rock Pool over moderate terrain where you find one of the two camping areas on route. Further on the trail gets more demanding as it climbs and descends around cliff sections along the Agawa River Valley. The spectacular Agawa Falls at the end of the trail make the effort worthwhile. You'll find the second camping area just below the falls. The trail can be completed in two days but is better appreciated (and needless to say, easier) if you take three. The trail is accessed from Frater Road which is accessible from Highway 17 opposite Agawa Bay in the south of the park. Permits are required, inquire with the park. Ontario Parks

Long Distance Trails

Bruce Trail - 800km, Novice - Expert

This is Ontario's premier hiking and backpacking trail extending almost 800km in length. The trail starts in the south near the falls at Niagara and heads north to the Bruce Peninsula, terminating in the beautiful little town of Tobermory. There are dozens of campsites on route and a wide variety of access points allowing you to customize your trip to match your fitness level or time schedule. Bruce Trail Conservancy

La Cloche SilhouetteTrial - Out-There's Killarney Provincial Park - Located in the heart of Killarney, the La Cloche Silhouette Trail is a seven to ten day hike of approximately 100 km. The trail takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in Ontario. It includes wetlands and forested sections, as well as ridge hiking along the La Cloche Mountains. The ridge hikes are particularly scenic, providing wonderful overlooks on the park. There are 180 backcountry campsites available along the trail. Many of the campsites along the way are located lakeside and are shared by canoeists. This is a tough backpack and you should be in shape if you intend to complete the whole thing. There are two trial heads with parking, one at George Lake Dam in the west, the second at Blue Heron Circle in the east. There are black bears in and around Killarney Provincial Park. You can pick up a bear awareness pamphlet at the park office. A trail map can be purchased from the Friends of Killarney Park. Caution should be taken on the ridges in storms, because of the footing on the slick rocks and the heightened exposure to lightning strikes. Map and compass skills are essential, particularly if you do any off trail hiking, planned or otherwise. The parks topology is surprisingly confusing and it's easy to get disoriented. Backcountry permits are mandatory and have a cost attached to them. Backcountry reservations (and front country, if applicable) should be made as early as possible, as the route is becoming more and more popular. Avoid the peak seasons at the end of July, the month of August as well as long weekends in the summer. Killarney Provincial Park - Ontario Parks

Coastal Hiking Trail (Pukaskwa National Park) - Out-There's Pukaskwa National Park 57.8km, linear, advanced This multi-day trip is an excellent introduction to the areas wilderness. The trail follows the Superior coastline from the Hattie Cove campgrounds to North Swallow River. Designated campsites are available on route. Several river and creek crossings are involved, including the suspension bridge (photo op) over White River. This is a wilderness trail and a tough hike, with the only exit point back from where you came, so be prepared for a round trip of almost 120km. Permits and registration are required and limits may be imposed so contact the park early to enquire about you're planned departure date. Trail guides are available from the Friends of Pukaskwa. The trail is a part of the longer Voyageur Trail which will stretch from Manitoulin Island to Thunderbay when completed. Feature: Found a Friend in Pukaskwa - Backpacking the Coastal Hiking Trail - Canada's National Parks

Coastal Trail - Out-There's Lake Superior Provincial Park 63km, Expert The trail follows along the shoreline of Lake Superior Provincial Park from Sinclair Cove in the south to just passed Cape Gargantua in the north. Following along the rocky shoreline and ascending and descending the cliffs you'll find this a challenging multi-day excursion. There are a large number of designated campsites on route as well as several access points if you can't do the whole trail at once. The trail is a part of the larger Voyageur Trail system which plans to connect Thunder Bay in the North and Mantoulin Island in the south. The trails access points are Sinclair Cove, Katherine Cove, Orphan Lake Trail and Gargantua Harbour. Many sections of the trail become almost impassible when it rains (or heavy fog moves in) due to the slippery nature of the rock when it's wet. The trail takes from five to seven days to complete. Permits are required, inquire with the park. Ontario Parks

