Photo of Person in Canoe

For information on how COVID-19 is affecting other portions of Parks, Recreation and Trails Department please visit:  COVID-19 Impacts to Parks, Recreation and Trails Department 

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COVID-19 Information:

Backcountry campsites associated with the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails are OPEN. Visitors must adhere to all provincial Covid-19 restrictions including maximum allowable group sizes and social distancing. Restrictions change frequently and sometimes with short notice, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of the current COVID-19 restrictions prior to heading out on your trip. Current area restrictions can be found at:


Canoe Routes in the Frost Centre Area

Trips may start from one of eleven access points located throughout the area.  Some of the routes are loops.  The area is ideal for novice canoeists, families and groups.  If you have any questions about routes or are looking to get recommendations for your ideal trip, call the knowledgeable staff at the Algonquin Highlands Trails Office at 705-766-9033.

Black RiverThe following routes are available depending on the desired experience, trip duration, equipment and level of experience.  Campsites and portages are marked.  Much of the area is public lands and water, however private cottages, docks and roads should be respected at all times.  These descriptions are suggestions only. It is possible to put together a route completely of your choosing, these are just guidelines to give you an idea of the possibilities.  To view an online interactive map of the area visit the Fees, Reservations and Online Maps page. 

With the number of recreational users accessing the area increasing, we must all develop a style of camping that has the least possible impact on the environment.  The ideal of the modern voyageur is look back and see no evidence of his or her passing. If you achieve this ideal, you will be able to remember your trip with that extra satisfaction.  Please practice leave no trace camping. There are no garbage facilities at campsites or access points, please plan to pack out all garbage and bring it home with you.  Do not leave any garbage on campsites, in the fire pit, or in the campsite toilet box. 

St. Nora – Kushog - Kabakwa – Saskatchewan – Big Brother – Big Hawk – Sherborne

This route is favored by a number of youth camps as it allows group camping on Kabakwa, Sherborne and St. Nora Lakes – it is also close to amenities which can be good for safety reasons when tripping with groups of inexperienced youth. – There is one portage which crosses Hwy 35, extreme caution must be taken.
Access: Frost Centre
Facilities: Parking, Outhouse
Distance: 24 km
Duration: 2-4 days
Portages: P586, P1177, P107, P662, P1058, P212, P291
Side trips: Little Brother Lake, Silver Doe/Silver Buck P556/P166, Orley P361, Sundew P110,  Sherborne Lake Dam
Points of Interest: Frost Centre Institute, seasonal Water Falls at Fagan Ponds
St.Nora - Sherborne Lake Route
Popular route – easy weekend getaway, 1 easy portage.  
Access: Frost Centre or Sherborne Lake (Sherborne Lake access road is a use at your own risk road – cars are not recommended.)
Facilities: Parking, toilets. Trails store/office and boat ramp at Frost Centre Access.
Distance: Approximately 10 km
Duration: 2 days
Portages: 813m – Can be shortened by paddling marsh midway – return via same portage
Side trips: Little Avery Lake/Bruin/Orley Lake, Silver Doe/Silver Buck Lake
Points of Interest: Very scenic High bluffs in South East Bay of Sherborne Lake. Sherborne Lake has numerous secluded bays and islands to explore. Excellent camping and swimming. There is a natural sandy beach at the Sherborne Lake access point which is excellent for day trips.
Big Hawk – Clear – Red Pine – Nunikani
Loop trip – this is the best loop trip in the Frost area and is perfect for a long weekend getaway. 
Access: Big Hawk Lake, Little Hawk Lake, Kennisis Lake Dam
Distance: Approximately 20kms
Duration: 2 to 3 days, 1 night on Clear, 1 night on Nunikani, or 2 nights on Red Pine
Portages: P281, P210, P446, P651 (The portages into and out of Nunikani are dependant on water levels – if high, only a portion of the portage is required) 
Side trips: Blackcat Lake (P518m), East Paint Lake (P823m), Buckskin Lake (P632m), Rabbit Lake (P180m), Wallace Pond (421m)
Points of Interest: Clear Lake is noted for its incredibly clear waters where one can view depths of more than 30ft on a calm day. Old growth Hemlock and Pine trees can be found throughout the Clear Lake Conservation Reserve. The river between Nunikani and Big Hawk Lake is very scenic. Blackcat Lake is ‘Meromictic’ and provincially rare (see write up on conservation reserve). There is also a one of a kind, full size log chute at the dam from Big Hawk Lake with picnic area, walking path and interpretive pavilion.
Margaret – Dan – McEwen – Horse – Three Island
Short route, very scenic, secluded small lakes with calm waters and marshy bays surrounded by mature Hemlock/Pine forest, and high hills.
Access: Best access is from Margaret Lake. Secondary access is from Dan Lake Access road (Dan Lake Access Road is Use at Your Own Risk and unmaintained – cars not recommended)
Distance: 9km
Duration: 1-2 days. Excellent Day Trip or very rewarding ‘set up camp and explore trip’
Portages: P338, P124, P213, P360, P667
Side trips: Little Margaret Lake, Black River 
Points of Interest: Black River – portages go around scenic waterfalls on the Black River and are worth the effort.  Small islands, great for exploring are found on McEwen, Three Island and Horse Lakes, extensive wetlands along the Black River afford excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife.
Herb – Ernest - Gun - Raven Route
Good area to introduce young campers to canoe tripping
Access: Herb Lake, Raven Lake, Deer Lake
Facilities: Boat ramp and parking at Herb and Raven access points – Parking at Deer Lake – outhouse at Herb Lake
Distance: 10 km
Duration: 1-2 days
Portages: P182, P72, P343 – Return via the same route
Side trips: Cow and Bull Lakes, Ronald Lake, Nehemiah Lake
Points of Interest: Scenic Brandy falls - located on the black river between Ernest and Gun Lakes, towering high rock bluffs on south east arm of Raven Lake.
Big Hawk – Sherborne – Summit Pond – No Name Pond 
In spring, when water levels are high, access to Sherborne Lake from Big Hawk Lake can be paddled without portaging through the narrows.
Access: Big Hawk Lake
Facilities: Parking, toilets, marina/store, boat ramp
Distance: 14 km
Duration: 1-2 days
Portages: P81, P551, P355, 1058
Side trips: Silver Doe, Silver Buck
Points of Interest: Crab rapids – located on the river just east of the portage from No Name Pond to Big Hawk Lake. Hawk Lake Log Chute is a full size, one of a kind log chute located at the Big Hawk Lake Dam with a picnic area, walking path, and interpretive pavilion.
Little Hawk - Blackcat – Clear – Big Hawk
Little Hawk Lake is a relatively large lake and winds can get strong.
Sensitivity: Clear Lake Conservation Reserve, Blackcat Lake (Meromictic)
Access: Little Hawk Landing (2029 Little Hawk Road #13)
Facilities: Parking, toilets, phone, marina, store, restaurant
Distance: 14 km
Duration: 2 days
Portages: P95, P97, P292, P70, P518, P281
Side trips: Red Pine Lake
Points of Interest: There is a Totem Pole at the narrows at the south side of the island between Little Hawk and Big Hawk Lakes. Blackcat Lake is a Meromictic Lake (see write up), Clear Lake and Blackcat Lakes are known for extremely clear waters, depths of 30+ft can be seen on calm days. There are Old Growth Hemlock and Pine trees throughout the Clear Lake Conservation Reserve.
Margaret - South Jean
Remote backcountry, low use on portage from Little Margaret to Browns Lake and Browns Lake to South Jean Lake, these portages can be very overgrown and difficult to follow – put in on Browns Lake is in a Cattail Marsh – mud wading or bushwhacking is required.
Access: Margaret Lake
Facilities: Parking
Distance: 7km
Duration: 1-2 days
Portages: P315, P1057, P568 and return via same portages
Side trips: Blueglass Lake
Points of Interest: Marsh/river area at south arm of South Jean Lake, excellent area to view wildlife including beavers and turtles.
Herb - Black River – Knife – Jean – Mooney – Hosiery
Very remote backcountry, water levels may be low and impassable at times, portages and campsites get seldom used and seldom maintained. Portages can be overgrown and difficult to follow between Knife and Mooney Lakes.
Access: Herb Lake – Route can be extended by starting at Raven Lake or Wren Lake
Distance: 20km from Herb Lake Access and 30km from Wren Lake Access
Duration: 2-4 days
Portages: From Herb Lake: P78, P142, P1285 (this portage stays close to and on the edge of the marsh for the first 500m or so and is difficult to follow), P1291 (This portage crosses an ATV trail – be sure to follow the portage signs and not the ATV trail), P346, P185
Side trips: Hike to Wolfsbane Lake along ATV trail which crosses the portage between Jean and Mooney Lakes
Points of Interest: This area is the head waters for the Black River watershed which flows all the way to Lake Simcoe and then to Georgian Bay. The marshy areas in between Mooney and Hosiery Lake are excellent wildlife viewing areas.

