Quetico Provincial Park

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

65 thoughts on “Quetico Provincial Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Quetico is pretty amazing. I’d love to return to go canoeing and backcountry camping or to stay in one of their heated cabins in the winter. It’s such a massive park and I bet it could take a whole lifetime to explore. You should definitely add this to your itinerary for the next time you’re up in this neck of the woods.

  1. wetanddustyroads says:

    Ah, I can see why this campsite was your favourite one … it’s situated at the perfect spot! And your photo’s of the reflections in the water are spectacular! Oh, and what a nice camping fire 😁.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice that the campground was so small and the sites were secluded. It was also a real treat to have a site near the lake. Sitting around the campfire was the perfect way to end such a fabulous day.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We’ve spent a lot of time camping, especially over the last two years during the pandemic, and it would be nice to finally get a campervan. I love spending time outdoors, but it’s awful to be stuck in a tent when it’s cold and rainy outside or when you have loud neighbours. A campervan would solve so many of those issues and adds some extra comfort. We have a couple of camping trips lined up for March, but we’ll be staying in a heated yurt instead of a tent! Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

  2. Ab says:

    What a beautiful campsite and such perfect weather! The time change would certainly throw me for a loop too – how interesting that it’s within the same province too. Goes to show just how massive Ontario is! At least you got an extra hour sleep out of it.

    The forest fires in Northern Ontario seem to be more of a recurring thing in the summertime. Very sobering and scary to think about how the climate change is affecting us everywhere.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was amazing to finally have nice enough weather to have a campfire at night and enjoy the nice views of the lake from our campsite. But the best part was how small, quiet and clean the campground was.

      Ontario is pretty massive. There’s still so much more of the province we have left to discover. It’s a shame about all the recent forest fires and how they seem to be worse every year, along with other severe weather. It makes sleeping in a tent a bit unsettling sometimes, especially during high winds or a thunderstorm.

      And speaking of storms, I’m looking forward to the snowstorm we’re supposed to get Monday morning! Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

      • Ab says:

        40 cm of snow tomorrow. I think a return to school will be challenging. I’m expecting lots of absent staff and cancelled bus routes. We shall see. 🤞🏻

        A quiet campsite is the best. But I do agree about feeling unsettled with thunderstorms and high winds a possibility given the fire era we’re in!

        Enjoy the rest of your weekend too!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I guess you’ll have to deal with remote learning for one more day! I’m looking forward to having more snow though. We’re hoping to head to Algonquin next weekend to go snowshoeing.

      • Ab says:

        Please don’t joke like that. It’s very mean. 😆 Snowshoeing in Algonquin sounds lovely!

        We had planned a weekend trip to Arrowhead in February but decided against it given how busy everything else and we’re just keeping weekend open to sleep. 😆

        I will live vicariously through you and K instead!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I can’t get over how popular Arrowhead has become in the winter. I imagine Algonquin is going to be the same way. There’s clearly a demand for all these winter activities and hopefully more parks will be encouraged to stay open year round.

      • Ab says:

        I think you and K have done Mono Cliffs in the winter? That’s on my to do list this winter as it’s closer.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We sure have. We went to Mono Cliffs last year and the year before during the winter. The park has a good network of interconnecting trails so you can scale up or down depending on how long you want to spend outdoors. The trails are also well signed, which is always a bonus. It can get busy though, so best to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. I bet the trails look magical when all the trees are covered in a fresh layer of snow. The only downside is that it can be so much more challenging to hike in deep snow.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Yay. At last, a campground we visited on our 2018 cross Canada Drive. We hiked the French Portage trail, which was overgrown and underwhelming, not to mention the fact we each lost a pint of blood to the skeeters. The highlight for me was just down the road from the park entrance – best butter tarts in Canada. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I don’t think Quetico gets too many visitors to begin with given its remote location. Most of the people who do visit tend to canoe. This means that some of the trails aren’t too well travelled or maintained. There’s a reason we decided to visit Northern Ontario in the fall, partially because reserving campsites in the summer has become super competitive, and also because we didn’t want to deal with those pesky mosquitoes. The only downside was that we didn’t get nearly as much daylight compared to the summer. We must have missed the butter tarts, but will make a note of that for the next time we’re up in the area. I would love to return someday to go backcountry camping or to stay in one of the heated cabins in the winter. Thanks for reading. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had pretty miserable weather during the first few days of our road trip so it was finally nice to be able to make a campfire and sit around it while eating dinner. I’m happy to say that we had much nicer weather during the remainder of our time in Northern Ontario and were able to have a few more campfires.

