8 Alluring Lakes in Quetico Provincial Park You Need to Visit

Towering rock cliffs, majestic waterfalls and sweeping pines await.

Quetico Provincial Park rewards lake lovers and solitude seekers with some of the finest wilderness canoe tripping in all of Ontario. With access to more than 600 pristine lakes and 2,200 backcountry campsites, you could spend days without seeing another soul in this park of nearly half a million hectares. A rich heritage of First Nations and fur trade travel adds cultural depth to the beautiful landscapes. Diehard canoe trippers can trace an interwoven labyrinth of lakes, portages and picturesque rivers on weeks-long wilderness routes, but a weekend stay in Quetico can be just as rewarding. Venture into the stunning lakes on this list and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in a realm of towering rock cliffs, majestic waterfalls and old-growth pine and spruce forests.

Camp chair waiting on shore at sunset.
Find morning calm on Quetico Lake. Photo: Ron Breault // @swiftypaddler

Quetico Lake

The arms of Quetico Lake reach across the northwest corner of the park, drawing paddlers deep into a world of primeval forest, sandy beaches and dramatic rock faces adorned with centuries-old pictographs. The lake’s size can make for humbling winds, but the island-studded bays and rocky point campsites so perfectly typify the beauty of Quetico Park, you’ll need a layover day just to take it all in. Starting from the Beaverhouse Lake access point, cross this equally inviting lake and take the short portage into the west end of Quetico Lake. The lake anchors a number of fine three- to five-day loop trips, or use a shuttle service for a one-way journey across the secluded northern edge of the park.

Oriana Lake

A favourite of seclusion-seekers, lovely Oriana Lake lies at the far end of a moderate five-day loop from Nym Lake access point. Watch for moose in the beautiful little creeks between Maria, Hamburg and Oriana lakes—early morning or evening is your best bet for wildlife viewing. Then settle into your dream island campsite on Oriana Lake, framed by dramatic cliffs and a smattering of scenic islands. The walleye fishing is amazing and the swimming even better.

Pickerel Lake

The vast, island-studded waters of Pickerel Lake are just a short, portage-free paddle from French Lake and Dawson Trail Campground, the only part of the Quetico wilderness developed for vehicle camping and day use. Often viewed simply as a gateway to the rest of the park—or when the wind is blowing, a hurdle—Pickerel Lake’s immense size makes it a perfect destination for kayak touring or no-portage canoe camping. Plan to paddle early to take advantage of the morning calm, and spend your afternoons fishing, swimming or swinging in a hammock between the stately pines. With its many islands and scenic, sandy beach narrows, the west end of the lake offers more shelter for paddlers when the winds pick up.

Kawnipi Lake

Nestled deep in the Quetico interior, Kawnipi Lake epitomizes the “Singing Wilderness” found in the works of late conservation activist and author, Sigurd Olson. In fact, Olson travelled extensively in the Quetico wilderness and adored Kawnipi Lake. Then, as now, reaching the lake took time and a Zen approach to lengthy and difficult portages. The rewards remain the same: pictographs gazing back from stoic cliffs, armadas of spruce-topped islands with rock point campsites, and the sense of deep isolation and connection you get from not seeing another soul for days at a time. Allow at least two weeks for a 200-km-plus loop from Quetico’s northern access points, or halve the distance and time by flying into Saganaga Lake (on the southeast edge of the park) and travelling north. While you’re here, don’t miss the magnificent Falls Chain, with its seven spectacular waterfalls, reached from the south end of Kawnipi Lake.

Agnes Lake

Just a handful of portages north of Quetico’s international border with Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the sweeping beauty of Agnes Lake is a must-see if you’re travelling through the southeast corner of the park. Breathtaking from end-to-end, this clear water oasis is adorned by high cliffs, ancient rock art and a beautiful waterfall. Head west towards Kahshahpiwi across a chain of small lakes to see the old-growth pines of McNiece Lake. Intrepid backcountry paddlers can visit both Agnes and Kawnipi lakes on a challenging, 225-km figure 8 route from the Stanton Bay access on Pickerel Lake.

Suzanette Lake

Together with neighbouring Conmee Lake, Suzanette Lake is an angler’s paradise hidden deep in the hard-to-reach Quetico interior. To get here, you’ll need to brave the stamina-sapping Memory Lane Portages from Poohbah Lake, the boot-sucking mud of the Delahey Death March Portages, or both. If these carries are half as hard as they sound, then the fishing in these lakes is probably twice as good as you can imagine. The deep, clear waters of Suzanette hold monster lake trout, and the humpback walleye of Conmee Lake are the stuff of legend.

