Killarney Provincial Park: Bell Lake to Johnnie Lake Loop (3 days / 12 km)

Killarney Provincial Park is home to hills of pink granite and white quartzite and sapphire lakes, for a total of 645 square kilometres of the great outdoors.  There is a campground at the main office for front-country camping, outfitters down the road and some lakes even have cabins. We were there for some canoe-in backcountry camping, a quiet relaxing time with some adventure in the mix.

Our trip had us stay on Bell Lake and Johnnie Lake, away from the crowds of the more popular routes launching from George Lake. This trip had two small portages and some great water. The weather was great and we will be back to explore even more lakes in Killarney!


Trip Summary

Starting Point: Bell Lake Access Point

Ending Point: Bell Lake Access Point

Total Distance: Approximately 12 km

Duration: 3 days (plus 2 rest days)

Difficulty: Easy 

Location

Killarney Provincial Park is located at the northern shores of Georgian Bay. Bell Lake Access Point is on the east side of the park and a 25-minute drive from the visitor’s centre.

Traditional Territory: Killarney Provincial Park is located on the traditional territory of the Mississauga and Anishinabewaki (source).

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: N/A

Map: Unlostify – Killarney Provincial Park Map (Paper Copy). You can also view it as a Digital Map.

Campsite Reservations: You need to book your campsites on the Ontario Parks Reservation System. Starting 2022, you must book a specific campsite, not a campsite on a specific lake. You can see a list of campsites on the Ontario Parks website here.

Camping Permits: You need to pick up permits ahead of your trip. This can either be done at George Lake or Bell Lake.

Outfitters & Shuttles

We did not but Killarney Outfitters is about 10-15 mins from the parks main office 

Trip Report

Day 1: Bell Lake Access Point to

We were a bit hasty and drove 5.5 hrs without a reservation but we were open to explore so just took our chances. We got lucky and there were still some backcountry sites available.  We checked in at the parks main office about 9:30 am. Because we did not have reservations we had to move sites after the 1st night but that was ok with us.

From the park office, we had to drive about 25 mins to the Bell Lake starting point. You have to unload your vehicle in the parking lot and portage to the lake, depending on your location in the parking lot a 50-100m portage, flat and easy.

As we were only going to be on the 1st site for a night we did not really want to paddle the whole lake for “the perfect site”.  We headed north on the lake and took the 1st free one we came across.  It was just past where Bell Lake and Three Mile Lake me on the left-hand side (west side) it was a nice site, up on some rocks and looked over the water.  The paddle up was very easy the water was calm.

The site had a very nice fire pit set up with logs for sitting on, the ground was soft with pine needles.  The mosquitoes were horrible, but we were there in the middle of July.

Campsite: We camped on Bell Lake. The site had a very nice fire pit set up with logs for sitting on, and the ground was soft with pine needles. The mosquitoes were horrible, but that’s to be expected in the middle of July.

Day 2: Bell Lake Campsite #88 to Johnnie Lake Campsite #69

We got up, had breakfast and then packed up to get moving to our next site. We had to paddle back to yesterday’s starting point and portage 310m to the next lake, Johnnie Lake. 

Portage from Bell Lake to Johnny Lake (310 m): This portage was fairly easy and has a bit of a downhill slope.

Once we were back in the canoe, we paddled for about 2 minutes and came across a short carryover. A beaver had built a dam that was not passable in the water. Going around the beaver dam was very short, maybe 25-35 m.

The water was rough on this lake and we were paddling against the waves, which made it all the more difficult.  We stopped and looked at the first site, but did not like it enough to send the next 4 days there. We had a quick snack for some energy and then we were off to the next campsite.

We paddled to campsite 69 and were happy with it. It was at the end of the lake, so we did not have people paddling by all day; it was the privacy and quiet we were looking for.

The site was tucked in a corner and very shaded, with a soft ground of pine needles. Passed the site, the water was a bit weedy, but where the site was it was swimmable. 

The entire paddle, portage and break was about 7 km and took about 4.5 hrs (as we were going against the waves).

Campsite: Campsite #69 on Johnnie Lake

Day 3: Rest Day

This was a chill relax day – we played games and made some nice meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We swam to a rock and did some “cliff” jumping.

Campsite: Campsite #69 on Johnnie Lake

Day 4: Rest Day

Today we went for a paddle to explore the rest of Johnnie lake. The water was calmer today, so we paddled to the starting point of Johnnie Lake and back (about 8 km). We stopped and looked at a couple of other sites in case we ever end up back in the area, but nothing that we liked as much as the one we were on.

Campsite: Campsite #69 on Johnnie Lake

Day 5 : Campsite 369 to Bell Lake Access Point

We got up, had some breakfast and packed up. We had to paddle back north on Johnnie Lake and do our 2 portages out to the parking lot. Again the water was wavy but not as bad as the day in.

Reflections

Book sites in advance: We got lucky and were able to get sites without reservations. This usually isn’t the case in Killarney, so it’s better to book in advance.

Great campsites: Water was nice to swim in and sites seemed well looked after.  

So many mosquitos: The mosquitoes were very bad, but as I mentioned, it was July.

When we were there the water was wavy at times, I am not sure if that is normal for this area as it was our first time there.  Be prepared to paddle hard just in case –

We will definitely be going back to explore more lakes in Killarney Provincial Park!

Gallery

Author Bio

This was my 2nd year backcountry camping since I was a teenager and I am 44 and loving it!  Lots more trips to come!” – Kelly