The 5 best places for canoe camping in Québec and Ontario


April 20, 2023


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best places canoe camping

A canoe camping trip can be the experience of a lifetime, and Canadians are lucky to have an abundance of lakes and rivers to explore. In fact, there are so many it can be hard to choose where to go! Whether you are a first-timer looking for a canoe camping trip on smooth waters or an expert searching for a bit of excitement and a few rapids, here are the SAIL team’s best places for canoe camping this summer, both in Québec and Ontario.

In this article, you will discover the 5 best places for canoe camping in Québec & Ontario:

  1. How to pick the right canoe camping destination
  2. Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier
  3. The Rivière Rouge (Laurentides)
  4. Killarney Provincial Park (Central Ontario)
  5. Algonquin Provincial Park (South Central Ontario)
  6. FAQ

How to pick the right canoe camping destination

When selecting your canoe camping route, there are a few factors to take into account. The first one is your level of expertise. First-timers may want to stick to calm waters (Class I), while experienced canoeists will be able to handle some rapids (Class II and up). It’s also important to pick a route that suits your physical abilities, both in terms of the length of the trip and the amount of paddling you’ll be doing each day. Last, your choice of circuit may be limited if you don’t have your own canoe, as not all destinations offer equipment rental. It’s best to plan ahead, and if in doubt, go for a guided tour which will likely include both the nautical gear and camping equipment you will need.

Before you leave, make sure to check you have all the mandatory safety equipment with you, including a PFD, in order to avoid a heavy fine.

Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier

Canoe Camping at Parc National de la Jacques Cartier

The best way to discover the breathtaking Jacques-Cartier Valley is on the river, which offers plenty of opportunities for nautical outings and can be explored over several days. Canoeists looking for a multi-day trip can reserve one of the many canoe camping sites. There are shuttles available from the Discovery Centre to the canoe start point, where you can set off on a two- to three-hour-long excursion that will lead you to your camping spot.

For a day trip, take the shuttle to the launch site located at kilometre 29 and paddle down for 19 kilometres without having to worry about transportation or equipment. Be aware that there are some Class II rapids to navigate along the way. If you’d rather stick to calm waters, book yourself a camping spot in one of the nearby frontcountry campgrounds, and explore the sections of the river located in between the rapids to enjoy the beautiful views.

Other activities available in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier

The Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier has a wide network of hiking trails (Les Loups is an extremely popular choice). But the pièce de résistance? Letting yourself float on an inner tube over 19 kilometres of clear water with nothing else to do but admire the scenery!

Parc National de la Mauricie (Mauricie)

Canoe Camping at Parc National de la Mauricie

La Mauricie is one of the best places for canoe camping, with more than 40 campsites spread over 12 lakes. The level of difficulty of the many suggested routes ranges from easy (no portage) to difficult (longer portage sections). Maps of the most popular circuits are available online.

The Waber Falls route is a particularly fun one, and a great option for first-time canoe campers. Set off at the Wapizagonke picnic area and paddle to the end of the lake over calm waters (a two-hour journey). It’s a popular route, and you can’t get lost: just follow all the other canoeists! You’ll then need to portage for a few kilometres over fairly steep terrain, after which you will reach Lake Waber, where you can get back in your canoe to reach your campsite. Getting to the falls can also be done as a day trip: just leave your canoe at the start of the hiking trail, climb up and then back down!

Campers staying in the Wapizagonke frontcountry campground can also explore the 9-kilometre-long lake in a canoe, a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard. What about avid cyclists? La Mauricie National Park is a renowned cycling destination.

The Rivière Rouge (Laurentides)

Canoe Camping at the Riviere Rouge

If you are looking for a calm river with breathtaking scenery, the Rivière Rouge is the way to go! Depending on the season, only one route has Class II rapids. Canoeists can opt for a guided tour, rent a watercraft or head off in their own canoe using the shuttle service. There are also options to explore a smaller section of the river for shorter outings, or take on a longer, multi-day trip that will take you over 40 kilometres of river, as well as some rapids. Don’t forget to stop at one (or several!) of the many beaches along the way to enjoy a well-deserved, refreshing swim!

Killarney Provincial Park (Central Ontario)

Canoe Camping at Killarney Provincial Park

The deep clear lakes and impressive hills of the La Cloche range make Killarney Provincial Park the perfect playground for canoeists of all levels. With its 645 square kilometres of backcountry and 183 campsites spread over 50 lakes, the canoe camping possibilities are endless. Pick up a guide detailing some of the most popular routes for a few ideas.

Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a moderate multi-day canoe camping trip should head to The Crack. This excursion will take you through some of the most beautiful lakes in the province, and the portage sections are fairly flat. You can even appreciate a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the route you’ve just travelled when hiking up The Crack trail.

Algonquin Provincial Park (South Central Ontario)

Canoe Camping at Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park’s canoe network is over two thousand kilometres long! It goes over lakes and rivers, many of which are connected by portage routes. There are outfitters offering canoe rentals for those requiring equipment to explore the park’s waterways. There is also a wide range of options available when it comes to choosing a canoe camping route. Once you’ve planned your circuit out, make sure you book your backcountry campsites in advance. These are mostly available on a first-come, first-served basis, but you’ll still have to select the lake or zone you’d like to camp for your trip when making a reservation.


How to start canoe camping

Free canoe camping in Québec and Ontario

What to wear on a canoe camping trip?


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