Canoe pulled up on rocky shore
Pull up at a slice of paradise on Jean Lake. Photo: Ron Breault // @swiftypaddler

Jean Lake

Unlike other Ontario canoe tripping meccas like Algonquin and Temagami, where lake travel is often interspersed with navigating complex river systems, most Quetico routes follow a web of meticulously maintained, lake-to-lake portages and beaver creeks. This gives travelling in Quetico a distinctly different feel, best exemplified on a longer tour into the park’s interior. Starting at Beaverhouse, Lerome or Nym lakes access points, a journey to Jean Lake combines intimate paddles on numerous small lakes and narrow creeks with long paddles on some of Quetico’s largest and prettiest bodies of water. Arriving at Jean Lake, you’ll be rewarded with picture-perfect camping and astonishing smallmouth fishing—lunkers here can reach 10 pounds.

Nym Lake

One of Quetico’s best lakes is actually located just outside the park, across the northern boundary from Batchewaung Lake. With only a short paddle and single portage into Batchewaung, this peaceful, pine-fringed lake is truly “one portage from wilderness”, yet easily accessible from Trans-Canada Highway 11. Even better, Nym Lake is home to the beautiful Voyageur Island Lodge, which offers comfortable accommodations where guests can enjoy a lakeside sauna, paddle a replica 36-foot Voyageur canoe and feast on amazing food. Stay here before or after your canoe trip, and let them help with all your planning and outfitting needs.

Planning your trip

There are a total of 21 entry points from which paddlers can approach the Quetico wilderness from all directions, but many are inaccessible by vehicle. Entry points along the southern edge of the park primarily serve backcountry paddlers crossing into Quetico from Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Most visitors beginning their trip in Ontario enter the park through five main access points on Quetico’s north side, with the town of Atikokan serving as a hub for outfitters, accommodations and charter flights.

Whether you’re looking to rent canoes and equipment, treat yourself to a fully guided trip or find a blissful basecamp for your Quetico adventures, the outfitters and operators listed here can help turn your dream trip into a reality. Discover more Quetico canoe routes and outfitters.

Quetico Canoe Rentals, Outfitting & Guided Trips

  • Voyageur Wilderness Programme is a premiere guiding service, outfitting business, and overall exceptional example of what an eco-tour can be. Located on Nym Lake and run by Michelle Savoie and her dedicated family, VWP will not only create the trip of a lifetime; they will steep you in the park’s history, legends and ecology.
  • Quetico Outfitters, together with Camp Quetico, provides a wide range of full guiding services, outfitting options, waterfront cabins on nearby Eva Lake, and shuttles to start or finish your trip. Their website also offers various route suggestions to kick-start your Quetico canoe planning.
  • Branch’s Seine River Lodge is a family jewel of the Quetico region. Tucked at the park's northwest corner, Branch’s can offer you everything from partial gear outfitting to full meal plans, shuttles, and accommodations.
  • Canadian Quetico Outfitters is your stop for complete gear outfitting and shuttle needs, conveniently located on Highway 17 east of Atikokan.
  • Canoe Canada Outfitters offers complete and partial outfitting options, fully guided canoe trips, and fly-in wilderness cabins for anglers, as well as fly-in, paddle-out canoe trip packages.
  • Atikokan Aero Service is your best bet for fly-in Quetico canoe trips. The air base is located on Steep Rock Lake near the town of Atikokan and services the area’s best wilderness lakes. Canoe rentals are also available.

Quetico Accommodations

  • Voyageur Wilderness Program – Voyageur Island Ecolodge offers comfortable accommodations and delicious meals on an exclusive island in Nym Lake, accessible by free shuttle boat.
  • Branch’s Seine River Lodge's waterfront cabins have all the comforts of home, right on the shores of Banning Lake in the Seine River chain, near the northwest corner of Quetico Park.
  • Camp Quetico is nestled on beautiful Eva Lake, adjacent to the park’s Dawson Trail entry point. Stay in a modern housekeeping cottage perched right on the lakeshore for a comfortable start or finish to your wilderness canoe trip.
  • Campbell’s Cabins is an ideal home base if you’re looking to start (or finish) your trip on the southwest side of the park. Located on Lac La Croix, the resort can also provide boat shuttle and canoe rentals to various Quetico entry points along the Ontario-Minnesota border.
  • Perch Lake Lodge is located on the Seine River chain, just minutes west of Atikokan. The lodge offers comfortable housekeeping cottages, RV and tent camping, and an on-site restaurant.
  • Quetico Provincial Park's Dawson Trail Campground on French Lake features 107 sites for RV and tent camping, three rustic cabins, great swimming beaches, kayak and SUP rentals, and access to 35 km of hiking trails.

Discover Quetico’s Best Wilderness Canoe Routes

To explore Quetico by paddle and portage is to feel a timeless connection with an ancient land and its people. Whether you are a first-time visitor or an experienced backcountry paddler searching for new waters, pick one (or more) of the amazing lakes on this list, and go now.

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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