Why I'm Glad I Went RVing at Killarney Provincial Park

Whether the rugged Ontario landscape inspires you to paint, hike, paddle or just enjoy, this park is a must-visit.

Located on the wild north shore of Georgian Bay, Killarney Provincial Park is home to perhaps the most ruggedly beautiful campground I have visited. Straddling the historic La Cloche Mountain range, teeming with white quartzite hills that dominate the landscape, Killarney also boasts white cliffs and huge pine forests that surround the park's lakes. It is a locale that is anything but aesthetically displeasing. Just ask the Group of Seven painters — they were big fans also! More on them later.

Nary a Leprechaun…

My wife and I booked an RV site at Killarney Provincial Park in the summer of 2021, after purchasing our current travel trailer (a 26-foot Forest River with one slide-out). Back in my college days in Lindsay, classmates would speak about Killarney and how magical it was. I said, "Wow! Yes, I've heard Ireland is beautiful in the summer..." 

To which, of course, I was told “No! Killarney, Ontario!” and I was admittedly at a loss.

It took over 30 years, but I finally made it to Killarney and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Though there were no leprechauns to be found, the Provincial Park is indeed a sight to behold. (Also, given Killarney’s 4.8/5 rating on Google reviews, we are not the only campers to think the place is great).

a white pickup truck towing a large camper, parked in a driveway surrounded in green trees
Prepping to hit the road: an RV trip to one of the provincial parks should be on every summer to-do list.

Park Origin - Group of Seven

Thanks to conservation efforts from Canada’s famous Group of Seven artist A. Y. Jackson, Killarney was preserved by the Ontario government for future generations to enjoy. Disturbed by the prospect that one of the Park’s lakes was slated for logging, Jackson successfully lobbied the Provincial government to halt the project. The lake and (future Park) were taken into trust by the Ontario Society of Artists and named O.S.A. Lake, after the artist group who saved it. Later in 1959, the Killarney Provincial Park area was set aside as a wilderness preserve. Jackson's efforts were later rewarded by naming the lake after him on his 90th birthday.

Killarney's Ecosystem Overcomes Adversity

The health of Killarney’s fragile ecosystems has faced its share of hurdles over the years. Due to its proximity to Sudbury nickel mines and smelters, Killarney lakes were damaged by acid rain. Pollution caused by the smelting activities caused many lakes to become acidified. Acid rain all but wiped out fish and plant life here for decades before Legislation passed in 1970 forced the industry to improve emissions standards. Killarney’s rugged quartzite lakes were especially hard hit by a lack of limestone buffering.  Water quality has since improved in many lakes to pre-pollution levels, while the process of biological recovery is still a work in progress.

George Lake Campground Amenities

A camper settled in a lush forested campsite, with its canopy up and chairs set up next to it.
Pretty, comfortable sites make George Lake Campground a great home base.

RV enthusiasts, like me, are pleased to know that Killarney’s George Lake Campground is open year-round for camping. Killarney has 184 backcountry canoe-in sites and 34 backcountry hike-in sites for the more adventurous type. Winter camping in the backcountry is also available. My wife and I chose a pull-thru site located a short distance from the main beach on George Lake. It was a wonderful spot, easy to set up with a view of the lake! Although no sites offer ‘full hookup’ here, the campground does have an RV blackwater dumping station. Outside the park office, there are also two heated washrooms with potable water.

a map of Killarney Provincial Park campground
The park layout — everything you need, and easy to get to.

Camping Cabins & Yurts

Camping Cabins are found in Campground B, a secluded area separated from the rest of the campground. Yurts are also located in their own private area (Campground A). Cabins feature a partially equipped kitchenette with propane fireplace, microwave, fridge, coffee maker and kettle. There is a dining table and chairs for inside meals and outside you will find a gas barbeque and picnic table.

Owl Prowl Tour

One fun activity we tried during our stay at Killarney Provincial Park was their famous Owl Prowl tour. This region of Ontario is home to several species of owl, some of which nest right inside the campground property. Kate, the Park Naturalist shares insight on these magnificent, rarely seen birds of prey. Do yourself a favour and check out the Owl Prowl tour while visiting Killarney; you will not be disappointed.

Amazing Hiking in Killarney Provincial Park

Hiking in Killarney is a must; there are plenty of great trails to choose from. The Crack and La Cloche Silhouette Trails offer absolutely stunning views (see for yourself what had the Group of Seven so inspired). These gorgeous trails weave through the La Cloche mountains, around white quartzite rock, stands of maple and birch forest, and up to Group-of-Seven-worthy vistas. If you're already camping at George Lake Campground, Cranberry Bog Trail is handy and considered easy. Bonus: not far from Killarney Provincial Park is another great hike: the Heaven's Gate Trail, from Sagamok First Nation to just outside Willisville. You can read more about Heaven's Gate here.

Killarney Provincial Park is Worth the Wait

a view from Killarney Provincial Park; smooth rock mountains and a valley dappled with green, red and yellow forest with a lake in the distance.

Though it took me over three decades to make it to Ontario’s magical place (even without leprechauns), Killarney, it was a camping trip I will not soon forget. Even without the luxury of full hookup sites, RVers are treated more to spectacular scenery, great tours, and solid basic accommodations. The park does provide picnic areas, firewood, canoe rentals, wilderness trails and everything else you require while exploring the historical north shore of Georgian Bay. 

For more information on camping at Killarney Provincial Park, visit the Ontario Parks website.

About Jeff Morrison

Jeff Morrison is an award-winning outdoor writer, book author, and nationally-syndicated newspaper and magazine columnist.

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