Algonquin & Beyond

Burnt Island Lake Map & Overview

Burnt Island Lake is arguably one of the most popular backcountry lakes in Algonquin Park. It’s located approximately 15 kilometres northeast from the Canoe Lake Access Point (#5), and with more than 50 campsites on the lake, it can get quite busy in the summer months. The 50+ campsites are spread across an almost 10 kilometre long lake, making Burnt Island Lake one of the larger lakes in Algonquin Park. When people are planning a route leaving from Canoe Lake, it’s easy to see how Burnt Island Lake can immediately grab their attention.

It takes approximately 4 hours to get from Canoe Lake to Burnt Island Lake (the most common route), which includes a handful of small portages along the way. Since all of the portages are short—some of which can even be paddled around during high water levels—if you needed to double-carry it wouldn’t add too much time to your travels. Burnt Island Lake is often a ‘first-day’ destination, meaning people will go straight from the access point into Burnt Island Lake for their first night. For people that prefer moving a bit slower, it’s also common to spend their first night on Joe Lake, and then move to Burnt Island Lake for the second night of the trip.

Map of campsites on Burnt Island Lake in Algonquin Park, updated for 2024
To purchase your own copy (physical & digital formats), visit Maps By Jeff

Campsites on Burnt Island Lake

With 50+ campsites on Burnt Island Lake, it’s one of the largest backcountry lakes in Algonquin Park. This has its pros and cons. On one hand, there are tons of campsites to choose from. There are island campsites, campsites with rocky shorelines, campsites that offer good shelter from the elements, etc. But on the other hand, this means that you’re going to have lots of neighbours nearby, especially during the busy months when the lake can be fully booked.

Most of the campsites on Burnt Island Lake are adequate, but aren’t the most grandeur. At least for my personal preferences. I’ve camped on Burnt Island Lake a few times, and have passed through many more times, but the campsite selection has never made it a regular destination lake for me. Some of the campsites on the west side of the lake are the nicest, however if you’re looking for privacy and seclusion, you’re more likely to find that on the east side of the lake.

For detailed written descriptions and photos for campsites on Burnt Island Lake, you can view my Campsite Reports 👇

Paddling On Burnt Island Lake

Paddling through Burnt Island Lake is very pretty, with its rolling shorelines and various twists and turns. There’s always something new to admire as you make your way around the different bends and peninsulas. There are a few small islands throughout the lake, along with a handful of bays and inlets. Unless you plan on spending several days camping on Burnt Island Lake, you’ll most likely just be paddling through the centre channel of the lake rather than exploring its entire perimeter.

One of the biggest considerations when choosing a route that includes Burnt Island Lake is the wind. Being such a large lake, the potential for strong winds are quite high. The wind predominantly comes from the west, and its strength will pick up in the late morning, so it’s best to plan your travel times accordingly.

Crossing the entirety of Burnt Island Lake—from Baby Joe Lake to Little Otterslide Lake—can take approximately two hours! You may want to find a campsite to pull over and take a rest and have a bite to eat.

Portaging To Burnt Island Lake

Burnt Island Lake is very centrally located and can be incorporated into many different canoe routes. The most common route is to portage into Burnt Island Lake from the Canoe Lake Access Point. For this route, you’ll be passing a handful of small portages, all of which are less than 500m. These portages are all relatively flat and very well maintained. A few of these portages may even be passable in high water levels.

Portaging from Burnt Island Lake towards Little Otterslide Lake offers a bit more of a challenge. The portage is 780m and towards the Little Otterslide Lake end of the portage, it can become quite rocky and muddy. The canoe landing at the Burnt Island Lake end of the portage is a nice flat beach, but the canoe landing at the Little Otterslide Lake end of the portage is full of roots and is more difficult to navigate.

Portaging south from Burnt Island Lake towards Iris Lake and Linda Lake is a route less travelled, and can be more challenging than all of the other ways in and out of Burnt Island Lake. The portages are in decent condition, but they are longer in length and have some ups-and-downs.

The last set of portages from Burnt Island Lake are the ones in the north of the lake, leading towards Sunbeam Lake. There are four portages along this stretch, averaging around 500m each. The first of the four, the 540m, will be the most challenging of the bunch, but it’s not bad enough to deter you from planning a route through the area.

Burnt Island Lake Trip Reports

Burnt Island Lake is a popular beginner destination, and I was no exception! One of my first trips to Algonquin Park was a two-night stay on Burnt Island Lake with a few friends. Unfortunately, this was before I started writing Trip Reports, so I don’t have it documented. But soon after, I did my first ever solo canoe trip, and Burnt Island Lake was my destination for the second night of my trip.

That solo canoe trip was the last time I camped on Burnt Island Lake, but I’ve passed through on numerous other occasions. Oftentimes I would stop to collect some campsite reports, and there was one trip where I even lost my canoe in the water and had to swim out to get it! For some more information about Burnt Island Lake, feel free to check out the Trip Reports section of my website.

The Verdict... Camp or Skip?

There are two scenarios where I think Burnt Island Lake would be a great place to camp. First, if you’re new to backcountry camping and you’re planning one of the typical routes north of Canoe Lake. For example, a trip going from Canoe Lake into Burnt Island Lake, Sunbeam Lake, Tom Thomson Lake, and back to Canoe Lake is a popular beginner loop.

Second, if you’re planning a larger route and Burnt Island Lake happens to be the most appropriate choice, distance wise. For example, if you’re leaving from Canoe Lake and plan on going into Big Trout Lake, Burnt Island Lake is a great option to split up the travel (going from Canoe Lake to Big Trout Lake is unrealistic in one day). 

I personally prefer not to camp on Burnt Island Lake. It’s too popular and busy, and while some of the campsites are nice, the overall appeal of the lake isn’t worth its location in such a busy area. Burnt Island Lake gets a “skip” from me.

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