Quetico offers both the convenience of a campground and the challenge of the backcountry.
Dawson Trail Campground provides camping opportunities with services and facilities, sites for all types of recreational equipment and two yurts.
Quetico’s interior provides a remote wilderness experience. Canoe and kayak tripping as well as backpacking can take you into the pristine backcountry of the park.
Dawson Trail Campground is located on French Lake in the northeast corner of the park at the threshold of the Quetico wilderness. Over 100 campsites are located in two campground loops: Chippewa and Ojibwa.
Both campground loops have some electrical sites and can accommodate trailers and tents. Vault toilets, flush toilets, showers, laundry and water taps are all nearby. Many campsites in the Ojibway campground are lakefront with direct access to water.
Swimming, hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and picnicking are just a few of the opportunities available at the campgrounds during the summer. The winter months offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice-fishing.
Quetico has several backcountry sites with beautiful beaches and clear waters on Pickerel Lake that can be accessed by foot from the Dawson Trail Campground via the Pines Trail.
The extensive network of lakes and rivers at Quetico provide a variety of canoe and kayak wilderness travel experiences. Over 2,000 interior sites through out the park allow for short, easy trips or extended routes that require skillful paddling, navigation, outdoor living techniques and rigorous portaging.
Quetico is a wilderness park. The backcountry has no facilities, services or signs. Please play your part in the preservation of Quetico Park for future generations by following the principals of “no trace” camping.
Backcountry campsites at Quetico can be reserved online through the Ontario Parks Reservation Service.
Quetico has two yurts, located in the Chippewa Campground. Yurts are great for those who don’t own camping equipment, those who prefer more comfortable camping and those who want to try camping in the winter.
Each yurt is equipped with two sets of futon bunk beds and sleeps up to six. Inside the yurt, campers will also find a table and chairs, and a broom and dustpan. Outside, yurt sites are equipped with a propane BBQ, picnic table and fire pit. The yurts have electricity and electric heat.
Visitors should bring their own, bedding, cookware and dishes.
Please note that domestic animals (pets) are not permitted in the yurt or on site and smoking is prohibited in all facilities. Cooking in yurts is not permitted. During the off-season season, campers must book at least seven days in advance.
Parking for one vehicle is included in your rental fee.
Yurts can be reserved by calling Ontario Parks’ reservation system.
Quetico is host to world-class paddling opportunities. The multitude and variety of waterways create an ideal backcountry wilderness to explore by canoe or kayak. Pristine landscapes provide exceptional wildlife viewing and angling experiences.
The Dawson Trail Campground has many amenities, including a picnic shelter and outdoor grills, a natural and cultural interpretive centre and programs, park store and kayak rentals.
Campers at the Dawson Trail Campground can explore 35 km of hiking trails, ranging from barrier-free to moderate difficulty.
The Teaching Trail 3.2 km, 2 hours, strenuous
Rough topography and steep slopes are features of this trail as it weaves its way through a variety of forest habitat. The rich diversity of plant life reflects subtle differences in sunlight, soil, temperature, moisture and topography under the forest canopy. The trail winds through a beaver meadow and along the east shore of French Lake. This linear trail can be walked in sections and connects the Day-Use area with Chippewa and Ojibwa Campgrounds (Caution: terrain is slippery when wet.)
French Falls Trail 2.4 km, 1hour, strenuous
This trail is not long but has some steep climbs as it follows the cascades of the French River. This is a picturesque, photogenic trail.
French Portage Trail 5 km, 2 hours, strenuous
This hike into the past traces a portage first established by natives and later used by European explorers and fur traders. It was, for a short time, the main route for settlement in the Red River area of Manitoba and for further exploration west. French Portage is still part of a canoe route that connects Windigoostigwan and French Lake. The low-lying terrain is sometimes difficult.
Pickerel Point Trail 1.6 km, return, 30 minutes, moderate
Sometimes difficult and steep, this trail follows the Pickerel River and offers a view of French Lake. This trail is designated as a pet exercise play area.
Pickerel River Trail 0.8 km, 30 minutes, barrier-free
The Sheila Hainey Boardwalk along the Pickerel River dips to lowlands along the river’s edge through alder, Balsam Fir and spruce then slowly rises to highlands of pine, birch and poplar. It links the Quetico Information Pavilion at Dawson Trail to the French Lake Day-Use area.
Pines Hiking Trail 10 km return, 3.5 hour, moderate
An extension of the Whiskey Jack Trail, Pines Trail takes in a sandy beach guarded by a stand of majestic old-growth Red and White Pine. Enjoy the solitude of the walk, picnic on the beaches of Pickerel Lake, or venture into the interior. The trail includes moderate to steep climbs. Backpackers can obtain an interior camping permit and hike this trail for overnight camping.
