10 Incredible Canoe Trips in Canada Worthy of Your Bucket List

I can’t think of anything more classically Canadian than canoe tripping (perhaps maple syrup, but canoe tripping would be a close second). And since canoeing Canada is so quintessential, I thought I’d put together a bucket list of the most incredible and iconic canoe trips in Canada.

Meandering along winding rivers, the kind with spiny black pine trees lining the shoreline and bends so frequently you can hardly see more than a hundred strokes in front of you. Or wading over large lakes with near-black water, bordered by rocks of granite and quartz that glisten in the sunlight. Moving with an uncontrollable force through towering canyons and overbearing mountain ranges.

Tip! If you’re looking for trip reports on Canadian canoe routes, I suggest checking out Trip Reports. It’s a growing database of backcountry trip reports, most of which are canoe routes!

Whitewater Canoe Trips in Canada

I’ve started the list with whitewater paddling – in other words, river trips. I’ve selected four rivers that I think epitomize Canada canoeing: rivers that provide an unparalleled opportunity for connection with nature and disconnection from society.

Nahanni River

The Nahanni River is possibly the most quintessential paddling route in Canada. Located in the Northwest Territories, the Nahanni River takes you through imposing canyons and weather-worn mountain ranges, and lays witness to the powerful Virginia Falls (twice the height of Niagara Falls).

There are many outfitters with guided trips on the river – both by canoe and raft. The prevalence of rafting allows anyone of any skill to enjoy the river.  If you want to paddle a spectacular northern river, the Nahanni River will deliver in spades. Watch the video below from Black Feather – I’ve watched it so many times and I still get chills!

  • Location: Northwest Territories
  • Duration: 7-21 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced

Recommended Reading: Dangerous River: Adventure on the Nahanni

Mountain River

The reason Mountain River is on this bucket list is because it’s the favourite of the guides at Canoe North Adventures, praised for its seclusion and amazing whitewater. These guides get to paddle a lot of different arctic rivers, so if it’s their favourite, it’s definitely on my list.

Mountain River takes you through six canyons with incredibly fast current and, according to the guides, unbelievable whitewater rapids. All while surrounded by rolling mountain ranges and wildlife. If adrenaline is what you’re after, this is some of the best canoeing in Canada.

  • Location: Northwest Territories
  • Duration: 25 days
  • Difficulty: Advanced

Upper & Lower Horton River

The Horton River is the most northern river in mainland Canada and it is an excellent place to spot wildlife like caribou, muskoxen, wolves and grizzly bears. You can either do the upper or lower portion of the river, but frankly, I’d like to do both.

  • Location: Northwest Territories
  • Duration: 12-25 days (depending if you do one or both sections)
  • Difficulty: Advanced

Recommended Reading: The Last Wilderness: 600 Miles by Canoe and Portage in the Northwest Territories

Missinaibi River

Designated as a Canadian Heritage River, the Missinaibi River is one of the most iconic and popular options for canoeing in Canada. It is an excellent river for intermediate paddlers to do unsupported. It’s remote, but not inaccessible. It has some difficult portages and Class III rapids, but also long stretches of smooth water and beautiful scenery.

Grab a copy of Hap Wilson’s Journey to the Northern Sky, which has detailed maps of the many rapids and interesting information on the river, and be on your way. I highly recommend doing the river from Lake Missinaibi all the way to Moosonee.

The first section of the river has amazing rapids and stunning Canadian Shield geography, whereas the second section is wide and winding with few rapids but a northern character.

  • Location: Ontario
  • Duration 9-20 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

Bloodvein River

The Bloodvein River is another Canadian Heritage River, and it flows from Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario to Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. The river is characterized by excellent whitewater, a classically beautiful Boreal Forest, and exposed granite rocks dotted with Indigenous pictographs.

  • Location: Ontario / Manitoba
  • Duration 12-15 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

Canada Canoeing: Other Whitewater Areas of Note

If I were to list every single river I’d like to paddle, this post would go on forever. Here are some other rivers on my never-ending to-do list: Hayes River (Manitoba), Keele River (Northwest Territories), Yukon River (Yukon) and Churchill River (Saskatchewan).

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Flatwater Canoe Trips in Canada

Despite my growing preference for whitewater canoeing, there will always be a place in my heart for flatwater paddling. There are far too many lake networks in this country to paddle them all, but a few iconic areas are worth a place on any canoeist’s bucket list. As seeing as most canoeists stick with flatwater, there are tons and tons of incredible destinations. This, my friends, is Canada canoeing at its finest.

Canoe Trips in Canada - Killarney Provincial Park

Killarney Provincial Park

I think Killarney is the most beautiful place in Ontario and one of the most beautiful places in Canada. The scenery is striking; lakes the colour of Gatorade, hills that sparkle silver in the sunlight, windswept pine trees lining the shores.

In autumn the trees change into a kaleidoscope of colours. Killarney is so beautiful, that it is home to OSA (Ontario Society of Artists) Lake and Artist’s Lake due to its significance to Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven (Canada’s famous landscape painters).

When I first paddled Killarney, I did a 12-day trip and experienced over 3/4 of the park. It also has some amazing weekend trips.

