Hey friends! Mikaela here and today I’m sharing one of my favourite parks in all of Canada: Killarney Provincial Park. The scenery is absolutely stunning, and there are several trails and dozens of canoe routes – meaning there are plenty of opportunities for excellent wilderness camping in Killarney.
Plus, it’s the perfect distance from Toronto (close enough to be accessible, but far enough to deter large crowds). Most people who visit the park will stay for a weekend, however I’ve had the privilege of spending almost three weeks paddling the gorgeous waters and hiking the rugged trails. Killarney was actually the park where I first guided a canoe trip (it was the trip with the food barrel down a ravine and the casual death threats, if you recall).
If you’re planning a trip to Killarney Provincial Park, you’ve come to the right place!
Map of Killarney Provincial Park
Everything I mention in this post you will find labeled on the map below. The map is helpful for seeing where access points, trail heads and other major features are relative to one another. However, for canoeing or hiking I recommend getting the Official Map of Killarney Provincial Park, which has campsites, portage trails and distances marked.
Although I’ve done my best to make the above map as accurate as possible, please always follow road / campsite / portage signs and never put yourself in danger.
About Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park encompasses 645 sq kilometers of wilderness on the northern shores of Georgian Bay. Covering the La Cloche Mountains, whose quartzite ridges sparkle silver and white in the sunshine, Killarney is a spectacularly beautiful park. It includes over 50 turquoise and sapphire blue lakes, some of which are so clear you can see right down to the bottom.
Before it was a park, the region served as inspiration to The Group of Seven, some of the most famous artists in the country’s history. They were so captivated they petitioned the government of Ontario to establish Killarney Provincial Park, forever protecting the area from development.
Just outside the park is the town of Killarney. Established in 1820, it once served as a trading post for furs (namely, beaver furs).
You will find a fantastic backdrop for canoeing, hiking and camping in Killarney. It has long been my favourite park in Ontario (and, in my humble opinion) is the most beautiful park in the province.
Killarney is located on the northern shores of Georgian Bay. It’s easy to find using Google Maps, but to give you a rough sense of direction:
- From Toronto: 4 hour drive (north on the 400 and then west on the HWY 637)
- From Ottawa: 6 hour drive (west on the the 417 HWY, southwest on HWY 64, north on the 400 and then west on HWY 637).
The town of Killarney lies at the end of HWY 637.
Things to do in Killarney Provincial Park
There are a myriad of things to do in Killarney. The peak season runs from June to October, but there are still activities to do in the off-peak (winter) season as well.
- Day hiking or overnight backpacking
- Canoeing (for the day or overnight)
- Snowshoeing (in the winter)
- Cross-country skiing (in the winter)
The two main activities are canoeing and hiking (with camping and photography thrown into the mix). In the following sections, you’ll find detailed information about canoeing, hiking and camping in Killarney.
Killarney Provincial Park offers some fantastic trails. I absolutely love Silver Peak (though, admittedly, it’s a tricky one to get to). I haven’t done the 78 km La Cloche Silhouette Trail myself, but my friends highly recommend it.
Silver Peak, the highest point in Killarney Provincial Park, is a challenging hike offering stunning views all the way to Georgian Bay. The trail is 5.5 km each way, and you should give yourself a full day to complete the hike. Ensure you bring plenty of water and sturdy hiking boots.
There is no road access to the trail head for Silver Peak, making it a little tricky to access. But this means there aren’t very many people on the trail on any given day.
- If you are already hiking the La Cloche Silhouette Trail: The Silver Peak trail is a side trail off of the Silhouette Trail and easy to find.
- If you are canoe camping in Killarney: You can access the trail head from either Bell Lake, David Lake, Boundary Lake (via portage into David Lake) or Johnny Lake (via portage into Clearsilver Lake).
- If you are doing Silver Peak as a day hike: Rent a canoe from Killarney Kanoes at Bell Lake Access Point. From there, it’s a short paddle northwest to access the trail.
The Crack is the most popular hike in Killarney. Although just 6 km round trip, it will take you approximately 4 hours to complete. The Crack is a steep and rocky hike of moderate-high difficulty. Ensure you wear proper hiking boots!
The parking lot for the Crack is actually quite difficult to find as there isn’t any signage. The parking lot is located on Highway 637, 7 km east of George Lake Campground and 1.5 km west of Carlyle Lake Access Rd. I have it marked on the map above which should help you find it!
La Cloche Silhouette Trail
The Silhouette Trail is 78 km and loops around Killarney Provincial Park. It takes 7 to 10 days to complete depending on your hiking speed. Don’t underestimate the distance! There is a lot of up and down elevation change, which makes the trail challenging and the actual distance more than just 78 km. This is a challenging, but rewarding hike and those considering it should read Killarney Outfitter’s guide and contact them to start planning the trip.
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There are dozens and dozens of possible routes for canoe routes in Killarney. To help you, I recommend getting a copy of A Paddler’s Guide to Killarney and the French River for route planning and the Official Killarney Provincial Park Map for navigation.
Access Points are locations where you can drive to the water and start your canoe trip, and Killarney has four main access points: George Lake, Johnny Lake, Carlyle Lake and Bell Lake (they’re all labeled on the Google Maps I created at the top of this post). George Lake is the main access point and is also where the front country campground is (where you can car camp). When you rent a canoe, the outfitter will ask you what access point you want to meet the canoe at.
