Algonquin Park Canoe Routes
One of the questions we’re asked most often is this: “What’s the best canoe route in Algonquin Park?” That’s a hard question to answer. There are over 2,000 km of canoe routes stretching across Algonquin Park’s 7,630 square kilometres. That’s a lot of canoe routes! It’s so much that few people ever manage to explore all of them. Many people discover one canoe route they enjoy, so they return and do it over and over. For others, the adventure of seeking out undiscovered landscapes drives them to try a different canoe route every time they visit Algonquin Park.
To put it all into perspective, Algonquin Park has a larger land mass than many large cities or some small countries. In fact, it’s larger than about 1/3 of the small countries in the world, making it almost the same size as Jamaica.
Don’t let the size of Algonquin Park deter you, though; there are plenty of interesting, easy-to-explore canoe routes and options for one-day trips!
Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map
We highly recommend starting your canoe route planning with a copy of the official Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map. It’s a great way to get your bearing and have an overview of the park. It’s easy to read and contains all the data you need for any basic canoe trip. Beyond that, you may want more detailed maps like the Chrismar Adventure Map series or the Unlostify Maps, scheduled to be available soon for Algonquin Park. With these maps, however, you will need to know which part of the park you’ll be travelling in and may need to purchase more than one map in order to cover the correct section. They’re designed to offer much more detail on specific areas. You can buy maps online from our online store.
Day Trip or Multi-day Canoe Trip?
You’ll also want to consider how long you have to explore Algonquin Park. Not everyone has 8-10 days available for a trip that really takes them deep into the backcountry wilderness! There are many options for those who only have one day or a few to venture into the park by canoe, kayak, foot or bike.
Here are some examples of canoe trip routes in Algonquin Park, but there are many more to discover and explore.
Ragged Falls Day Trip
This is one of our most popular day trips! Enjoy an easy paddle, mainly on a small river, to scenic Ragged Falls and back. This self-guided trip usually takes about 3-4 hours and departs right from the dock of our Oxtongue Lake store.
Pack a picnic lunch – once you see the falls from your canoe or kayak, you may want to hike to the top and enjoy the awesome beauty of this spectacular cataract, as well as take a few photos. If you don’t have time to make the trip to Ragged Falls, you can explore the scenic bay just beyond our dock.
Trip Length: 3-4 hours [more info]
Costello Creek Day Trip
The Costello Creek trip is a perfect two-hour guided trip for people with limited time. This pleasant and scenic wilderness paddling excursion includes all necessary equipment and the services of an experienced, knowledgeable guide if you want accompaniment. A guide can teach you basic paddling skills so you will enjoy the easy paddling along a small creek to Turtle Rock and back.
This is available as a guided or self-guided trip.
Trip Length: 2 hours [more info]
Hailstorm Creek Guided Day Trip
This unique half-day experience allows day-trippers to explore wild, beautiful Hailstorm Creek without having to worry about paddling on a big lake. Our water taxi transports people and canoes (or kayaks) safely from our Opeongo store to the heart of Algonquin Park in just 20 minutes. You’ll spend the rest of the time exploring the Hailstorm Creek Nature Reserve, enjoying excellent wildlife viewing and picturesque scenery. You’ll want to have a camera ready to capture the moment when you see, perhaps for the first time, a moose, beaver, heron or loon in its natural habitat. The water taxi will return to pick you up at a prearranged time. Don’t miss out on this premium guided day trip – the paddling is not strenuous, navigation is easy and this unforgettable experience can be enjoyed by beginner and expert paddlers alike.
Trip Length: 4+ hours [more info]
Other Day Trips
There are lots of options for day trips in Algonquin Park beyond just these three signature excursions. You can paddle from most campgrounds with canoes, kayaks or paddleboards provided by our campground delivery service. We also have a full list of options to consider on the Day Trip page, where you’ll find lots of information about canoe or kayak routes, fishing trips, etc. There’s even a mountain biking day trip along the Old Railway Bike Trail that departs right from our Lake of Two Rivers Store, Cafe and Grill. Looking for something special? Call our booking and information line at 1-800-469-4948 and they can customize a day trip for you or your group.
Multi-Day Canoe Trips
Our specialty since 1961, the multi-day canoe trip is the best way to really explore and get to know Algonquin Park. It’s interesting to see the park in the daytime, of course, but the night is also worth discovering. If you’ve never seen the night sky without the influence of city lights, prepare to be amazed! Algonquin Park offers some of the finest dark sky viewing anywhere; on clear nights, you can easily see numerous northern constellations, shooting stars and passing satellites. And, if you’re really lucky, you may be treated to a display of Northern Lights.
You’ll also have a much better chance of seeing wildlife on a multi-day trip, since nearly every lake in the park’s backcountry is home to loons and mergansers, as well as the king of Algonquin residents, the North American moose. While it’s true that there are black bears and wolves in Algonquin Park, you’ll seldom see them, especially if you keep a clean campsite and properly hang your food in a tree at night. You’re actually more likely to encounter a bear in an Algonquin Park campground than in the backcountry.
There are several classic canoe routes that we frequently recommend but we also encourage you to call our booking and information line when you have an Algonquin Park map in front of you. We can discuss route choices based on your length of stay, skills and experience levels, as well as what your preferences are for a customized trip. We also offer fully guided canoe trips that include all necessary camping gear, a delicious meal plan, a lightweight canoe and an experienced guide to help you have a truly memorable experience. PLEASE NOTE: Since we have a limited number of guides, we highly recommend that you book any guided trip 4-8 weeks in advance.