  4. Rose says:

    I was wondering if the wildfires would affect your park challenge. Your campsite sounds great! That boulder on the beach is interesting, almost looks like a cave with a little door? It’s really fun to follow along with your park challenges. 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It’s been a lot of fun exploring more of Ontario during this pandemic. I know I say this a lot, but I’m such a huge fan of the scenery in Northern Ontario. The parks along this stretch, especially near Lake Superior are my favourite. The campsite we had at Quetico was fantastic. It’s always nice to snag a site along the water and stay in a small campground. The wildfires were particularly bad this summer, I guess that’s one of the side effects of climate change.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s always nice to spend time in nature and just enjoy our surroundings. This was such a peaceful campsite and glad we had such nice views of the lake. Thanks for reading. Linda

      • elvira797mx says:

        You perceive the peace the forest give you. The view of the lake, quite an experience. Thanks Linda, it is a pleassure.
        Have a wonderful week!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s exactly why we love camping. It’s great to just unplug from the world around us sometimes and escape the crowded city. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Take care.

      • elvira797mx says:

        Exactly Linda, that’s a magical experience, sorrounde by trees, feelngthe peace of nature.
        Yes, thanks i had a wonderful weekend, hope you too.
        Have a great week!
        Take care too.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Glad to hear that you had a good weekend. We had a major snowstorm here yesterday and we’re hoping to do some winter hiking next weekend. The trails always look so magical after a fresh snowfall. Take care.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It was really cold over the weekend. On Saturday it was -22C and felt like -33C with the windchill. It’s warmed up considerably, but it’s still a bit chilly and very windy. It’s the perfect weather to stay indoors curled up under a blanket with a hot chocolate. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

      • elvira797mx says:

        Wow! That sound incredibly cold and the same tame so beautiful, with that place. As you say it is perfect for having a hot chocolate, with a blanket to snuggle uo at home and if there is a fireplace even better.
        Thanks for share Linda.
        Enjoy the rest of your week too!

  5. leightontravels says:

    Happy to hear that you enjoyed your campsite and got a good night’s sleep. The photos are lovely, they transmit a sense of calm, especially the glass-like water. The fire looks nice and cosy, we have one of our own here in our village house in Staffordshire, England.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice how the campground was so quiet and that many campsites were situated along the lakeshore. It’s always great to escape the crowds and just enjoy nature. This is exactly why we love to camp up north. I’m so glad that we finally had nice enough weather to have a campfire. It was the perfect way to end the day. That sounds cozy that you have one in your village house in Staffordshire (which also sounds very charming).

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s nice how there are so many parks nearby, which helps break up the drive and gives us an opportunity to stretch our legs, eat lunch, and use the washrooms. We had a bit of a rough start it terms of the weather during the first few days of our road trip so it was nice to have a campfire and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Quetico is such a beautiful and peaceful park. I would love to return to explore the backcountry or visit in the winter and stay in one of their heated cabins. It looks like there are endless opportunities to explore all the various lakes and just enjoy nature.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I can easily see why you would want to live by the water. I’m very envious. Waterfront properties are just outrageously expensive in southern Ontario. Luckily we have a remote cabin that overlooks a lake for whenever we need to escape the city and spend time in and by the water.

  6. ourcrossings says:

    What a lovely park, Linda 🙂 When you return to your tent after a day outdoors and dusk is drawing in, is there anything more magical than the glow of a campfire to see you through the evening? The moment the heap of wood in front of you crackles and creaks into life, the best part of any camping holiday can begin. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sitting around the fire is one of my favourite things about camping. I just love the smell of campfires too. We weren’t able to have too many of them during the first half of our road trip because of the rain, so we might as well take advantage of it whenever we have nice weather. Thanks for reading. Hope you had a nice weekend. Linda

  7. rkrontheroad says:

    This looks like a pleasant stop, your first few photos look so welcoming as does the trail. I like the image on the badge. If that’s what the t-shirts look like, I might have bought one too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Quetico is such a massive park and it feels like we only scratched the surface during our brief visit. I’d love to return to explore the backcountry. Most of the parks we visited didn’t have much left in stock in terms of park swag, but Quetico had a good supply of clothing and we were able to find something in both of our sizes. I guess it was meant to be 🙂

  8. alisendopf says:

    Fantastic campsite with a dock – that’s a great site. I’m sorry to hear about the forest fires and that the backcountry was closed down. It’s been a tough few fire years. I can’t remember the last time we had a smoke-free summer. If we’re not burning, then California or Russia is on fire.
    Looks like you had a very busy and successful fall hiking and park tour season!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Quetico is one of the largest provincial parks in Ontario. It seems like we just scratched the surface during our brief visit. I would love to return to explore the backcountry by canoe. It was a shame to hear about the wildfires. It seems they are getting worse every year. All the more reason to revisit Quetico sooner rather than later.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sitting around by the campfire is one of my favourite things to do while camping. There’s just something so mesmerizing about those flickering flames. It was a fabulous way to end an action-packed day of hiking. Always glad to add another park badge to my collection!

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