8 Incredible Paddle-in Hikes in Ontario

Towering pines, thundering waterfalls, cliff-top views and more await.

Imagine pulling up your canoe or kayak on a remote shoreline, lacing up your hiking boots, and exploring some of the most beautiful—and least travelled—trails in Ontario. From a forgotten ghost town crumbling into lush forest, to thundering wilderness waterfalls and astonishing vistas atop the province’s highest summits, these water-access hikes combine Ontario’s finest paddling destinations with unforgettable sights you can only reach by paddle. Now that truly is the best of both worlds.

Lookout tower stands over a rocky hill with trees
Hike to the fire tower on Maple Mountain. Photo: Mikaela Ferguson // Voyageur Tripper

Maple Mountain, Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park

One of Ontario’s most spectacular high points, Maple Mountain rises 350 metres (1,150 feet) above the surrounding lakes and valleys of the Temagami region, boasting panoramic views of verdant forest and sparkling waters. The vista is especially breathtaking in the autumn, when fall colours blaze across the landscape. Known as Chee-bay-jing, or “Ghost Mountain”, to the local Teme augama Anishinabe, the mountain was an ancient burial place. Located within Temagami’s Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, there are many canoe routes that can be used to reach the mountain, including the classic, weeklong Maple Mountain Loop. The most direct, however, is a two-day (40-kilometre) paddle from Mowat Landing, through Lady Evelyn Lake to Sucker Gut Lake and up through Hobart Lake to the trailhead on Tupper Lake.

This route is suitable for novice paddlers, however canoeists must use caution on the sprawling waters of Lady Evelyn Lake, which can kick up metre-high waves when windy. From the trailhead at Tupper Lake, it’s a 3.3-kilometre hike to the summit, marked by a 100-foot fire tower. Wear sturdy shoes for the trek, which climbs gradually to a small lake on the mountain’s slopes, and then ascends steeply. In places you’ll encounter rickety metal ladders bolted to the cliffs that crown the top of Maple Mountain.

  • Visit Maple Mountain on an all-inclusive, guided canoe trip with Temagami Outfitting Co., developing your backcountry skills on a wilderness journey between Lady Evelyn Lake and Lake Temagami.
  • Smoothwater Outfitters provides canoe and gear rentals, complete outfitting packages, trip planning assistance, shuttles and cozy, convenient accommodations before or after your trip.
  • Extend your trip to include the spectacular waterfalls of the Lady Evelyn River. Fall asleep to the rumbling of a 30-foot cascade at Cabin Falls Ecolodge, just a day’s paddle from Maple Mountain.

Temagami Island Old-Growth, Lake Temagami

The paddle-in trails on Temagami Island offer visitors something truly special: the ability to time travel. At least, that’s how it feels when strolling quietly along a thick carpet of pine needles beneath the sky-scraping canopy of this old-growth white pine forest. Some of these gigantic trees are up to 350 years old, towering vestiges from a time when indigenous paddlers stroked silently across the lakes of Temagami in birchbark canoes. Modern-day canoeists can access the Temagami Island Old-Growth Trails via a one-kilometre crossing from the Central Lake Temagami Access Road public landing. Six trails meander through the lush old-growth; pack a picnic and plan to spend at least a couple of hours day-hiking in this magical place.

  • Originally built in 1905, Temagami Lodge is nestled on three scenic hectares adjacent to the island’s old-growth trails. Canoe, kayak, or hike right from the door of your rustic lakeside cabin.
  • Temagami Outfitting Co. will get you set up for a day, a week, or even longer in the Temagami wilds. They provide canoe and gear rentals, self-guided trip packages and shuttles from their base in Temagami village.
  • The friendly folks at Smoothwater Outfitters & Lodge can recommend even more fantastic paddle-in day hikes in the Lake Temagami area; this cheerful lakefront lodge is the perfect Temagami basecamp.
View of tree-covered hills
The view from Ishpatina Ridge. Photo: Matt Haughn // @matthaughn

Ishpatina Ridge, Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park

While it’s hard to beat the view from Maple Mountain, Temagami veterans agree a hike to the top of Ishpatina Ridge is a must. After all, who could resist the chance to bag the highest point in Ontario? Set in a remote corner of the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater wilderness park, Ishpatina Ridge is a 13-kilometre-long series of worn and rounded hills rising above Scarecrow Lake. The tallest of these bumps reaches an elevation of 693 metres (2,275 feet) and is marked by the historic Ellis Fire Tower.

