Algonquin Park’s vast landscape of unspoiled lakes, rivers and rugged hills is home to more than 2,000 kilometres of canoe routes. To narrow that down to just 13 bucket-list canoe trips, our experts combined hours of poring over Algonquin canoe route maps with weeks of travelling the park’s backcountry by paddle and portage.
No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find a trip to your liking amongst these routes cherry-picked for their breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife, superb camping and wonderful diversity. The longer your trip and the more portages you cross, the fewer other park visitors you’ll see. First time in Algonquin Park? We have you covered—many of the best Algonquin Park canoe routes are also offered as guided 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 day canoe tours by experienced local outfitters.
Read on to discover the ultimate Algonquin Park canoe trips for paddlers of every ability and appetite.
[This article is part of the Ultimate Algonquin Park Travel Guide 2021. Find all the resources you need to plan an adventure-filled trip to Algonquin Park.]
Best Algonquin Park canoe routes
Hailstorm Creek via Lake Opeongo water taxi | 1 day
The action-packed journey across the vast waters of Algonquin’s mightiest lake to the moose-filled marshlands of Hailstorm Creek is, without a doubt, one of the park’s most rewarding 1-day canoe trips. Offered as a self-guided or guided excursion by Algonquin Outfitters, your day begins at their store on Lake Opeongo where you’ll board a water taxi for the scenic, 20-minute ride to the lake’s North Arm. Here, you’ll switch to canoes to explore Hailstorm Creek Nature Reserve and enjoy some of the park’s best chances to see beavers, herons, loons and Algonquin’s long-legged mascot lurking amongst the lily pads.
This 1-day canoe tour is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. Contact Algonquin Outfitters for reservations.
Rock Lake to Whitney | 1 day
Visit two of Algonquin Park’s most stunning lakes on this day trip in the park’s quieter east side. This linear route ends at Algonquin Access Point #13 in the village of Whitney, so your day begins with a vehicle shuttle to Rock Lake (Access Point #9) to start your trip. Get an early start—this route requires a full day and rewards with some of the park’s finest scenery. Don’t miss canoeing beneath the steep cliffs of Rock Lake, listening as Echo Bay returns your best loon call, and lingering on the sun-warmed rock points of Galeairy Lake. Even better, there’s only one short portage (100 meters), so you don’t have to worry about packing light.
This 1-day canoe route can be enjoyed by novice and experienced paddlers alike. Contact Opeongo Outfitters to reserve a canoe rental and shuttle package for this linear (one-way) canoe trip.
Oxtongue Lake to Ragged Falls | 1 day
The leisurely paddle from Oxtongue Lake to spectacular Ragged Falls is one of the most popular canoe day trips in Algonquin Park—although, technically, this tour is just outside the park’s western boundary. Combining easy lake and river paddling, most paddlers can make the return journey in 3–4 hours, but we recommend allowing a full day to savour these magnificent falls. Park your canoe (or kayak) at the base of the falls and hike the Ragged Falls Trail to the top of the cataract for a breathtaking view downriver, especially stunning in autumn when the hardwood forest explodes with colour.
This 1-day canoe or kayak trip is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. Rent canoes from Algonquin Outfitters and depart right from their dock on Oxtongue Lake.
Barron Canyon | 1 day
Much of Algonquin Park’s beauty is subtle, but Barron Canyon is the opposite of understated. For a brief period after the end of the last ice age, the Barron River carried the entire outflow from Lake Aggasiz (the precursor of today’s Great Lakes) and a spectacular canyon was cut by this tremendous flow of water.
This day trip on the park’s east side leaves from Squirrel Rapids Access Point, just past the Sand Lake Gate, and travels up the dark waters of the Barron River into the canyon. As you paddle upstream, sheer cliffs rise from the river until you find yourself embraced by 100-meter-high (330-foot) canyon walls. Towering white pines on the gorge’s rim appear like toy trees from this vantage point. Retrace your paddle strokes back to your vehicle, then hike the easy 1.5-km Barron Canyon Trail to catch an equally breathtaking view from the top.
This 1-day canoe trip requires two short portages and is suitable for both novice and expert paddlers. Canoe rental and delivery is available from Algonquin Portage and Algonquin Bound. Guided Barron Canyon trips are also available upon request from Algonquin Bound.
Shall Lake to Booth Lake | 2 days
Travelling up the Opeongo River through a series of small lakes and short portages, this easy overnight canoe trip reaches scenic Booth Lake. The lake features an excellent beach area on its eastern shore, and 18 west-facing campsites where you can settle in to watch the sunset. Wake up early or head out after dinner to paddle up McCarthy Creek for prime moose-viewing.
This 2-day Algonquin Park canoe tour departs from and returns to Shall Lake Access Point (#17) on the park’s east side, making it a less busy option than routes beginning on the park’s main Highway 60 corridor. Canoe rental and delivery is available from Algonquin Bound in the nearby village of Madawaska.
