6 Must-Do Activities at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

Established in 1989, Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park has emerged as the second largest park in Ontario, the first being Algonquin Provincial Park.

Kawartha highlands provincial park is also the largest park in southern Ontario and is classified as a natural environment park as it serves as an abode to numerous small lakes as well as many large lakes, rocky barrens, rivers, wetlands and forests, all these being synonymous with Northern Ontario. the park boundaries come under that of Peterborough county.

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

1.  About The Park

The residents of the city take huge pride in the introduction of the provincial park the foremost reason of it as the park houses many lakes as mentioned above.

Although, the Kawartha Highlands signature site was established in 1989 and its boundaries were expanded from the original size to its current one in 2003 but it fully became operational only in May 2011.

Before moving further with our article let’s talk about some basic information that we all must be aware of before visiting the park

1.1. Address

106 Monchk Street, Bancroft, ON KOL 1C0, Canada.

1.2. Phone Number

+1 613-332-3940

1.3. Area

375.9 square kilometer.

1.4. Status

Ontario Provincial Parks

1.5. Nearest City

Peterborough and Ontario

1.6. Governing Body

Ontario Parks

1.7. Park’s Office

Bancroft, Ontario

2. An Alternative to Algonquin Provincial Park in Southern Ontario

Usually, when you plan your trip with your family, you look for places which are located a little further away from civilization and serve as an escape from the rushed city life.

Both Algonquin Provincial Park and Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park meet this requirement, but the former is most of the time tightly packed and out of tickets. Rush escapers found Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park to be a much more serene and enticing natural beauty hub.

And if you are a fall lover who resides in Canada, you will not be disappointed after looking at the colourful leaflets. The scenario here is better than that of the Muskoka region.

The ride to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park from Toronto is two hours which is the same as to Algonquin Provincial Park, so you need not worry about your time getting wasted travelling.

This park offers you the beauty of nature along with a peaceful environment where you can easily get rid of your tension bagged from city life and relax back. It also provided you with various fun activities to do, to know more about these fun activities continue reading further the article.

3. 6 Things you can do in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

Although this park comes with access points that provide limited facilities, you must not forget to get in touch with the park staff to make the best out of your trip. Visitors must be prepared beforehand before participating in any of the activities and keep in mind the access points within the forested areas of the park.

The natural beauty of the park is in close proximity to Algonquin Provincial Park but the activities such as canoeing and camping make the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park a better alternative.

3.1. Birding

kawartha highlands provincial park
Photo by SK Yeong on Unsplash

Many times we humans find pleasure in simple tasks such as birdwatching. You just want to lay back and stare at these small creatures and appreciate the hands which moulded them into such small beings yet ever so active.

In Ontario, there are some of the best birdwatching spots, one of which is Kawartha.

The Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park serves as a conservation reserve for many indigenous birds which hold a significant place in the cultural values. A number of species are found in this park including Whip-poor-will, Common Nighthawk, Scarlet Tanager and Eastern Towhee.  Many species of warblers, vireos and sparrows are found in the park as well.

3.2. Camping

As Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is a semi-wilderness area, it emerges as a wonderful campsite for people who need a wild and raw touch in their camping pursuit.

If you wish to use these backcountry campsites which also have cabins you would be required to use a canoe, which will make your camping more adventurous and will give you a chance to reflect on the rudimentary and undisturbed beauty of the Park.

You can pre-book your campsites 5 months prior to your visit. And I would suggest that you book your campsites beforehand looking at the intensity by which people are looking for escape weekends.

You are also allowed to do camping during winter but there are certain regulations for winter camping, for instance, you are not to use a few designated summer campgrounds and also you cannot camp within 30 meters of the lakeshore line.

For trip planning advice and to procure general information regarding the trip you must contact the park office on the above-mentioned number so that you can enjoy yourself to the fullest upon your arrival instead of making arrangements at the last moment.

3.2.1. Facilities at Campsites

Each campsite is adorned with the following to make the outing even better for the visitors.

  • a picnic table to lay out your food items, and picnic baskets, this also makes it easier if you plan to cook food there.
  • campfire ring to prevent the fire from spreading in the forested areas and let the campers enjoy themselves at a safe distance.
  • box privy for usage by visitors to maintain hygiene

And most of the campsites also gave a minimum of three tent pads which makes it easier for the visitors to set up tents and save them the effort of wandering in search of a suitable laying flat area to pitch the tent. These campgrounds make camping easier and more fun.

