Trip and Wellness

11 Best Things to Do in Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario

11 Best Things to Do in Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario

Not too long ago, Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park was a well-kept secret. However, in recent years, the word has spread, and this hidden gem has evolved into a sought-after destination for outdoor enthusiasts during the summer.

For campers, hikers, canoeists, and kayakers, Killarney is a premier spot in Ontario, offering an extensive network of trails and waterways to explore. While winter sees fewer tourists, the park does provide opportunities for winter camping and activities such as snowshoeing.

The primary attractions, including lakes, forests, and the La Cloche Mountains, remain the focal points. The nearby town of Killarney adds to the allure. This charming village exudes a coastal ambiance with its docks, fishing boats, and wooden structures along the waterfront. A modest yet satisfactory selection of eateries, accommodations, and additional amenities can be found.

Whether seeking a backcountry adventure, front-country camping, or simply relishing the natural beauty of the area, Killarney offers something for everyone. Plan your visit with our guide to the top things to do in Killarney Provincial Park.

1. Hike The Crack

The Crack
Source: Tan Yilmaz

While this hike was once a hidden gem, it has now evolved into one of the park’s must-do activities, especially during the vibrant colors of fall. The scenery is incredibly picturesque, offering a splendid perspective of the lakes and mountains. However, it’s important to note that it’s not an easy trek, as the elevation gain adds a challenging aspect.

The hike commences off the main highway, starting with an easy stroll through the forest, and transitioning into an uphill climb. As you approach the top, you’ll encounter “The Crack,” a section with large boulders that have tumbled from the ridge. Negotiating this part requires a bit of scrambling, utilizing both arms and legs, but it’s a brief stretch and certainly manageable.

The breathtaking views from the summit of The Crack make the entire journey worthwhile, offering vistas of the lakes and pristine mountains that contribute to Killarney’s status as one of the most beautiful parks in Ontario.

Covering a total round-trip distance of six kilometers, allocate three to four hours for the hike, allowing ample time to pause and appreciate the scenic views along the way.

Despite being one of the most popular hikes in Killarney, there are plenty of other trails catering to hikers of all skill levels.

2. Paddle on George Lake

Kayakers on George Lake
Kayakers on George Lake

Killarney Provincial Park is renowned for its canoeing opportunities, drawing individuals seeking both extended backcountry excursions and those opting for a leisurely day or a couple of hours of paddling, with George Lake emerging as the preferred spot.

George Lake is particularly suitable for less experienced paddlers, day-trippers, and those hesitant to venture into the expansive waters of Georgian Bay. The lake boasts a picturesque shoreline, allowing exploration without the need to traverse vast water expanses. For those desiring a more extended day trip, accessible and moderately challenging portages link to backcountry lakes, providing access to areas beyond the reach of roads or day hikes.

A short portage at the far end of George Lake leads to the tranquil Freeland Lake, characterized by its narrow expanse and generally calm waters adorned with lily pads. Wildlife sightings, including moose along the weedy bay shore, are not uncommon.

Continuing from Freeland Lake, a longer portage of just under 400 meters leads to Killarney Lake, a larger waterbody offering ample paddling opportunities. The key attractions include scenic views of the La Cloche Mountains. Killarney Lake is also a popular camping destination, featuring backcountry sites that require advance reservations.

For those seeking an ambitious day of paddling, it’s possible to navigate all three lakes and return to the George Lake Campground. Canoe rentals are available directly from the shores of George Lake, but arrangements should be made in advance. Alternatively, individuals with their canoes or kayaks can launch from either of the two beach areas.

3. Explore the Town of Killarney

Town of Killarney
A Day Town of Killarney

Merely 10 kilometers away from the Killarney Provincial Park Visitor Center lies the town of Killarney, positioned at the terminus of Highway 637. This charming village, overlooking Killarney Channel, has an almost maritime ambiance, with vibrant waterfront buildings and frequent presence of fishing boats, pleasure boats, and yachts during the summer months.

Even for campers within the park, a visit to Killarney is worthwhile for a stroll. For those seeking dining options, Herbert Fisheries on the waterfront is renowned for serving some of the finest fish and chips in the vicinity. Guests can opt to dine in or take their meals to the restaurant’s picnic tables on the dock.

Additional dining recommendations include the Killarney Mountain Lodge and the dining room at the Sportsman’s Inn, both situated on the waterfront at opposite ends of the shore. These resorts offer shuttles to George Island on the opposite side of the channel, providing access to a delightful hiking trail.

