Family Friendly Backcountry Destinations

When my family goes on a canoeing trip I usually bring a lot more stuff than I would otherwise, and when I bring little kids I expect them to carry a lot less than me. That’s why I want to go canoeing to a lake that is a short paddle away, with at most one or two portages. As an added bonus, I look for a lake that doesn’t allow motorboats so it’s more quiet and the water doesn’t taste like motor oil. My ideal campsite should have a jumping rock or beach nearby, which happens very often with lakes on the Canadian Shield in Central and Northern Ontario.


My favorite lakes with all of the above are located in Killarney, Massasauga, Kawartha Highlands, Frontenac and Algonquin Park, but I’m always exploring new regions and finding new places that I love.

Here is a list of some of the lakes that meet this criteria:


  • Access #1: George Lake, Killarney Lake (P80, P380)
  • Access #2: Kakakise Lake (P940) or Norway Lake (P940, P1470), and possible loop with Killarney Lake
  • Access #3: Clearsilver Lake (P830)
  • Access #4: Balsam Lake (P30), David Lake (P745, P200), Grey Lake (P595), Little Bell (P30, P135), Loop Balsam and David.
  • Access #5, 6: Avoiding this area due to boat traffic on Panache and surrounding lakes
  • Access #7: Murray Lake (P210), Nellie Lake (P210, P1470), Grace Lake (P1745) (As a loop do counter clockwise as portages are uphill when done clockwise)
  • Access #G1: You can park at G1, and go out of the park to Philip Edward Island. After crossing the Western Entrance, there are several camping spots along the South West part of the Island. The waters of Georgian Bay can get rough so try to go on a calm day. Once you cross the Western Entrance, the water is less rough if you stay close to the island.


  • Oastler Access Point: The closer sites on Spider Lake (P370), or the ones on Canoe Lake (P370, P540) are great, whereas Vicary Lake (P370, P500, P90) is too far to do in one day for us.
  • Pete’s Place Access Point: Conger Lake (P405), Blackstone Harbour at campsite 508, 509 are sheltered from boat traffic, or Little Blackstone Lake (P930). Note that the water at Blackstone Harbor can be quite rough and dangerous to leave from in a canoe if the winds are up, which happens often near Georgian Bay.

Frontenac 1

  • Big Salmon Lake Access: Little Salmon Lake (P974), Little Clear Lake (P923) (Loop with Big Salmon Lake) Big Salmon Lake allows electric motors.
  • South Otter Lake (Park Office) Access: Doe Lake (P341)

Kawartha Highlands2

Motor boats are allowed on most lakes in Kawartha Highlands 2, and some lakes have a lot of cottages on them. However, these two lakes don’t allow motorboats and are one portage away:

  • Cold Lake Access (6): Cloudy Lake (P1559)
  • Bottle Lake Access (7): Sucker Lake (P80)

Queen Elizabeth Two Wildlands 3

  • Devils Lake (D1, G1, L1) Access: Sheldon Lake (P1400), Lutterworth Creek (P125, P20)
  • Head Lake (H1, H2, H3) Access: Fishog Lake (P100), Head River, Smudge Creek, Crooked Lake (P100, P40, P180, P35)
  • Moore’s Falls (M1, G2, G3) Access: Scrabble Lake (P500, P1800), Sheldon Lake (P1200)

Algonquin Park

  • Access #1: North Tea Lake (P65, P135) allows motor boats. Outfitter provides a field for camping upon late arrival. Kmog L and North Tea L. can get very windy and difficult to paddle.
  • Access #1b: Craig Lake (P200, P345) 1.5 hr approach to a quiet lake
  • Access #2: Tim Lake, Rosebary Lake (P120)
  • Access #3: Hambone Lake (P135), Daisy Lake (P135, P420), Ralph Bice Lake (P135, P295) can do a loop with an extra P1455. Also Magetawan Lake, and Little Eagle Lake (P340)
  • Access #4: Sawyer Lake (P310), Islet Lake (P700, P455), McCraney Lake (P1880)
  • Access #6: Ragged Lake and Parkside Bay via Ragged Bay (P240), Little Island Lake via Kootchie Bay (P895, P255)
  • Access #8: Hillard Lake (P760), Head Lake (P1640), Kenneth Lake (P1640, P290)
  • Access A41: Provoking Lake (P960) three backpacking campsites can be reserved by canoeists.
  • Access A43: Sunday Lake, Sproule Lake (P480)
  • Access #34: Cannisbay – Great for a first backcountry trip, Polly’s Lake (P2600!), Linda’s Lake (P2600, P930)
  • Access #9: Penn Lake (P375), Clydegale Lake (P375, P275), Lake Louisa (P3000!) Alas lake Louisa is beautiful.
  • Access #10: (Currently Closed, Use Access #12) Norway Lake, Fork Lake
  • Access #11: Lake Opeongo, Annie Bay, Opeongo North Arm, Opeongo East Arm
  • Access #12: Pinetree L (P2010!)
  • Access #13: Prottler’s Lake (P1630!)
  • Access #14: Kimball’s Lake (P230, P320)
  • Access #14a: Rockaway (P320, P2745 – Portage is called Golden Staircase!)
  • Access #14b 4×4 required?: Dividing Lake (P80, P230, P105), Rockaway Lake (P80, P230, P965)
  • Access #15: Byer’s Lake (P1300, P650)
  • Access #16: Hay Lake (Has crown Land), Little Hay (P775), Cauliflower (P985), Lower Hay Crown Land
  • Access #17: Crotch Lake, Farm Lake, Shirley Lake (P1050), Booth Lake (P645), Oram Lake (P495)
  • Access Ap3, Ma2, B4: Bark Lake (Crown Land and Bell Bay Provincial Park, Chapleau Bay)
  • Access #19: Basin Lake
  • Access #20: Sec Lake
  • Access #21: MacManus Lake, Smith River (P150)
  • Access #22 Archay: Clemow Lake (P905), Lower Spectacle Lake (P20, P90), Upper Spectacle Lake (P20, P90, P155), Stratton Lake, St Andrews Lake (P45), Berm Lake (P255)
  • Access #23: Travers, Petawawa River
  • Access #24: Big Bissett Lake, Little Lake (Crown Land)
  • Access #25: Wendigo L (Crown Land), Allan Lake (P180), North Depot Lake (P180, P250)
  • Access #26: North River Lake, Meganser Lake (P120)
  • Access #27:  Aura Lee Lake, Laurel Lake (P345), Petawawa River, Nipissing River
  • Access #27a (Brent Crater):  Tecumseh Lake (P1095)
  • Access #28: Brian Lake
  • Access #29 (Kiosk): Mink Lake (P635, P410), Lauder Lake (P1075)