Camper in tent looking out at people in canoe in lake

9 sweet spots to hike, canoe and camp from Toronto without a car

Waking up to the call of the loon, jumping into clear waters, falling asleep under starry skies. You shouldn’t have to be a city escape artist to get out of Toronto and into Ontario’s wild.

No car? No problem. With MEC’s partner Parkbus, you and your friends can explore and experience 9 of the most scenic spots the province has to offer. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

“We’ve had so many Parkbus passengers who started as strangers and then quickly became friends after a full day of hiking and spending time outside together. We suggest you say hello and connect with others on board.” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

1. Algonquin Provincial Park

People travel from all over the world to experience Algonquin’s lakes, rivers and wildlife. If you have an adventure bucket list, this park is probably on it. But how will you get there? What about the canoe? When will you get back? Parkbus has 6 different stops along Highway 60 that connect you directly with campgrounds, lodging, canoe rentals and launch points. They’ll even pick you up from the park on Sunday – now that’s full service!

How to get there: Parkbus Algonquin trips

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“There are so many lakes in Algonquin Park – it feels endless! It’s also bigger than Luxembourg, Bahrain and many other countries.” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

2. Killarney Provincial Park

If you’ve ever tried to get to this stunning spot without a car (and with a canoe), you understand – it ain’t happening. Enter Parkbus, stage right. Known for turquoise waters and white quartzite cliffs, this park is one where you’ll want to pack your camera along with your backpack or dry bags. If you’re interested in exploring this provincial park, you can get from Toronto directly to the lake, outfitter, town or campground. An awesome weekend mini-adventure.

How to get there: Parkbus Killarney trips

3. Grundy Lake Provincial Park

Looking for a white sand beach weekend getaway? Book a Parkbus, not a plane! This relaxing destination is quieter than some of its better-known counterparts, but equally as brilliant. Experience the quintessential Canadian Shield by boat or by boots right from the Grundy Lake campground. Starry night skies await.

How to get there: Parkbus Grundy Lake trips

I love me some #stars.

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4. Bruce Peninsula

Dramatic limestone cliffs, vast turquoise waters, ancient cedars and rare reptiles. What more could you ask for? In this national park, there are loads of options for hiking, exploring, camping, and lodging. Let Parkbus deliver you to this serene and scenic Ontario gem.

How to get there: Parkbus Bruce Peninsula trips

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“People are always amazed at how clear and crisp the water is in Bruce National Park.” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

5. Georgian Bay Islands

No planes, trains or automobiles in this trip itinerary, but you will need to board a ferry. Once Parkbus drops you off at Honey Harbour, you can take a shuttle to Beausoleil Island where you’ll find campsites, hiking, mountain biking trails (plus rentals) and beaches galore. 30,000 islands is a lot of islands, so you’ve got a full weekend of exploring ahead.

How to get there: Parkbus Georgian Bay Islands

6. Six Mile Lake Provincial Park

Any artists in the crowd? Canadian painter David Milne took his inspiration from 6 Mile Lake. How about wildlife viewers? This park could be your chance to catch a glimpse of the five-lined skink or a moose. Spend the night at the campsite, hang at the beach and swim in the lake. Canoe rentals are available on-site too.

How to get there: Parkbus Six Mile Lake trips

7. Rockwood Conservation Area

Sneak off on a day trip to nature just an hour away via Parkbus. What to look forward to: canoeing on the lake (rentals are on-site), cliffs and ruins for photo opps, and hiking trails to get your feet off the sidewalk and on the trail. Pack a picnic lunch along to chill out on the beach and under the clouds.

How to get there: Parkbus Rockwood daytrips

“One thing people are always surprised about in Elora, Rockwood and Kelso is how close the natural world is to Toronto.” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

8. Elora Gorge

Bring your bathing suit and water shoes when you head to Elora Gorge on a day trip. There’s tubing down the Grand River and swimming at the Elora Quarry, about a 20-minute walk from the Elora town Parkbus drop-off point. Prefer dry land? You can also stretch your legs on short walking trails and soak in “gorge” views.

How to get there: Parkbus Elora Gorge daytrips

9. Christie Lake and Hamilton waterfalls region

Waterfalls: worth the chase. On summer weekends, the region around Webster Falls, Tews Falls and Dundas Peak is a popular place to visit thanks to its awesome scenery. “The great thing about this destination,” say Alex and Boris, “Is that while you can visit very popular waterfalls at Spencer Gorge, you can also find solitude and explore trails and waters of Christie Lake, which is connected to Spencer Gorge by a free park shuttle.”

How to get there: Parkbus Christie Lake daytrips

You could spend all summer scoping out hiking and camping from your homebase of Toronto, and you don’t need your own car to make it happen. Wherever you head out, make sure you’re prepared:

Tips before you go

  • If you’re not sure where to begin, or hesitant to go on your own, look into Parkbus ActiveDays programming for group outings, where you spend the day exploring together (and meeting new people).
  • If you’re new to hiking, check out a hiking or camping workshop to learn the essentials.
  • Need outdoor gear? MEC provides Parkbus riders with 50% off gear rentals!
  • Stay safe and be prepared. Check out the weather before you leave, tell a friend where you’re going and when you plan to return, and bring first aid supplies and proper clothing. For more tips, check out day hiking for beginners and how to plan for overnight hikes.
  • Tip: For overnight destinations, print your ticket. Phone batteries can run out and you may want a printed copy handy.
Paula Brent, author pic
Paula Brent

Budding creator, enthusiastic explorer, and practiced gunnel bobber. Happiest sun-kissed and covered in dirt. With a side of maple syrup.