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A Guide To Canoe Tripping In Killarney

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A Guide To Canoe Tripping In Killarney

Catch a sunset on Killarney Lake • Credit: Sarah Furchner // @SarahFurch

So stunning you’ll wonder why you didn’t visit sooner

Choose from five canoe routes that’ll take you to some of the most beautiful lakes, campsites and views in the park.



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Killarney Provincial Park is absolutely stunning. There’s no other landscape like it in Ontario, with its aqua blue lakes surrounded by the white quartzite hills of the La Cloche mountain range. And although the beauty of the inland waters will be enough to blow you away, as a bonus there’s the neighbouring waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron to explore, too.

The park is situated in the near-north, just southwest of Sudbury, and about a five-hour drive from Toronto. Pitch a tent at the George Lake campground and go for a day hike on one of Killarney’s well-maintained and picturesque trails, or stuff all your gear into a pack and set out on the renowned 100-km La Cloche Silhouette backpacking trail. Truly, though, there’s no better way to take in the beauty of the park than from the seat of a canoe.

Killarney is a paddler’s paradise, accessible to first-timers and affording a variety of route options to experienced trippers. The main access to paddle the interior is from the park’s campground on George Lake, but there are other maintained access points to begin and end a trip as well. This Killarney Provincial Park canoe guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan your first trip to the park—and many more to come after that.

Best Killarney canoe routes 

Best 3-day canoe trips in Killarney 

To The Crack and back 

This is the ideal three-day, moderate level trip, taking you through some of the best lakes in the interior and finishing off with a view of your route from above with a hike up to The Crack. The access point is the campground on George Lake.

Bright red foliage on a tree on far shore across a lake
You’ll pass through Freeland Lake twice while on a canoe trip to The Crack and back. Source: Sarah Furchner // @SarahFurch

The first day’s route is across George, into Freeland Lake and then into Killarney Lake. There are two short portages, the one from Freeland to Killarney even offering a waterfall partway down the trail. There are plenty of campsites to choose from on Killarney Lake, all of which come with an incredible view of the southern La Cloche mountain range.

The second day leaves Killarney Lake by way of a portage on the lake’s northeastern arm into Norway Lake, followed by a second portage into Kakakise Lake. Both portages are over a kilometre long, but aren’t too rugged. Take your pick of two campsites on Kakakise for the night and rise early the next morning to hike up The Crack—a popular trail in the park that leads across white quartzite rock, through a massive crevasse (hence the trail name), and to a ridge overlooking Killarney and O.S.A. lakes.

Day hikers will access The Crack trail from the Hwy 637, but canoe trippers staying on Kakakise Lake can hop on partway with access at the northwest end of the lake, at the portage into Killarney Lake (don’t follow the portage, though; you’ll be heading north on The Crack trail, which is part of the much longer La Cloche Silhouette backpacking loop). This is a short but steep section of the trail, and the view at the top is incredible.

After the hike, paddle to the southwest end of Kakakise Lake and take the longish (almost 2-km-long) portage into Freeland, and then back into George Lake to finish.

A trip across the park 

Beautiful view across lake with clouds and sunset reflection
O.S.A. Lake is a favourite of many, with beauty every which way you look.  Source: Sarah Furchner Photography

This is a great and very unique way to paddle across Killarney. You begin in the town of Killarney itself, which turned 200 years old in 2020. Then, you get shuttled in a motorboat by Killarney Outfitters across the expanses of Killarney Bay and Frazer Bay, and into Baie Fine—all part of Georgian Bay. A series of short (but steep) portages link Baie Fine’s The Pool with Artist Lake, Muriel Lake, O.S.A. Lake and Killarney Lake. This was a favourite hangout for four members of the Group of Seven: Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson.

Two nights can be spent on either O.S.A. or Killarney lakes. You can then portage into Freeland and finally into George Lake, ending at the park’s campground.

Nellie Lake loop 

Nellie Lake is the highlight of this two- to three-day loop, as it’s completely hemmed in by the northern La Cloche mountain range and has water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. There are only three campsites on the lake, providing you with seclusion in this incredibly scenic part of the park.

Looking through clear turquoise water on a lake
Nellie Lake has waters so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Source: Sarah Furchner // @SarahFurch

Although this route doesn’t cover much distance, the portages are very steep and rugged. You’ll begin at the Widgawa Lodge on Charlton Lake, just off Hwy 6 and south of Espanola. The first day’s paddle is to Grace Lake by way of Frood and Cranberry lakes. The second is to Nellie, which is linked to Cranberry by one very strenuous portage.

The third day is downhill, thankfully, to Murray Lake, and then downstream on Howry Creek back to Charlton Lake and the lodge.

Best 5-day canoe trips in Killarney 

The North Range 

Canoe resting on shore of lake at sunset
Visit Fish Lake enroute to Great Mountain Lake. Source: Sarah Furchner Photography

The northern mountain range of Killarney has a subtle charm of its own. Here, the white quartz of the La Cloche blends with the mounds of pink granite typical of the near-north. Entering from the north is also the best way to access Great Mountain Lake—one of the most beautiful lakes in the park. If you try to access it from the south, you’ll have to endure some long and steep portages. From the north, however, you’ll have a series of short carries, and a leisurely five-day trip.

