One glimpse at a map of the watery landscape of Lake of the Woods, a sprawling lake with countless islands and inlets in northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country, reveals a canoe tripping paradise. The best Lake of the Woods canoe routes offer something for everyone: travel on small, intimate waterways or explore the island-pocked, sprawling namesake.

Look forward to discovering pristine waters, polished Canadian Shield campsites, boreal forest seclusion and outstanding fishing for walleye, northern pike and muskellunge. The area is bisected by the Path of the Paddle section of Canada’s Great Trail, which provides excellent options for paddling trips of various lengths.


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Choose a canoe route based on your experience and expectations. Lake of the Woods itself is large and can be subject to high winds—a worthwhile challenge for experienced paddlers with seaworthy canoes. Look to smaller bodies of water, such as Dogtooth, Blue or Stewart lakes, for less exposure to wind and waves. Of course, smaller lakes and waterways may require more portaging, so be sure to factor in this aspect to your Lake of the Woods area canoe trip plan. Looking for something a little less adventurous? Check out our recommendations for Paddler-Friendly Cottage Rentals and Campgrounds.

You’ll find family canoe trips, expeditions and everything in between on our list of the best Lake of the Woods canoe routes. Additional outdoor adventure resources are available from the Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre in Kenora, ON.

[This article is part of the The Ultimate Lake Of The Woods Outdoor Adventure GuideFind all the resources you need to plan an adventure-filled trip to the Kenora area.]

Best Lake of the Woods canoe trips

Dogtooth Lake | 2 Days

Launch from Rushing River Provincial Park and choose your own canoeing adventure on Dogtooth Lake, a scenic body of water with many islands and peninsulas (once on the lake, you’ll technically be entering into Eagle-Dogtooth Provincial Park). The park is located 25 km south of Kenora on Highway 71. This is a great destination for a family canoe trip in Lake of the Woods; campsites are abundant, often with sandy shorelines and excellent swimming.

Sticking close to the western shore and seeking shelter from Big Island, located immediately offshore from the launch at Rushing River, provides good protection from prevailing winds. Camping is free within Eagle-Dogtooth Provincial Park as it is a non-operating park, but you will need to purchase a permit to launch and park your vehicle at Rushing River Provincial Park.

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Ena Lake to Vermilion Lake | 2 Days


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This out-and-back, 26-km route has a little bit of everything for canoeists with moderate skills. You’ll feel a sense of seclusion when you complete the 150-meter portage into Vermilion Lake, which features tall granite cliffs and island campsites. Be sure to paddle all the way to the northwest corner of Vermilion Lake where another portage and hiking trail provides a scenic glimpse of the waterfalls cascading from Big Sand Lake.

You may want to plan an extra day to make a base camp and spend more time exploring Vermilion Lake. Take a guided Lake of the Woods canoe trip with Green Adventures. There is free parking at the boat launch on Ena Lake and there’s no fee to camp.

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Keewatin to Minaki | 3 Days

This one-way, 40-km route heading north from Keewatin, just west of Kenora, on the Winnipeg River has no portages. The journey along an ancient Indigenous and fur trade canoe route is perfect for novice to intermediate paddlers, including a mix of downstream travel with gentle current and mid-sized lakes, linking to the town of Minaki.

You’ll find plenty of campsites along the way and good fishing. There’s some powerboat traffic along this route; avoid long weekends and mid-summer to skip the crowds.

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Stewart Lake Loop | 3 Days

Located east of Kenora, just off the Trans-Canada Highway, this moderately difficult three-day canoe route starts and ends on Lower Stewart Lake, and traverses five portages through a series of lakes. You’ll find rockbound shores and great camping as you explore the Experimental Lakes Area—the site of renowned scientific research that has revealed great insights in freshwater ecology.

Portages are well-marked and quite short. Camping is free for Canadians on this Crown Land canoe route; non-Canadian residents require a Crown Land camping permit.

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Keewatin to Rushing River | 3 Days

This 41-km section of The Great Trail is best for sea kayakers or canoeists with experience traveling on exposed water. You’ll also need solid navigational skills to find your way through the islands and peninsulas of Lake of the Woods. Keep a close eye on the weather and travel cautiously, building time for wind delays into your itinerary.

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Kakagi Lake | 3 Days


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With plenty of open water and no portages, this is a great destination for a sea kayak trip in the Lake of the Woods area. You’ll find a public launch on Kakagi Lake (also known as Crow Lake) off Highway 71, south of Kenora. Head north from here, exploring countless islands and scenic rock bluffs. You’ll find some of the finest backcountry campsites in Lake of the Woods’ Sunset Country on Kakagi Lake.

From the lake’s northernmost arm it’s possible to extend your journey by portaging into Cedartree Lake and beyond (see Cameron Lake Loop, below). Kakagi Lake is a large body of water so mind the weather carefully and build time for wind delays into your itinerary.

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Sable Islands | 3 Days

Take a guided Lake of the Woods kayak trip with Green Adventures to the seldom-visited Sable Islands, located two hours from Kenora. This trip is designed for sea kayakers with some experience who are prepared to take on the big water of Lake of the Woods. The reward is a fully guided wilderness camping experience in a white-sand paradise that will make you believe you’re in the Caribbean.

Expect great swimming and fantastic beachcombing. At the right time of year, the Sable Islands boast some of the best birdwatching opportunities in northwestern Ontario, with 256 species identified in the area.

