7 Best Kid-Friendly Canoe Trips in Ontario

For the perfect summer escape, plan a family paddling trip in these amazing parks.

Nothing brings together all the quintessential summer pleasures—swimming, campfires, warm breezes and long days—like family canoe trips in Ontario. With loads of fantastic routes to choose from, there’s a trip to entertain and enrich every member of the family, from tots to teenagers.

Whether you’re looking to escape for a weekend or a week or more, plan a kid-friendly route with manageable portages and a flexible schedule that gives young paddlers plenty of free time for swimming and exploring. Shorter daily distances offer a chance to slow down and reconnect with each other and the natural landscape.

For new canoeists, going with an experienced outfitter is a fun, worry-free introduction to family canoe tripping. Even better, family-focused group trips give kids a safe, inclusive space to paddle, play and explore with others their own age.

Read on to discover some of the best canoe trips with kids in Ontario. The routes outlined below are packed with amazing campsites, spellbinding forests and falls, and a just-right amount of challenge to give your whole family a great sense of accomplishment at the take-out.

Diamond-Obabika Loop, Temagami

Few places have as rich a tradition of overnight canoe trips with kids in Ontario as the Temagami region. Perfect for families with more experienced young trippers, the classic Diamond-Obabika Loop is one of the most popular canoe routes in Temagami—and with good reason. This five- to six-day loop (72 kilometres) is packed with gorgeous campsites, superb swimming in beautiful clear-water lakes, and not too many portages. Short hikes to spectacular old-growth forest and lookouts add variety and keep active kids on the move.

Begin your trip at lovely Sandy Inlet on the north end of Lake Temagami. The launch is located on the Camp Wanapitei turn off Red Squirrel Road, a passable gravel road that leaves Highway 11 about 10 kilometres north of the town of Temagami. Paddle and portage west into Sharp Rock Inlet and Diamond Lake. Search the shores for pictographs here and on Wakimika Lake before entering the twisting meanders of the Wakimika River, a gently flowing waterway that offers great wildlife watching en route to Obabika Lake.

Settle into one of the fine campsites at the north end of Obabika Lake and spend a full day exploring the Wakimika Triangle Trails. Today, this stand of 380-year-old red and white pines is protected within Obabika River Provincial Park, but in 1989—threatened by logging—this peaceful grove was the site of the province’s largest act of civil disobedience. It’s a marvellous place to be awed by nature and share lessons on the importance of conservation.

Finish your loop with a portage back into Lake Temagami. If you have time, hike to the lookouts atop Devil Mountain or Ferguson Mountain on your return paddle north to Sandy Inlet.

Spanish River

Many families looking for a kid-friendly whitewater canoe trip put the popular French River at the top of their wish list, but there’s an equally fine, wildly underrated option just an hour west of Sudbury. Its under-the-radar status means the Spanish River sees only 10 percent of the backcountry use of the French, with none of the lodge and cottage traffic.

For paddlers with some previous river running experience, the Spanish is an ideal first moving water multiday. Most of the rapids are of the learning variety, and all are easily portaged around. Even better, there are lots of spacious campsites and loads of fantastic swimming opportunities for young trippers.

Trips of three to 10 days are possible, with access points at Duke Lake, The Elbow, Bisocasting, and various stops along the Via Rail. Taking the train to the put-in is a wonderfully memorable way to start your family canoe trip.

Choose the East Branch of the river (accessible from Highway 144) for a chain of pretty lakes followed by easy whitewater fun. If you have more advanced whitewater skills and are looking for a challenge, take the train to Biscotasing to start your trip on the wilder West Branch of the river. For a shorter trip, train into The Forks—where the two branches meet—and make a three- to four-day descent to The Elbow, focusing on the gentle-to-moderate whitewater of the river’s middle section.

woman and two children paddle a canoe through water lilies
Experience the beauty of Quetico as a family. Source: Kevin Green // @grnology

Northern Lakes Route, Quetico

“Are we there yet?” Yes, Quetico is a long drive from Southern Ontario—especially if you’re travelling with kids. But this is legendary canoe country, and families who make the journey to this iconic park west of Thunder Bay will not be disappointed. Quetico Provincial Park is renowned for its rugged beauty, gorgeous lakes, majestic waterfalls and virgin forests, as well as its true wilderness feel. You won’t find any portage markers on trees or backcountry campsites on a map here.

Canoeing opportunities are endless in Quetico—it’s possible to disappear into the woods for weeks without seeing another soul. Families can experience the Park’s beauty and solitude in as little as three days, but if you can, give yourself at least five days to disconnect and settle into the natural rhythms of paddle-swim-sleep-repeat.

The small town of Atikokan—along with a handful of family-run lodges and outfitters—provides ready access to the Park’s northern entry points. Launch at the ranger station at Beaverhouse Lake for a linear trip that links some of Quetico’s prettiest lakes along its northern edge, and travels west to east to take advantage of prevailing west winds. You’ll enjoy Quetico, Jesse, Maria and Batchewaung lakes on the way to Pickerel Lake’s Stanton Bay access point.

Alternatively, families with younger kids can explore some of these lakes on a shorter trip starting and ending at beautiful Voyageur Island Lodge on Nym Lake.