Whiskey Jack Trail 2.5 km, 1 hour, moderate
This gateway to Quetico’s wilderness begins on a boardwalk that winds through forest-covered lowland thick with mosses, Labrador Tea, horsetail, twinflower, bunchberry, pyrola, Black Spruce and tamarack. The boardwalk gives way to a foot path that meanders through a mosaic of forest habitats. (Caution: terrain is slippery when wet.)
Baptism Creek Trail 1.1 km, 0.5 hours, moderate
This trail links the Whiskey Jack and Camp 111 trails. The hilly terrain goes through a mature Jack Pine stand and finishes at a clearing along the banks of Baptism Creek.
Camp 111 Trail 4.4 km, 2hours, moderate
The Camp 111 trail is the remnants of an old logging road that runs adjacent to the French River. The route travels through a variety of forest types and completes the Dawson Trail System circuit by connecting to the French Falls Trail.
Stretching 60 miles from east to west and 40 miles from north to south, Quetico is renowned for its rugged beauty - its towering rock cliffs, majestic waterfalls, virgin pine and spruce forests, picturesque rivers and lakes - and for the best wilderness canoeing in the world. Except for Dawson Trail, the park is accessible only by water. There are no roads; logging is not permitted and regulations help preserve the park’s natural and remote splendour.
Hundreds of lakes and rivers are linked by portages averaging 400 m and provide a wide range of canoeing opportunities from one day to several weeks.
Some areas of the park are more easily travelled than others. Portages and campsites are not signed. Ask park staff at the ranger stations for the most current information about water levels and portage conditions.
Listed below are suggested routes from each Ranger Station. There are many more routes to take, but this will give first-time users an idea of distance and time.
Dawson Trail Ranger Station:
Baptism Creek-Cache Lake Loop - 123 km (6 days) 18 lakes, 20 portages, challenging
Baptism Creek is accessible from French Lake in the northeast corner of Quetico. Few visitors venture southeast of the lake. This route is recommended for seasoned trippers who are physically able to surmount two of the park’s most formidable obstacles - the Cache Lake portages. For those who don’t mind backtracking or rugged portages, this entry point offers canoeists a quick escape into wilderness solitude and isolation not found at many other entry points.
Atikokan Ranger Station:
Batchewaung - Twin-Jean-Jesse Loop
- 112 km (6 days) 14 lakes, 18 portages, challenging
This popular route features large and small lakes, creeks and easy portages. Upon reaching Pickerel Lake from Batchewaung, steer an easterly course through Pickerel Narrows then head south and southwest through Dore and Twin lakes to gigantic Sturgeon Lake. Near its west end, enter Jean Creek. After paddling north through Burntside and Jean Lakes, bear east on Quetico Lake and continue through Oriana, Jesse and Maria lakes. From there, portage back to Pickerel Lake and return to Nym Lake by reversing the route you followed on the first day.
Beaverhouse Ranger Station:
Cirrus Lake-The Sue Falls Loop
- 40 miles (4 days), 5 lakes, 7 portages, easy
This loop is ideal for those who prefer long, uninterrupted stretches of paddling, with only an occasional portage for leg-stretching. You paddle from the northeast corner of Beaverhouse Lake and then portage east, first to an unnamed lake and then to Cirrus Lake. With nearly half of the route’s portages behind you, paddle to the east end of Cirrus for a view of scenic Sue Falls. Steer south to the longest and most difficult portage of the trip. Upon reaching Kasakokwog Lake, plot a westerly course down McAlpine Creek to another enormous lake. Paddling close to the north shore of Quetico Lake, don’t miss ancient rock paintings (pictographs) on the sheer granite cliffs. From the west end of Quetico Lake, the Quetico River carries you back to Beaverhouse Lake.
Lac La Croix Ranger Station: McAree Lake easy
McAree Lake is the most convenient of the four entry points accessible from Lac La Croix. From here, it is only three miles to Quetico’s interior. Beyond is some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire Quetico-Superior region. Argo and Crooked Lakes, Curtain Falls, the Siobhan and Darky rivers and the pictographs of Darky Lake are among the not-too-distant attractions. McAree and Minn Lakes are among the 10 lakes in Quetico where native people of the Lac La Croix Guides Association are permitted to use motors no bigger than 10 horsepower. East of these two lakes however, the only buzzing will be that of the humming birds.
