Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Explore Northwestern Ontario's Unforgettable Driving Route

Are you planning a cross-province adventure? Review the Driving Routes in Ontario Parks.

Thinking about taking a road trip in Northwestern Ontario?

Welcome to the land of the sunset! This circular driving route will take you to some of your favorite provincial parks or allow you to discover new ones. Enjoy days of hiking, fishing and paddling through iconic Canadian landscapes.


Parks along this route:

Ten northwest parks are featured. We’ve designed the trip as if it starts from Winnipeg, but you can easily start this route from Thunder Bay or any community in between!

To truly explore these parks and spend a night in each, we recommend an eleven-day trip. Each park offers a selection of campsites for both tents and trailers.

We hope you visit them all, but if you have limited time, the must-see parks along the route are designated with an *.

Stop #1: Blue Lake Provincial Park*

Open until September 17, 2023


Driving time: Begin your trip from Winnipeg to Blue Lake via Highway 1 (Manitoba) and Highways 17 and 647 (Ontario) to the park. The trip takes approximately 3.5 hours.

From Kenora, the trip takes approximately one hour and fifteen minutes on Highway 17.

The park: Whether you’re watching the waves, hiking the park’s trails, or paddling, the crystal-clear waters of Blue Lake will amaze you. There’s a reason they call northwestern Ontario “sunset country.” You’ll see some of the most stunning sunsets at Blue Lake. Grab a lawn chair, a blanket and enjoy the night view from the park’s long sandy beach.

Blue Lake offers five RV rentals that sleep up to six people and feature a stove, refrigerator, heater, air conditioning, dinette, couch, running drinking water, a functional shower, and tents for outdoor dining. Remember to bring your own kitchen utensils, dishes, utensils and linens.

Side Tour: Pakwash Provincial Park

Open until September 17, 2023

Campfire at the campsite at sunset

the disc: Take a trip to Pakwash by taking Highway 647 back to Highway 105 North. The trip takes approximately 1.5 hours.

The park: Secluded and serene, this park offers a sandy beach and warm, shallow waters.

Known for excellent fishing, expect to catch a walleye, northern pike, or lake trout, then use the conveniently located fishing cleaning station with lights, running water, and filleting tables. If you prefer paddling, Pakwash Lake offers a gateway to the canoe routes of the north.

Relax at night in your private campsite, located in a small 50-place campsite. Some campsites are located away from the main campground and have their own beachfront view.

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Stop #2: Aaron Provincial Park

Open until September 17, 2023

sunset over the lake

Driving time: Return to Highway 17 and travel east toward the town of Dryden. It’s a 50 minute drive from Blue Lake to Aaron.

The park: Aaron is conveniently located directly on the Trans-Canada Highway on the east side of Dryden, making it a perfect location for those traveling cross-country and on circular routes.

Eastern white cedars line the park’s paths and are home to the many species of birds that frequent the park. Visit the two sandy beaches and watch for migrating waterfowl or take the short hiking trails through the park’s boreal forest. Launch your boat onto Thunder Lake to try fishing for pike, walleye, and lake trout.

Excursion: Ojibway Provincial Park

Open until September 4, 2023

pier and docks

the disc: Take a detour onto Highway 17 and turn left onto Highway 72 until you reach Ojibway Provincial Park. The trip will take approximately 30 minutes.

The park: Retreat to Lake Vermillion, where a sandy beach and fantastic swimming await!

Walk one of its six trails, many of which offer interpretive signs to introduce you to the variety of species seen throughout the park.

The lakes in and around the park are stocked with pike, walleye, bass, and lake trout. Next to the north jetty is a fish cleaning station, with running water and filleting tables. You can catch huge smallmouth bass right from the dock!

Swimming, boating, and hiking are all within easy reach of this scenic campground, which has fewer than 50 sites, half of which offer electricity.

Stop #3: Sandbar Lake Provincial Park


A sandy beach jutting into the water off a forested coastline.