Ishpatina ridge is best reached via a multi-day canoe trip up the Montreal River, over a series of lakes and portages between Smoothwater and Scarecrow lakes. Allow five days for the roundtrip journey; although you may want to stay longer when you discover the lovely, sandy beach campsites of Smoothwater Lake. The 3.2-kilometre hike from Scarecrow Lake to the summit follows the old fire tower watchman’s trail and takes about two hours each way.

  • Start or finish your trip with a stay in a cozy, waterfront cottage at Lost Lake Wilderness Lodge, located just minutes from the Montreal River access road.
Expansive view from a rocky outlook on Silver Peak in Killarney
Silver Peak is the highest summit in Killarney and is well worth the climb. Photo: Mikaela Ferguson // Voyageur Tripper

Silver Peak, Killarney Provincial Park

Killarney is truly one of the crown jewels of the Ontario provincial parks system. It’s a landscape unlike any other: more than 50 sapphire lakes cradled by the brilliant, white quartzite ridges of the two-billion-year-old La Cloche Mountains and the rosy, Canadian Shield granite coast of Georgian Bay. During fall colours, the park’s mixed hardwood and conifer forest creates an almost impossibly rich palette that has drawn the country’s finest plein air painters for a century. Add to that an outstanding network of canoe routes and a world-class backcountry hiking circuit, and it’s little wonder this is one of the most popular parks in Ontario’s Near North.

Killarney’s unique, alpine-like landscape means canoeists can enjoy rewarding, off-trail ridge-walking from many of the park’s backcountry lakes. But the ultimate paddle-in hike leads to Silver Peak, the highest summit in Killarney at 539 metres (1,768 feet). From the top, an astounding 360-degree panorama takes in the blue expanse of Georgian Bay, along with dozens of shining lakes, gleaming white mountains and thick forest stretching unbroken to the horizon. Silver Peak lies along the La Cloche Silhouette backpacking route, but the best way to get here is via the paddle-in Silver Peak Trail. From the Bell Lake access point, paddle three kilometres to the trailhead at the lake’s west end; the summit is a further 5.5 kilometres of hiking distant. Backcountry paddlers can also start the trail from David, Clearsilver and Boundary lakes.

  • Killarney Kanoes is located at the Bell Lake access point; they offer lightweight canoe rentals, shuttles, and complete canoe trip outfitting.
  • Killarney Outfitters provides rentals and outfitting for canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and hiking in the park.
  • Join MHO Adventures for a guided Killarney Fall Colours canoe-and-hike adventure. This beginner-friendly trip includes two nights camping at David Lake and an ascent of Silver Peak to witness the autumn spectacle.
  • Overhang Adventures offers guided and outfitted three-day and four-day canoe and hiking trips into David Lake and Silver Peak, with camping on Bell Lake.
  • Enjoy the comfort of your own cozy log cabin at Blue Mountain Lodge, tucked on a private island in Bell Lake.

Denison Falls, Superior Highlands

Want to combine sea kayaking along one of the most remote sections of the world’s largest freshwater lake with a day hike to one of Lake Superior’s most wild and awe-inspiring waterfalls? Starting from the mouth of the Michipicoten River near Wawa, this five-day trip traces the Lake Superior coast of the Superior Highlands Conservation Reserve, a large swath of land encompassing gorgeous Canadian Shield and sandy beach shoreline, untouched boreal forest and wildlife such as otter, beavers, black bear, and bald eagles. After paddling 25 kilometres on the crystal clear waters of Superior, you’ll spend a day hiking inland to the spectacular, 40-metre-high (130-foot) cataract of Denison Falls, a favourite of well-known Canadian filmmaker, artist, and paddler Bill Mason.

  • Visit the falls and learn more about the fascinating ecology and history of this area on Naturally Superior Adventures’ five-day Denison Falls guided sea kayak trip.
  • Lake Superior Adventures offers sea kayak and canoe rentals and trip planning assistance for independent paddlers with open-water experience.
  • Surrounded by the lively waters of Lake Superior and the Michipicoten River, the four comfortable rooms at Rock Island Lodge boast spectacular views and superb access to Superior Highlands paddling. Enjoy delicious meals and on-site kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals, plus lessons or day trips.