Ganaraska Trail - 500+km, Novice - Expert

The Ganaraska starts on the shores of Lake Ontario at Port Hope, less than an hour from Toronto. From there it wends its way north before veering to the west above Lake Simcoe, then passes Barrie on the way to Wasaga Beach on the shores of Georgian Bay before connecting with the Bruce. The section above Moore Falls north of Port Hope is considered the most difficult and only suitable for seasoned hikers. Once the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail is complete you will be able to combine it with the Bruce and the Ganaraska creating a mammoth long distance loop. South to North Description - The Pine Ridge section starts at the cairn opposite the Town hall in Port Hope, beside the Ganaraska River and within sight of Lake Ontario. The wilderness section above this starts in Moore Falls, where highway 35 meets the Black Lake Cottage road. The Peterborough section is almost entirely in Victoria County. The Orillia section starts in Sadowa and ends after 68 kilometers at the Sugarbush Estate, south of Horseshoe Valley Road, about 10 km east of highway 400. This section of the trail is mostly flat and suitable for novices. The Mad River section is named after the Mad River, which it parallels for some distance. It has a length of 55 kilometers and ends at the end-of-trail cairn. The Midland section splits off from the main trail in the Copeland Forest, about three kilometers east of Craighurst. It swings through Copeland Forest and then heads north toward Midland along country paths and forests. The Wasaga section of the trail winds through the sand hills of beautiful Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.

Grand Valley Trail Association - 250km, Novice/Intermediate

Is a marked footpath stretching more than 250 km between Rock Point Provincial Park on Lake Erie to the town of Alton in Southwestern Ontario. The trail passes through several urban areas which alternate with woods and fields. On route you'll visit Brantford, Paris, Cabridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, Elora and Fergus.

Oak Ridges Moraine Trail

A Work in Progress - The completed sections include Uxbridge, King, and Scugog and the association is working to develop the Aurora, Caledon, Whitchurch and Ganaraska areas. Why not give them a hand, go to their website to see how you can help. *For more information contact the trail association through their web site.* - South Central Region

Voyageur Trail

This is a very ambitious project which takes advantage of a number of the trails already in place. Traveling along the shores of Lake Superior, the North Channel of Georgian Bay then through the rugged beauty of Manitoulin island, this will be a spectacular and very difficult trail when it's completed. For the truly ambitious, you can connect to the Bruce Trail by using the South Bay to Tobermory ferry to continue hiking down to Niagara Falls. The trail will run from South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island to Thunder Bay in Northwestern Ontario a total of 1,100km. To date, over 600km have been completed including established sections in Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park along the spectacular north shore of Superior. *For more information contact the trail association through their web site.* - Ontario North

Western Uplands Trail

Out-There's Algonquin Park - Intermediate-Expert, Multiple Loops. Access is off Hwy 60 near the west gate but you can also access it from the other end off of route 11, through Kearney. This is an excellent backpacking area which is often over shadowed by the parks canoe reputation. There are over 100km (includes loop sections) of trail with dozens of campsites along route, many or which are lakeside. *For more information contact the Friends of Algonquin or Algonquin Provincial Park through their web site.* Ontario Parks

The Waterfront Trail - 350km+, Novice

Not a wilderness and some might say not a backpacking trail at all. This most interesting of trails, travels a distance of 350km from Stoney Creek on the western shore of Lake Ontario to Quinte West in the east (sounds funny doesn't it). There are ample campgrounds along route in Conservation Areas and Provincial Parks. One big advantage to being close to (it runs right through the city of Toronto) urban areas is the reduced need to carry a lot of food. Don't think this is a concrete foot path, even though it does need to use the roads at times, it passes through some of the nicest natural settings on Lake Ontario's north shore. *For more information contact the trail association through their web site.* - South Central, Toronto & Southwestern Regions of Ontario

For a listing of Ontario's day hikes have a look at our Ontario Hiking page.

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Maps and Map Sources

  • MapBlast - For road maps, go to Canadian Maps and type in a City and Province.
  • Topos sur le Web - Geographical Locator and Topographical Maps (French). Quebec
  • Canadian Hydrographic Service - Official Marine Navigation Charts and Nautical Publications including tide tables along with a dealer list.
  • Canada's national topographic mapping agency - topographic information for the Canadian landmass.
  • Chrismar Mapping
  • Dog Ears - Maps, Books, Canada
  • Dun-Map - Multimedia Mapping, Canada
  • Gem Trek Publishing - Specializes in producing detailed maps of the Canadian Rockies
  • National Atlas of Canada - Canadian Map Services, National Resources Canada
  • Pathfinder Maps - Topographic Maps, Nautical Charts for Canada and the United States, Canadian Aeronautical Charts.
  • World of Maps - Topographical Maps
  • Trailmonkey - Free Hiking & Mt. Biking, Maps and Trails site. USA

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