3.2.2. General Requirements

When the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park officially came into function in May 2011, it was made mandatory to get a camping permit for backcountry camping at Kawartha Highlands.

You can take print-outs of your camping permits at home within 14 days of your arrival at the Kawartha Highlands or can also get the permits in person once when you arrive by contacting the park office.

Once you reach the access point you can also get the permits for the usage of your personal vehicle (s) inside the park.

Also, get the map at the soonest so that you don’t lose the track of the Kawartha Highlands and within safe parameters.

3.3. Canoeing

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

As we spoke earlier that how Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park provides you to go canoeing in the lakes inside the park and along with that these canoe routes are marked with portages and campsites, now we will look at all the necessary information that you must know before your visit.

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is located by the Southern edge of the Canadian shield which makes it a hub for various lakes that also serve for the purpose of canoeing, fishing and swimming, of which I have searched for you the most suitable canoe routes.

3.3.1. Requirements

First and foremost, if you plan to go canoeing get the canoe route map, which is also sold by the outfitters located around the park. And even if you have come with a stiff mind of not going canoeing still get the map just in case you change your mind afterwards, which you probably would looking at the tempting site of canoeing.

Be respectful regarding the privacy of the people residing in the cottages, recreation campsites and private property as portage will be done through the lands of these areas, don’t trespass, please.

Private property, cottages and recreation campsites, all of these lie along the banks of canoe routes. Be thoughtful of their privacy as no one likes an intruding eye, for sure!

There are in total six canoe routes for both beginners and advanced of which below mentioned five are the best.

3.3.2. Crab Lake

Crab lake is also known by its other name Star lake, a name given by the local inhabitants of Ontario owing to the spread of the lake’s bays in five different directions.

Every channel of this lake has two or fewer chief campsites, each of which in turn has a granite seat to leisurely perch on and an intimate and cozy canopy of pine, maple or birch to set on a tent below it.

Along the southwest inlet of the lake lies Blueberry Mountain (Sharpe’s Rock) which is another wonderful spot for hiking.

The reason behind this unique name of the mountain is that by the mid-summer, the mountain is covered in ripe fruit, which makes it another access point for visitors.

Coming back to why this lake is amazing for canoeing. Most of us are not huge fans of portage and search for the shortest way for it.

In order to reach Crab Lake one has to use the access point of Wolf lake. And the portage distance between the two lakes is only 140 meters. You can easily find your way through it because the Ontario Provincial Parks have set up signboards on the side of the roads to guide you to the boat launches.

Parking facilities are also there at the boat launches and most of them even have outhouses at the parking lots.

Wolf lake boat launch is shallow and makes it easier for the canoers to load up the canoe. You do need not any navigation, just paddle your way to the opposite end of the lake and there you will notice a portage sign leading to Crab lake

3.3.3. Serpentine Loop

According to the local residents, an overnighter at the Serpentine Loop in the northern tail of the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is a leisure tour. Let’s see why they say so!

The Serpentine Loop route comes with spurt waterfalls, mesmerizing campsites and spectacular fishing points.

The route to Serpentine Loop starts from Anstruther Lake and then further takes us towards Rathbun Lake, North Rathbun Lake, Serpentine Lake, and Copper Lake and loops us back to Rathbun and at last to Anstruther Lake.

It usually takes 48-72 hours to finish canoeing and portaging around these five lakes, which makes the visitors worn out but leaves them with the best of memories.

The journey for the serpentine loop begins with the visitors parking their vehicles at the parking lot of Anstruther Lake and unloading the canoes, then comes the postage to Rathbun lake, then quickly comes the next portage from Rathbun lake to North Rathbun Lake, the infamous wilderness of the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park makes an entry here.

Most of the visitors take a stop at the campsites of the North Rathbun Lake and prefer camping.

The next portage is a 1500 meters hike from the North Rathbun Lake to the Serpentine Loop, this portage route is quite a handful so don’t forget to have your protein bar before the portaging.

From the serpentine loop most rapids towards the next portage route to Copper Lake. Copper Lake campsites serve as another rapidly used camping site.