  • For complete gear outfitting and shuttle needs, Canadian Quetico Outfitters is conveniently located on Highway 17 east of Atikokan.
  • Tucked at the Park's northwestern corner, Branch’s Seine River Lodge offers everything from partial gear outfitting to full backcountry meal plans, shuttles and accommodations. They’ll even let you pitch your tent free of charge at their resort before or after your Quetico canoe trip.
  • Foster family connection and discover the beauty of the Quetico region with Voyageur Wilderness Program's Quetico Classic Family Canoe Trip & Lodge Adventure. This all-inclusive, all-ages package includes a three-day canoe trip, island lodge stay and voyageur canoe ride.
  • First-come, first-served camping reservations are available online or by phone up to five months in advance of your arrival date ($11/adult or $5/youth per night).
  • Discover more Quetico canoe routes and outfitters in The Ultimate Guide to Quetico’s Best Canoe Trips.
kid in canoe looks back and camera while paddling across a lake in Killarney
Find a multitude of accessible canoe routes in Killarney. Source: Victoria Lutchenko // @victora_toridolls

David Lake Loop, Killarney

With over 50 dazzling blue lakes nestled among the white quartzite ridges of the La Cloche Mountains, the toughest part of your family canoe trip in Killarney Provincial Park might be choosing just one route! Most paddlers enter the Park along its southern edge from Highway 637, which also provides access to the charming lakeside village of Killarney.

The easy David Lake loop can be paddled in just three days, but plan on an extra day or two if you want to combine your canoe trip with a hike up to Silver Peak—the highest point in the La Cloche mountain range. Begin your trip at the Bell Lake access point, located off Hwy 637 east of the George Lake campground, and paddle through Three Mile, Balsam, David, Clearsilver and Johnnie lakes to complete this loop.

Kids will love the rock point campsites framing these scenic lakes, as well as the spectacular views from the lofty, bald summit of Silver Peak. Pick up the trail from the Boundary Lake portage on David Lake and be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the full-day hike (10 kilometres).

woman and child sit with dog on lakeside rocks with beached canoe nearby
Making family memories in beautiful Temagami. Source: Rick Galezowski // @greatlakestudio

Wolf Lake-Chiniguchi Loop, Temagami

Tucked in the southwest corner of the Temagami canoe area, the lightly travelled Chiniguchi Waterway Park is the gateway to the majestic old-growth red pines of Wolf Lake and the kid-pleasing waters of Paradise Lagoon. Surrounded by steep rock walls of granite and quartz, this enchanting swimming hole is a brilliant aqua blue and fed by rushing falls—truly paradise on a hot summer day.

Families with younger kids—or less ambition for portaging—can visit the lagoon on a two- to three-day, out-and-back paddle from Matagamasi Lake to Wolf Lake. Allow at least four days for the more challenging loop trip north to Chiniguchi Lake and back through a series of smaller lakes linked by portages—including the notoriously muddy 900-metre trek into Laura Lake. En route, you’ll visit Wolf, Dewdney, Chiniguchi, Laura, Evelyn, Irish, Bonesteel and Wesell lakes, finishing with a paddle down the northeast arm of Matagamasi Lake.

Both trips begin at the Matagamasi Lake access point where there is free parking. From Highway 17 east of Sudbury, turn north onto Kukagami Lake Road and follow this good gravel road 27 kilometres to Matagamasi Lake Road and the launch. Camping permits are not required for Chiniguchi Waterway Park or the surrounding area.

  • Located on nearby Kukagami Lake, Sportsman’s Lodge Wilderness Resort offers cozy accommodations, shuttle service and canoe rentals, as well as trip planning assistance and complete or partial outfitting.

French River

Easy access and friendly whitewater make the French River one of the best family canoe trips in Ontario. Paddlers of all ages love the classic Canadian Shield landscapes of windswept pines, and the polished pink granite campsites and warm water are perfect for swimming. This is also a great trip for connecting kids with Canada’s rich canoeing heritage; the French was a major travel route for First Nations, fur trappers and loggers, and is the country’s first designated heritage river.

Flowing 110 kilometres from Lake Nipissing west to Georgian Bay, the French River offers three channels and more than 280 campsites, making for plenty of rewarding route options—from short-and-sweet downriver runs to longer loops exploring the river’s sprawling, island-studded delta. Numerous access points and outfitters—all readily accessible from Highway 69 just north of Parry Sound—keep logistics simple.

French River canoe routes are suitable for novice paddlers—there are few portages, and all rapids can be portaged. In summer, the current is gentle enough to allow easy upstream paddling. Your biggest challenge is likely to be paddling into the prevailing west winds that funnel upriver from Georgian Bay.

For a three-day canoe trip, family favourites include the exciting rapids and stellar campsites of the Wolseley Bay to Highway 69 route; or the easy flatwater of the French-Pickerel loop. Looking for a longer family getaway? With five to seven days you could embark on the portage-free 18 Mile Island loop, or complete the classic Figure 8 loop from Hartley Bay down to Georgian Bay.

Moose River

For a canoe trip unlike any other, bring your family on a journey through Canadian history on the Moose River. This unique adventure combines an exploration of the James Bay Lowlands—a wildlife-filled northern estuary on Ontario’s forgotten saltwater coastline—with the colourful cultural and human history of the Moose Cree people and the fur trade.

With its lazy current, easy swifts and toddler-friendly sandbar camping and swimming, the lower Moose River is perfect for kids of all ages. Join a guided trip to simplify logistics and maximize learning—MHO Adventures’ all-inclusive Moose River Family Adventure includes a ride on the historic Polar Bear Express train, four days of canoe camping on this wilderness river, and authentic cultural experiences in the Indigenous community of Moose Factory on the shores of James Bay.

Board the train in Cochrane and ride north through stunted black spruce and tamarack before disembarking at Moose River Crossing in the middle of the boreal forest. From here you’ll make your way downriver, splashing in the shallows and searching for fossils by day, and scanning the night sky for Northern Lights after dark.

In Moose Factory, you’ll have the chance to take a motor boat trip out to the river mouth on James Bay, home to incredible marine wildlife that you won’t see anywhere else in the province. Young animal-lovers may spot seals basking on the river’s sandbars, and pods of ghostly white Beluga whales swimming in this southernmost tip of the Arctic Ocean.

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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