Tim River to Rosebary Lake | 2 days
The Rosebary Lake canoe route is an easy 2-day trip on Algonquin Park’s west side with a beautifully unspoiled lake as its reward. After crossing Tim Lake, canoeists enjoy a slow, relaxing paddle down the meandering Tim River with only one easy portage (120m) around a set of falls. The hills surrounding Rosebary Lake comprise a Nature Reserve zone within the park, meaning these mature hardwood forests have a special natural significance to the region and are protected from logging. This lake makes for a particularly stunning autumn canoe trip destination. Rosebary’s six well-spaced campsites include sand beaches and one of the oldest known Indigenous campsites in Algonquin Park.
Kingscote Lake to York River | 2 days
For intermediate canoeists with some moving water experience, the York River route offers a more challenging option for an adventurous overnight in the park. Located in Algonquin’s southern panhandle, the river is best known for its spectacular High Falls, which you’ll visit on the second day of this trip. From Kingscote Lake, two portages and a short lake crossing bring paddlers to Byers Lake and the entrance to the York River. Stay at the secluded campsites on Byers Lake to get an early start on the river, which includes five short portages around dams, rapids and the magnificent High Falls.
Although this 2-day canoe route is a one-way trip, the start and finish are just a short drive apart. Begin at Kingscote Lake Access Point (#15) and take out at Pine Grove Point Resort on Benoir Lake. The resort offers parking, shuttle service and canoe rental.
Canoe Lake to Burnt Island Lake | 3 days
The cultural heart of Algonquin Park, Canoe Lake has been a centre of residence, recreation and industry since the park’s inception in 1893. Observant paddlers on this easy 3-day loop can discover a wealth of fascinating history—from ruins of a century-old town site, to possibly the most debated gravesite in Canada. In 1917, celebrated landscape artist and Algonquin Park guide, Tom Thomson, died under mysterious circumstances while paddling on Canoe Lake. Today, a memorial cairn and totem pole mark one of his favourite campsites on the lake.
Continuing north from Canoe Lake, this route travels through Teepee and Littledoe lakes to Tom Thomson Lake, where 18 scenic campsites make for an ideal first night’s pitch. The second day of this loop involves eight short portages over hilly terrain to reach Burnt Island Lake. The 50-plus, well-spaced campsites on this large lake attest to its popularity as a last night’s stop. From here, it’s an easy paddle through the string of Joe Lakes back to Canoe Lake.
The Portage Store at Canoe Lake Access Point (#5) is a convenient spot to rent canoes and equipment for this 3-day trip. A word of caution: Canoe Lake is the most popular access into Algonquin Park’s interior—if you’re looking for solitude, avoid this route during busy summer and fall colour weekends.
Smoke Lake to Big Porcupine Lake | 3 days
For a scenic basecamp canoe route with a taste of Algonquin Park’s more challenging portage trails, try this 3-day “lollipop loop” from Smoke Lake. Paddlers travel south through Ragged Lake before tackling the Devil’s Staircase, a very steep 590-meter portage that climbs to Big Porcupine Lake and a smattering of secluded campsites. Basecamp here for two nights, and on your second day pack a picnic lunch and make a loop through Little Coon, McGarvey and Bonnechere lakes. There’s plenty of beautiful scenery and several more shoulder-burning portages—but at least you’ll be travelling light.
Access for this 3-day canoe route is at Algonquin Park’s Smoke Lake Access Point (#6). Rent canoes and equipment from The Portage Store across Highway 60 at Canoe Lake.
Rock Lake to Lake Louisa | 3 days
This 3-day loop makes for an action-packed weekend itinerary, although solitude-seekers should plan to visit this popular area during mid-week or in the fall. Three lengthy portages make this a challenging route for novice paddlers. Rent an ultralight canoe and travel the loop clockwise to save the longest carry for your final day when your food pack is lighter. Camp on Welcome or Harry lakes your first night, then snag a gorgeous rock point or island campsite on lovely Lake Louisa for your last night out. Wake up refreshed to tackle the 3,000-meter portage back to Rock Lake.
Kawawaymog Lake to Kioshkokwi Lake | 4 days
The northwest corner of Algonquin Park is famous for its rolling hills, great trout fishing and beautiful lakes. This laid-back 4-day canoe trip travels one-way, west to east, through some of the more remote sections of the park. Canoeists will enjoy diverse paddling on large lakes and narrow, wildlife-filled rivers, with only a couple very manageable portages each day (the longest is 1,355 meters). Rock point campsites on North Tea, Manitou and Kioshkokwi lakes feature outstanding swimming and spectacular sunsets.
