Looking for a quintessential Canadian adventure? Try a canoe trip in Ontario. Ontario is far better known for its breathtaking lakes and paddling routes than its hiking routes. Though La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney was a great backpacking trip, I think I’ll stick to canoeing in Algonquin. Here is an 80km, 5 day canoe trip route in Algonquin Park that is tough but rewarding. Starting and ending at the Kiosk Lake entry point in the northwest corner of the park, this loop covers serious distance and hits some of the most beautiful lakes in Algonquin Park.
Where: Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
When: May through September (hot and buggy in the middle of Summer, probably best in August and September)
Length: 80km loop (64.5km paddling and 15.5km portaging), 4-7 days
Canoe Trip Base Cost: $12/day for Backcountry Reservations, $12 Reservation Fee, $15-infinity/day for food, $45/day for canoe rental = ~$300 for a 5 day trip
Additional Variable Costs: fuel for your stove, food barrel rental, any new camping gear, a car rental, gas money, a flight, accommodation outside the park, beer, etc.
As always, remember to respect the Earth in your adventures. Here’s an honest approach with actionable steps you can take to be an awesome person who is helpful and responsible: How To Leave No Trace. Do your research on the people, place, culture, and environment, and once you have a plan: tell it to someone!
5 Day Canoe Trip Loop in Algonquin
This route starts in my favourite part of the park: the Kiosk Lake access point. Kiosk Lake is in the NW corner of Algonquin. Having paddled much of the South section as well, I must say that Kiosk is preferred over the more popular Canoe Lake access point. It’s a bit further from Toronto, but is certainly worth it for a bit more peace, cliffs, beaches, and glass lakes. The route is fairly challenging – long days with many portages – but lets you see a lot in a short time. We did the route in 4 days plus a 10 minute paddle on the 5th morning, so this could easily be a 4 day route instead.
Jeff’s Algonquin Map is incredibly useful. Use the electronic copy to plan, and then take the hard copy with you – it is truly all you need!
For canoe trips in Algonquin, you book a lake for each night. You can’t book a specific campsite; just the lake you intend to stay on. Campsites are first come first served, so it’s usually worth it to wake up early and get to camp early to snag that site with the view of the sunset and perfect swimming rock!
Day 1: Kiosk Lake to Mouse Lake (13km paddle, 3km portage)
If you’re willing to wake up as early as we were, the day starts in Toronto with a 4 hour drive to Algonquin. After checking in at Algonquin North Outfitters for paddles, life jackets, a food barrel and boats, we arrived at Kiosk Lake around 10:30am. Day 1 is tough but doable. Jeff of Jeff’s Maps budgets just under 5 hours from Kiosk to Mouse Lake. Since we were able to do each portage in one trip and we were full of gumption, we made it to camp well before 5pm and enjoyed a lovely box of Riesling around a campfire. A hearty dinner of sausages and corn set us up fabulously well for a tough Day 2 that awaited!
Number of portages: 4
Average length of portages: 700m
Longest portage: 1165m
Shortest portage: 410m
Day 2: Mouse Lake to Three Mile Lake (14km paddle, 6.5km portage)
Here is fair warning: Day 2 kind of sucks! It’s a LONG day with lots of portaging, but it’s the worst day of them all. Anyway, it’s best to get it out of the way! We started a bit late due to a much needed sleep in and got to work. Breakfast was a treat – bacon and eggs on english muffins. However, the rest of the day wasn’t quite so enjoyable.The food barrels were close to full, and each step was laborious to say the least. Luckily, the good weather made up for our physical exhaustion. With good company and high spirits, it’s a challenge that rewards big with beautiful campsites all throughout Three Mile Lake.
Number of portages: 8!!!
Average length of portages: 830m
Longest portage: 1700m
Shortest portage: 170m
Day 3: Three Mile Lake to North Tea Lake East (16.5km paddle, 3.5km portage)
Having completed our gruelling second day with its 8 portages, Day 3 was a real treat. The sun shone bright and the lakes were impossibly calm. An earlier start and a significantly shorter day meant getting to camp with lots of time to spare! We arrived just after 4pm at the campsite of the century. It sits on a small island. The island hosts two sites, but as luck would have it, we had the island to ourselves. With the perfect rocks for both sunbathing and swimming, the early evening was spent playing cards, reading books, chatting a bit and laughing a lot. Dinner was our best yet – pizza!! – and we wined and dined in bliss. Perhaps a bit too much wine actually, but how else does one lighten the load for the following day?
Number of portages: 7
Average length of portages: 500m
Longest portage: 1200m
Shortest portage: 50m
Day 4: North Tea Lake to Kiosk Lake (18km paddle, 2.5km portage)
The last full day of the loop takes you back to Kiosk Lake. If you are in a rush, you can easily paddle the remaining 3.5km to your car. Our trip was not yet over, however, and we spent this leisurely day finishing all of our snacks and taking our sweet time. A lovely lunch on the beach just before the 1300m portage was enjoyed – hummus and all. Today’s route is predominantly paddling. Luckily, we had a strong tailwind that pushed us through our groggy morning and took us to our final campsite. Kiosk Lake is understandably busier than the rest with cottages and motorboats. As such, getting in early with plenty of time to pick the best site is important! The best campsites on Kiosk are farthest from the access point, so keep that in mind when planning your day.
