Backcountry for a weekend: McCrae Lake

Two hours from Toronto, McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve is a great destination for a simple backcountry canoe or hiking trip.  Experience some Muskoka wilderness and have an epic adventure, and do this all for free.  That's right, this is a no fee camping area.  

McCrae Lake is completely enclosed within the boundary of the conservation reserve and is accessible by hiking trails or two quick and relatively simple portages, although most campsites are water access only.  There are no cottages on the lake and you can have a true wilderness experience only a short drive from Toronto.  As always, be sure to leave no trace.  What ever you pack in, pack out with you.

Note: you can download a high resolution version of this map by right clicking it and selecting "save image".  We don't have a higher resolution or larger version available.

McCrae Lake Camping Canoe and Hiking Access

Free overnight parking is available at the entrance to the hiking trails and first portage, off the 400 south ramp.  Follow directions for "McCrae Lake Parking" in Google Maps, access off of Crooked Bay Rd/Georgian Bay Rd.


The trailhead is located at the southwest corner of the parking lot.  Do not get confused by the portage trail at the north end which leads to McDonald Lake.  The trail is about 2 kilometres long and leads to a high ridge on McCrae Lake called Eagle's Nest.  There are only a few campsites available within walking distance.

Lookout from Eagle's Nest at McCrae Lake


Canoeing to McCrae Lake means you'll have access to all of the campsites, and is a simple paddle involving two small portages from the parking area.  The first portage is located at north end of the parking lot and is about 100 metres long on a wide and well travelled trail.  You'll put your canoes in on McDonald Lake and travel northwest to the waterfall connecting McDonald to McCrae.  While there are campsites on McDonald Lake, you're more likely to hear noise from the highway if you camp here.  The second portage is about 150 metres, accessible from the western shoreline from a bare rock face.  Put your canoes in and head west out of the channel into McCrae Lake, there's over 30 sites to choose from.

Canoe Campsite on McCrae Lake, Muskoka

Questions or comments?  We'd love to hear from you!  Send us a message here.


  • I have gone to McCrae for almost 50 years, mostly on Scout canoe trips. I have seen this quiet wilderness gem grow to become a booming city on the weekends. Campsites are on a first come, first serve basis and they fill quickly. There is an association called Friends of McCrae Lake that care for the area. Please show them respect by no trace camping, which means pack everything out that you pack in… including the garbage. This kind group also leaves campfire wood at the campsites covered with a tarp. If you see a tarp on the site, that is why so don’t take it away. Many of the sites will include a crapper box… no privacy but the comfort of a toilet seat on a box that covers the ready made latrine. Truly a great camping experience with loons calling (above the noise of the new super highway). We can wish for the good old days, but we can be also grateful for having such a special place to visit that is so close to home. Please take care of it.

    Harry Kuczak
  • Hello, could you please send me a map of McCrae Lake? The trail cuts off on this map! Thank you!

  • Hello! Awesome post, this information is great! Is it possible to get a copy of the map as well? THANKS :)

  • How many sites will I find at the Eagle nest area while hiking in? If those are full, what is the distance to the next campsite?

  • Hello! I am planning a trip in a couple weekends – I have typically gone in with a canoe and camped at one of the open spots. However, that option isnt great for more people and we are hoping to hike this time. Unfortunately the map cuts off the trail – any chance I can get a map of the full hike trail and spots accessible by foot? THANK YOU!


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