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There are no dedicated bike trails at Quetico but visitors are welcome to explore the Dawson Trail Campground roads on bicycle.
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.
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 550 maintained 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 Anishinabe 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 Darkwater rivers and the pictographs of Darkwater Lake are among the not-too-distant attractions.
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 First Nations, 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-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.
Dark Sky Viewing
Quetico has exceptionally dark night skies free of light pollution and is recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Shorelines and beaches throughout the park are excellent places to view the night sky on a clear night. With telescope, binoculars or the naked eye, park visitors can appreciate a starry sky, free of light pollution at Quetico.
Join park staff for a Discovery Drop-in during the months of July & August. Bring along your Discovery Activity Book (or pick one up at the Drop-in), and use the equipment and materials provided to explore the park, observe plants and animals, and discover the wonders of nature. Be sure to share your observations with park staff, take the Discovery Ranger Pledge and receive your very own Discover Ranger Button! For more information keep an eye out for weekly calendar of events posted throughout the park.
The Quetico Artist in Residence program is also presented through the NHE department.
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.
To maintain the health of Quetico’s lakes, Ontario fishing regulations require the use of artificial bait and barbless hooks within Quetico Provincial Park, live or dead organic bait is not permitted in the park (examples include: leeches, worms and salted minnows).
Live and dead bait can introduce invasive aquatic species. Barbed hooks may be pinched to conform to regulation. Reduce fish mortality by using barbless hooks, keep fish handling to a minimum, use proper fish handling techniques, and be aware of fishing regulations.. A valid Ontario fishing licence is required for fishing and must be in your possession. Licences are not available at all park stations and should be purchased prior to your arrival at www.ontario.ca/fishing
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 leads you to 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 First Nations 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.
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.
The backcountry 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.
Normally known for its world-class wilderness canoeing opportunities, Quetico’s interconnected waterways become a winter venue for ski adventures.
Quetico's backcountry is open year-round for backcountry campers. Limited winter campground camping is available in the Dawson Trail Campground from January 1 - March 31.
Quetico maintains 15 km of groomed classic and skate trails through the Dawson Trail Campground, offering options for both beginner and experienced skiers. A trail map is available online.
Several skiing events are held in Quetico annually. Each January, the Beaten Path Nordic Trails Ski Club host the Sawmill Lake Classic Ski Tour in the park.
Visitors can snowshoe or hike along the campground’s ski trails. These are shared trails, snowshoers are asked to stay on the side of the groomed tracks.
There are also several ungroomed trails for snowshoeing, including the Pines Trail, offering a walk through old-growth Red and White Pine blanketed in snow.
Ice fishing is a popular winter activity. When the lakes are frozen, the campground offers easy access to excellent locations for trout fishing on French lake. Talk to park staff for recommendations. Motorized augers are not permitted, and anglers must only use artificial lures with barbless hooks. Please consult Ontario fishing regulations before your trip.
Dogsledding and Skijoring
Skijoring is a combination of cross-country skiing and dogsledding — and it’s catching on fast. Quetico welcomes those interested in trying it out on groomed campground trails.
Backcountry dogsledding is permitted; however, special management approval is required. Please contact the park at (807) 597-2735 prior to planning your trip.