If you’re looking for a great outdoor getaway this summer, look no further than the best provincial parks in Ontario! Ontario has more than 300 provincial parks, so choosing the best one for your next adventure can be a little daunting.
I used to work as a wilderness guide in Ontario, leading hiking and canoeing trips, so I’ve had the fortune of visiting many of our province’s best parks.
Here are ten provincial parks that stand out above the rest, each with its own unique charms and attractions. These parks boast of some of Ontario’s most spectacular landscapes – from the cliffs of La Cloche Mountains to the sparkling Lake Superior, from the peak colors of Algonquin to the sandy beaches of Sandbanks.
So whether you’re into hiking, camping, canoeing, or just relaxing by the water, there’s a park for you. If you’re ready to discover some of Ontario’s best natural treasures, read on for my list of the ten best provincial parks!
The Best Provincial Parks in Ontario
Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park is located near the village of Killarney on the wild Georgian Bay Coast and is one of the best provincial parks in Ontario! The vivid green lakes, pink granite rocks, and white peaks of the La Cloche Mountains are just a few of the beautiful features associated with Killarney Provincial Park. The park encompasses approximately 645km2 of wilderness, which you can explore by canoe or foot.
Killarney Outfitters rents equipment, offers guides, and arranges shuttles for visitors. There’s also a variety of hiking trails to choose from. The most well-known trail is the 80-kilometer La Cloche Silhouette Trail, which takes up to 10 days and includes some challenging climbs. The best hiking section in the park is ‘The Crack,’ a popular day hike.
If you do not fancy the extreme hikes, go on the Cranberry Bog Trail, which is 4km long and is full of amazing dragonflies. You can also try out the 3km Chikanishing Trail that runs to the shores of Georgian Bay. There are also excellent stargazing opportunities and summer art programs. At George Lake, Killarney Provincial Park has one (non-electrical) car camping site and backcountry pitches, all for your outdoor pleasure.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is located just three hours north of Toronto and one of the best places to visit in Canada. It gives easy access to Ontario’s incredible wilderness of lakes and forests which are the home of black bears, wolves, moose, and deer.
Canoe camping is a popular summer activity in Algonquin, and you will find many families enjoying the strategically located campsites around the lakes. The hiking trails are also amazing here, and you can explore the park and see a wide variety of wildlife, lakes, waterfalls, streams, bogs, and even beaver houses.
A canoe trip to Burnt Island Lake is one thing you should not miss to do! This trip is perfect for beginners or experienced paddlers and easily accessible from Highway 60. For the more adventurous, the Petawawa River offers exciting whitewater, and some outfitters can take you down the river safely.
One of the best times to visit Algonquin is in October during peak color. The maples explode in vibrant colors and paint the landscape in red and orange.
Killbear Provincial Park
Killbear Provincial Park is located on the point of land jutting into Georgian Bay, not far from Parry Sound. This park is lively and family-oriented, with beaches and beautiful rocky shorelines. It has seven campgrounds and many visitors come to the Killbear Provincial Park specifically to camp.
Children often play in the shallow waters while adults have the options to either relax on the beach or go hiking and explore the biking trails as well. Do not forget to photograph the amazing and iconic windswept pine. This is arguably the most ‘popular’ tree in Canada. This is a white pine found on a rocky outcrop in the park.
Bon Echo Provincial Park
Bon Echo Provincial Park is located in the Algonquin territory in Eastern Ontario. It is a family park with two campgrounds, an amazing sand beach, and a lovely setting. Mazinaw Rock, which rises 100 meters above Mazinaw Lake, is the park’s most popular feature. There are several rock paintings of the Mazinaw Rock that you can explore by canoeing or kayaking along the rock face or through a tour boat from the campground.
Bon Echo Provincial Park offers the perfect weekend getaway full of hiking, camping, fishing, and boating activities. Campers who’d like a quieter stay can book a stay at Hardwood Hill campground.
Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park
This park is located at the heart of the Temagami region. It has rugged terrain, clear lakes, and rushing rivers. It is also characterized by the Precambrian bedrock that rises to form the highest point in Ontario, the Ishpatina Ridge. The park’s best feature is the Lady Evelyn River, surrounded by pine stands and many waterfalls.
Birding is one of the best activities to do at this park. Many different bird species exist, such as the warbler, thrush, flycatcher, eagles, and ospreys. The park is best explored by canoe, as most of the park is inaccessible otherwise. There are many canoe route options within the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park for you to choose from. Contact Temagami Outfitters for canoe rentals and assistance planning your route.