Rock Lake to Pen Lake Canoe Trip
Paddling from Rock Lake to Pen Lake is a simple canoe route for the paddler graduating from campground camping to wilderness tripping, or anyone who wants a relaxed trip. This route only involves one relatively short 375-metre portage, carrying your canoe and gear from Rock Lake to Pen Lake. Along this portage, there’s a little side trail to a waterfall, which is a great place to have lunch before finishing the day’s journey to your campsite on Pen Lake. If you want a slightly more remote campsite, you can travel one lake further to Clydegale Lake, where there’s very little canoe traffic. If you want to see some different scenery on your return trip, you can travel east over two portages (1,680 and 80 metres, respectively), ending up at Galeairy Lake; then proceed over a 100-metre portage around a small dam, returning to Rock Lake.
Tim to Rosebary Lake Canoe Route
If you’re seeking a somewhat less busy canoe route than what’s available along the Highway #60 corridor, we highly recommend visiting the west side of Algonquin Park. Here, you’ll typically find fewer people in a true backcountry wilderness setting without having to travel for days. One of the hidden gems on the west side is paddling along the Tim River to Rosebary Lake. This requires a little more canoeing experience but there’s only one 120-metre portage. If the water is high enough, you can take a shortcut through an island on Tim Lake; if the water is low, you’ll have to paddle around it. There’s a good chance you’ll see moose or other wildlife on the Tim River before and after Rosebary Lake. Once encamped on Rosebary, we recommend doing a day trip to the east, to Longbow Lake or further down the Tim River, if you want to increase the probability of seeing wildlife.
Canoe to Big Trout Canoe Route
The Big Trout Lake loop is a popular canoe route, starting from Canoe Lake on Highway #60. This mid-length canoe trip will take you deeper into the backcountry of Algonquin Park, where you’ll spend several days canoeing to new campsites on different lakes each night. Longer trips like this offer you the chance to explore more Algonquin Park wilderness, get into the canoe-camping groove and have better opportunities to see wildlife. If you enjoy photography or fishing, there will be plenty of chances for both on a trip like this! If you have a little more time, we suggest adding a base-camp day, where you stay two or more nights at the same campsite on a lake such as Otterslide, Big Trout or MacIntosh. This allows for a day or so of rest, giving you more time to relax and play, rather than loading up the canoe and dashing off to your next destination.
Other Multi-Day Canoe Trips
The routes mentioned above are just a few examples of trips you may consider when planning an Algonquin Park adventure. Many visitors spend hours looking over the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map and researching websites or forums to come up with what they feel is the best route for their visit. Algonquin Outfitters staff, who have been planning canoe trips in Algonquin Park since 1961, would be glad to assist in customizing a special trip for you. Please feel free to call our information and reservation line to speak with one of our experienced route planners when you’re ready to discuss and book your canoe trip, whether it’s fully outfitted or not, complete with a guide or exploring on your own. We’re happy to help people discover the beautiful wilderness that’s right in our back yard! Call any time: 1-800-469-4948
Challenging Canoe Routes
Some people, who’ve been to Algonquin Park or other wilderness destinations many times and have numerous years of paddling experience, are simply looking for an interesting challenge. We have great ideas that will test the skills and stamina of almost any paddler! Historic, demanding trips can offer the chance to add your name to the list of explorers who have navigated the route before you. Or, perhaps, you want to be involved in a competitive adventure, either for the glory and potential prizes or the personal satisfaction of completing a route that not everyone wants to take on.
The Brent Run
Although the origin and history of the “Brent Run” are a bit mysterious, the gauntlet has definitely been thrown down for this challenging route. For those unfamiliar with this section of Algonquin Park, the Brent village and our Algonquin Outfitters Brent Store are located on Cedar Lake, access point #27, in the northern part of the park. The first official record of the run between Cedar Lake and Canoe Lake being completed was in 1934. Bill Stoqua and Bill Little made the 162-km trip from Canoe Lake to Cedar Lake and back in 32 hours.
Many have tried but few have succeeded in conquering the elusive 24-hour challenge from Canoe Lake to Brent and back again.
Challenging trips like this require specialized lightweight gear, so we would recommend some of our lightest Swift Canoes. Trip Length: 2-4 days
The Algonquin Outfitters Muskoka River X paddling race
This one’s not actually in Algonquin Park but it’s close! The race takes place on the historic Muskoka River between Huntsville and Bracebridge. The Algonquin Outfitters Muskoka River X holds the title of the “world’s longest single-day expedition paddling race.” It covers a 133-km paddling route that includes 20 portages and travels both down and upstream. Racers push themselves for 24 hours to complete the distance before the time runs out. You’ll also find some fun races in this series too, so it’s a good idea for anyone who wants a challenging race to check out their website.
Algonquin Outfitters’ Meanest Link
“The Meanest Link” is a canoe route in Algonquin Park that’s named after one of the founders of Algonquin Outfitters, Bill Swift Sr., who was also known as Swifty, Mean Dude and Meanest. The “Meanest Link” route connects the four earliest Algonquin Outfitters stores of Brent, Opeongo, Oxtongue Lake and Huntsville. It was created by Alex Hurley and Gord Baker in the summer of 2004 and, since then, many AO staff members and others have completed one or more of the four sections of the trip. The “full link” is an arduous trip and has only been completed a few times by our staff, groups from Camp Pathfinder in Algonquin Park and a few other dedicated souls.
What are you waiting for?
We hope this page has inspired you to seriously consider an Algonquin Park canoe trip in your near future. Whether you’re visiting for the day or looking for a longer Algonquin Park backcountry wilderness challenge, you’ll find interesting options here. No matter what form of exploration you prefer in Algonquin Park or nearby, Algonquin Outfitters is ready to assist! We encourage you to call and let our knowledgeable staff help you plan your adventure today. If you prefer, you can simply book online, then call us regarding any questions you have and allow us to adjust your reservation as needed.
Information and reservations: 1-800-469-4948