Borasso Logging Camp Trail, Missinaibi Lake

Wild and uncrowded, Missinaibi Provincial Park lies in the heart of the world’s largest wildlife preserve. The park includes 500 kilometres of the Missinaibi River, one of the longest, best-known and most historically important canoe routes in the Hudson Bay watershed. While this mainstay whitewater river is the draw for many canoeists visiting the park, the waters of beautiful Missinaibi Lake can easily keep paddlers occupied for days. Located a two-hour drive north of Chapleau, the lake combines unparalleled fishing opportunities for lake trout and walleye, 25 secluded backcountry campsites, more than 100 indigenous pictographs and a fascinating paddle-in hike to the overgrown remains of an authentic Northern Ontario ghost town.

The Borasso Logging Camp operated beside Lake Missinaibi’s Baltic Bay in the 1950s, with loggers cutting timber over the winter, hauling the logs onto the frozen lake, and driving them down the Missinaibi River during the spring thaw. Today, the remaining buildings and artifacts are slowly being swallowed by the boreal forest. Reach the trailhead for this 3-km hike by paddling from Barclay Bay Campground, the only part of this vast park developed for vehicle access.

  • Canoe and kayak rentals are available from the Missinaibi Park Store at Barclay Bay Campground.
  • See the highlights of Missinaibi Lake and paddle the famed Missinaibi River on a guided canoe trip with MHO Adventures. They offer amazing Missinaibi wilderness journeys ranging from nine to 26 days in length. The river rewards both novice whitewater paddlers and seasoned experts.
  • Missinaibi Outfitters provides route planning assistance, shuttle service, guided trips, canoe/kayak rentals, and canoe trip packages from one day to three weeks.
Top of the Giant in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Get stunning views of Lake Superior from atop the Giant. Photo: Destination Ontario

Top of the Giant, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Resting on the Sibley Peninsula east of Thunder Bay, the Sleeping Giant is a spectacular formation of flat-topped mesas and volcanic sills that resembles a huge, stony figure lying atop the fickle waters of Lake Superior. Truly an awe-inspiring sight from lake level, sheer cliffs soar nearly 380 metres (1,250 feet) straight up, making this the highest vertical rise in Ontario. The view is even more breathtaking from lookouts atop the Giant, accessible via Sleeping Giant Provincial Park’s extensive network of hiking and mountain biking trails. Experience both perspectives on a paddle-in hike, with the option to camp overnight at a beautiful backcountry beach campsite.

Depart from the public launch in the silver mining boomtown-turned-sleepy hamlet of Silver Islet and paddle west to Tee Harbour (5 km) or Lehtinen’s Bay (7.5 km), enjoying the view of Thunder Cape. Both locations offer backcountry camping and ready access to the Top of the Giant Trail, which climbs 3.5 kilometres to the Chimney Lookout atop the Giant’s Knees. From this perch, incredible rock formations frame the endless blue horizon of Lake Superior and the wind whispers ancient stories of a legendary giant turned to stone.

  • Reserve a Backcountry Campsite at Tee Harbour or Lehtinen’s Bay to turn your day hike into an overnight adventure.
  • Sea kayak and canoe rentals are available in Thunder Bay at Wilderness Supply, the city’s premier outdoor equipment store.

Mount St. Ignace, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

Encompassing hundreds of wilderness islands, the world’s largest freshwater marine park stretches for 125 kilometres between Lake Superior’s Sleeping Giant and the quaint village of Rossport. Paddling this island-to-island route means navigating challenging open water crossings and a varied coastline of rugged cliffs and inviting cobble beaches. Best suited to experienced sea kayakers, the entire route takes seven to nine days to complete and highlights include camping on wild agate beaches and visits to remote Lake Superior lighthouses.

Fittingly, the climb to the top of Mount St. Ignace is a strenuous, full-day adventure for well-prepared hikers. Located on St. Ignace Island, the largest island in the National Marine Conservation Area, the 565-metre (1,854-foot) peak is the highest elevation on any Lake Superior island. This little-known hiking trail begins in a small bay on the east end of the island and gains nearly 400 metres in elevation across its five-kilometre length. You’ll pass two beautiful waterfalls en route to the summit, which provides a 360-degree panorama of the entire conservation area and beyond.

PLAN YOUR OWN Paddle-In Hike

These are just some of the many spectacular, water-access hiking opportunities found across Ontario. On your next paddling adventure, don’t forget to pack your boots and compass—and discover one of these incredible paddle-in hikes for yourself!

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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