Algonquin’s High Falls is the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. Pack your swimsuit and a picnic lunch for an exciting afternoon of sliding and splashing down this natural rock water slide. The Barron River doglegs over slabs of water-polished granite and through deep, placid pools cradled by sun-warmed stone. Slide, sun, swim and repeat.
The High Falls water slide is located on the eastern edge of Algonquin Park, accessible from Barron Canyon Road and Achray Access Point on Grand Lake. There are a number of ways that hikers, canoeists, kayakers and paddleboarders can reach the slide, including an easy walking trail or a short paddle down Stratton Lake. Interior backpacking and canoeing campsites near the falls invite a longer stay—there’s nothing like a bracing, wake-up swim down Algonquin’s High Falls slide to start your day!
The chute is a popular swimming hole for park users of all ages, but as with any moving water, it should be enjoyed with caution. Supervise children, wear a life jacket while sliding and always scout the slide for hazards before entering the water. Be aware that the top of High Falls itself is hidden just 100 meters downstream. While the falls are beautiful and well-worth hiking down to see, they are not safe for swimming! Watch for poison ivy while hiking, portaging and camping in the High Falls area—this pesky weed is abundant along trails and shorelines and causes an itchy rash.
[This article is part of the Ultimate Algonquin Park Travel Guide. Find all the resources you need to plan an adventure-filled trip to Algonquin Park.]
Algonquin High Falls Trail hike
The most direct way to reach Algonquin’s High Falls is to walk a well-defined trail that travels 4.5 kilometres through mixed forest to the chutes. The pleasant High Falls Trail is the most popular option for day hiking to the falls. To find the trailhead, drive 13 kilometres beyond Algonquin Park’s Sand Lake Gate (where you can purchase permits for day-use or camping). Roughly 250 meters past the Brigham Lake access point, turn left down a short dirt road to the trail parking lot.
For a longer backpacking trip to High Falls, begin at Achray and hike the Eastern Pines Backpacking Trail. The four backcountry campsites tucked on Stratton Lake’s High Falls Bay are the furthest from the trailhead—making for a 20-kilometre loop. To get here, hikers will skirt several small lakes and a peat bog, while scrambling over and around huge boulders deposited by glaciers during the last ice age. From the campsites, it’s a short stroll to the High Falls water slide.
Canoeing to Algonquin’s High Falls
Most paddlers access the High Falls water slide by canoe from Algonquin Park’s Achray launch on Grand Lake. Where the Barron River exits Grand Lake, there is an easy 50-meter portage around a small dam into Stratton Lake. Paddle the length of Stratton Lake and turn left up High Falls Bay to reach the top of the chutes—a distance of 8.5 kilometres (around two hours) from the put-in.
If you are planning an overnight or basecamp canoe trip and wish to camp close to Algonquin’s High Falls, you can choose from interior campsites on Stratton Lake or neighbouring St. Andrews Lake. The six well-spaced campsites on St. Andrews Lake offer a quieter, more remote feeling alternative to the popular sites on Stratton Lake, which can get crowded on busy summer weekends.
Canoeists can also include High Falls on longer canoe trips in this part of the park. The wonderful Barron Canyon canoe route starts from Achray and travels downstream on the Barron River through Stratton, St. Andrews, High Falls and Brigham lakes to the spectacular Barron Canyon. As you paddle into the slow-moving waters of the canyon, sheer cliffs rise 100 meters (330 feet) from the river. Towering white pines on the gorge’s rim appear like toy trees from this vantage point.
Return to Achray by backtracking along the same route, or portaging through Opalescent and Ooze lakes to re-join the river at High Falls Lake. Allow at least three days to complete the Barron Canyon canoe route. Five days is even better—basecamp a couple nights on both St. Andrews and Opalescent lakes and day-trip to the water slide and the canyon.
For a shorter one-way canoe trip, contact local outfitters Algonquin Portage or Algonquin Bound to arrange a shuttle.
Camping near Algonquin’s High Falls
Hikers enjoy the closest High Falls camping, with four waterfront campsites located a short walk from the water slide. Both the Eastern Pines Backpacking Trail and High Falls Trail access this popular backcountry camping area, so it is recommended that you make campsite reservations well in advance of your trip to avoid disappointment.
Canoe campers will find more than 20 interior campsites on Stratton Lake and St. Andrews Lake—all within an hour’s paddle of the High Falls water slide.
Backcountry camping fees are charged per person: around $12 for each adult, $6 each for those under 18. A maximum of nine campers is allowed per backcountry campsite.
If you are planning to access the falls as a day trip, but looking to stay nearby, Algonquin Park’s Achray Campground offers 45 developed sites for car-campers and RVs, as well as a heated yurt that can accommodate up to six people. This quiet campground also features flush toilets, sandy swimming beaches and direct trailhead access to the Eastern Pines Backpacking Trail.
Campsite reservations can be booked online at www.ontarioparks.com, or by calling 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).
Algonquin High Falls map
For a detailed look at the High Falls area, pick up a copy of the official Algonquin Park Backpacking Trails Map. Published by the Friends of Algonquin Park, the map is available for purchase at the park’s Sand Lake Gate or from their website. A number of excellent Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Maps are available for paddlers exploring the High Falls water slides and beyond. See our top picks at Don’t Get Lost In The Woods: A Guide to Algonquin Park Maps.
Guided trips to High Falls
For a fun, educational, no-hassle exploration of Algonquin Park, consider booking a guided canoe trip with local outfitter Algonquin Bound. Travel with an experienced Algonquin Park guide who will share their knowledge of park history and ecology, animal identification, canoeing and outdoor living skills. Your guide will also plan and prepare delicious camp meals, so you can spend more time relaxing, hiking and enjoying the High Falls water slide.
Custom guided trips from 1 to 5 days are available upon request from Algonquin Bound.
The outfitter also offers fully or partially outfitted self-guided trip packages. These packages include detailed 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-day trip itineraries, backcountry meals, canoe delivery, shuttle service and bus stop pick-up, if needed.
Visiting the High Falls water slide
In recent years, swimming and picnicking at the High Falls water slide has exploded in popularity, especially during the heat of summer. Consider visiting the slide mid-week or in the off-season to avoid the crowds.
Travellers planning a trip to Algonquin’s High Falls water slide should also be aware that the park has a number of different cascades named “High Falls” that could be confused with the swimming hole we’ve described here. In fact, there is even another High Falls Trail—located in south Algonquin near the park’s Kingscote Lake and Benoir Lake access points—named for a spectacular falls on the York River. While swimming is popular in the pools at the base and top of this High Falls, the cascade itself is too steep and rugged for safe sliding.
Feel the rush at Algonquin Provincial Park’s High Falls. | Feature photo: Courtesy Destination Ontario