Highland Backpacking Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park

#17 of 22 in Trails in Algonquin Provincial Park
Hiking Trail · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
Highland Backpacking Trail is located in Algonquin Provincial Park. Put Highland Backpacking Trail and other Algonquin Provincial Park attractions into our Algonquin Provincial Park trip itinerary builder website, and watch your holiday take shape.
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Highland Backpacking Trail reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
19 reviews
  • My brother and I embarked on a 2 night 3 day hike in Oct 2018, completing the full 35kms. Both seasoned hikers and campers, I can honestly say it was fantastic. Some challenging elevations after...  more »
  • My wife, dog and me hiked this trail mid April knowing that the weather could have been hit or miss. It was a total hit. We had perfect hiking weather. The trail is moderate to challenging but well...  more »
  • very nice trail to be done off season (as in not to be too crowded). Later fall and late winter or early spring, are good times to go. (no bugs :-) )
  • I recently hiked this trail in 4 days, 3 nights (July 2019) with a friend. First, Campsites: as always in Algonquin, the campsites were absolutely spectacular. The first night we stayed at the first 'point' campsite on Provoking 'East'. It was lovely, though significant tree cover got in the way of good stargazing if that's your thing, and though the map seems to show a campsite directly across the water, it seems to have been unoccupied so we got good privacy. Second night, we stayed at the second campsite on Harness lake (doing the long loop clockwise). This was arguably the most beautiful campsite I have ever stayed at (and I've had a good enough sample size in Algonquin for that to mean something). It had a rocky point complete with a lone, majestic, white pine at the end and a fire pit. Seriously, the site reminded me of that Tom Thomson painting. I recommend you seek it out. Third night, we stayed on Provoking 'West' at the first site on your right (ignoring the two sites on the South side of the lake). This site was the worst of the three (still private and secluded and phenomenal compared with any other park in Southern Ontario, but the thunderbox was bizarrely far from the site, and there were slim pickings for level ground to set up the tent). Second: Swimming: This was amazing at all sites during our mid-July trip. The water in both Provoking Lake and Harness Lake had to have been at least mid-70s. Aside from a slight chill when we jumped in, the water was warm. I'll go out on a limb and say these lakes must be shallow or something so they can get that warm. It was a perfect way to cool off at the end of each day, and all of our sites had good places for getting in the water. Third: Views and rest stops: The two waterfalls on the trail were both very scenic and they were nice places to take a break. I suspect you could even throw your swimsuit on and take a dip in a whirlpool if you wanted to cool off at either one (we did not do this, but it was tempting to try). The Starling Lake lookout is worth the short detour. The view is stunning. Unfortunately, the lookout just south of Faya Lake isn't really a lookout anymore because trees have grown up to block the view (as my friend said: "Lookout? It's more like 'look out' or you'll miss it!"). That said, it's a rocky spot where you can lie down and take a break to split up your hike. At the first crossing with Mosquito Creek (going southbound) there is a nice open spot to take a break and try to spot some wildlife in the adjacent marsh. There was a bit of wind when we were there so this spot was also a nice place to take off the bug nets for a few minutes. Which brings me to... Fourth: Insects. The trail south from Provoking East to Harness Lake had the worst insect problem of any place I've ever camped ('Mosquito Creek' is not just the name). For this reason, I'm never doing another backpacking trip in Algonquin in the middle of summer. If you are going in mid-summer, be sure to bring a full upper-body bug net (I did, and it made this stretch bearable but by no means pleasant) and either long pants or bug net pants. Do not, under any circumstance, attempt this trail from mid-May through August without complete mosquito cover. Insect repellant is useless on this trail. My hands (the only exposed part of my body) have a dozen or so bites on them despite using 30% DEET cream and constant monitoring to swat the bugs as they landed. They also got a few bites on my shoulders (the straps of my pack kept the net close to my skin there, so they were able to bite through the net and my shirt). Bugs at the campsites were generally not too bad (typical for Algonquin), but on the trail I almost never took off my bug shirt. The bug issue makes this trail lose a star in my rating, but as others have noted, if you do this trail in the off season, should be good. To sum it up: Good campsites and good swimming, but very few views for the kms you hike, and lots of insects (in July).

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