There are quite a few possible canoe routes for a single day trip, although my favourite (especially for first time visitors to the park) is George Lake – Freeland Lake – Killarney Lake – OSA Lake. This isn’t a loop route, so you’ll have to retrace your steps to get back to George Lake. Depending on your skills, that will probably take an entire day of paddling and you’ll want to start early.
If you want something slower pace, you can do George Lake – Freeland Lake – Killarney Lake (so you don’t do the last portage into OSA Lake).
If you have more than a week to spend in Killarney – oh my goodness I am jealous! Definitely purchase a copy of A Paddler’s Guide to Killarney and the French River and the Official Killarney Provincial Park Map. You’ll be able to plan an excellent route in with these tools. I recommend a canoe route that takes you into either OSA Lake or Nellie Lake, as these are my favourite two lakes in Killarney.
Canoe & Gear Rentals
Renting gear in Killarney is incredibly easy. For day trips, you can rent a canoe, paddles, life jackets and bailers. For multi-day camping in Killarney, you can also rent food barrels, equipment packs, tents, sleeping bags and any other gear you might need.
Killarney Outfitters: I used Killarney Outfitters the last time I was in Killarney. Give them a call and they’ll help you get sorted with what you need. They’ll also give you advice on what route to take based on the amount of time and experience you have.
Killarney Kanoes: Killarney Kanoes outfitted my group when I was leading a two week canoe trip in the park. The canoes were insanely light (and considering how many portages we had, I very much appreciated it).
If you aren’t experienced with canoe camping, I have an entire blog post dedicated to everything from route planning to portaging.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Canoe Camping
Camping in Killarney Provincial Park
Depending on the degree of roughing it you prefer, there are a few options for camping (or not camping) in and around Killarney.
All of the sites for backcountry camping in Killarney are accessible either by hiking the La Cloche trail or by canoe. The campsites are all very well maintained and typically have a thunderbox, a fire pit and designated tent spots.
In Killarney, you need to reserve your campsite in advance. This can be done on the Ontario Parks Online Reservation Portal.
My Favourite Backcountry Campsites in Killarney
In you need a little inspiration planning your canoe trip, here are my favourite backcountry campsites in Killarney. (As I said, I haven’t done the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, so all of the below campsites are for canoe camping.)
- OSA Lake – Most beautiful lake in the park (in my opinion)
- Baie Fine – Only campsite on Baie Finn which opens to the west (excellent sunsets)
- Nellie Lake – Gatorade blue water with 20+ meters of visibility (you can see the bottom of the lake!)
- Great Mountain Lake – Beautiful island campsite (and it’s right after a 3 km portage, so an excellent reward for your portaging efforts)
- David Lake – Close proximity to Silver Peak hike
Front Country Camping
If backcountry camping isn’t your thing, you can also car camp at George Lake campground. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit, and there are washroom and shower facilities. At George Lake there is a beach for swimming or you can launch a canoe here for a day paddle.
You actually don’t need to be camping in Killarney to enjoy its beauty. On my most recent visit to Killarney, I was with my parents so we opted for a room at Killarney Mountain Lodge rather than roughing it at a campsite. I must admit, after a long, hot and sweaty day of canoeing and portaging with my dad, it was really nice to take a warm shower. Many of the rooms have recently been refurbished and renovated, although my family stayed in one of the older (more economical) Pine Rooms. Definitely the best part of the lodge was the dining room – the food was delicious – and great views of the bay.
Blue Mountain Lodge is also an option, however I haven’t stayed here myself. This lodge is right on the lake, whereas the Mountain Lodge is located just outside the town of Killarney.
Killarney Provincial Park Itineraries
Honestly, there are so many itinerary options in Killarney! I’ve included a few ideas below, how much you can do in a given time frame is contingent on your hiking and paddling speeds. Take these as inspiration, but do your own planning to see what is reasonable. These could be either too easy or too difficult for you.
One Day – Hike the Crack
If you only have a single day, I would recommend hiking The Crack. You’ll get a spectacular view of the park (especially in autumn when the colours are in full swing).
One Day – Canoe from George Lake
However, if you’re really keen for a paddle, then launch from George Lake and paddle to either OSA or Killarney Lake for a picnic lunch.
One Weekend – The Crack & Canoeing Front Country Camping
- Friday: Arrive at your accommodations at either Killarney Mountain Lodge or George Lake Campground
- Saturday: Starting at George Lake Access Point, canoe to Killarney Lake for a picnic (pack a lunch).
- Sunday: Hike the Crack
- Depart either late afternoon Sunday or Monday if a long weekend
One Weekend – Silver Peak & Canoeing Backcountry Camping
- Friday: Pick up your canoe at Bell Lake and camp on a campsite on the northeast side of Bell Lake.
- Saturday: Canoe / portage to David Lake and then hike Silver Peak. Camp on David Lake
- Sunday: Canoe portage back to Bell Lake.
- Depart either late afternoon Sunday
One Week or More
I recommend a canoe route that takes you into either OSA Lake or Nellie Lake, as these are my favourite two lakes in Killarney. Alternatively, with that much time you can hike the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
I hope this has been a helpful guide! Here are some additional resources you might find helpful! Please comment below if you have any questions or share this guide with your adventure buddies!