How to Plan an Algonquin Trip From Scratch

Are you thinking of booking a camping trip in Ontario?  Odds are you’ve at least considered going through the glimmering jewel of the Canadian Shield, Algonquin Park.  You’d be right to consider it too!  It’s awesome.  Plenty of wildlife, scenic hikes, a logging history…it’s 100% Canadian wilderness.

But it’s fairly intimidating.  The maps are huge, the portages (relatively) long, and the reports of bear-sightings numerous.  To top it all off, there’s no online registration!  Egad.  But worry not, I’m here to help.

The first thing you should do before heading into Algonquin by canoe is get a few other canoe trips under your belt.  The Poker Lake, Massassauga, Algonquin Highlands, and Haliburton Highlands are all within a day’s drive of Algonquin, and offer much easier portages and weekend trips.  It’ll cut your teeth a bit, and make sure you’re up for Algonquin.  You don’t want to be caught 2 portages deep only to figure out you don’t know how to adequately string up a food barrel.

Secondly, buy a map or two of the park.  They’ve got really big tabletop maps of the whole park, as well as smaller and more detailed ones of the specific sections of the park.  A favorite of mine if Jeff’s map (available free online: Study these well, because eventually dots will begin to connect in your mind.

After a while, you’ll start thinking, “hmmm, if I start here, then paddle here…a few portages…more paddling…then by day 9 I’ll be in the clear!”  It breeds ambition staring at a map, and once you settle on a good loop/trip, you’ll be hooked.

On to actual planning though.  If you’ve got your trip all planned out, or even if you’ve got a general idea, call 1-800-ONT-PARK (there’s another number on their site for out-of-country visitors).  They’ll be able to help you out picking a route if you need help, and they’ll be able to process your booking as well.  I highly suggest booking as soon as you can, because the park limits the number of people who can camp in the interior, and it fills pretty quickly.

You’ll be asked a few simple questions:
-When do you want to go, and for how long
-What access point are you going to use?  Meaning where are you going to put in.  There are 29 access points, and most of them are little more than a sign at the end of a road.  Make sure you know where to pick up your permits too.
-Where will you stay?  Algonquin is fairly unique in the fact that they’ll only ask which lake you wish to stay on, and it’s first come first served at the site.
-What’s your credit card number?

If you’ve got a bigger group, or a heavier canoe, you might want to consider some of the on-site or nearby outfitters.  They’ll usually charge less than a big-city outfitter like MEC, and odds are they’ll shuttle you and your gear out to the nearest put-in.  A light canoe, a proper pack, and a sturdy tent can make your trip much better while not stretching your budget too far.

As always, if you’ve got questions let me know in the comment section, I’d be more than happy to help.  See you on the water!