Driving time: Head east on Highway 17, then take Highway 599 north to Sandbar Lake. This trip will take around one hour and ten minutes.

The park: This small campground allows you to camp among 300-year-old red and white pine trees. The sandy beach in the day-use area has a gradual drop-off, making it a great swimming spot for families. Bring a chair to relax, sunbathe, and read a good book while watching shorebirds at the water’s edge.

For the more adventurous, the park’s pier allows fishermen and paddlers access to the lake.

Stop #4: Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park*

Open until October 10, 2023

A large, dizzying waterfall seen through trees with leaves that change color.  The sun sets in the distance.

Driving time: Continue southeast on Highway 17 for approximately 2.5 hours.

The park: At 40m high, Kakabeka Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Ontario. The park offers great views from an accessible boardwalk that circles the top of the falls. Waterfall viewing is available year-round. Explore the historic Mountain Portage Trail that took early travelers and travelers around the falls or seek out Little Falls along a moderately more difficult trail.

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Just a 30-minute drive from Thunder Bay, Kakabeka Falls is a great basecamp for exploring all the amenities the city has to offer. After relaxing and touring the area, you’ll be ready to begin the western portion of your trip.

Stop #5: Quetico Provincial Park*Dawson Trail Campground

Open until October 10, 2023

Northern lights over the lake

Driving time: From Kakabeka Falls, follow Highway 11-17 west, then take Highway 11 west to Quetico. This leg of the trip will take approximately one hour and 20 minutes.

The park: Here you will find yourself on the edge of this iconic wilderness canoeing park. The camp is surrounded by 35 km of trails that will expose you to pine and spruce forests, picturesque lakes and rivers, and their biodiversity. After the sun sets, enjoy the dark skies at French Lake and, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights.

Three rustic cabins are available year-round and are very popular. The best availability for cabin reservations is between mid-October and May.

Quetico is recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

Stop #6: Caliper Lake Provincial Park

Open until October 2, 2023

Autumn walk through the forest surrounded by rocks.

Driving time: Head west on Highway 11, then north on Highway 17 to reach Caliper Lake. This section will take you about three hours.

The park: Caliper Lake is one of our secret gems. Camp amidst stunning stands of old-growth red and white pines. Test your bird watching skills or try your luck fishing for pike, walleye, or smallmouth bass in the lake.

Book one of eight picturesque walk-in campsites along the lakefront for a little more privacy.

Stop #7: Sioux Narrows Provincial Park

Open until October 2, 2023

cliff with fall colors

Driving time: Follow Highway 71 north for about 45 minutes.

The park: Situated along the shore of Lake of the Woods on the edge of the Canadian Shield, bedrock outcroppings and towering white pines make each campground special. This small park also has eight walk-in campsites.

Lake lovers can enjoy recreational opportunities such as boating, swimming, sailing and canoeing right around the corner. The lake is known for walleye and bass fishing, so bring your fishing gear! Or check out the park’s short, easy hiking trails.

Stop #8: Rushing River Provincial Park*

Open until October 10, 2023

fall walk on stairs through the forest

Driving time: Take Highway 71 north for about 40 minutes to Rushing River.

The park: Camp among the erratic rocks of the glaciers and stretch your legs on several hiking trails in the park. Do you love water? Relax on the beach, rent a kayak, or try fishing at Dogtooth Lake.

Looking for cozy camping comfort? Our RV rentals offer similar amenities to Blue Lakes (no indoor shower or outdoor dining tents), but some are dog-friendly. Bring your own cookware, dishes/utensils, and linens and you’ll be ready to enjoy the season in comfort.

After visiting Rushing River, take Highway 17 for approximately two hours and 45 minutes to return to Winnipeg.

It’s time to discover what makes this region so special.

A small green and white trailer attached to a silver SUV in a campground parking lot.

Total driving time for the entire trip, including side trips: 21 hours + travel time from your community (1561 km).

Total driving time for the trip without detours: 14 hours + travel time from your community (1,226 km).

Estimated trip duration (full route): 11 days

Book your trip online!