From the top of the Sleeping Giant to a train-in winter wilderness wonderland in Wabakimi, Ontario is reserved for those who plan big adventures.
Here are 15 photos to help fuel your dream getaway in every season.
1. Big Lake Energy
The province of Ontario is home to enormous lakes—destinations where visitors can cycle, swim, paddle and lounge along some of the finest shorelines in the world. Big lakes, such as the Great Lakes, Lake Nipigon and Lake of the Woods, offer stunning sunsets and ample opportunity to connect with the freshwater that Ontario is famous for.
Here are four frontcountry campgrounds to visit beside some of the world’s largest lakes.
- Killbear Provincial Park - Georgian Bay on Lake Huron
- Neys Provincial Park - Lake Superior
- Poplar Lodge Park - Lake Nipigon
- Sioux Narrows Provincial Park - Lake of the Woods
- Long Point - Lake Erie
2. Below the Cliffs
There is something so magical about the waterways of summer turning to highways of ice in the winter. Walking under towering cliffs across a frozen lake will take your breath away. The freedom to walk where we once floated and the experience of running a mitt-covered hand down a smooth rock face are reasons to cherish the adventures of Ontario.
These outfitters can get you on the snowy trail for a day, night, or week and help you experience the silence of winter in Ontario.
- The folks at Lure of the North are the premier winter experts and offer introductory, educational, and immersive hot tent winter camping courses from their home in Espanola. They also offer courses on making traditional snowshoes and moccasins.
- North Ridge Ranch offers one-hour and one-day dog sled tours in the wilds of Muskoka.
- Voyageur Quest offers winter camping packages in Algonquin Park and has everything you need to experience the solitude of a below-zero night.
- Take an ice climbing course near Thunder Bay with Outdoor Skills and Thrills.
- Killarney’s yurts are a great way to snowshoe, ski and spend the night without the need to camp. That said, backcountry camping in the winter is popular in the Park.
- In the winter of 2022, Quetico Provincial Park introduced winter camping, meaning visitors have access to the best wilderness ice fishing experience in the province.
- Want to go on an ice fishing trip, but aren’t ready to camp? Rent an insulated, wood stove-heated cabin from Bear Trak Outfitters in Black Bay, Lake Superior.
- Enjoy a guided, activity-filled weekend getaway in Temagami’s backcountry with Temagami Outfitters.
3. Top of the Giant
If walking below a cliff is spellbinding, then sitting perched atop one is food for the soul. Ontario’s geography is ideal for lake, river, and forest travel, but also provides an abundance of lookouts that are accessible along scenic trails. Here are some hikes you won’t want to miss this summer.
- Take a guided hike to the top of the Giant in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park with Outdoor Skills and Thrills.
- Visit 13 cliff top views along the Deer Lake Mountain Trail in Nipigon.
- Go on a hiking day tour with Ontario Adventure Tours and explore the Bruce Peninsula.
- Hike the A.Y. Jackson Lookout trail (also known as the Onaping Falls Trail) near Sudbury to enjoy views of beautiful Onaping Falls.
4. Barron Canyon
The best part about Algonquin Provincial Park’s Barron Canyon is that visitors can experience the view from inside the canyon by canoe, or hike a short distance from the road to stunning views from above.
- Rent a canoe from Algonquin Portage for your day trip down the Barron Canyon. They’ll even deliver it to your starting point at Brigham Lake.
- Take a guided day or overnight canoe trip with Algonquin Bound Outfitters. You can customize your trip to take you through the Barron Canyon.
- Want more canyon views? Work with the experts at Wabakimi Outfitters to plan a trip down the Kopka River in Wabakimi Provincial Park, a journey that involves travelling through a canyon in the Seven Sisters section which is replete with waterfalls.
- In Algoma, eat and sleep at the Voyageur’s Lodge and Cookhouse on your way to hike the Towab Trail for views of Agawa Falls and the Agawa Canyon.
5. Slide into Summer
There are places and moments on some trips where everything aligns to create the experience of a lifetime. With this in mind, the High Falls water slide in Algonquin Provincial Park is the perfect addition to your Barron Canyon trip. Here’s what you need to know.
- High Falls is a waterfall located in the northeastern corner of Algonquin Park (not to be confused with the other High Falls located on the southern border of the Park). The falls are sloped such that you can ride down it like a water slide (be sure to wear your PFD for padding and moving-water safety, and assess the water level).
- You can access it by canoe from the Achray access point. You’ll paddle from Grand Lake to Stratton to St. Andrew’s—there’s a trail along the portage from St. Andrew’s to High Falls Lake that leads to the falls.
- You can also access it by foot. One option is to hike the Eastern Pines trail and visit the falls on an overnight backpacking trip. Another is to do a day hike on the affectionately named High Falls Cheater Trail, which is accessible from Barron Canyon Road (through the Sand Lake Gate).
6. Boreal Mist
If you’ve paddled in the silence of a foggy morning in Northern Ontario, one where your canoe cuts like a knife through the sunrise-tinted mist, you’ll be on a mission to replicate the experience as many times as you can for the rest of your life. Here are some places to try your luck.
- Northwestern Ontario is a paddler’s dream, and Goldseekers Outfitting services all remote waterways in the region from their base in Red Lake.
- Thunder Bay-based Wilderness North offers not only exceptional fly-in canoe trips, but also a fly-in wilderness lodge.