Killarney also houses a general store for necessary supplies. For a quick coffee or pastries, visitors can head to Curds n’ Way Café and Bake Shop located on the shore in front of the Killarney Mountain Lodge.

4. Take a Shuttle and Hike on George Island

George Island
George Island

While not situated within the confines of the park, the George Island hiking trail stands out as one of the favored hikes in the broader Killarney region. For a modest fee, you can conveniently access a boat shuttle from either the Sportsman’s Inn or the Killarney Mountain Lodge, crossing the Killarney Channel.

This trail guides you across the island, weaving through the forest, passing by ponds, and reaching the far shore with panoramic views of Georgian Bay. It then meanders along the shore for a stretch, eventually veering inland before returning to the starting point for the boat shuttle. Covering a total distance of 7.5 kilometers, the hike typically takes around three to four hours.

An appealing aspect of this hike is its avoidance of steep ridges and minimal elevation gain. Moreover, it tends to be less crowded than trails within the park, providing an excellent chance to observe wildlife.

5. Camp in Killarney Provincial Park

Camp in Killarney Provincial Park
Camp in Killarney Provincial Park

Many visitors are drawn to Killarney Provincial Park primarily for camping, making it one of the finest destinations for a tranquil nature retreat in Ontario. If you seek a lively party atmosphere or group camping experience, this may not be the ideal place. However, if your preference is to wake up surrounded by wilderness, engage in activities like hiking or paddling, and savor a serene night by the fire, the George Lake Campground in Killarney Provincial Park is the perfect choice.

The campground is segmented into different sections, stretching alongside George Lake. Some campsites offer convenient access to the beaches, while others are positioned at higher elevations overlooking the lake.

For those inclined towards paddling and hiking, there are backcountry campsites accessible on various lakes within the park and along the La Cloche Silhouette hiking trail.

While most visitors opt for camping during the spring and fall, it’s worth noting that the park remains open for winter camping.

6. Plan a Stay at Killarney Mountain Lodge

Killarney Mountain Lodge
Killarney Mountain Lodge

For a weekend retreat where you can indulge yourself, consider a visit to the Killarney Mountain Lodge, located just 10 kilometers from Killarney Provincial Park. Renowned as one of the premier resorts in Ontario, this luxurious property boasts an exceptional location within the Killarney region.

The Killarney Mountain Lodge features a variety of rooms catering to diverse budgets and preferences. Whether you opt for a lavish waterfront cabin or spacious suites with balconies offering views across the channel, the lodge has accommodation options to suit your needs.

If you are on a more constrained budget, the lodge provides rooms in what originally served as the staff quarters. While these are basic rooms with shared baths, they still grant you full access to the lodge and its amenities.

While many visitors are drawn to the area for its scenic beauty and exploration opportunities, the lodge offers additional relaxation options, such as lounging by the outdoor pool, unwinding in the sauna, or sitting in an Adirondack chair with a view of the lake.

The resort boasts fine dining, with meal packages available if desired, or a more casual dining experience on an outdoor deck. Alternatively, you can grab a quick coffee or tea and a snack at the Curds n’ Way Café and Bake Shop down by the shoreline.

There are ample activities to keep you engaged here. A delightful hiking trail starts directly from the property, leading you over a scenic ridge and down to the lighthouse. For those seeking less strenuous options, various tours, including sailing excursions and scenic flights, are offered at the resort.

7. Hike the Granite Ridge Trail

Hike the Granite Ridge Trail
Granite Ridge Trail/ @wikimedia

The Granite Ridge Trail, a brief yet popular hike in Killarney Provincial Park, covers two kilometers, making it an ideal choice for a short outing to a picturesque location. Situated across the highway from the visitor center, the trailhead marks the starting point of this hike.

Embarking on this journey involves a leisurely walk through the forest, featuring a couple of interesting sites along the way. A notable highlight before reaching the ridge is an abandoned and rusted old Dodge car, often serving as a photo opportunity for photographers who frequently pause at this spot.

Proceeding beyond the car, the trail ascends towards the ridge. Upon reaching the top, hikers are treated to panoramic views overlooking Georgian Bay in one direction and the La Cloche Mountains in the opposite direction. Particularly in the fall, when the leaves reach their peak colors in early October, this hike becomes a splendid experience. The distant rolling mountains are adorned with vibrant hues during this season.