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Little Dogtooth Loop | 3 Days

Rushing River Provincial Park is your gateway to a wide variety of canoe routes in the Lake of the Woods area. Access the park from Highway 71 and set off on a five-portage, 32-km backcountry canoe trip. Head east from the campground and follow a river system to Kilvert Lake.Then, you’ll portage to Swamp Lake over an easy 100-meter trail and make a long 2,200-meter carry to White Lake, where you’ll find a sawmill ghost town at a sand beach.

Two more short portages bring you to Little Dogtooth Lake, which features two campsites—and an easy connection back to your starting point on Dogtooth Lake.

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Stewart Lake to Vermilion Bay | 4 Days

This one-way canoe route traverses secluded lakes and provides excellent fishing for walleye and northern pike. Launch on Stewart Lake, just south of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Dryden. Paddle through narrows to Lower Stewart Lake and portage into Geesay and Manomin lakes.

The route then heads east to Winnage Lake, with outstanding sand beach camping. Eagle Lake is the largest en route, featuring many promontories and excellent campsites on granite bedrock. Finally, you’ll arrive at the community of Vermilion Bay, on the Trans-Canada Highway.

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Cameron Lake Loop | 4 days


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If you have more time and the ambition to tackle six portages, this is a great way to add distance and diversity to a Lake of the Woods canoe trip starting at Kakagi (Crow) Lake. Your journey starts and ends at the public launch off of Highway 71, just south of Sioux Narrows Provincial Park. Paddle 11 km north on Kakagi Lake and make the short portage to Cedartree Lake.

From here, the route goes north to where the lake narrows into the Cedartree River. Follow this to a short portage into a small lake and another short portage back into the continuation of the Cedartree River, which flows into Flint Lake. At the south end of Flint, there’s another portage to Stephen Lake—the site of Indigenous pictographs and a good campsite. There’s one more portage to Cameron Lake, where the route turns west and requires a long, flat 2,500-m portage back to Kakagi.

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Rushing River to Vermilion Bay | 5 Days


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This variation of the Stewart Lake route (described above) adds a bit more distance, tracing a 90-km section of The Great Trail. Start at Rushing River Provincial Park and head east through Dogtooth and Kilvert lakes, before joining the Stewart Lake route at Manomin Lake. Winnage Lake has a distinct wilderness feel and requires careful navigation—pay close attention to your map to make sense of the many bays, islands and peninsulas.

Make the portage around Buzzard Falls to Eagle Lake and paddle east across big water to Vermilion Bay.

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Dogtooth Loop | 5 Days

This five-day trip starts and ends at Rushing River Provincial Park, making it easy to plan. The route itself is rated novice to intermediate—perfect for canoe trippers looking to develop their paddling, portaging and backcountry camping skills in a wilderness environment. Highlights include clear water on Dogtooth and Kilvert lakes, outstanding fishing on Gale Lake, and great campsites.

You may want to add a day or two to linger a second night at picturesque campsites. The scenery is spectacular in Eagle-Dogtooth Provincial Park, with tall granite cliffs on Hawk Lake. Be prepared for seven portages along the way, with the longest measuring a difficult 1,300 meters.

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Blue Lake Loop | 7 Days

This loop canoe route in the Lake of the Woods area starts and ends at Blue Lake Provincial Park, located off of Highway 647, north of Vermilion Bay and east of Kenora. With 17 portages, this is a great weeklong canoe trip for intermediate paddlers, spanning 97 km total. All of the portages are under 500 meters, stringing together a series of bodies of water including Gordon, Daniels and Canyon lakes, among many others.

Once upon a time, this network of waterways was part of a fur trade route to the Hudson Bay Company post on Eagle Lake. You may also see vestiges of an abandoned mica mine on Cobble Lake. Today, the area is secluded and renowned for crystal-clear water and excellent fishing for walleye and northern pike. You will need a permit to launch and park a vehicle at Blue Lake Provincial Park.

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Lake of the Woods, Dogtooth-Eagle Circuit | 7+ Days

This adventurous seven- to 10-day loop trip provides experienced paddlers with an intimate glimpse of the lakes and waterways east of Lake of the Woods, including portions of The Great Trail. Be sure to build time into your schedule to accommodate weather delays and be prepared to paddle on big water.

Rushing River Provincial Park (located on Highway 71) provides a convenient place to start your trip. Head east through Kilvert, Gale and Ethelma lakes, then circle south through Highwind and Hillock lakes. Portage into the expansive Northwest Bay of Dryberry Lake and navigate this convoluted body of water southwest to Berry Lake and the Berry River, which drains into Lake of the Woods’ Lobstick Bay.

Head northwest from here, tracing narrows through elongated peninsulas in the undeveloped Lake of the Woods Conservation Reserve. Finally you’ll wrap around the Eastern Peninsula, aiming for Bigstone Bay and the mouth of the Rushing River, to complete your loop. You’ll need a permit to launch and park a vehicle at Rushing River Provincial Park.

Find out more.

[ Further reading: Best Canoe Rentals & Outfitters Near Lake Of The Woods ]

Lake of the Woods map

Contact Green Adventures in Kenora for Lake of the Woods canoe route maps, including detailed topographic maps for inland canoe routes and charts for exploring the big water of Lake of the Woods. Local guides at Green Adventures can help you customize your canoe route map with campsites, portages and scenic attractions.

The Path of the Paddle Association produces a canoe trip planning map for The Great Trail, which stretches through northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country from Vermilion Bay to Rushing River Provincial Park to Lake of the Woods to Kenora and to Minaki before crossing the Manitoba border. It’s your best resource for planning an epic long-distance canoe expedition or exploring the scenic highlights of the Path of the Paddle water trail. Interactive digital maps are also available.

Disappear into the backcountry on any one of these incredible canoe routes. | Photo courtesy of: Destination Ontario


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