Finding the Perfect Backcountry Campsite in Algonquin Park, Canada

5 great places to pitch a tent in Ontario's canoe country

Anchor Island campsite 950w

Photos and words by Shawn James

Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada is a canoe tripper’s Shangri-La. Covering an area of 2,946 square miles (7,630 square km), it is a huge park containing over 1,500 lakes and rivers and 1,200 miles (2,000 km) of canoe routes. Deep in the interior, away from the roads and busy campgrounds, you will find not just a simple place to pitch your tent; you will discover an iconic Canadian dreamscape.

There are over 1,900 backcountry campsites so deciding where to go can be challenging. Here is what I look for when selecting a site:

1) Both eastern and western exposure
2) Gently sloping rock or a sandy beach
3) Open pine forests with steady wind to suppress biting insects
4) A stone fire pit with benches and a view of the lake
5) Flat tent pads on sand or soil
6) Nearby wildlife habitat for a chance to see animals such as moose, beaver, and loons
7) Privacy

Here are five favorites:

Anchor Island.
Anchor Island.

Anchor Island, Burntroot Lake

The campsite located on the west end of Anchor Island in Burntroot Lake is arguably the best in Algonquin Park. The island is the final resting place of an anchor from an amphibious tugboat, “an alligator,” that was used for logging at the turn of the last century. This campsite has everything – historic artifacts (please leave what you find), 360-degree views of the lake, cool breezes, windswept pines, exposed bedrock, excellent swimming areas, a fantastic fire pit and great fishing.

McGarvey Lake.
McGarvey Lake.

McGarvey Lake

What McGarvey Lake lacks in grandeur, it more than makes up for in intimacy. With only three campsites located here, it is very private and it is common to have the entire lake to yourself. The island campsite is nearly flawless, with nice views to the east and west, great swimming and an unusually high concentration of common loons to serenade you to sleep at night.

Little Trout Lake.
Little Trout Lake.

Little Trout Lake

Little Trout Lake in west-central Algonquin Park is another gem. There are several fabulous campsites, and the site on the north shore at the west end of the lake is outstanding. It includes all of the essential elements of a perfect campsite. The rocky point is a beautiful spot to drink your morning coffee while the sun rises above the conifers at the far end of the lake.

Longbow Lake.
Longbow Lake.

Longbow Lake

Longbow Lake is easy to overlook, but that would be a mistake. Often, nearby Rosebary Lake is fully occupied while Longbow’s two campsites remain vacant. The easternmost campsite is one of the best places in Algonquin to view breathtaking autumn colors in the surrounding hardwood hills and for an almost guaranteed encounter with one of Algonquin Park’s approximately three-thousand moose. As a bonus, it is a historic site littered with metal artifacts left over from the logging era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Lake Opeongo.
Lake Opeongo.

Windy Point, Lake Opeongo

The campsite situated at the north end of “windy point” in the central section of Lake Opeongo is not located deep in the backcountry like the others and it does not provide much solitude since Opeongo has easy highway access. What this campsite lacks in seclusion, however, it compensates for in other ways. The point that it sits on is narrow, rocky and sandy, offering up fantastic views of the lake to the west, north and east, and, as the name suggests, a nearly constant breeze keeps those pesky insects away. There are several flat tent pads, including one that sits right at the point on a sandy spit under the protective canopy of a huge white pine. Perfection!

–For additional information on Algonquin Park, visit http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/visit/camping/ and for reservations, visit: https://reservations.ontarioparks.com/OntarioParks/Algonquin?Map

–Shawn James teaches courses on health, wealth, homesteading and outdoor recreation and writes about his paddling adventures at http://myselfreliance.com/

More from C&K:

5 Favorite Lakes in Algonquin Provincial Park

Life After Royalex: Abenaki Algonquin Canoe (Betula Papyrifera)