Begin this 4-day canoe route at Kawawaymog Lake Access Point (#1). Contact Voyageur Quest or Northern Wilderness Outfitters for canoe rental, outfitting and a return shuttle from your finish at Kiosk Access Point (#29). Voyageur Quest also offers this route as an all-inclusive, guided 5-day trip that is perfect for first-time canoe trippers.
Lake Opeongo to Big Trout Lake | 5 days
Looping off the North Arm of Lake Opeongo, this moderate interior canoe trip visits some of Algonquin Park’s most scenic large lakes and is a great choice for intermediate canoe trippers who enjoy a stout paddle between portages. The route can be completed in 5 days if you take a Lake Opeongo water taxi to the Proulx Lake portage, eliminating a substantial paddle up the park’s largest lake on your first day.
Sandy beaches, old-growth white pine and a stunning cliff-top overlook await campers on Big Crow Lake. From here, you’ll spend the next three days looping back to Opeongo through Hogan Lake, Lake La Muir, Big Trout Lake (plan to overnight on one of the stunning island campsites here), Merchant Lake and Happy Isle Lake. En route, expect nearly 11 kilometres of demanding portages (packing for a single-carry is strongly advised), abundant moose-spotting opportunities and a splendid sense of isolation. Make your final camp on Lake Opeongo, allowing time to explore wildlife-rich Hailstorm Creek before paddling south on the big lake.
Petawawa River whitewater adventure | 7 days
Perhaps the best-known—and certainly the most thrilling—river in Algonquin Park, the Petawawa travels from one side of the park to the other, gathering volume and taking on a different character with every kilometre. From its marshy and meandering beginnings in the west to the rushing rapids of the east, the “Pet” is a dynamic and breathtaking river for adventurous paddlers.
Unless you’re an expert whitewater canoeist, the rigorous class II-IV whitewater between Cedar Lake and Lake McManus is best experienced on a guided trip. Voyageur Quest offers this route as a 7-day trip lead by highly skilled guides who will ensure you navigate the river safely, as well as prepare fabulous meals, share their knowledge of Algonquin Park history and ecology, and handle the daunting logistics of a cross-Algonquin canoe trip.
This all-inclusive, 7-day canoe trip is offered in late August when water levels on the Petawawa River are optimal. Paddlers should be comfortable steering a canoe, but no whitewater experience is necessary. Contact Voyageur Quest for reservations or more information.
How does canoe rental and delivery in Algonquin work?
Can you rent canoes in Algonquin Park and have them delivered right to your vehicle campsite or access point? Yes, in fact it is very easy and affordable to do so! Most of the outfitters mentioned above offer delivery with your canoe rental reservation, to either the access point of your choice or to select Algonquin Park campgrounds (either to your campsite or to the campground beach).
Generally, expect the cheapest delivery fees ($15–$20) for locations along the Highway 60 corridor, with some outfitters offering free delivery to the park’s most popular access points and campgrounds. In peak summer season, outfitters pick up and drop off twice daily from busy access points/campgrounds. Simply let your outfitter know when you are booking your canoe rental where you’d like to pick it up, and they can provide you with a quote.
How much will it cost?
The cost of an Algonquin Park canoe or kayak rental depends on two factors: 1) How many days you are renting (outfitters offer a lower per day rate for longer rentals), and 2) The material and style of the rental canoe or kayak. Remember to ask whether your rental package includes essentials like paddles, lifejackets/PFDs, safety kit, etc.
Rental rates vary from $30/day for a durable, heavier plastic canoe to $45-$50/day for a featherweight Kevlar canoe, specialized whitewater tripping canoe or 3-person canoe. Kayak rentals range from $25-$30/day for a solo recreational kayak to around $40/day for a solo touring kayak or tandem kayak. When it comes to rental period, expect a 15 percent discount for canoe and kayak rentals of 5 days or more, 25 percent for more than 7 days.
Most outfitters also offer complete outfitting (including backcountry meals) or individual camping equipment rental for reasonable rates. Tents, sleeping pads, cooking gear, canoe barrels, packs and more are available for a modest daily fee.
Backcountry reservations and bookings
Backcountry campsites in Algonquin Park can fill up quickly, especially during summer and fall colours season—reservations are strongly recommended to avoid disappointment. Reservations can be made up to five months prior to your arrival date (for example, you can book February 1st if you plan to arrive July 1st). Note that backcountry campsite reservations are for a particular lake area or river section, not a specific campsite.
Before making your reservation, you’ll need to know your intended Algonquin Park access point and have a good idea of your route, including daily mileage that’s reasonable for your group. Keep a backcountry canoe routes map handy while making your reservation, in case modifications have to be made to your trip.
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.
Campsite reservations for your backcountry trip can be booked online at www.ontarioparks.com, or by calling 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).
Put Barron Canyon on your Algonquin Park bucket list. | Photo courtesy of: Destination Ontario