Prairie Portage Ranger Station:
Carp Lake-Hunter’s Island Loop
- 379 miles (13 days), 25 lakes, 29 portages, easy to challenging
If you have two full weeks to spend on the water, this route is scenic, historic and one of the most varied. The lakes and rivers along this loop were part of the Voyageurs’ Highway - the route of the fur traders between Lake Superior and Rainy Lake. Throughout the loop are historic sites where natives, prospectors, settlers and loggers left their marks. Counterclockwise is the best direction to paddle the loop, allowing you to take advantage of the Maligne River’s occasional swift current. You should allow one layover day, just in case you get held up by high winds on a large lake.
Cache Bay Ranger Station:
Falls Chain-The K-K-K Loop
- 168 km (8 days) 26 lakes, 37 portages, challenging
Eight days is recommended for this route and you must be a strong and experienced paddlers. Most groups average 10 days. From Cache Bay, paddle to the northeast end of the bay. View Silver Falls at the first portage, then paddle to the north end of Saganagons Lake and begin the journey to the Falls Chain to Kawnipi Lake. After paddling Kawnipi to its northwest end, go south along Kahshahpiwi Creek, through Cairn, Sark and Keefer Lakes, all the way to Kahshahpiwi Lake. From there, portage to McNiece Lake. A chain of smaller lakes and streams leads south to Basswood Lake. From there, paddle northeast along a series of international border lakes back to Saganaga Lake.
The interior of Quetico is host to many excellent swimming opportunities. Dawson Trail Campground has a main beach with a designated swimming area, change rooms and facilities.
Quetico’s many lakes and rivers support an exceptional fishery of walleye, Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass. A fish cleaning station is available near the beach in the Dawson Trail Campground.
There are no dedicated bike trails at Quetico but visitors are welcome to explore the Dawson Trail Campground roads on bicycle.
Natural Heritage Education (NHE) staff offer a variety of interpretive programs during the summer and winter months. Presentations, hikes, workshops and children’s programs are offered.
The Artist in Residence program is also presented through the NHE department.
Over 200 bird species have been recorded in Quetico, many of which are migratory. During the summer over 100 species of birds nest in Quetico. The park is a major breeding ground for birds of prey such as Bald Eagles & osprey.
The Dawson Trail Campground has a variety of ski and snowshoe trails that are maintained in the winter. Quetico hosts two ski tours, the Sawmill Classic in January and the Cross Quetico in March. Frosty February is an annual event that focuses on winter outdoor recreation. There are many demonstrations and learning opportunities as well as events. Yurts are also available for rent year-round.
The Dawson Trail Campground is located on the shores of French Lake. Both campground loops, Chippewa and Ojibwa, have water taps and comfort stations with laundry and showers.
The day-use area is complete with beach, swimming area, change rooms, flush toilets, playground, picnic shelter, outdoor grills and a pet exercise play area. Trails, the Artist’s studio and the Natural Heritage Education log cabin are also nearby.
Follow the boardwalk toward the pavilion, shop in the Park Store, rent a kayak, personal floatation device (PFD) or fishing equipment; learn about the natural and cultural heritage of Quetico or spend time in the library.
Unique to Quetico is the John B. Ridley Research Library. The library located at Dawson Trail has a large collection of books, articles, pamphlets, maps, slides, photographs, and oral history tapes about Quetico and its environs. The library is staffed full-time from mid-April to mid-September and part-time from October through March. For more information on the library, call (807) 929-2571, Ext. 224.
The Ojibwa and Chippewa Campgrounds both have comfort stations with flush toilets, showers and laundry.
Flush toilets are located at both comfort stations in the campgrounds, at the Nature Centre and at the day-use area.
The park has a number of barrier-free facilities including both campground comfort stations, a campsite in each campground and the boardwalk trail. An all-terrain wheelchair is available at the pavilion for loan.
The Dawson Trail Campground has a day-use area with beach, swimming, playground and grills.
Laundry facilities are found at each campground comfort station.
Kayaks are available for rent at the Dawson Trail Campground. Park visitors can also borrow personal floatation devices (PFDs), fishing gear and an all-terrain wheelchair.
A small Park Store selling Quetico souvenirs can be found at each entry station and at the Park Office in Atikokan.
A picnic shelter with tables and grills is found in the day-use area at the Dawson Trail Campground. It is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
An interpretive centre is located in the Dawson Trail Campground.
A pet trail and swimming are can be found in the Dawson Trail Campground.
There is no fire ban at this time.
Boil Water Advisory for Dawson Trail Campground - Water must be tested by the Local Public Health Laboratory before it is safe for use. The quality of the water is unknown at this time. Water can be rendered safe for drinking if boiled for at least one minute. All notices will be removed from the taps as soon as we have received confirmation of acceptable laboratory test results.
There is no beach posting at this time.