Ontario is a premier destination for guided canoe trips. The province offers exciting trips for the novice, intermediate and advanced paddler. Some destinations require a full day of driving, while others can be reached in just a few hours. Some destinations feature incredible wildlife; others have exciting whitewater. Any outdoorsy soul will find solace in Ontario’s wild spaces.
And even for those who aren’t particularly outdoorsy, I think a canoe guided trip is the best kind of trip you can take in Ontario. It introduces you to the beautiful scenery and sheer vastness (and shows that Ontario is much more than the CN tower and Niagara Falls).
I was a canoe guide in this beautiful province for four seasons, and still find somewhere new to paddle each summer. So if you’re thinking of taking a guided canoe trip in Ontario, read on! Here are the best canoe trips in Ontario!
This post is done in collaboration with MHO Adventures, a guiding company based in Huntsville, Ontario. I’ve taken one of their trips (as a paying client) and absolutely loved it. You can read more about my relationships with sponsors here.
8 Incredible Guided Canoe Trips in Ontario
Killarney Provincial Park
What You’ll Love: The absolutely gorgeous scenery
Recommended Guided Trip: Killarney Fall Colours – Weekend Getaway
Location: North shore of Georgian Bay // 4.5 hours from Toronto or 6 hours from Ottawa
Killarney Provincial Park is one of my favourite places in all of Canada. The turquoise waters of Georgian Bay splash upon the granite shoreline; the quartz in the rock shimmers in the sunlight and makes the tall peaks look iridescent. Killarney is, in my opinion, the best place to take your first canoe trip.
The campsites are very nice and well maintained. They offer flat areas for tents, a solid fire pit for cooking, and thunderboxes for when nature calls. Anyone would be very comfortable joining one of the guided canoe trips in Killarney.
The one downside to Killarney is that, depending on the route chosen, you might be faced with a lot of portages. Thus, your guide will choose a route that offers breathtaking scenery without a 3 km portage! They will provide ultralight kevlar canoes for easy portaging. If you would like to carry a canoe, they can teach you proper technique, or if you would like to avoid carrying a canoe, they can take the load.
Killarney is especially beautiful in autumn, when the leaves change to orange and red with the quartzite hills in the background. >>I recommend taking this guided canoe trip in mid-autumn.
What You’ll Love: Exciting whitewater close to Toronto
Recommended Guided Trip: Petawawa River Whitewater Adventure
Location: Northeast of Algonquin Provincial Park // 4.5 hours from Toronto or 1.5 hours from Ottawa
Algonquin Provincial Park can be a great place to do a self-guided canoe trip. If you aren’t very experienced, however, you will be forced to stay on popular flat-water routes and are likely to see many other paddlers. Queue the Petawawa River.
Located in the northeast of Algonquin, the Petawawa River offers beautiful scenery and exciting whitewater for novice paddlers. Your guide will teach you the paddling strokes required for whitewater paddling and introduce you to scouting rapids.
And the Petawawa River is a great destination if you don’t have a lot of time. A typical trip covers 50 km over four days, and the starting point is just five hours from Toronto. You could do the whole trip only taking two vacation days from work!
I did a guided canoe trip on the Petawawa this summer actually. I am an experienced whitewater paddler, but my dad and brother were not. So we joined MHO Adventures for a four day trip (this is the exact trip we took). My dad especially loved it and signing up for two more guided canoe trips for next summer.
Algonquin Provincial Park
What You’ll Love: Foliage colours in the autumn, well-maintained campsites
Recommended Trip: Algonquin Outfitters Guided Canoe Trip
Location: 3 hours from Toronto or 3 hours from Ottawa
If you’d rather stick to flat water, you’re still in luck. Algonquin is probably the most popular destination for guided camping trips in Ontario (and maybe even Canada). There are tons and tons of outfitters servicing the park with guided canoe trips.
Which is helpful because, with over 7,000 km of possible canoe routes, Algonquin can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have much experience. I’ve made four trips to Algonquin already, but I still call an outfitter for advice on what route I should choose – there’s just so many options!
Another reason a guided canoe trip in Algonquin Park is a great option is because Algonquin is perfect for novice canoeists. The park has well-developed facilities; tent spots are nice, thunderboxes are available, and there are ample routes for beginners.
What You’ll Love: Paddling fun whitewater on a remote river – the epitome of wilderness
Location: Northeast of Lake Superior // 9.5 hours from Toronto or 6 hours from Sudbury
The Missinaibi River is a Canadian Heritage River due to the key role it played in the fur trade. Indigenous people and voyageurs alike used the river to navigate between James Bay and Lake Superior.
The Upper Missinaibi has tons of exciting rapids to paddle. You’ll have a few portages, but all will be around beautiful waterfalls and chutes. That said, this should only be paddled by guided groups (unless you are an advanced paddler with whitewater rescue skills). >>Click here to read about a guided trip on the Upper Missinaibi.
Your guide will tell you what rapids are possible to paddle and which ones need to be portaged. If someone flips their canoe, your guide is there to help.
If you have teenage children, I think this the best option for family canoe trips in Ontario. I guided eight 15-year-olds on the Missinaibi River and they absolutely loved it.
Of all the guided canoe trips in Ontario, this one offers the most exciting rapids in the most remote environment. The campsites are well-maintained, but are significantly less developed than in provincial parks further south. You’ll feel a true sense of wilderness here!
Seriously, paddling the entire length Missinaibi River should be on the top of everyone’s bucket list. It was truly incredible.