8. Plan a Backcountry Canoe Camping Trip

Canoe in Killarney Provincial Park
Canoe in Killarney Provincial Park

Embarking on a backcountry canoe trip is one of the most serene ways to explore Killarney Provincial Park. Navigate the picturesque lakes and set up camp beneath the pine trees for a multi-day journey.

These canoe trips can vary in duration, ranging from a night or two to a week or more. Backcountry campsites, often situated on rock points and in the most scenic areas of the lake, must be reserved well in advance. Reservations, which can be made up to five months ahead, tend to fill up rapidly. It is advisable to plan your route and set a reminder in your calendar for the booking.

Numerous canoe routes crisscross the park, allowing you to depart directly from George Lake or commence your journey from more secluded regions. To facilitate trip planning, acquire a Killarney Provincial Park Map, detailing routes, and backcountry campsites. This map will assist in determining daily paddling distances and selecting preferred sites for booking.

9. Hike Chikanishing Creek

Hike Chikanishing Creek
Chikanishing Creek

In contrast to the panoramic vistas offered by The Crack trail, which overlooks the inland lakes, the Chikanashing Creek trail treats you to expansive views of Georgian Bay and the adjacent small islands. On sunny days, the distant water glistens beyond the windswept pine trees.

Tracing the course of Chikanishing Creek, the trail meanders over open rock ridges, eventually leading to a lofty vantage point overlooking the bay. This represents the most picturesque spot along the hike, marked by an informational plaque. Many hikers, especially those familiar with the entire trail, opt to turn back at this juncture.

Continuing beyond this point, the trail descends the ridge to the shores of Georgian Bay. This out-and-back segment is strenuous and somewhat challenging, yet the reward is substantial if reaching the water’s edge is your objective. The shoreline, characterized by smooth rock, provides a pleasant spot for a swim on a warm summer day.

The return journey retraces the same path until reaching the high lookout point, where the trail diverges, forming a loop back to the parking lot. The total length of the Chikanashing Creek Trail spans three kilometers.

10. Hike the Lighthouse Trail

Hike the Lighthouse Trail
Hike the Lighthouse Trail

An additional trail, known as the Lighthouse Trail, commences from the Killarney Mountain Lodge. This trail ascends over a ridge, offering a picturesque viewpoint, and descends to the shore opposite the lighthouse. Despite being a relatively new trail, it proves highly worthwhile and is deemed a must-do for those lodging at the establishment.

Contrary to initial expectations of a shoreline route, the trail traverses up and over a lofty ridge, presenting a more challenging experience than anticipated. Nevertheless, the total distance for this round trip is just five kilometers.

11. Plan a Winter Visit

Winter in Killarney Provincial Park
Winter in Killarney Provincial Park

As the days become shorter and temperatures decrease, the volume of visitors to Killarney Provincial Park significantly diminishes. Nevertheless, this does not imply the closure of the park during winter; on the contrary.

The campground remains operational, providing six heated yurts and two camp cabins. Heated washrooms with running water can be accessed at the park office. Although the campground is accessible, the roads leading to the campsites are closed. Toboggans are available for transporting gear to individual sites.

Killarney Provincial Park offers an excellent venue for cross-country (Nordic) skiing, featuring three primary trails. The first is the Chikanishing Trail, an eight-kilometer track-set trail suitable for classic and skating styles, meandering alongside Chikanising Creek toward Georgian Bay.

The Collins Inlet Trail, spanning 14.3 kilometers, traverses pine forests and frozen marshlands, ideal for classic-style skiing. The third trail is the Freeland Trail, with a length of 12.4 kilometers, designed for classic-style skiing. This trail winds past the Cranberry bog, eventually reaching Freeland Lake.

Snowshoeing is also a popular winter activity, either on hiking trails or across the frozen inland lakes. It’s important to note that snowshoeing is not permitted on the cross-country trails.


Q: When is the best time to visit Killarney Provincial Park?

A: The spring and fall seasons offer mild weather and stunning landscapes, making them ideal times to visit.

Q: Are there guided tours available for hiking trails?

A: Yes, the park offers guided tours for various hiking trails, providing informative insights into the flora and fauna.

Q: What safety measures should I take while canoeing or kayaking?

A: Always wear a life jacket, carry a map, and be aware of weather conditions to ensure a safe paddling experience.

Q: Can I fish in all lakes within the park?

A: While fishing is allowed in many lakes, be sure to check the park’s regulations and guidelines for specific rules.

Q: How can I contribute to conservation efforts during my visit?

A: Practice responsible tourism by staying on designated trails, disposing of waste properly, and respecting wildlife and their habitats.