Number of portages: 4
Average length of portages: 630m
Longest portage: 1355m
Shortest portage: 265m
Day 5: Kiosk Lake to Exit (3km paddle)
Depending on where you stay on Kiosk Lake, this 5 day canoe trip loop in Algonquin should really be considered a 4 day loop. We stayed on a site less than 15 minutes from the parking lot. Our campsite wasn’t the best of the trip, but it was certainly enough for one final hurrah in Algonquin Park. An early wake up call got us to our cars before 10am, and a mandatory stop at a diner in North Bay was a delicious re-entry into civilization. I have found that with both my trip on La Cloche Silhouette Trail and this canoe trip, adding a diner with a classic breakfast to the final day is unmissable! If you’re ever in North Bay, hit up Burger World for an affordable all-day breakfast with fast and friendly service.
Roses n Thorns
Rose (the best part)
The island campsite on North Tea East Lake was unforgettable and unmatched. North Tea is well known for being one of the most beautiful lakes in Algonquin, and this site was just the cherry on top. It had a perfect swim area, generous seating around a foolproof fire pit, a sunset view, and a bit of a hill for a unique view of the lake. Because of its awesomeness, we also decided to be liberal with our wine consumption. It was a wonderful, wine-filled evening in a setting no words can describe.
Thorn (the worst or most hilarious part)
I must say that Day 2’s portages took us by surprise. Getting in and out of the boat 8 times was a lot. The distances were far, and the bugs were buzzing. To make things worse, one of the shoulder straps on the 60L food barrel I was carrying broke early into a 1.3km portage. Carrying the barrel on one shoulder while holding it with my other hand was frustrating and uncomfortable to say the least! I was having Type 2 Fun at best…
Bud (the new friend)
On the first day at the end of the very first portage, I reached a group of six women who were packing their boats to paddle onwards. We exchanged a few pleasantries. The highlight was watching them chat, laugh and joke around with each other with carefree spirit and genuine happiness. To top it all off, one of them whipped out a Mickey of Fireball. After passing the bottle around until it was dry, they paddled away, laughing harder than they had been before. I can only hope that my friends and I are as hardcore and hilarious as they are one day.
Gear and Food List
Canoe tripping requires slightly more gear than a hiking trip. Naturally, you’ll need the canoes. Algonquin North rents boats, barrels, and anything else your group may need for a canoe trip. You’ll want a stove and cooking kit, but will also have the luxury of cooking over a fire. Of course, you’ll need your sleeping kit and a pack to carry it all in as well. See my Gear for the Trail list for a decent list to start. Make sure you bring a map (Jeff’s Map of Killarney can be ordered/bought online). You are in bear country, so you’ll need a bear bag and rope to hang it.
Yes! Canoe tripping WIN!! Since you are not carrying packs over long distances each day, you can bring all sorts of fun stuff! On a canoe trip you are less concerned about weight, and can therefore bring fresh veggies, eggs, meats, and other items that would never fly on a hiking trip. Here are some ideas: Food on the Trail. In general, my days look like this…
Breakfast: hot oats on short days, cold granola with milk powder on long days. On Day 2, we even had bacon and eggs on english muffins!
Lunch: wraps! Salami, hummus, mustard, and all the veggies made for pretty gourmet lunches. We supplemented with snacks throughout the day including pepperoni sticks, sour gummies, granola bars, GORP, and dried fruit.
Dinner: more gourmet coming your way. We had sausages & corn, mac n’ cheese, pizza over a fire, and one night of prepared dehydrated meals.
Make it Happen
- Understand the route and pick a time of year you want to go. You may choose to make this a shorter or longer trip depending on your preference and experience.
- Choose your route/itinerary, and where you will stay each night so you can book your campsites. Again, you book a lake instead of a specific site. This can be done online.
- Book your canoes! In high season, the light boats that are best for portaging can be scooped up quickly. The boats we rent are the Ultra Light Kevlar 16′ ones, and the rates can be found here. You will also need a food barrel (protection from bears).
- Once that is locked in, book your flights and/or transportation to the park
- If flying, fly into Toronto (YYZ) and rent a car from the airport to drive to Algonquin. The access point is Kiosk Lake.
- The fun begins! Plan your meals, get your gear in order, and gather a group of super cool people to make it awesome
- Get outside and do the thing
If you would like to paddle this canoe trip in Algonquin and need advice, tips, or guidance, please feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
Click the image to pin it for later!
I’ve also painted a few small landscapes from Algonquin Park. They are for sale, and can be found on my art shop!