Missinaibi River Provincial Park
The Missinaibi River Provincial Park is a 500-kilometer-long provincial park with amazing lakes, fascinating waterfalls, and mind-blowing whitewater. Those wishing to camp at this park can do so at the Barclay Bay Campground on Missinaibi Lake.
How about canoeing? You can explore five canoe route options within the park linked to more than 75 backcountry campsites. The Missinaibi River has one of the longest canoe routes here. I had the pleasure of paddling the river in its entirety in 2017 and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
If you’re not experienced with whitewater canoeing, connect with an outfitter who can take you on a guided trip. There are dozens of adrenaline-pumping rapids, incredible waterfalls and canyons, beautiful campsites and even a view of James Bay if you go far enough.
Sandbanks Provincial Park
The world’s largest bay mouth barrier dune formation is located in Sandbanks Provincial Park. This park has a few large public beaches, including Outlet Beach, shallow waters. It is also an excellent location for birdwatching, as it serves as a stopover for a variety of species during the spring migration.
If you want to visit the countryside in the heart of charming Prince Edward County, this park is the best place to visit in Ontario. Sandbanks Provincial Park is ideal for a relaxing day at the beach. Outdoor enthusiasts can take part in kayaking, canoeing, swimming, camping, hiking, and fishing activities offered here.
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Lake Superior Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Superior, along a stretch of the TransCanada Highway (Highway 17). Beautiful soft-sand beaches line sections of this lake, and smaller inland lakes are found nestled at the base of pine-covered hills and sheer cliff walls, where loons can be seen in the summer. This park is located far from any major towns.
In the summer, visitors come to camp along the beaches, kayak or canoe, hike, see pictographs, and enjoy the peace and quiet. The park has two RV campgrounds: Agawa Bay, which is located among waterfront pine trees, and Rabbit Blanket Lake, which is located on a small inland lake.
There is also the popular Coastal Trail, a 60-km long backpacking trail along the coast of Lake Superior. Not for the faint of heart, this is a challenging trail but it is absolutely beautiful.
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
The Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is every paddler’s dream, having nearly 2,000 kilometers of the most thrilling, unmaintained canoe routes on different rivers and lakes. Woodland Caribou usually welcomes less than 1,000 paddlers every season. Therefore, you are all but guaranteed a chance to enjoy a quiet time with nature.
The park has two major river systems, the Gammon and the Bloodvein. The Bloodvein River has been designated as a Canadian Heritage River and is one of the best canoe destinations in Canada. Some of the best activities to do in the park include fishing lake trout, walleye, and Northern Pike. Boating fanatics can enjoy powerboat rides along with the Gammon and Bloodvein river systems.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
The Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a 244-square-kilometer park in northwest Ontario. This is located on the Sibley Peninsula, east of Thunder Bay, and is home to over 200 bird species. Highway 17 provides easy access to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Take Highway 587 south from Pass Lake and enjoy stunning views while looking for some of the park’s wildlife.
There are three trails: Kabeyun Trail, Talus Lake Trail, and Top of the Giant Trail, which combine to form a 22.4 km round trip trail. The hike takes 6-8 hours to complete, with visitors getting a fascinating view of Lake Superior and Thunder Bay.
For campers, the Marie Louise Lake Campground has more than 200 campsites- many having access to electricity. All campsites have picnic tables fire pits and are within walking distance of water and restrooms.
Great Alternatives to Ontario Provincial Parks
Crown land is public land that is free to camp on. There is very little crown land in southern Ontario, but there is a little around the Muskoka area and a ton once you get north of the French River.
Although crown land campsites are free to use, they can be really difficult to find. You’ll want to consult the crown land atlas and buy a few regional maps. This post will reveal the detail on how to find crown land camping in Ontario.
Another alternative to provincial parks is private campgrounds in Ontario. Since most campgrounds are independently run, there is a huge variance in style and amenities provided by the campground.
Some will simply have tent spots in the woods, while others may have swimming pools, recreation rooms, activities for kids, and more. Although these will be pricier than Ontario Parks, they can be a lot easier to book and have better facilities.
Finally, the national parks are a great alternative to the best provincial parks in Ontario! Ontario is home to five national parks – the Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay Islands, Pukaskwa, Rouge, and Point Peele – all of which offer something special to explore. The first three offer camping, while the latter is best for day trips.
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