This blog comes from David Legros, natural heritage education specialist at Algonquin Provincial Park and lover of backcountry camping.
There you are, standing on the rocky shore of a lake. A windswept pine tree lies behind you and a wild landscape in front of you. Welcome to backcountry camping!
Backcountry camping is perhaps the best way to truly experience a wild place. No services, very few people and far from the road, lights and crowds. It’s just you and the moaning of the loon. Sounds great, right?
Well, if you are new to the world of backcountry camping, this may seem intimidating. After all, the thought of paddling deep into unknown territory and then carrying everything you brought on your back (including the canoe!) can be scary. You’ll repeat these transports maybe half a dozen times just to get to your camp.
If this doesn’t sound to your liking, you have options! Many parks that offer backcountry camping have some hidden and not-so-hidden gems.
At Algonquin, you can try backcountry camping without having to haul anything.
To transport or not to transport?
Here are some reasons why you might want to try backcountry camping without transportation:
- It’s great for people who are new to the activity.
- You don’t have to worry about the fitness level involved in transportation while carrying everything
- You have the psychological comfort of knowing that you haven’t gone too far inside. In case something goes wrong, you can leave knowing that you don’t have a day of travel ahead of you.
- You can introduce it to young children without going too far or worrying about carrying too much equipment (you don’t have to carry it!)
- You can avoid traveling over or around rapids.
- A helpful tip: set up camp somewhere without transportation and use this location as a base of operations. You’ll then be able to explore beyond the next transport for day trips with just the essential gear.
Simple Places in Algonquin
Alright, where should you go?
Here we have compiled the access points without transport and for off-road vehicles. Please note that some of these are quite remote to begin with, so consult a map before planning your trip.
Some of these are right along Algonquin’s busy Highway 60 corridor, so amenities like shops, flushing showers and toilets, and visitor centers are more accessible. You won’t have any of this in the field!
Using your canoe trail map, check out the numbered access points and use them to plan your trip without transportation.
Access Point 3 – Lake Magnetawan, 4 campsites
Access Point 4 – Rain Lake, 14 campsites
Access Point 8 – Cache Lake. There are no campsites on Cache Lake, but you can paddle west across the lake to reach the sound. From here you will enter Lake Tanamakoon which has 6 campsites. Located next to Highway 60.
Access Point 9 – Rock Lake, 18 campsites. Southern access to Highway 60.
Access Point 10 – Spruce Bog Boardwalk. This access point requires a short shuttle, but it’s still listed because the only shuttle you need to do is from your car to the water (~100m). From here, you will paddle south along Sunday Creek to access Norway Lake (2 sites) and Fork Lake (2 sites). Located next to Highway 60.
Access Point 13 – Lake Galeary. This access point to Algonquin is located outside the park, in the town of Whitney. Paddle west to access all 19 campsites. Motor boats are allowed on Lake Galeairy, so use caution. Located next to Highway 60.
Access Point 17 – Shall Lake. A couple of lakes are accessible here: Crotch Lake (11 sites) and Farm Lake (6 sites).
Access Point 20 – Lake Sec, 18 campsites.
Access Point 21 – McManus. At the lower end of Petawawa you will find 5 campsites. You cannot paddle down the river on this lake, as you will end up at a Canadian Forces military base.
Access Point 23 – Travers Lake, 21 campsites.
Access Point 27 – Cedar Lake, 26 campsites.
Access Point 29 – Kiosk, 20 campsites.
Preparing your trip
Now the difficult part is choosing where you want to start your journey. Did you know you can now book backcountry sites online?
Paddling sites allow you to spend time enjoying your trip at the campground much sooner than traveling far beyond your starting point. Keep in mind that many hotspots are popular, so you may see quite a few people walking past you. Also, because they are easily accessible, there may be competition for sites, so book early!
The carrying ban means you can bring things you wouldn’t normally bring, such as extra or heavy equipment, cast iron cookware, bulky coolers, or a bag of firewood. There are things you can’t bring to the field.
Don’t forget the rules!
Remember that all backcountry rules and regulations apply here as well.
No bottles or cans allowed. These create non-combustible trash and people are less likely to carry them out. This may require a little more planning when preparing meals.
Live baitfish are not permitted. You should also store your food properly to prevent bears and other wildlife from accessing it.
Remember: just because you haven’t traveled inland doesn’t mean you won’t find adventure! Even short trips inside the park can awaken your love of nature and inspire you to continue exploring.
This type of trip can be like training wheels for someone new to the camp, or a great way to reconnect a camper with an activity they enjoyed in the past.