Read More: 7 Reasons to Canoe the Missinaibi River
What You’ll Love: Big sky and history on a tundra-like river
Recommended Guided Trip: Moose River Journey to the Northern Sky
Location: Southwest of James Bay // 9.5 hours from Toronto or 6 hours from Sudbury
In northern Ontario, the Missinaibi and Mattagami rivers meet and together they become the Moose River. From there, the Moose River flows to the salty waters of James Bay. If you would like to experience the expansive landscape of a tundra river, without flying all the way to the territories, the Moose River is the best destination.
The river is perfect for novice paddlers; it doesn’t have any portages and it only has one set of rapids. The scenery includes a sprawling sky (with the chance of seeing northern lights in August) and spiny spruce trees, characteristic of the Hudson Bay Lowlands.
Where the Moose River meets James Bay lies the towns of Moose Factory and Moosonee. Here you can explore the well-preserved Hudson Bay Company trading post buildings and return south via the Polar Bear Express.
Can’t decide between the Missinaibi and Moose rivers? Do them both on the same trip! I guided a 24 day trip on these rivers and the Missinaibi / Moose rivers remain my favourite place ever paddled. As one of the best experiences of my life, I think it is worthy of any outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list. There is no better way to disconnect from busy city life than with a three-week adventure in the wilderness. >>This guided trip offers the opportunity to paddle the entire Missinaibi River.
What You’ll Love: Paddling through a beautiful gorge
Recommended Guided Trip: French River Family Adventure
Location: Northeast of Georgian Bay // 3.5 hours from Toronto or 5.5 hours from Ottawa
The French River is like a cross between the Petawawa River and Killarney Provincial Park. Over four days you’ll be treated to scenic gorges, interconnected lakes and some whitewater rapids. The river ends at Georgian Bay, offering a stunning landscape similar to that of Killarney.
The campsites are nice and offer the backcountry comforts of flat tent spots and sturdy fire pits. This river is designated a Canadian Heritage River and is just three hours from Toronto, making it an accessible adventure for those short on time.
You’ll love paddling with steep granite cliffs on either side. The sunrises are incredible, the sunsets equally brilliant. Canoeing the French River will be the perfect getaway from city life!
What You’ll Love: Whitewater suitable for families
Recommended Trip: Spanish River Family Adventure
Location: Northwest of Georgian Bay // 5 hours from Toronto or 6.5 hours from Ottawa
The Spanish River is a Canadian Classic and rightfully so. Weaving through granite slopes of the Canadian Shield, the Spanish River offers a touch of whitewater and beautiful scenery.
One of the coolest parts about paddling the Spanish River is that your journey includes a train ride on Via Rail. Have you ever paddled anywhere that wasn’t accessible by road? Have you ever portaged a canoe in and out of a trail car? I have and it’s a quintessentially Canadian endeavour.
The Spanish River doesn’t have enough rapids to satisfy a whitewater junkie, so if you’re looking for whitewater specifically you would be better choosing the Petawawa or Missinaibi.
However, the rapids that are there offer a great introduction to whitewater paddling, especially if you have kids. This is a great guided canoe trips for families.
What You’ll Love: Vast wilderness, boreal forest, peace and quiet
Recommended Guided Trip: Temagami – Chiniguchi Lake Loop
Location: Northeast of Georgian Bay // 4.5 hours from Toronto or 5 hours from Ottawa
And last but not least is Temagami. I’ll admit that I’m a little biased, but I think Temagami is absolutely magical. Temagami is where I took my very first major canoe trip. For two weeks, 11 fifteen-year-olds and two guides canoed through just a small pocket of Temagami’s vast wilderness.
When I say vast, I truly mean vast; Temagami is humungous. This region covers a mix of crown land and provincial parks, and is larger than Belgium.
Temagami is unlike Algonquin or Killarney, which have been very developed and don’t always feel like the epitome of wilderness. Temagami, on the other hand, is far less traveled and less developed. This does make choosing a canoe route a little more difficult, and you’re much further from help is something should go wrong.
So for that reason, Temagami can be a great place for taking a guided canoe trip.
What to Know About Guided Canoe Trips
If you haven’t taken a guided canoe trip before (or any canoe trip for that matter), you may not know what to expect. As someone who has guided and been guided, here are a few things you can expect on a guided canoe trip.
Almost all of the gear is provided
Thee majority of the gear will be provided to you at the start of your trip. This typically includes tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, cooking equipment, safety equipment and paddling equipment. On the trip I took with MHO, they even provided camp chairs and canoe barrels for our stuff, so we were comfortable throughout the trip.
The only thing you need to provide is your own personal clothing, and the outfitter will give you a packing list ahead of the trip to ensure you have the right clothing.
If you have gear already, however, you can still bring it. I brought my own sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent and life jacket. But that’s just because I like my own gear a lot.
You can help as much or as little as you want
If you want to learn how to rehydrate pasta sauce and cook over a fire, you guide will teach you. But if you want to sit by the chair sipping a glass of wine, you can totally do that too.
I say this as someone who has guided a ton of canoe trips: don’t feel bad making us do everything. That’s why we’re there! However, if you would like to learn, we are keen to teach.
Your safety is in good hands
The number one reason I recommend people take a guided canoe trip is because of safety. If something goes wrong in a backcountry, like injury or illness, you want to have someone who has wilderness first aid training and the right equipment.
Or if you’re an experience canoe camper, but you want to try out whitewater, a guided canoe trip a great way to get your first experience in moving water. Your guide will be trained in whitewater rescue safety and will have all the equipment (including helmets, a rescue knife, throw bags, de-pinning kit and outfitted canoes).
Guided Canoe Trips in Ontario – Final Thoughts
I hope you’ve found this post helpful and it’s brought you one step closer to figuring out where you’d like to paddle next. If you’re still unsure, my recommendation is either the Missinaibi (for whitewater) or Killarney (for flat water). But really any of the destinations listed here are amazing!
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