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.

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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:

Killarney

  • 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.

Massasauga

  • 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)
  1. http://www.frontenacpark.ca/pages/campsites.html
  2. http://ontarioparks.com/english/planning_pdf/kawa/kawa-pmp-fig5-motorboat.pdf
  3. http://www.explorethebackcountry.com/#!qewmap/c5c4
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Dollar Store Camping Gear

Dollar stores are great places to buy camping gear. They’re cheap and disposable. No one will get upset if the stuff breaks or gets forgotten at the last campsite you visited. In the spring these stores unload all their gardening and water sports merchandise on us. I visited two big box dollar stores: Dollarama and Dollar Tree. I found that Dollar Tree had less merchandise but was cheaper because their prices only went to $1.25CAD. Whereas Dollarama now sells more merchandise because their top price is $3, but the same item seems to cost more at Dollarama. Here is a list of stuff I found either store that I think would be great to have while camping.

  1. Water bottles and snack containers Plastic water bottles and stack containers are always useful. Make sure they’re BPA free (Recycling code #5 is best), and that they close properly so they won’t leak inside your backpack. Water bottles and snack boxes

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Lyme Disease At Ontario Parks

If you’re camping with your family in Southern Ontario, or anywhere where there are migratory birds, you should be paying attention to the notices the Parks have about Lyme Disease. Lyme is a bacterial infection that is passed by deer ticks, and is largely spread by migratory bird. Although initially only found in Long Point and Point Pelee, Ontario, Health Canada says there are established blacklegged tick populations infected with Lyme disease at these parks1:

  1. Long Point Provincial Park
  2. Turkey Point Provincial Park
  3. Rondeau Provincial Park
  4. Pinery Provincial Park
  5. Rouge Valley
  6. Point Pelee National Park
  7. Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area
  8. Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area
  9. Thousand Islands National Park area.

Ducks at Presquile
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Camping in the Greater Toronto Area

The Greater Toronto Area is home to over 6 million people. There are five regions in the GTA: Halton, Peel, York, Durham and the City of Toronto. Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of camping in the area.

Halton Region

Halton Conservation Authority operates two campsites, Kelso and Rattlesnake Point. They are both located on the Bruce Trail and offer hiking. Both parks are very popular with rock climbers. Their campsites start at $50 per site and are located on grassy fields with little privacy. In addition, Kelso has a beach, canoe rentals, and mountain biking trails.

Rattlesnake Point

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Camping on the Grand River

When people think of the Grand River, they probably think of the Elora Gorge. A very popular destination for hiking. The Grand River is a Canadian Heritage River, and runs from Highway 89 south through Guelph, Waterloo, and ends in Lake Erie.

A great way to visit the Grand River is to camp at one of the eight conservation areas, at the Rock Point Provincial Park, or at one of the many private campgrounds located along the river. It’s also possible to paddle portions of the Grand, but that’s beyond what you’d want to do when camping with your family.

The Grand River Conservation Authority has eight Conservation Areas that offer overnight camping. Most offer excellent recreation opportunities during the summer.

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Winter Yurt camping at Pinery

We did it. We went winter camping to Pinery Provincial Park. We stayed in a Yurt, and even though it was the last day of winter it was as close as we’re going to get with a five year old. There were two other families with small kids staying at the park, a few families with older kids, and the rest were teen and college kids. The college kids played music in their car for everyone to hear throughout the day. I think at one point I heard Rage Against the Machine.

Winter camping at Riverside Pinery PP

Pinery Provincial Park is located on the shores of Lake Huron north of Sarnia. It’s one of the most popular Ontario Parks. With 600 campsites, it can be rather busy during the summer. When we arrived at the end of March Break, the snow was melting and all the winter activities were finished. More than half the park was closed, and there wasn’t much to do except for go on hikes and visit the Visitor Center. After being indoors all winter, it was very nice to spend time outdoors, sit around the campfire and relax.

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Camping near Long Point, Ontario

Whether it’s swimming on the shores of Lake Erie or fishing in on the the lakes that feed into the lake, you don’t have to go far with your family to enjoy the outdoors. Many of these parks offer seasonal and daily camping, and have either a swimming pool or a lake to swim in.