Road Access Campsites

There are 11 road access campsites along the Sherborne Lake access road off of Hwy 35. This road is use at your own risk and is not regularly maintained.  It can be rough in places, especially east of Little Avery Lake. Washouts are possible. Cars are not recommended. Call the Algonquin Highlands Trails Office for current conditions, information and recommendations. 

Canoe Routes in the Poker Lakes

Big East Lake

This is a base camp style trip with numerous excellent campsites to choose from. Beginning with a short portage to access the lake from the Big East Lake access parking area at #5128 Hwy 118, half-way between Carnarvon and Bracebridge. Big East Lake is a large lake with many arms, bays and islands to explore and fish. This lake is home to several remote hunt camps. 

Bentshoe - Crane - Poker - Cinder Loop

This backcountry loop is perfect for a long weekend and starts at #5128 Hwy 118 (Big East Access Point parking lot). Once you unload your gear at the parking area, cross the highway to Bentshoe Lake. From here follow a series of short portages northeast into the Crane Lakes, Poker Lake, Muck Lake and then Cinder Lake at the north end of the loop. The most popular weekend outing is to get to Cinder Lake on the first day, set up camp and explore. To return, continue south through Quirt and Ooze Lakes returning to Poker and Bentshoe Lakes. The loop is best done in this direction as it puts the hills in your favor when crossing several of the portages. This an excellent trip on smaller lakes and ponds with opportunities to view wildlife, flora and fauna. Bentshoe Lake has the highest traffic in the summer months with traffic decreasing with the more portages you put behind you. If you are lucky enough to reserve the only campsite that is located on Poker Lake you will have the entire lake to yourself. 

Contact Information

Trails Office (Haliburton Highlands Water Trails)
20130 Highway # 35 North
Phone: 705-766-9033
Fax: 705-766-2402

Mailing Address:
Township of Algonquin Highlands
1123 North Shore Road, Algonquin Highlands, ON K0M 1J1

Hours of Operation

May to August
Open 7 days a week
Sunday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

September to October
Open 7 days a week
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

November to April
Open 7 days a week (except public holidays)
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.