By this time, the visitors become tired of most rapids and to avoid them they choose portage to Rathbun Lake, amidst this portage from Copper lake to Rathbun Lake lies the Copper waterfall which will seduce you to take a swim.

So, here, I am warning you beforehand DO NOT FORGET to pack your swimming costumes before coming to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

The last portage route to complete this looped canoeing is from Rathbun Lake to Anstruther Lake. The journey back to Anstruther Lake generally takes two whole days.

3.3.4. Mississauga River

This river is located at the bottom half of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and is unexpectedly wild.

Although, there are many cottages on the bank of this river none could help to reduce the effect caused by the wilderness.

One of the rivers that run through the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

Due to its location being at the furthest corner of the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park this lake bags minimum of the recognition from the paddlers.

Paddling on this lake could be tiresome as it is a white water paddling lake and it would probably take a whole paddling day or worse an overnight to complete a round safely.

The area is so remote that emerges as a challenge. I would like to name this lake most rapids lake due to the vast stretch paddling area.

3.3.4. Cox Lake

Commonly known as a clone of the Algonquin Provincial Park. Each campsite along this lake is a view to behold with amazing swimming locations

Cox Lake is more isolated than the other Lakes in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, which owes to the wilderness and raw beauty. You can even have a canoe trip here.

To reach the access launch point for the portage to Cox lake, firstly you need to paddle down your canoe from Long Lake to Loucks Lake, this paddling distance is a little longer than the others and just pray that the winds are down when you visit or else be in for hard work.

On one side of Loucks Lake, you will find beautiful cottages and on the other the Crown Land. Two postages route are there at the far South end of Loucks lake, one of them will lead you into the creeks which will further take you to Cox Lake and the other route leads you to Compass lake.

The portage is 130 meters long, and don’t forget to look at the picturesque landscape once you enter the creek between the two lakes.

Cox lake is one fine canoeing spot minus the rocks which emerge now and there on the shoreline.

3.3.5. Bottle Lake

Bottle lake along with Sucker lake is among one the Lakes protected by the Ontario Parks before the establishment of the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

Before the expansion, the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park was an enclosed area around the wilderness of Bottle Lake and Sucker Lake, primarily accessible only by canoeing and portage.

The northwest end of Bottle lake serves as a mini beach point.

For the conservation of both these lakes, we must thank the pothole on the western shoreline of bottle lake which is deemed a glacial gauge by the government. The access point of Gold lake can be used to reach Bottle lake.

3.4. Fishing

It is observed the more people, the fewer the fish. But thankfully this is not the case with Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, despite the nth number of visitors each day, there is plenty of fish in the sea! ( you saw what I did there? )

One reason for this miracle could be that canoeists generally don’t prefer fishing.

As Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is a large park with lakes ranging from smallmouth to largemouth bass, there are plenty of fishing spots.

The best of which could be the paddling loop access which begins from Anstruther Lake and goes up to four other lakes. Together these five lakes promise a full bass action.

Let’s not forget to mention an extension to this fishing journey which comes from a couple of small fishing ponds near Copper Lake.

3.5. Hunting

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is a favoured destination for hunting activities. hunting has proven to be a deep-rooted major pursuit for the visitors of this Kawartha Highlands.

To practice hunting in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park you will need a sound hunting pass from the provincial park authority.

Another thing to be kept in mind is the hunting season which commences on the first of September and ends on the Thursday before Victoria Day ( a major holiday in Canada which marks the coming of Summer).

Deer, moose and rabbits are some actively hunted species. Hunting Campsites can be found all over the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

3.6. Hiking

Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

There are numerous hiking trails at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. Although there are no assigned hiking trails as you move on further into the park you will come to know more about these hiking access points.

4. Afterword

Once you visit the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park you would definitely want to visit again. Even for your first visit or upcoming one, you should check on certain things such as the weather.

Ontario Parks management has put a ban on the usage of cans and glass bottles inside the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

As you are not the only one visiting the park so be a wonderful camper by following the rules laid down by the park management.

Also, remember not to use stereo devices or amplifiers as in order to main the wilderness of the park, a radio-free camping schedule is followed in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

Ayesha Yusuf, a content writer from Aligarh, specializes in writing travel and lifestyle articles. Her articles will immerse your interests in travelling so well, that you would want to pack your bags and leave immediately to experience your own adventure. She is a student at Aligarh Muslim University and is pursuing English Literature.