Long Point Conservation Authority

The Long Point conservation authority is located north of Lake Erie near Long Point, and manages conservations areas, including five that have overnight camping. You can reserve campsites online through their reservation system for the summer months.

Long Point Reservation System

Long Point – Backus Heritage Conservation Area
Located near Long Point north of Lake Erie, the park has more than 160 campsites spread over five campground areas. Campgrounds C and D are located close to everything including the swimming pool and the playground. The park has about 15 historic buildings and antique farm equipment in Backus Heritage Village. Brackus Heritage ParkBrackus Heritage Park

Long Point – Deer Creek Conservation Area

This conservation are is located on the Deer Creek Reservoir. It has 40 campsites, and a day use swimming area. It’s a great place for fishing. You can rent a canoe

Deer Creek

Long Point – Haldimand Conservation Area

On the shores of Lake Erie, with 230 campsites and access to the lake for swimming.

Long Point – Norfolk Conservation Area

This park is situated on 46 acres along the Lake Erie shoreline with beach access and unsupervised swimming. It has more than 160 campsites, including 98 with electrical service, a tent-only area and areas for youth group camping.

Long Point – Waterford North Conservation Area

The park’s 3 ponds are great for fishing. It has 100 unserviced campsites, along with a food concession booth, shady picnic areas, canoe rentals, a small sandy beach with an unsupervised swimming area.

Waterford North Conservation Area

Ontario Provincial Parks

Long Point Provincial Park

Long Point

Long Point has over 2 km of soft sand and warm water on the shores of Lake Erie. Since there are no lifeguards present on the beach, and Lake Erie has an undertow, stay close to your children while swimming.

More than 300 bird and waterfowl migrate to the area during the year. There is excellent fishing and boating opportunities in the sheltered march of Long Point Bay. There is no Nature Education program for children but they do offer seasonal learning opportunities. Long Point offers an off-leash dog exercise/beach area located at the west end of the day-use beach.

Long Point is not a busy park during the summer compared to Sandbanks or Pinery, but it also doesn’t offer as many activities for kids. There are plenty of places you can do day trips in the vicinity while you are at Long Point. You can visit other Ontario Parks for free during your stay with your vehicle permit.

Port Burwell Provincial Park

Port Burwell Beach

Port Burwell is not far from Long Point, has a nice 2.5 km sandy beach and great kids programs every day during the summer. The park boasts large trees lots for camping and exceptional play areas for kids. There is great fishing and a warm climate for Ontario makes this a great choice to extend the camping season in the spring and fall. There are many opportunities to watch birds migrating, including an annual Hawk watching program in the fall.

Selkirk Provincial Park

Selkirk is a quiet campground with grassed campsites. They offer monthly camping options as well. There is a small beach, and several canoeing opportunities both within and outside the park.

Turkey Point Provincial Park

Turkey Point

Turkey Point offers a variety of campsites in three campground areas including a number of larger pull through sites. 20 of the sites are radio-free. There is a beach, a golf course, and a large marina nearby where you can rent Sea-Doos.  There are nearby mountain biking trails as well. The park offers children’s programs and special events on July and August weekends.

Other Private Parks

Woodland RV Park

Woodland RV Park is located close to Turkey Point. It is privately owned, and offers overnight & seasonal sites, a games room, a heated pool, a children’s playground and a fire pit. Their website is here and their brochure can be downloaded from here.  Their overnight camping rates are $33.90 per night for an unserviced site.

Hidden Valley RV Resort

A member of the Carefree RV resorts, Hidden Valley is located near Turkey point and offers both seasonal and overnight camping. Overnight camping starts at $46 per night. They have two swimming pools, and plenty of on site activities including go-cart rentals and two playgrounds. One drawback is the overnight campsites are far away from the swimming pool, but they offer more privacy than the seasonal sites.

Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival

When the European Settlers arrived in Canada they learned about the native people’s way of making sugar from the sap that pours out of a maple tree every spring. They emulated this but brought with them metal so they were able to innovate on their methods to bring down the time required for the process.

Bronte Creek 200 year old tree with sap

On the last day of March Break this year, we stopped at Bronte Creek to check out their Maple Syrup Festival. It was the middle of March and the sap was still running from the trees. The first thing we did was join the Interpretive Walk that shows us the Maple Syrup making innovations.

