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An outdoor adventurer's guide to Ontario

An outdoor adventurer's guide to Ontario

Ontario offers a wonderful choice of accessible wilderness. You can leave a major urban centre and an hour or so later be out on a boat or hiking the trails. This easy proximity has turned Ontario into an outdoor adventure capital that’s so extensive you’ll never run out of new experiences to try.


We’ve put together a quick outdoor adventurer’s guide to Ontario so you can make the most of your days exploring the wild.

Hiking Algonquin Provincial Park
Hiking at Algonquin Provincial Park

Adventure by land


There are over 330 provincial parks and six national parks in Ontario, and every inch contains some new opportunity for an adventure.


For one, these parks are a hub of hiking. Over 1,700 kilometres of hiking trailsExternal Link Title crisscross the province, bringing you through all types of terrain on both short treks, day hikes or weeks-long trips. Hike your way to the 100m deep Barron Canyon in Algonquin Provincial ParkExternal Link Title, marvel at the picturesque Chutes Provincial ParkExternal Link Title waterfalls, or test your physical fitness by climbing "The Crack" at Killarney Provincial ParkExternal Link Title, a series of huge tumbled boulders. There's no way to do all of the hiking in Ontario justice in by describing it; you're just going to have to go out and experience it for yourself!


Seeing things from the ground isn't always enough of an adventure. Luckily, Ontario is also home to fantastic rock climbing and bouldering. Popular climbs include the limestone peaks along the Niagara EscarpmentExternal Link Title and the rock walls of Bon Echo Provincial ParkExternal Link Title. Once you've conquered the outside of mountains, head inside for some potholing. Take a cave tour and hunt for fossils at Bonnechere CavesExternal Link Title in Eganville or explore the seven Warsaw CavesExternal Link Title, carved by glaciers during the last ice age.


From two feet, move to two wheels. Similar to hiking, Ontario is blessed with more miles of mountain biking trails than you could possibly conquer in one lifetime. Abandoned logging roads, steep descents, deep forest routes; you name it and Ontario has it. Single Tracks has compiled a list of many of the province's mountain biking trailsExternal Link Title with handy information like the degree of difficulty and length of trail. Spoiled for choice and don't know where to start? The Blue Mountain ResortExternal Link Title and the Bruce Peninsula Mountain Bike Adventure ParkExternal Link Title are both popular local picks. Cycling tours are also a popular way to explore Niagara's Wine Region. 


If 'extreme' is your middle name, all kinds of gravity-defying adventures (that probably don't fit in the "land" category) can be found in and around Ontario. It's an amazing rush to soar high and fast toward the breathtaking Niagara Falls on the MistRider Zipline to the FallsExternal Link Title. On four parallel ziplines, travelling 670 metres through the wide river gorge, guests get picture-perfect views of the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls - an exclusive Niagara experience! Experience the adrenaline pumping half mile Thunderbird Twin Zip Line at the Scenic Caves Nature AdventuresExternal Link Title in Blue Mountain, less than two hours from Toronto. Walk through the tree canopy of the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife ReserveExternal Link Title  or challenge yourself at the Skywood Eco AdventureExternal Link Title in the 1000 Islands region. Book a Fly and Hike AdventureExternal Link Title in Georgian Bay. The airplane will drop you at a private island to hike the shorelines and trails, take a dip or view a shipwreck. Experience motor power, explore the 1,000 acres of private trails amid spectacular Canadian Shield scenery on your ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) with Bear Claw Tours.External Link Title  Bungee jumpExternal Link Title 45 metres above the Ottawa River. These are the activities bucket lists were built for.

Ottawa River Rafting - Credit: OWL Rafting
Ottawa River Rafting - Credit: OWL Rafting

Adventure by water


'Ontario' is an Iroquoian word meaning 'the land of shining waters' which is the perfect description for the province. Over a half million lakes and waterways can be found within Ontario, including the Great Lakes, giving you plenty of options to experience Ontario's waters.


Canoeing and kayaking are the quintessential Canadian experience. Ontario ParksExternal Link Title offers some of the most iconic canoeing opportunities, like the Algonquin or French River, which will make you feel like an explorer navigating these waters for the first time. Madawaska Kanu CentreExternal Link Title -- the world's first whitewater paddling school -- is home to weekend or five-day active vacations that will exhilarate, rejuvenate, and welcome you into a lifelong love of whitewater paddling. Then there's Georgian Bay, a perfect kayaking destination. Local outfitters can set you up with all the gear; guided or unguided, daytrips and multi-day trips are available. Finally, stand up paddleboarding can be done anywhere from Toronto's waterfront to Ontario's North!

Algonquin Park - Credit: Voyageur Quest
Algonquin Park - Credit: Voyageur Quest

If you love to get out onto white water, the Ottawa River is a great place to start. In fact, the Ottawa Valley is known as the Whitewater Capital of Canada. Owl RaftingExternal Link Title offers not only rafting trips with experienced guides at the helm, but also guided white water canoe and kayaking trips, that safely splash and roll you through one of the world's great whitewater routes.  Whitewater canoeing is also available on six different rivers at Algonquin Provincial ParkExternal Link Title. These rivers take on new life during the spring melt when the water levels rise, so you're going to want to plan your visit for then. Or, for a completely different way to power through whitewater, sign up for a Whirlpool Jet Boat TourExternal Link Title of the gorge on the lower Niagara.


You can also experience Ontario's many waterways from under the water's surface. Head to the 1000 IslandsExternal Link Title region, strap on your scuba gear, and dive the region's 200 shipwrecks. Fathom Five National Marine ParkExternal Link Title in Tobermory is also home to over 20 shipwrecks, and is one of the most popular scuba destinationsExternal Link Title in Canada.  


Discover the sparkling lakes, granite shores and pristine waters on numerous day cruises, such as the RMS SegwunExternal Link Title, North America's oldest operating steamship cruising on the Muskoka Lakes. A cruise in the 1000 Islands region is a "must do."


Ending this list of water adventures is kiteboarding. Take advantage of the wind and waves in Georgian Bay and learn how to be a pro with Blue Mountain KiteboardingExternal Link Title. You can also get lessons from the Toronto Kite ClubExternal Link Title without leaving the comforts of the city. 

Ready to start planning your adventure? Visit the Ontario Travel website