View of calm lake at sunset
Walker Lake is located in the northern part of the park. Source: Sarah Furchner Photography

The Penage Bay Marina is the best put-in and can be reached by way of Regional Road 55, off Hwy 17 west of Sudbury. From Regional Road 55, turn onto Panache Lake Road (County Road 10) and travel for 14 km to the marina. Paddle west from the access point and then south to the portage into Walker Lake, continuing on into Bear Lake. From Bear there are a series of short portages between Goose, Round Otter, Fish and Great Mountain lakes—the average portage length is a mere 300 m. Follow the same route back, or add on other lakes south of Panache if you like.

David Lake Loop—and climbing Silver Peak 

This easy loop can be paddled in two to three days, but a couple of days should be added on for climbing up to Silver Peak—the highest point of the La Cloche mountain range. Begin at the Bell Lake access point, located off Hwy 637 and east of the George Lake campground. The route runs counterclockwise through Three Mile Lake, Balsam Lake and David Lake.

You’ll hook up with the trail leading to Silver Peak from David Lake. Look for signs for the portage into Boundary Lake on the southwest side of the lake. Partway down the portage, you’ll meet the La Cloche Silhouette trail. Follow it east to find the trail junction where the climb up to Silver Peak begins. It’s a full-day hike, so leave early in the morning and bring plenty of water and snacks. You can see the majority of the park from the top, as well as the city of Sudbury.

The paddle back to the access point is through Clearsilver and Johnnie Lakes. All the portages on this route are less than a kilometre in length.

Killarney access points 

  • George Lake Campground: main access, located on the north side Hwy 637
  • Bell Lake Access: lesser used access located to the east of the George Lake campground, at the end of Bell Lake Road on the north side of Hwy 637
  • Penage Bay Marina: most northern access and rarely used, southwest of Sudbury
  • Widgawa Lodge: remote access on the northwest corner of the park, near the town of Espanola

Reservations 

Looking at the milky way over George Lake
The Milky Way above George Lake. Source: Sarah Furchner Photography

Reservations for the interior can be made online through the Ontario Parks website or by calling

1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275). Those living outside North America can call 519-826-5290. Take note that campsites fill up fast.

Killarney canoe rentals 

Killarney Outfitters 

Killarney Outfitters (1-888-222-3410), situated 6.5 km to the west of the George Lake campground, offers canoe, kayak and SUP rentals; camping equipment rentals; canoe trip, kayak trip and backpacking outfitting; and water taxi canoe and kayak shuttles. They’re also a great resource for assistance with trip planning. The store has a variety of outdoor gear for purchase should you need something before you head into the interior, as well as ice and firewood.

Killarney Kanoes 

Killarney Kanoes (1-888-461-4446), located at the Bell Lake access point, offers canoe and kayak rentals, as well as camping equipment rentals.

Guided Trips

Overhang Adventures

Overhang Adventures (1-844-683-7426) offers guided and outfitted 3-day and 4-day guided canoe and hiking trips into Killarney Provincial Park.

Canoe route maps 

Canoeist in bow of canoe paddling into misty sunrise
Located in the middle of the park, there’s no easy way to reach Three Narrows Lake—but the views are worth it if you do. Source: Sarah Furchner // @SarahFurch

Unlostify: Killarney Camping Map 

  • Available for download or order a printed version at the link above

Friends of Killarney Park: Backcountry Hiking and Canoe Route Map 

Killarney Kanoes: Map of Killarney Provincial Park 

  • Online-only map can be accessed at link above

While you’re there… 

Following are the top places to visit in the town of Killarney, before or after your Killarney canoe trip.

Kevin’s personal favourites in Killarney 

My first book was about Killarney. I was 27 years old at the time. Now I am 57 and have published 18 bestsellers. It’s been an amazing journey, one that I’m so glad began with this incredible gem we have in the province of Ontario. I recently did a trip across the park, to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the book (and the 200th anniversary of the town)—what a fantastic adventure.

Looking across a calm misty lake at dawn.
Grace Lake is one of Kevin’s (and the Group of Seven’s) favourite lakes in the park. Source: Sarah Furchner // @SarahFurch

As I made my way across the park, I was reminded of the places that hold the most magic for me. There are two distinct ranges in Killarney's La Cloche mountains. The southern range is where The Crack and Silver Peak are located. There are also stunning lakes in this area, such as O.S.A. and Killarney—where the park was initially formed. Then there's the northern range, stretched out across the top end of the park. This is my personal favourite of the two. The quartzite is more ragged looking, more rugged, more sheer. It's also blackened by ancient volcanic activity.

Sunshine lights up the fall colours on shore across a lake
The view on Murray Lake. Fall is a beautiful time to visit the park, for both the solitude and colours. Source: Sarah Furchner Photography

Members of the Group of Seven preferred this area of the park as well. Carmichael and Jackson camped regularly on Grace and Nellie lakes—two of my all-time favourite lakes to camp on. The views from the ridge tops are divine and the beauty the artists captured on canvas still remains.

The quartz hills, old-growth pine and oak, shimmering waters—it’s all just the same as when I first explored the park. On his first trip to Killarney, Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer is quoted as saying, “This place is a paradise.” He was right.

Plan your Trip Now

Killarney Provincial Park is absolutely stunning. There’s no other landscape like it in Ontario or the world. Whether you are a beginner or expert, Killarney is a must-do paddling destination.

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