  • Location: Ontario
  • Duration: 3-12 days depending on route
  • Difficulty: Novice

Additional Resource: A Paddler’s Guide to Killarney and the French River

Bowron Lakes Circuit

British Columbia may not have many canoe routes, but the routes it does have are spectacular; Bowron Lakes is no exception.

This canoe route takes you through six major lakes and two rivers, all of which is connected through a series of portages. The major difference between this canoe trip and those in eastern Canada is that you’re paddling at the foot of the Cariboo Mountains – expect to see pointy peaks and glacial lakes!

  • Location: British Columbia
  • Duration: 6 – 10 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate


Temagami isn’t technically a park but has campgrounds and portages maintained by the Friends of Temagami. Hap Wilson, one of Canada’s most iconic canoeists, calls Temagami home – and for good reason.

I’ve done two different two-week trips and would still go back for more. Some of my favourite destinations in Temagami include Paradise Lagoon, Wolf Lake, and the hike up Ishpatina Ridge (the tallest peak in Ontario).

Definitely check out Hap Wilson’s comprehensive book on wilderness routes in Temagami.

  1. Location: Ontario
  2. Duration: 7-12 days depending on route
  3. Difficulty: Intermediate

Additional Resource: Temagami – A Wilderness Paradise

Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park is the Creme de la Creme of Canada canoeing. It covers 7,000 square kilometres and is home to more than 2,000 kilometres worth of canoe routes.

Need ideas for canoe routes in Algonquin? Check out our database of Algonquin Park trip reports.

  • Location: Ontario
  • Duration: 3-7 days depending on route
  • Difficulty: Novice – Intermediate

Additional Resource: A Guide to Algonquin Park

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is an excellent destination for intermediate paddlers and it’s the only flatwater destination still on my to do list.

The park is located on the border of Ontario and Manitoba, making it reasonably accessible while still providing opportunities for solitude and silence – the park contains 2,000 km of canoe routes and receives only 1,000 paddlers each season.

This is what makes Woodland Caribou spectacular, in my opinion. You’re nestled amidst the beauty of the Boreal Forest, which paddlers have long cited as having a certain magical feeling one can’t quite articulate. And you can experience it without interruption.

While Killarney and Algonquin may feel a tad commercialized and you’re likely to encounter other paddlers, Woodland Caribou remains a little known secret. However, this is also why I believe your skill level needs to be higher; if you run into trouble, help is further away.

Regardless of your level of experience, I recommend reaching out to Red Lake Outfitters if you are considering a trip here. They are the definitive experts on Woodland Caribou and offer guided trips, shuttle services, route planning, gear and more.

  • Location: Ontario
  • Duration: 7 – 21 days depending on route
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

Canada Canoeing: Other Flatwater Areas of Note

If the opportunity came, I’d also do a canoe trip in Quetico Provincial Park (Ontario) and I’d love to do another trip around Georgian Bay Islands National Park (Ontario). However, at this point I’ve grown a bit tired of flatwater paddling so I’d rather dedicate my time to whitewater. That said, if you haven’t done much Canada canoeing yet, there are tons of options to get you started.

Canoeing Canada – Final Thoughts

I hope this post has introduced you to some new places and wonderful places to go canoeing in Canada and perhaps even added a trip or two to your bucket list!

What are your thoughts? What are your favourite destinations for canoe trips in Canada? Let me know in the comments below!


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6 thoughts on “10 Incredible Canoe Trips in Canada Worthy of Your Bucket List

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  2. Ian says:

    I was very happy to see WCPP on your list, it’s an amazing place. I was fortunate to go in 2019 and again in 2020. My only other canoe tripping is in Algonquin but this year I am considering a trip down Rivière Noire. I would highly recommend a trip to WCPP . I see that you prefer white water and in that case you can start with the flat water of WCPP and finish on the Bloodvein River white water all the way to Lake Winnipeg. Happy tripping

    • Mikaela says:

      Hi Ian – Thanks for the suggestion! I think I’d really enjoy the Bloodvein. And I’m sure you’ll love the Noire! I did that one in 2017 and it was a ton of fun!

      • Ian says:

        I am not a WCPP expert but I have done a lot of research for my WCPP trips and know where or who to contact for expert advice. If you ever need info to get started, please don’t hesitate to ask. FYI, Artery Lake (the start of the Bloodvein whitewater) has an amazing pictograph mural.

  3. Ian Fleming says:

    I think you’re from Ontario? your list is somewhat geographically biased… The Missinaibi (I’ve paddled it) just doesn’t belong in the list with the Nahanni & Mountain… Also the Hayes is in Man, not Ont. How about the Clearwater, Fond du Lac etc in Sask? You briefly mention the Churchill and imho it deserves a far higher billing. And you don’t mention a single Quebec river…

    just thoughts…

    • Mikaela says:

      Hi Ian – I am from Ontario and I totally admit I am geographically biased!

      Though I will stand by my comment on the Missinaibi River – I think it is an incredible (and incredibly accessible) river. The historical significance, the change in scenery, the short technical sets – I love the river.

      I actually have a note on my laptop to add the Moisie and Broadback to the list – I know I definitely need some Quebec rivers on the list, but I was only familiar with the Three Sisters when I wrote the post a few years ago and I didn’t think those ones needed to be on the list. I’ll look into the Sask rivers too.

      Thanks for the feedback 🙂 Happy paddling!

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