Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: September 2021
Quetico Provincial Park is situated in Northwestern Ontario and is reputed to be an amazing place to canoe and backcountry camp. It is a wilderness park that is part of the Boundary Waters, a region straddling the Canada-United States border between Ontario and Minnesota just west of Lake Superior. It contains a vast network of interconnected lakes, rivers and streams and offers over 2,000 backcountry campsites. It also contains a few hiking trails and two campgrounds for car camping at the northern edge of the park.
Day 1: Sunset
Northwestern Ontario experienced an usual amount of forest fire activity this summer, including in and around Quetico. As a result, Quetico’s backcountry closed in mid-August. While there were still some active fires in the park and the backcountry was still closed when we visited in mid-September, the northern part of the park where the trails and car camping are located, remained open.
We arrived at Quetico at 6p.m. We were a bit discombobulated due to the time change though. While most of Ontario is in the Eastern Time Zone, a small portion in the western part of the province, including Quetico, is in the Central Time Zone. This meant that we needed to adjust our clocks an hour back.
There are two front country campgrounds in Quetico. We stayed in the Chippewa Campground, which consists of 21 sites, most of which are along the water. We stayed at site #31 which even had its own small dock down by the shore. Hands down this was our favourite site and campground that we stayed at during our 2-week Northern Ontario road trip.
After setting up our tents, we made dinner and had a fire.
Day 2: Sunrise
We woke up later than expected considering we gained an extra hour with the time change, but it was nice to catch up on sleep. Since it was a little chilly outside, we decided to go on a short hike to warm-up. We first hiked along the Pickerel River Boardwalk Trail (800m one-way, rated easy). The trail is dedicated in memory of Shelia Hainey, a passionate employee of Quetico who helped her son overcome a physical disability to become a world class Olympic swimmer.
The trail starts at the Visitor Centre and consists of an accessible boardwalk that winds through the forest and meanders along the Pickerel River to the day-use and beach area. There are a few scenic viewpoints along the way that overlook the river. The trail also has a few interpretive signs that provide a series of quotes about the beauty and wilderness that can be found in Quetico.
After we completed the trail, we walked down to the beach, which is located along French Lake.
On our return journey, we made a detour to hike along the Pickerel Point Trail (600m one-way, rated moderate), which loops through the forest and connects back with the Pickerel River Boardwalk Trail. The trail passes the Pickerel River as it flows into French Lake. There’s a nice viewpoint down at the beach and of a beaver dam in the river. The trail connects with the Pickerel River Boardwalk Trail, which we followed back to the parking lot.
Once we wrapped up our hike, we returned to our campsite to have a late breakfast and pack up. We took one last view of the lake, before heading out again. On our drive out of the park, we stopped at the Visitor Centre to pick up a park badge and buy matching t-shirts. And now onto the next park.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here