Killarney Provincial Park is located on the Georgian Bay coast and is the inspiration for many Group of Seven works of art. Once you start exploring this park you can definitely see why these landscapes are worth every second of the blood, sweat, and mosquito bites along the way!
Tip #1 - When to Go Camping
We usually camp here on a yearly or semi-annual basis closer to the end of summer or beginning of fall. We avoid mid-summer because of the mosquitoes and general uptick of the bug population during this time. We spoke to the owner of the Highway 6 Access Point cabins this year and he said the heatwaves this summer had brought on a wave of intense mosquitoes during the months of June and July.
Tip #2 - When to Reserve
It is imperative to reserve backcountry spots as soon as reservations open on the website. The reservations can be made up to 5 months in advance of your arrival date. The online booking website opens at 7:00 am. If you are booking at the last minute it is not a big deal as this park is vast and there are many opportunities for sites, they just might not be the most desirable location.
Tip #3 - Rent Canoes Early
Rent your canoes as soon as possible. We had some fellow backpackers tag along late on our trip this year and while we were able to rent out a canoe the week before we left, the canoe we did get came without a yolk. It was a real mission to portage without a yolk (Hint: You just have two people hold onto the handles at the end and carry it).
Tip #4 - What is a First Come First Serve Site?
First come first serve sites are a fun challenge for non-planning enthusiasts and people that don’t like to wake up at 4 am in the morning. When you reserve a FCFSS that means you have a permit for that area on that specific day but the sites in the specified area are filled based on who reaches it first. Make sure you plan your driving and backpacking travel time accordingly as the more popular sites on well-known lakes can be snatched up if you are arriving too late in the day.
For example, you have a permit for August 31st for the Turtle Lake area and there are sites 200, 201, and 202 on the lake. These sites are filled based on who reaches the site first on August 31st. If you really want to camp at site 201 then your chances of getting it are higher the earlier in the day you arrive.
Tip #5 - When to Leave Your House
Make sure you know what time the sun is setting! You do not want to end up paddling or portaging in the dark as it is dangerous and can be scary if the closer sites have already been taken and you are looking for an empty site in the dark.
I would aim for a 1pm or 2pm arrival time so that the remainder of the day can be used to set up camp and get some fishing in!
This is how we plan our mornings:
Night before - Have backpacks ready.
4am - Wake up! No hitting snooze!
5am - Depart House - Drive for 5 hours from Markham to Killarney Provincial Park. Pick up Tim Hortons breakfast on the way.
Pro tip: make sure you have Google Maps set for the correct gate as there are different entrances and they may not all issue permits.
10am - Arrive at Killarney and eat lunch.
11am - Depart Access Point - Refer to a map to estimate canoe, portaging, and rest breaks. I recommend buying a waterproof map from MEC, the park store, or Jeff’s Maps (which has relaunched as Unlostify, see below link). I would not navigate this without a map.
This year we entered Killarney using the Highway 6 Access Point and camped over the long weekend at an amazing spot. I will write more about it at a later date, see below related reading links for planning a portage trip and reading fishing guidelines so you can catch some fun dinners! We were able to get a nice fish on the grill this time!
How to Plan a Portage Trip From Scratch - Coming Soon!
How to Read Fishing Guidelines for Your Backcountry Fishing Trip - Coming Soon!