Ontario may be best known for its canoe routes, but that doesn’t mean its trails should be overlooked by hikers.
Sure, its highest mountain is only 693 metres, paling in comparison to peaks found in Yukon, B.C. and Alberta—but Ontario boasts some of Canada’s longest trails, set in picturesque environments. After all, gentler landscapes offer multi-night hikers 100 km, 500 km and 800 km-plus trails. And just because you’re not in the alpine doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to look at. There’s the Lake Superior shoreline, dizzying escarpment, wetlands zig-zagged with boardwalks, exposed Canadian Shield, First Nations petroglyphs, old trappers’ cabins and so much more. Ontario is a huge province traced with many trails, but we’ve managed to shortlist 25 of our favourite hikes.
Before you set out in the backcountry:
As with any off-the-grid adventure, venturing into the backcounty can be dangerous. Then, factor in changing weather conditions, wildlife, strain, blisters and fatigue.
Rules for backcountry safety:
- Bring reliable communications: The trails listed below will lead you through areas of spotty-to-no cell coverage. (As Explore Editor David Webb discovered in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park last month!) SPOT Satellite GPS Messengers can send emergency responders your GPS coordinates so that you can easily be located in an emergency. It can also let family and friends know you’re OK when you just want to check in. Better safe than sorry.
- Pack proper gear, wear layers and reflective clothing. Carry survival equipment and know how to use it.
- Know when sunset is, especially when camping in the backcountry.
- Check the weather forecast in advance of departing.
- Never go alone and pick partners who have skills, fitness and experience.
- Overconfidence rarely serves hikers well. Be realistic about route planning and your fitness.
- Be wildlife aware. Know what to do in an encounter and how to properly store camp provisions that are animal attractants.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Parking? Leave a note with your contact information, emergency contact and expected return.
- New to multi-night hiking? Read our backpacker 101 article.
1. Pines Hiking Trail
Quetico Provincial Park
Total distance: 10 km
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Details: This trail is an extension of the Whiskey Jack Trail (a moderate trail, extending about 2.5 km) and offers sandy beaches surrounded by red and white pine trees. The trail is moderate with some steep climbs.
How do I get to the Pines Hiking Trail trailhead? You can access this trail from the Dawson Trail Campground, located on French Lake, in the northeast corner of the park.