Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park

5 backcountry gems of Southeastern Ontario

Ontario’s wilderness is a lot closer than you think.

Did you know you can leave downtown Toronto and be paddling out to your campsite in less than 3 hours?

These five southeastern parks are perfect for finding backcountry solitude close to home:

Charleston Lake Provincial Park

3 hours from Toronto, 1.5 hours from Ottawa

Charleston Lake sunset

Charleston Lake’s rocky lake-and-forest landscape is an extension of the Canadian Shield. Charleston Lake offers 10 interior campsites which can be accessed either by water or by hiking trail. Depending on site selection it takes from ten minutes to two hours to reach your site.

All sites come equipped with elevated tent platforms, a picnic table, a fire grill and a privy. These sites are excellent for visitors who want to see a different side of the park or for those who are developing their interior camping skills.

Reserve online (don’t forget to select “Backcountry” from the dropdown!)

Bon Echo Provincial Park

3 hours from Toronto, 2 hours from Ottawa

sunrise over lake

The Abes & Essens Overnight Hiking Trail features three loops of four, nine and 17 km. Five campsites are available along the trail for overnight stays.  Each campsite has a picnic table and tent space; toilets are nearby.

Twenty-five canoe-in campsites are located on Joeperry and Pearson Lakes. A short canoe trip of 10 to 30 minutes will get you to your campsite. At each campsite, you will find a picnic table, tent space and a toilet nearby.  Joeperry Lake has the added bonus of a sandy beach.

Reserve online (don’t forget to select “Backcountry” from the dropdown!)

Frontenac Provincial Park

45 minutes from Kingston, 2 hours from Ottawa

lakeside campsite

Frontenac offers site-specific, year-round backcountry camping. Located on the Frontenac Arch, the park offers visitors rocky northern landscape within southern Ontario.

Campsites are located in clusters on lakes in the park’s interior and must be accessed by hiking or paddling. Each campsite has its own tent pad, fire ring, bench and picnic table. An enclosed privy toilet is shared at each campsite cluster.

Reserve online (don’t forget to select “Backcountry” from the dropdown!)

Murphys Point Provincial Park

1.25 hour from Kingston or Ottawa

backcountry campsite

Fourteen campsites are located on Big Rideau Lake and can be accessed by canoe or boat. A total of four clusters (three clusters of four and one cluster of two campsites) are located a 5 to 45 minutes paddle from the boat launch. The three larger clusters (Noble, Narrows, Feldspar) have docking facilities to accommodate motorboats.

At each campsite, you will find a picnic table, tent space and a pit toilet nearby.

Reserve online (don’t forget to select “Backcountry” from the dropdown!)

Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park

2.5 hours from Toronto, 1 hour from Peterborough

canoes on shore

You’ll fall in love with the rugged rolling landscape of small lakes, wetlands, forests and rocky barrens at Kawartha Highlands. The park offers over 100 backcountry campsites spread over six recommended canoe loops.

Most sites have three tent pads, a designated fire ring, picnic table and a privy toilet. Campsites can only be reached by canoe and most require portaging to access.

Reserve online (don’t forget to select “Backcountry” from the dropdown!)

island on lakeNeed more info for your trip-planning?

Check out our backcountry webpage for charts, safety tips and planning resources.

These pages also rank backcountry experiences by difficulty. Only explore backcountry opportunities that suit your skill and knowledge level.

And before you head out…

…please review our Backcountry Etiquette page.

Kawartha Highlands paddlers

Remember: backcountry explorations deliver a more intimate experience with the natural environment, but they also carry responsibility. Do your part to protect our parks by leaving your pristine surroundings just as you found them.