Most folks who visit Algonquin enter Canada’s oldest provincial park along the famous Highway 60 corridor. With back country, campgrounds, trails and beaches just off this route, Highway 60 is the starting point for many an epic adventure here in the great Canadian wilderness. But if you seek a wilder and more rugged Algonquin, one less travelled by visitors and even more serene, consider heading north of Muskoka and accessing this national treasure through four more-westerly access points, all located in the beautiful Almaguin Highlands of Ontario.
“Algonquin Park west” is known for its pristine lakes and rivers that are excellent for both paddling and fishing. The four main access points are located at Kawawaymog Lake in South River (Access Point #1), Tim River in Kearney (Access Point #2), Magnetawan Lake in Kearney (Access Point #3) and Rain Lake in Kearney (Access Point #4).
Venture out for a paddle from any of these access points and you will most likely be rewarded with opportunities to see the park’s incredible wildlife, including beavers, otters, birds and moose in their natural habitat. When back country camping in this part of the park, it’s often possible to be alone on any given lake, surrounded only by the sounds of the wind in the trees and waves lapping the shore.
There are many outfitters servicing these access points, all of whom can rent you the gear you will need and who offer trip advice based upon years of Algonquin experience.
Located directly across from the park’s permit office in the Town of Kearney, Algonquin Basecamp offers complete outfitting packages – they will even provide the food – as well as accommodations in their on-site lodge. Canoe Algonquin, also located in Kearney, rents canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards and much more.
Northern Wilderness Outfitters has been helping people enjoy Algonquin from their location on Kawawaymog Lake for almost 50 years. As well as equipment rentals, they also offer accommodations at their on-site chalet.
Also located at the Kawawaymog Lake access point, Voyageur Quest Outfitting offers complete gear rentals with back country camping tour options. Voyaguer Quest also offers a range of accommodations, including their overnight lakeside cabins, their incredible log cabin, and their exclusive couples-only island retreat. Guided canoe trips are also available.
Kawawaymog Lake is also home to Northern Edge Algonquin, a full service nature retreat and awareness centre. With a strong focus on low-impact sustainable practices, they offer year-round adventure lodge weekends, rejuvenating yoga retreats and canoe trips in Algonquin every summer.
While in the area, take the time to visit the Villages of Almaguin. Spread across the Almaguin Highlands, the collection of friendly and welcoming communities are home to quaint accommodations, as well as exceptional hiking, paddling, cycling, and culinary experiences.
While in South River, be sure to visit the Highlander Brew Co., one of Ontario’s northern-most craft breweries. Their new facility is now open and includes a retail outlet that sells local artisan products alongside their popular tasting bar. South River is also home to the Forgotten Trails Association. Their four season back country trails are perfect for hiking or cycling.
Located near Burk’s Falls, Copperhead Distillery and Spirits Ltd. produces hand crafted spirits, wines and cider from local organic fruits and grain. While there, be sure to take a trip to the nearby Screaming Heads, one of the province’s most unique outdoor art installations.
More than just home to several outfitters, the Town of Kearney is located on the Magnetawan River system which provides excellent day paddling opportunities, as well as having several walking trails to explore.
This spring and summer, when you plan your trip to iconic Algonquin Park, be sure to enter this amazing place via the Almaguin Highlands of Ontario, and be sure to check out the Villages of Almaguin while you’re here.
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This article has been reprinted with permission by Explorers’ Edge.