Make Ontario Your Playground: Top 5 Wilderness Escapes

When I say Canadian wilderness, you probably picture the Rocky Mountains or Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. Despite Ontario’s flat landscape, there’s so much to explore. If you love lakes, forests, road-trips, and wildlife, here are five of the best outdoor escapes in Ontario.


Photo © iStock/GROGL

Algonquin National Park

Perhaps the best known National Park in Ontario, Algonquin is over 7,500km2 and filled with forests, rivers, lakes and dozens of trails. The best part? It’s only a few hours’ drive from both Ottawa and Toronto, and its sheer size means you’ll probably want to stay for at least a whole weekend.

The park is accessible year-round, with everything from whitewater rafting in the spring and dog sledding and snowshoeing in the winter.

For hikers, there are small trails perfect for day-hikes, as well as multi-day trails such as the Western Uplands Trail which is 55mi (88km). As one of the larger parks, it’s also home to plenty of Canadian wildlife, so keep your eyes open for moose and bears.

Hiking during fall in Algonquin Provincial park. Photo credit: iStock

Discover Georgian Bay & Surrounds

The Georgian Bay area is without a doubt one of the most picturesque wilderness areas in Ontario. Georgian Bay is part of Lake Huron and has over 30,000 islands and 1,243mi (2,000km) of shoreline.

On the shores around the lake you can find two popular parks: Killarney Provincial Park and Bruce Peninsula National Park, as well as Wasaga Beach.

People swimming at Tobermory, Bruce Peninsula National Park. Photo credit: iStock

This area has it all! Hiking and cycling trails of varying lengths, beautiful water for swimming, canoeing or kayaking, and plenty of wildlife. Georgian Bay also has a number of old shipwrecks, making it an awesome place for freshwater scuba diving.

It’s also a great spot for road-trips: the Georgian Bay Coastal Route is usually done in 7-15 days depending on your stops.

Parts of Georgian Bay freeze over in winter. Photo credit: iStock

Lake Superior Provincial Park

Given its northern location, Lake Superior is well off the beaten track for most visitors. But, as the largest lake in the world, it has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

It’s easy to spend days exploring the lakes, forests, hills, and waterfalls of this park. However, those short on time can also have a great experience with a 52mi (83km) road-trip through the park via the Trans-Canada Highway.

Canoeing and hiking are two of the top activities here, both of which can be done as a daily activity, or as a week-long voyage.

Lake Superior, Ontario. Photo credit: iStock

Niagara Parks

No doubt you have heard of the famous Niagara Falls, and while they are a must-see, the whole area is great to explore and easily accessible for visitors on a day trip.

There are 9mi (15km) of hiking footpaths, bouldering opportunities in the Niagara Glen, and a 33mi (53km) cycling trail along the Niagara River.

Horseshoe Falls, Niagra Falls, Ontario. Photo credit: iStock

Point Pelee National Park

Point Pelee, on Lake Erie, is about 70% marshland and about 30% forest. Like the other parks, it’s great for hiking, cycling, and canoeing. But, the highlight here is the wildlife, specifically two annual events.

Point Pelee is best known for bird watching, especially during the spring migration. The area is actually nicknamed the ‘Warbler Capital of Canada’.

Another incredible experience is to see the monarch butterfly migration in the fall, as Point Pelee is part of their migratory route.

Sunset at the marsh boardwalk at Point Pelee. Photo credit: iStock

No matter what time of year you visit, Ontario’s wilderness offers adventure for anyone wanting to experience the Canadian outdoors.

Want to know more about Canada? Check out our podcast. We discuss when a traveler becomes a snack; the perils of wilderness adventure, a culinary tour of the provinces for foodies, and we speak to World Nomads photography scholarship mentor Richard I'Anson.

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