Bronte Creek - Native people's method The first step in the tour showed us how they tapped into the tree and put a bucket in to catch the maple syrup running out of the tree. Then there was a station that had the native people’s method on display. They had a campfire where they warmed up rocks. There was a log that was hollowed out that had the sap in it. Using two stick carefully they dumped the rock from the campfire to the log to heat the sap. It took 48 hours to turn the sap into maple syrup using this method.

The walk taught us that with each innovation, the time to make maple syrup was halved, with the ultimate time being 6 hrs to get it from sap to syrup. There was no syrup or sap to taste on the tour, unlike at the Kortright Conservation Area, where we went a few years ago.

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Parks Canada Campgrounds in Ontario

Parks Canada has five campgrounds in Ontario. Two of them are only accessible by boat or water taxi. Another two offer new oTENTik accommodations on Canadian owned waterways. Then there is the amazing Cyprus Lake campground on the Bruce Peninsula. I’m going to describe these Parks Canada Parks. Parks Canada in OntarioNote that reservations for all Parks Canada sites in Ontario begin on Friday April 10, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. EDT. Rather than the Ontario Parks reservation system that has a rolling reservation date of five months in advance, you can reserve all Parks Canada campsites in Ontario on April 10. Other areas of Canada have different registration dates with Parks Canada.

Bruce Peninsula National Park – Cyprus Lake

Cyprus Lake

Cyprus Lake, Bruce Peninsula

Cyprus Lake, on the Bruce Peninsula, is a popular family camping destination. There are three campgrounds situation next to Cyprus Lake, and there is a path that goes around the lake. Cyprus Lake is a warm shallow lake with swimming canoeing and hiking.There are two beaches on Cyrpus Lake but they are very narrow, and you can rent canoes and paddle on the lake. There are also two nearby lakes you can also paddle on.

Indian Head Cove

Indian Head Cove

The real attraction near Cyprus Lake is the Grotto and Indian Head Cove on the Bruce Trail located next to the aqua-blue waters of Georgian Bay. The Grotto is a system of caves that you can swim in. Indian Head Cove is a popular rocky beach with cliffs all around it, and the water is usually very cold. Despite the cold water, the beach is a very popular for families during the summer. It’s about a five minute walk along the Bruce Trail between the two, but the trail there is very rugged with lots of boulders and rocks to walk around. Continue reading

50 Camping Activities for Kids

Here are some great ideas that you can do with your kids while you are camping. Please be responsible and watch your kids at all times, especially when they are near the water.

Swimming at Cannisbay Beach

  1. Go swimming at the beach
  2. Sleep in a tent
  3. Bring a friend camping
  4. Build a sand castle
  5. Paddle a canoe or kayak20140801-iphone-5087
  6. Go fishing
  7. Jump off a rock into the water
  8. Explore a cave
  9. Skip rocks into the water
  10. Go on a treasure hunt
  11. Watch a sunrise or sunset
  12. Find a geocache
  13. Build a fort or shelter
  14. Find and follow animal tracksFollow animal tracks
  15. Go star gazing
  16. Go on a night hike or candlelight walk
  17. Climb a rock
  18. Climb a tree
  19. Roll down a hill
  20. Walk around taking pictures
  21. Catch bugs for a bug jar
  22. Fly a kite
  23. Build a campfire
  24. Make s’mores on the campfire
  25. Start a campfire without matches
  26. Touch a snake, frog, or caterpillarFind a frog
  27. Look under a dead log
  28. Start a rock collection
  29. Make a walking stick
  30. Paint a rock
  31. Make a nature collage
  32. Sketch or paint the landscape
  33. Write poetry about nature
  34. Find leaves and identify the trees
  35. Do leaf rubbings
  36. Keep a bird sighting logbookFinding a feather at Killarney
  37. Make wood slice magnets
  38. Make a dandelion mud pie
  39. Eat wild mint, ginger or berries
  40. Make tea out of edible plants
  41. Look through a magnifying glass or binoculars
  42. Use a map and compass
  43. Learn to identify clouds
  44. Play cards or board games
  45. Sing songs
  46. Make pottery out of clay you find on the beach
  47. Attend a Pow-wow
  48. Sleep under the stars or in a hammock
  49. Help clean up a trail or portage
  50. Sit down, close your eyes and listen