You don’t have to paddle to experience the magic of a misty lake view. Stay at a lakeside accommodation and sneak out to the water’s edge at sunrise or enjoy fine dining outdoors in the evening.
- Killarney Mountain Lodge - Killarney
- Wiley Point Wilderness Lodge - Lake of the Woods
- Harry Lake Lodge - near Thunder Bay
- Northern Edge Algonquin - western Algonquin Park
- Outpost Lodge - near Thessalon
7. Ice Paddling
There are very few opportunities as immersive and captivating as paddling among the ice of Lake Superior. There’s only one outfitter that can get you out for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
- Such A Nice Day Adventures, or S.A.N.D, is based in Rossport, and offers both winter and summer guided sea kayaking trips on Lake Superior.
- You can stay with Nestled In Nature B&B and warm up in their sauna after your paddle.
8. Experiences on the Water
While you can experience Ontario’s big adventures by gravel bike or scenic hikes, one of the finest ways to truly appreciate all that the province has to offer is to explore landmarks by water. Here are some iconic Ontario sites you should paddle this summer.
- Sea Lion Arch, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
- Pictographs on the Bloodvein River with Black Feather
- Fall foliage while rafting the Madawaska River with Madawaska Kanu Centre
- Agawa Rock pictographs in a voyageur canoe with Naturally Superior Adventures
9. Deep Adventure
If you’re the type of person who wants to plan the biggest adventure of your life, then your journey begins on the train and ends in the frozen wilderness of Wabakimi Provincial Park. While not for the unprepared, a visit to this iconic canoeing area in the winter is an opportunity to stay in a truly secluded cabin with Wabakimi Outfitters in the remote north of Ontario.
For those who are less inclined to experience -50°C temperatures, here are some near north glamping cabins to rent in the winter.
- Cabinscape has a selection of Tiny Cabins located across Central Ontario cottage country
- Glamping Hub offers a Log Cabin escape in the Ottawa Valley
- Find the perfect cabin for a winter escape with Ontario Cottage Rentals
10. Fall Hikes
The Ottawa Valley and Algonquin Highlands are famous for their fall foliage, the maple hardwood covered hills alight with colour. But the best kept secret in Ontario has to be the transformation of Northern Ontario’s birch and poplar forests. The best part? No crowds.
Here’s how and where to visit Northern Ontario in the fall:
- Superior Country
- Sunset Country
11. Dark Skies
The farther you get from the cities—which is very easy to do in Ontario–the more plentiful the stars become across the night sky. There are a couple ways to experience the stars, one being to travel to near north settings outside Toronto and Ottawa, and the other being to venture farther north into regions hundreds of kilometres from the nearest city lights. Here are a few dark skies to consider for your summer adventures.
- Venture to Quetico Provincial Park, which is an International Dark Sky Park.
- Go on a fly-in canoe trip in the Atikokan area with Canoe Canada Outfitters, in the Kenora area with River Air, in the Sioux Lookout area with Slate Falls Airways, and in Thunder Bay with Wilderness North.
- For roadside dark skies, try visiting Flood’s Landing outside of Cochrane.
- In Muskoka, visit the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve and stay at the Muskoka Bay Resort.
- In the Wawa area, view the night sky at Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park, and stay at the Northern Lights Motel and Chalet.
12. Living Skies
There are sunsets, and there are the evenings when wild Ontario skies come to life. Oftentimes, the most exceptional sunsets happen on the evenings you least expect. When clouds line the sky—but not so thick as to block the sun—here, at the edge of a lake, is where a split second can transform the gray clouds of evening into a pastel arrangement akin to a Group of Seven painting.
To experience wild sunsets in equally wild places, these parks are your places to visit.
- Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park
- Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
- Wabakimi Provincial Park
- Quetico Provincial Park
- French River Provincial Park
13. Moose Crossing
Crossing paths with a moose is very likely in the rivers, creeks, swamps and lakes across Ontario. Sometimes they block the way to a portage, other times they feed happily on aquatic vegetation. Regardless, the best way to see them is to keep quiet when travelling, though that might be hard in the moment when you spot one.
- View moose at Loch Island Lodge, located northeast of Wawa and northwest of Chapleau.
- View moose on a Missinaibi River canoe trip with MHO Adventures.
- Did you know two parks in Northern Ontario are home to caribou? To view them, visit Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Wabakimi Provincial Park.
14. Trumpeter Swans
The honking of trumpeter swans after winter is a sure sign that spring is in the air. Half a year later, their calls are a joy to hear with a backdrop of autumn foliage. Trumpeters mate for life so often you will see them in pairs, though sometimes they will appear in flocks of 10 or more.
- Experience a guided bird tour with Onshore Birding - Southern and Central Ontario
- Take a birding hike with Burrell Birding - Southern and Central Ontario
- Sign up for the Birding and Breakfast event at the Wye Marsh in May - Midland
15. Fall Colours
Eastern Ontario, especially in the Madawaska Highlands of the Ottawa Valley, is a region where the forests transform in the autumn with an explosion of colours. While these same hardwood trees are renowned for their maple syrup in the spring, they are the crown jewel of Ontario’s visual experience in the fall.
The best way to experience the fall season in Eastern Ontario is to stay in the heart of the Ottawa Valley and explore its roads, trails and waterways. The following lodges are great basecamps for your fall tour.