Explore Ontario’s north on the Boreal Driving Route

Planning a cross-province adventure? Check out the Ontario Parks Driving Routes.

The Boreal Forest is vast and beautiful – and completely northern.

This unique ecosystem, unlike anything you’ll find in southern Ontario, covers half the province’s land area and stretches around the globe.

This driving route beginning in Sudbury is designed to help you discover Canada’s Boreal Forest. It’s a region that many Canadians will never see, yet offers so much in terms of history, culture, and natural wonder.

Map of Boreal Driving Route

Parks along this route:

There are eight stops along this route. We hope you’ll visit them all, but if your time is limited, must-see parks along the route are designated with a *.

 Stop #1: Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park *

Waterfall and green trees at Kap-Kig-Iwan

Driving time: Sudbury to Kap-Kig-Iwan will take you about three hours. You’ll take Highway 17 west from Sudbury, then Highway 575, Highway 64, and Highway 11 north until you get to the park.

The park: Kap-Kig-Iwan’s Englehart River tumbles through a gorge, filled with waterfalls and cataracts, that make a spectacular backdrop for the park’s hiking trails.

The Boreal Forest is sometimes called Ontario’s “Songbird Nursery.” Thousands of birds migrate there in the spring and summer to nest and raise their young. This makes Kap-Kig-Iwan a great spot for birding.

Stop #2: Esker Lakes Provincial Park *

Guy with a yellow shirt and shorts walking on a boardwalk through a forest with tall conifers and lush green understory
Lonesome Bog Trail – the boardwalk passes through a wet Black Spruce forest

Driving time: This is one of the shorter drives on the trip and should take you about one hour to complete. It will mean travelling north on Highways 624 and 672.

The park: Ten thousand years ago, glacial ice over a kilometre thick covered this landscape. When the ice melted, it left behind kettle lakes, sinuous esker hills and clay lake bottoms.

Esker Lakes sits on the bed of what was a wide glacial river flowing across the glacial ice — and at over 250 km it is the longest esker in Ontario.

Stop #3: Kettle Lakes Provincial Park *

KettleLakes you could be canoeing here

Driving time: Going north on Highway 672 and then west on Highway 101, this drive will be about 1.5 hours.

The park: Like Esker Lakes, Kettle Lakes reflects the remnants of icebergs at the end of the last ice age. Today, the park contains 22 sparkling, spring-fed lakes.

Biking, hiking, trout fishing, paddling, bird-watching, and swimming will keep you busy here, with plenty of trails, lakes, and beaches throughout the park. 

Stop #4: René Brunelle Provincial Park 

Man on bench watching lake and sky

Driving time: Travel northwest on Highway 11 until you get to René Brunelle, this should take you just over two hours.

The park: René Brunelle protects the northeast quarter of Remi Lake, one of the largest lakes in the region. The lake was once home to one of Ontario’s earliest floatplane bases.

La Vigilance Trail takes you on a short hike along the shore to view Airplane Island and tells the stories of the pilots who flew here. 

Stop #5: Fushimi Lake Provincial Park *

Yoga on the beach

Driving time: Continue west on Highway 11 for two hours to get to Fushimi Lake Provincial Park.

The park: Fushimi Lake lies entirely within the park, surround by Boreal spruce, poplar, and pine. A small quiet campground sits on the western shore of the lake, providing access for boating and fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding.

There is a beautiful sand beach in the Day-use Area.

Stop #6: Nagagamisis Provincial Park 

Sunset over the lake.

Driving time: This drive will take you about one hour. You’ll drive west along Highway 11, and then turn left to drive south down Highway 631.

The park: Here, the Boreal Forest here is both remote and accessible. Located north of Lake Superior, there is little development in the area, but Nagagamisis is just off the main highway.

In this neck of the woods, the sunsets are stunning. Boreal night skies are always filled with stars and you may even see the Northern Lights.

Stop #7: White Lake Provincial Park 

sign pointing the way to a trail

Driving tme: Drive South on Highway 631 until you can turn right onto Highway 17, this will bring you to White Lake Provincial Park. It should take you around two hours to complete.

The park: White Lake is a hidden northern gem that offers excellent fishing opportunities. The most popular species caught include Walleye (Pickerel), Northern Pike, and Yellow Perch.

A hike on the Tiny Bog Trail will show off the area’s beauty. A boardwalk crosses a bog where insect-eating plants such as Sundew and Pitcher Plant grow.

Stop #8: Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park *

Northern lights and comet visible at Ivanhoe

Driving time: The route from White Lake to Ivanhoe Lake will take you four hours of driving south on Highway 17 and east on Highway 101.

The park: Campers who know Ivanhoe Lake well come for the boating and fishing. There’s good Walleye, Northern Pike and Yellow Perch fishing to be done by boat or canoe.

Much of the park’s shore is sand beach, with expansive views west across the lake.

After Ivanhoe Lake, the drive back to Sudbury will take you just over four hours. On the way, You’ll pass both Halfway Lake Provincial Park and Windy Lake Provincial Park on Highway 144.

Total driving time: 20.5 hours 

Estimated trip duration (full route): 8 – 16 days

Estimated trip duration (highlights only): 5 – 10 days

It’s time to discover what makes this region so special

Book your trip through our online reservation service.

Kettle Lakes: a land shaped by icebergs

The deep green boreal forest of Kettle Lakes Provincial Park contains 22 beautiful little lakes. Of these lakes, 20 are called actually “kettle lakes” by geographers.

So what is a “kettle lake?”

To answer that question, we first must look at how kettles are formed.

Continue reading Kettle Lakes: a land shaped by icebergs

Birding in the boreal

Lev Frid, birder par excellence, recently explored some of our northern parks, and wrote us the following post. If you love songbirds, this is a must-read!

For many Ontario birdwatchers, it’s all about the spring. Great Lakes havens such as Rondeau, MacGregor Point and Presqu’ile Provincial Parks host birding festivals and draw lots of visitors itching to see newly-arrived spring migrants.

What you might not know is that there are many opportunities to view these same birds on their breeding grounds in the boreal forest in some of our northern parks.

Continue reading Birding in the boreal

The boreal forest: Ontario’s songbird nursery

Today’s post comes from Natural Heritage Education and Marketing Specialist Dave Sproule.

Migrating birds are already arriving along the edges of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and many southern parks have birding events and festivals.

But for most of the migrants, these parks are just a rest stop after crossing those big stretches of water. Their destination may be much further north: the boreal forest.

Continue reading The boreal forest: Ontario’s songbird nursery