Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park delivers bucket-list-worthy backcountry paddling and fishing adventures.

Ontario’s very first designated wilderness class park, Quetico features over 2,000 interconnected lakes within 460,000 hectares of remote backcountry. A maintained system of portages throughout the park allow for extended week-long routes.

Quetico Provincial Park is about two hours’ drive west of Thunder Bay in Northwest Ontario. The park extends from the Trans Canada Highway 11 south to the Minnesota border.

Backcountry wilderness canoeing and portaging doesn’t get any better so it’s fitting that Atikokan, the closest community and gateway to the park, is known as the ‘canoeing capital of Canada’.

Part of its wilderness class designation is due to the park’s commitment to low impact canoeing and camping. This means that although there are over 2,200 backcountry campsites within the park, they do not include any services, facilities or signage. The leave-no-trace camping code is strongly encouraged. Take everything you brought in, back out with you. Minimize campfire impact, respect the wildlife and leave the environment as you found it. 

As every seasoned paddler and camper knows, a backcountry wilderness expedition requires a great deal of planning, proper gear and equipment, outdoor experience, skill and boatloads of sheer grit.

Unpredictable weather, rigorous paddling, uncomfortable campsites and the ever present mosquitoes are just a few of the minor inconveniences. Accidents, injuries and isolation are the serious concerns. This is not for beginner paddlers, novice campers or anyone new to the outdoors.

But the reward is worth the effort in Quetico. You’ll be awed by the breathtaking rugged beauty of the deep pine and spruce forests, clean, refreshing waters, stunning waterfalls and rapids and rocky cliffs and shorelines. 

You may happen upon Indigenous pictographs, sacred to the Anishinaabe People. Or witness wildlife in their natural habitat. The park is home to all of Ontario’s usual mammal suspects including moose, wolves, bears, deer and foxes, as well as some of the rarer residents like bobcats and lynxes. And look for nesting osprey and bald eagles in the summer. 

The natural wonders continue after the sun goes down. Due to the minimal artificial light, Quetico has been designated a dark sky area. Look up and marvel at the vast, twinkling sky, clear moon, shooting stars and a good chance of seeing the northern lights dance across the heavens.

If you’re lucky, you might land a walleye, lake trout, northern pike or smallmouth bass for your shore lunch. Quetico’s lakes and rivers are teeming with a variety of freshwater fish, just make sure to get the proper fishing licence in advance. 

For up-to-date information and details on Quetico Provincial Park, we recommend you visit Ontario Parks’ website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.

A couple and their dog in a canoe paddle across a quiet lake

Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date information on where and when it is safe to travel please visit: covid-19.ontario.ca

More about Quetico Provincial Park

In addition to the extensive backcountry adventure, Quetico does offer options for those less experienced in outdoor pursuits.

In the northeast corner of the park on French Lake, Dawson Trail Campground features over 100 drive-in campsites, some with electrical hookups for RVs and trailers, as well as water taps, toilet, shower and laundry facilities, picnic areas and lake access. 

If you’re looking for a little more privacy, there are several more remote sites on Pickerel Lake that will require hike-in access along the Pines Trail from Dawson Trail Campground. 

Finally, if you prefer a roof over your head at night, consider one of the three rustic cabins. The Log Cabin at Dawson Trail Campground and the Ojibwa Cabin at Ojibwa Campground are available year round, while the Art Studio Winter Retreat is open October to April. 

However you choose to stay, you’ll have access to extensive hiking, cross-country and snowshoeing trails, endless canoeing and kayaking routes, and the very best swimming, fishing and nature viewing opportunities. 

Whether you’re experienced or new to Ontario’s great outdoors, one of the best ways to explore the park is with an expert. Voyageur Wilderness is a three-generation family of outfitters and guides in Quetico Provincial Park. Based out of Atikokan, they offer a host of guided paddling and overnight eco-adventure package options. 

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