What pops into your head at the thought of ‘Canadian wilderness?’ It’s probably something consisting of rocky outcroppings, rugged terrain, lush forests, and sparkling waterways. This is an iconic image, intertwined with the Canadian identity, and woven across the landscape of Ontario’s Highlands.
We’re lucky to live in a country with an abundance of natural beauty just short distances from the manufactured landscapes of some of our main cities. With a little preparation and preparedness, these natural landscapes offer the chance for true adventure: to lose your stresses in the wonder of the wild; to challenge yourself for the reward of reaching eye-popping views; and to take a break from the everyday to recharge with fresh air and sunshine.
Keep reading for our suggestions of five ways to embrace the challenging beauty of the land and waters that form the classically rugged Canadian wilderness.
1. Whitewater Rafting
There’s nothing better than the splash of cool water against sun-warmed skin on a hot day. Surround yourself with friends and prepare for that sensation as the rapids of the Ottawa River rumble beneath your raft and excited laughter and screams fill the air. Paddle hard during an invigorating ride with Wilderness Tours or let the experienced guides at OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River lead you as you dip, twist, and turn along every bend.
2. Trail & Mountain Biking
Winding through tall trees and challenging terrain, mountain biking provides an exhilarating way to explore the forest and reach incredible lookout points to take in even more of the wilderness surrounding you. Challenge and excite yourself along the 23km of trails for various skill levels at Sir Sam’s Ski & Ride; put your mountain bike to the test along the tight, technical turns, and rocky, rooty terrain at Forest Lea; or fill your time exploring the hardwood covered landscape of Haliburton Forest without ever having to double back along the 300km of trails.
Engrained in the Canadian culture, paddling is an incredible way to explore both the calm allure, and rugged beauty, of the natural landscape. Some of the most beautiful sites might be challenging to reach, but the payoff is totally worth it. Improve your whitewater skills with the help of Boatwerks in Minden; paddle hard against the sheer power of Mother Nature along the Minden Wild Water Preserve; or take on the strength and beauty of the mighty Madawaska River with some expert help from guides at Madawaska Kanu Centre.
4. Backcountry Camping
Backcountry camping might be a little more challenging than some forms of camping; requiring you to leave the car behind, do some additional planning, work a little harder to access your site, or possess certain skills; but the rewards are huge. This is a true immersion into nature, where you can look out from your tent at nothing but trees and sparkling water, sit around the campfire at night with endless stars overhead, hike and paddle your way through undisturbed nature, and sleep with nothing but the sounds of the wilderness around you. Pitch a tent at one of 184 lakeside backcountry campsites surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the North Frontenac Parklands; embrace the backwoods by booking a boat-only access site within the 28,000 hectares of lakes, rivers, trails, and forests managed by the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails; or marvel at the incredible stature of Mazinaw Rock during a backcountry stay at Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Is there an easier way to submerse yourself in nature than heading out for a hike? Equipment is minimal – all you need are some sturdy shoes, water, snacks, and the desire to explore. Find a pal and hit the trails at Egan Chutes Provincial Park, a nature reserve on the York River near Bancroft with cascading chutes as its focal point; blaze a trail through the old growth forests while keeping your eye out for curious wildlife at Shaw Woods; or work up a sweat exploring the Algonquin Highlands’ hiking trails, some which lead to scenic lookouts with panoramic views of the lakes and greenery below.