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9 Best Provincial Parks in Ontario for Stunning Scenery

9 Best Provincial Parks in Ontario for Stunning Scenery

As someone from Ontario, it took me too long to realize just how beautiful of a province Ontario really is. Much of the beauty lies in provincial parks that are scattered across the province, some of them easily accessible, others not so much, but that’s just Ontario (I promise they’re worth travelling to though).

These provincial parks in Ontario were hand-picked based on the uniqueness and beauty that they each hold. That’s not to say that there aren’t other scenic parks in Ontario, these are just some that will truly take your breath away.

Don’t forget that national parks in Ontario are a thing too, this list only includes provincial parks. Enjoy creating your nature bucket list!

Most Beautiful Provincial Parks in Ontario

For paddlers, hikers, campers, and swimmers, these provincial parks in Ontario have something for everyone. Keep these parks in mind when you need some inspiration for fall colours as these are some of the best places for fall foliage in Ontario!

Algonquin Pronvincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 3 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 3 hours

Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most well-known parks not only in Ontario but across the country, famous for its sheer size and how old the park is. Algonquin is the oldest provincial park in Ontario and is truly massive, spanning nearly 8000 square kilometres and with over 2000km of waterway routes. With over 1500 lakes in this park it’s no wonder why Algonquin is famous for canoeing.

Algonquin is also a prime spot for hiking with many hikes that can be done in a day or less and a few multi-day hikes for backpackers too. Camping is popular here as well, with ample choices for campgrounds, where you can enjoy the nearby hikes and lakes and jump in for a swim after getting sweaty. Yurts are even available year-round for those who love to snowshoe, cross country ski on the winter trails, or go dog-sledding.

Algonquin Park is easily accessible as Highway 60 runs right through the park, with many of the campsites and hiking trail parking lots just off of the highway. It’s also a famous corridor for buses to pass through for fall foliage as it’s one of the best spots in Ontario to catch the colours.

Some of the most famous hikes in Algonquin are Barron Canyon (canoeing through here is spectacular as well), Centennial Ridges, and Track and Tower. One of my personal favorites for a short and sweet hike is Beaver Pond.

READ MORE: 11 Best Places to See Fall Colours in Canada

Killarney Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 4.5 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 6 hours

Killarney Provincial Park is a star attraction in Ontario that was made famous by the Group of Seven who painted the beauty of this park in the 1920s. One of the artists helped to petition to keep the park untouched when it was threatened to be used for logging, and thank goodness he did because nature shows off in this park.

Though a fair distance from Ontario’s major cities, the trip up is worth it. Killarney Park is unique because of the La Cloche Mountains that are a bright white. Quite a contrast from the usual dark colour of rocks, these white mountains are made of white quartzite and are a treat to see in person. Here you may even find pink granite cliffs along some of the park shores too for an extra special hike.

Killarney Provincial Park is a true gem along the Georgian Bay coast that is a prime spot not only for hiking but for canoe trips too. You can find trails on the water or by foot suited for your needs that can be done in a day or multiple days.

Famous trails in Killarney Provincial Park include The Crack and La Cloche Silhouette Trail, a trail that in its entirety takes 10 days but parts can be done for day visitors.

READ MORE: Best National Parks in Canada

Bon Echo Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 3.5 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 2 hours

This provincial park is well-suited for families with camping, hiking, canoeing, and boating as popular activities. The park is much smaller in comparison to its nearby neighbour, Algonquin, but it has an interesting draw. Across from the main campground, Mazinaw Lake, is the 100-metre high cliffs of Mazinaw Rock where you can canoe, kayak, or take a boat tour to see over 260 native pictographs (rock paintings). It’s also possible to hike up to the top of the cliffs to get an entire view of the park.

You have the option here for drive-in campsites or paddle-in campsites, with a few that are walk-in for a quieter camping experience if that’s what you’re after.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 15 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 16 hours
  • Driving time from Thunder Bay: 1 hour

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a must-visit for hikers who wish to get off the beaten path. With over 100km of hiking trails available you’ll be spoiled for choice with trails that vary from a couple of kilometres to full-day and multi-day hikes.

The most famous of the trails is the route to the top of Sleeping Giant Trail where you’ll have views over Lake Superior, 290 metres high. This height makes it one of the highest points in Ontario and the views after a 6-7 hour hike do make it worth it.

Bird lovers take note, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park has over 200 bird species. There are also options to rent canoes and kayaks to get out on the water too.

Quetico Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 16.5 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 17 hours
  • Driving time from Thunder Bay: 2 hours

Get away from it all for a true backcountry experience that is rare, even in an expansive province like Ontario. As beautiful as Ontario’s provincial parks are, Quetico Provincial Park offers something more than the others: solitude.

This provincial park is a canoe and kayak lovers paradise with over 600 lakes and plenty of multi-day paddle experiences. Some you even get flow into the park for, which is one of the reasons why this park is so quiet. Most of the park is only accessible by plane, boat, or float plane.

Here you’ll find fewer people than other parks, no phone signal, and no lodges to stay in. Just you, nature, and maybe your guide if you’re having someone lead you through. Expect lots of wildlife and hiking trails too for when you want to get off the water for a bit.

Lake Superior Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 9.5 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 10.5 hours

This provincial park stretches along 97km of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world that is larger than some countries! The site of this provincial park isn’t notable just for its scenery though. It’s here that you can see the Agawa Rock Pictographs, some of the best-preserved rock paintings in Canada. You can walk along the base of the cliff where they’re located to see the paintings but be aware of the water as you can only do so when the tide is low.

Lake Superior Provincial Park has a number of hiking trails and canoe routes, both of which are mostly recommended for more experienced backpackers and paddlers so head out if you’re well practiced or perhaps make a note for your bucket list. This beautiful park offers a backcountry experience that is difficult to find in Southern Ontario as it’s quite isolated but well worth it for outdoor lovers.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 3 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 3 hours

For those who aren’t necessarily after the traditional provincial park experience of hiking and paddling trips, Sandbanks Provincial Park is most likely ideal for you. Think white-sand beaches, camping, and relaxing and you have Sandbanks Provincial Park. This is the perfect park to relax at and is easy to get to along the shores of Lake Ontario.

What makes this park famous is its sand dune system which is the largest in the world. It’s smooth and cushy for the perfect easy going camping experience. But don’t fear, there are a few hikes here though so that you can get moving and dip into the waters that are warm afterward.

Keep in mind that because of the easy accessibility of this park it’s recommended that you get here early if you’re visiting for the day!

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 2.5 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 3.5 hours

A favourite provincial park for many because of its close distance to both Ottawa and Toronto, Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is a great spot for paddlers. It’s popular for weekend trips and gives you the opportunity to get close to nature close by as only backcountry camping is available. But perhaps this could change as it is one of Ontario’s newest parks.

This park is quite large, the second largest in Ontario actually, and has numerous lakes for you to paddle across with many of the lakes giving you the option to use a motorized boat too.

Petroglyphs Provincial Park

  • Driving time from Toronto: 2.5 hours
  • Driving time from Ottawa: 3 hours

I couldn’t miss including Petroglyphs Provincial Park as it’s just too unique to not mention. Here you’ll find the largest amount of petroglyphs (native rock carvings) in Ontario. They’re located in a sacred site and are covered for protection as they are 500-1000 years old. There are over 900 of these “teaching rocks” that you can learn more about on guided tours through the visitors centre.

McGinnis Lake is also a draw to this park as it’s one of the only meromictic lakes in the country. These kinds of lakes have water that don’t mix so they sit in layers and create cool colours to witness.

I hope you have a few more Ontario provincial parks that you’d like to visit!

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