Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Rain Lake to Bandit Lake, Algonquin Interior

Location: Rain Lake Access, 60 km from Huntsville (1 hr drive)
Website: Friends of Algonquin Park or Ontario Parks
Map: Google Maps or Canoe Routes
Camping Facilities: Jump-off Camping, Cabin and Backcountry
Grade: A-
Stargazing: Excellent
Summary: A pretty long trek, which gets you reasonably deep into Algonquin Park.  If you book both sites, you have the lake to yourself.  The sites are nice, the lake has some good swimming and you can easily access other lakes.  
Campsite on Bandit Lake
Thoughts:  Another base camping gem, which I think should be reserved for a group with moderate paddling experience.  Not because its particularly challenging, but it can be a slog.  This trip took 6 hrs, from put in to arrival on site. We did it as a base camping trip as means to introduce some friends to the backcountry.  The great thing about this trip is that you can reserve both sites and have the lake to yourselves (which is nice, because things can get as loud or as quiet as you like).  As well, the paddling is pretty easy (well maintained, no huge lakes to cross, pretty easy portages).

Island site on Bandit Lake

You need to cross 5 lakes in order to get to the Bandit Lake destination. This sounds all well and good in theory, since the longest portage is around 550m, but you quickly learn how tricky this can get in large parties (we had 14 people); the continuous loading and unloading of canoes at docking sites can take time and causes a bottle neck.  If the docking sites are small, you will have to load/unload one at a time.  Along the way, we noted that Jubilee and Sawyer were also pretty nice looking lakes that have some well-spaced sites. 

"Mainland" site on Bandit Lake, plenty of room for tents

The sites on Bandit are pretty spacious.  In fact, were even tossed around the frisbee a bit on the island site (probably the superior site).  The thunderbox on the other site is somewhat close to the best spots to set up tents.  However, this can be overlooked, especially when camping in smaller groups.  The lake provides the opportunity to do some day tripping to neighbouring lakes, but those that are relatively close are small (north branch of Moccasin, Cranebill, Wenona, Muslim), and the more interesting day trips would be challenging to keep within a day (Petawawa River to Misty loop, Brule Lake, Misty).
You can see the thunderbox at the bottom of the hill,
in plain view of the tent spots

I think all those who ventured out on this trip appreciated the backcountry experience.  The 6-hr paddle into Bandit is probably more strenuous than you'd want to do as a novice, but its a rewarding trip.  This part of Algonquin is also not terribly scenic (no vistas or sheer rock faces), but you benefit from equally flat portages as a result.


  1. Hi! Can you remember approx how many tents would fit on the bandit lake island site? Heading there this summer with a large group and trying to figure out if we can fit a bunch of tents....

    1. Hi davedadmega, You'll be able to fit at least 3-4 tents on the island site - from what I can recall, it's pretty spacious.