Killarney Provincial Park is a gem of a wilderness park in central Ontario, near the northern shore of Georgian Bay, nestled in the Canadian Shield near the white quartzite hills of the La Cloche mountain range. While most of the park is in-land (not on Georgian Bay) it encompasses countless crystal-clear lakes joined by hiking trails and canoe routes. The park offers amazing camping at George Lake Campground, along the shore of George Lake, and backcountry camping accessible by day hiking, backpacking and canoe.
Day 1 – Arrive and make camp
Camping at Lake George is open all year round. Sites can be reserved during the main camping season, while during fall and winter, sites are first-come-first-served. We visited in November 2020 and had our pick of the best sites. Once snow accumulates, gates stay closed and campers park at the welcome centre and are given toboggans to haul their gear to the campsites.
There are some 140 car-camping sites at George Lake, ranging from small to large, forrested to waterfront. Many sites aren’t particularly level so small tents will provide better setup options. Alternatively, you might choose to park your car in a central parking lot to make more room on your site (although in this case, you’ll need a bear-proof container for your food).
Some notes and tips on the campsites:
- Sites 82-113 are in the radio-free zone
- Sites 11-29 are wooded, relatively large and offer good privacy
- Sites 87-89 are directly on George lake and offer the possibility of swimming directly from your campsite, but tend to be very windy (a deal-breaker in colder weather)
- Sites in the mid-130s are designed for trailers, and some of them are pull-through sites
Killarney Provincial Park is about a 4-5 hour drive from Toronto (depending on traffic and stops), so you’ll likely arrive mid-afternoon. Set up camp, pour a beverage and enjoy the evening.
Day 2 – Hiking the Granite Ridge Trail
Killarney Provincial Park offers stunning and well-marked day hiking trails. Most of them are moderately challenging, so you’ll need to be in decent shape and ready for adventure. Don’t let that scare you—you don’t need to be a superstar athlete, but be prepared to use your hands to climb over and around rocky areas. You’ll also want sturdy footwear with decent grip to navigate the rocky areas, and be prepared to get a bit muddy since low-lying areas are often wet.
The Granite Ridge trail being directly across the highway from the George Lake welcome centre. It’s a 2 km loop, so plan for 1-1.5 hours depending on your speed. As the name suggests, it takes you up to a granite ridge with a lookout that offers excellent views of the surrounding La Cloche quartzite mountains. On the way, you’ll pass by the remains of a car and tractor, partially embedded in the ground: a reminder that this was once a farm.
Day 3 – Hiking the Cranberry Bog Trail
Plan some extra time on the Cranberry Bog Trail, since it has so many stunning lookouts that you’ll surely stop to enjoy the views and get some photos. The rocky outcrops along the bog are also excellent places to stop for a snack or a picnic lunch (plan to take your trash out with you). It’s a 4 km loop that will take 2-3 hours.
The hike starts near Second Beach in the radio-free area of the campground. You start by talking through an idyllic mossy forest floor beside a marshy area, making your way to the cranberry bog. A wooden bridge takes you alongside the beaver dam that helped shape the bog. Several beaver lodges can be seen throughout the bog.
The way back takes you through the woods and more rocky outcroppings.
Day 4 – Hiking the Chikanishing Trail
We might have saved the best for last. The Chikanishing Trail is a 3 km loop that will take 1-2 hours. It’s near the southern boundary of the park along the shores of Georgian Bay. You’ll drive to the trail head (although you could make it a full day adventure and walk there from the campground).
Most of the hike is over pink granite dotted with windswept pines, so make sure you’ve applied your sunblock. Save this for nice, dry weather, since the granite would be dangerously slippery when wet.
This trail features breathtaking views at every step. You won’t put your camera way the entire time. Interpretive plaques share the history of the area. Of particular interest are the iron rings that were used for mooring lines when logging was a major industry in the area.
The return portion of the loop takes you through a forested area, offering some relief from the summer sun.
Bonus – Fresh fish and chips in Killarney
If you want to take a break from camp cooking, head into Killarney village and get some fish and chips at Herbert Fisheries. Take the highway into town and when the road ends, you’re there! Herbert Fisheries makes amazing fish and ships from fresh fish caught daily. You can dine inside after ordering, eat on their patio overlooking the channel, or take your food back to camp. They’re open daily during the summer, weekends only during shoulder season, and closed in the winter. Expect line-ups during the high season.
Killarney is absolutely magical. Let us know what you thought of your camping trip to Killarney Provincial Park. Any other tips to share?