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Adventure Begins Here

Backcountry Camping and Canoeing

The Haliburton Highlands Water Trails (HHWT) is a municipally managed backcountry canoe routes system that consists of approximately 28,000+ hectares of provincial and municipal public lands comprised of countless lakes, rivers, trails and continuous forest. 

The Township of Algonquin Highlands manages and regulates camping under the HHWT program in two distinct management areas: the historic Frost Centre canoe routes and the Poker Lakes canoe routes.

These areas are part of a shared use forest system and serve as year-round destinations for thousands of canoeists, campers, hikers, day-trippers, fisherman, hunters, cottagers, snowmobilers, skiers and snowshoers providing significant backcountry recreational and conservation values.

As a shared use forest, each area also has forestry (logging) operations. More information on area forest management plans can be found on the provincial website.

The Frost centre area encompasses approximately 26,500 hectares of rugged backcountry provincial crown, municipal and private lands comprised of mixed forests and 60+ lakes, some with cottages and others that are undeveloped. There are numerous canoe possibilities, 171 interior backcountry canoe/boat-only access campsites and 70 portages. There are a limited number of 'road' access campsites which are primarily found along the Sherborne Lake Forset Access road. Forest access roads are managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, they have limited maintenance, are use at your own risk and we recommend a 4wd vehicle with high ground clearance to access them. Information on forest access road conditions can be found here:

The Frost Centre Area has something to offer to all levels of canoeing/camping experience, skill and ability. It’s an ideal getaway for families and paddlers looking for two- to three-day trips.

The area can be accessed by 11 public access points, most of which are easily accessible off of Highway 35 North. Significant natural and aesthetically pleasing features can be found throughout the area, from waterfalls, to natural old growth forest, to the Black River head water wetlands. Some notable areas are two conservation reserves - the Clear Lake conservation reserve is an area representative of old growth Hemlock forest and is protected from future logging operations. The Dawson Ponds Conservation reserve was established to protect provincially-significant floral features.

The Poker Lakes area encompasses approximately 1,800 hectares of remote backcountry provincial crown and municipal lands comprised of mixed forests and 12 lakes with minimal development. Camping and canoeing routes include 47 campsites and 10 portages.

This is an ideal area for novice paddlers, families or anyone looking to have a relaxing and rejuvenating adventure in a natural setting.

Access to the area is from two public access points, one at 5128 Highway 118 and one on the Cinder Lake access road, off of the Black River Road. It should be noted that the Cinder Lake access road is a remote, unmaintained, “use at your own risk” road, and the access point itself can only be reached by a truck, SUV, ATV, snowmobile (in winter) or on foot. Vehicles using this access point should be equipped with 4-wheel drive capabilities as there is very rough terrain and two water crossings.

Campsites are able to be reserved for winter camping. There are important things to consider when planning your trip:

Winter Access points - Only the Frost Centre and Big East Lakes access points are maintained for winter access. Other access points are not maintained and not accessible. 

Winter Forest Access Roads - The Sherborne Lake Road, Cinder Lake Road and Margaret Lake Road are not plowed or maintained in any way in the winter. The Sherborne Lake Road becomes a groomed snowmobile trail. \

Campsites - To access campsites, visitors must be knowledgeable and confident in winter travel in the backcountry and understand the inherent risks associated with it. 

Winter Safety in the backcountry:

Winter is an awesome time to visit and experience the backcountry trails of the Haliburton Highlands and Muskoka’s. The snow covered landscape provides breathtaking views of snow covered forests and majestic ice falls. Winter offers increased solitude and peace quite different from the activity of summer.

A trip during winter requires additional planning and preparedness by all members of your group. Your safety is your sole responsibility. Therefore please practice the following in planning your trip prior to your outing into the backcountry:

  • Prepare and file a trip plan with family and friends.
  • Check the weather forecast beforehand. Pay particular attention to impending temperature drops, wind chill, blowing snow and storm fronts.
  • Dress appropriately, wear layers. Know how to avoid, recognize and deal with frostbite, hypothermia, and snow blindness.
  • Take an emergency pack including maps, gps/compass, communication device, whistle, ice picks, extra clothing, first aid kit, flash light, fire starter, water, and high energy foods.
  • Plan on being back to your vehicle or campsite an hour before sunset and gauge your trip accordingly.

Ice Safety - know the dangers of ice:

Have fun and be safe to have the best experience that the winter can offer!

Camping permits are required for backcountry campsites from January 2nd to December 18th annually in both the Frost Centre and Poker Lakes Canoe Route areas.

Reservations can be made starting January 2nd of each year.

Reservations are site and date specific, meaning that you can choose what site you will stay on in advance.  The on-line reservation system allows you to make reservations as well as browse maps, view campsite photos and check availability of campsites.

Online reservations are encouraged. These offer customer convenience and reduce wait times. Online reservations can be made at this link:  

All reservations require full payment upon booking and reservations via the online reservation system are only payable by Visa or MasterCard

Once a reservation is completed you will be given a booking number. The booking number serves as your camping permit and you are not required to register on site upon entering the area.   Please carry the booking number on your person at all times while camping and traveling in the area and produce to staff upon request.

All of the campsites in the HHWT are backcountry. This means that they are remote, rugged and offer no amenities beyond a stone fire pit and wooden privy box, which is an open air style outhouse. Access points are in remote areas and far from amenities such as grocery stores, visitors should come prepared with everything they need. Travelling in the backcountry is a very rewarding experience which requires careful planning and preparation. Canoe tripping can be a physically and mentally challenging activity that requires adequate levels of fitness. Trippers should have experience and knowledge in navigating wild areas by map, compass and GPS and the safety considerations associated with it. Choose routes that match your comfort level and ability. Be prepared for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. 

Contact Information

Algonquin Highlands
Trails Office
20130 Highway # 35 North
Phone: 705-766-9033
Fax: 705-766-2402

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