Algonquin & Beyond

McIntosh Lake Map & Overview

McIntosh Lake is probably one of the most popular not-so-easily-accessible lakes in Algonquin Park. It’s central to many different canoe routes, and with its wide variety of beautiful campsites, it’s a popular destination for many people camping in Algonquin Park. McIntosh Lake attracts both new campers and seasoned canoe trippers, whether it’s during a weekend getaway or part of a longer trip.

McIntosh Lake is a gorgeous lake defined by its strong character, with rocky shorelines, windswept trees, and scattered islands throughout the lake. The lake has an almost circular shape to it, meaning you can admire mostly all of its beauty continuously while paddling and/or camping on the lake.

The quickest way to reach McIntosh Lake is coming from Canoe Lake Access Point (#5). It will take 5-6 hours if you single-carry portages, with only two portages on route. However, one of those portages is a challenging 2.4km leading from the north end of Tom Thomson Lake. You can also reach McIntosh Lake easily from Magnetawan Lake Access Point (#3) and Rain Lake Access Point (#4). For both of those options, it’s possible to reach McIntosh Lake in one travel day, but two days would be a much more realistic option for most groups.

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

Campsites on McIntosh Lake

One of the reasons that McIntosh Lake is so popular is because of the beautiful campsites scattered across the lake.

In the southern part of McIntosh Lake are a group of campsites with rocky shorelines and spacious interiors. Campsite #15 is often mentioned as people’s favourite campsite on the lake. It’s not my favourite, personally, but there’s no denying that it’s a beauty.

I’m more of an island campsite type of guy, so the central area of McIntosh Lake is what attracts me the most. There are three small islands, each with a single campsite on them. I’ve camped on the northernmost of the islands, Campsite #7, and it quickly became a personal favourite. The large rocky shoreline, the spacious and sheltered interior, the stunning sunset views… it was something special.

I tend to prefer campsites that face west, for the late afternoon sun and the sunset views, but there are a few gorgeous campsites on the western shoreline of McIntosh Lake as well. If you’re ok with an east-facing campsite (maybe you even prefer that), it’s worth checking out those campsites.

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

Paddling On McIntosh Lake

Paddling on McIntosh Lake is a wonderful experience. In the south end of the lake, the connecting portage actually leads into Ink Lake, which connects to McIntosh Creek, before finally turning into McIntosh Lake. Paddling through McIntosh Creek before reaching the main lake provides a calm, relaxing paddling experience, which can offer relief from choppy waters if it happens to be a windy day.

Two of the other four entrances lead directly from a connecting portage into a large bay on McIntosh Lake, before opening into the main body of the lake. This is also a nice way to enter the lake because landing in the bay, you get a small visual taste of what’s to come before being exposed to all of the lake’s beauty.

The last entrance is on the east end, coming from Grassy Bay. Once again, you only get a small glance of the lake ahead, but this time it’s because there are a handful of islands obstructing the view. But that’s not a bad thing. Paddling away from the portage and towards the islands, you can choose which islands you want to squeeze through or wrap around while you search for your campsite for the evening.

During my first time paddling on McIntosh Lake, I arrived from the east entrance and paddled between the two largest islands into the centre of the lake. From there, I had a 360 degree view of the entire lake with almost every campsite directly in view. It was a really unique feeling having such a commanding view from one single spot on the lake.

Portaging To McIntosh Lake

There are four portages that lead into McIntosh Lake. Well, technically one of them leads into Ink Lake, but Ink Lake is a very small lake with a direct connection to McIntosh Lake via McIntosh Creek. The portage is a challenging 2.4km with multiple boardwalks, varied terrain, and a steep, long staircase at the Ink Lake end of the portage.

At the east end of McIntosh lake is the 500m portage that comes directly after the 770m portage leading in from Grassy Bay. The 770m is the more challenging of the two, with a steady incline in elevation from Grassy Bay towards McIntosh Lake. The 500m does have some ups-and-downs, but it’s a relatively easy portage overall.

In the north end of McIntosh Lake is the 410m portage that connects to Timberwolf Lake. Jeff’s Map shows a decent elevation climb at the start of the portage, but from my own personal experience, I don’t recall the portage being too challenging. Then again, I’ve only done that portage one time and it was literally 6:00 AM, so my half-asleep state of mind probably preventing me from paying attention to the elevation. It’s like the reverse of the famous saying “out of sight, out of mind”, for me it was “out of mind, out of sight”.

The final portage leading into McIntosh Lake is the 670m portage from Straight Shore Lake. This is the least travelled option of them all, since it’s out of the way from the most direct canoe routes that lead into McIntosh Lake.

McIntosh Lake Trip Reports

Ok, I’ll admit it. McIntosh Lake is a very popular lake in Algonquin Park, but I’ve only been there one time. To my defence, I did spend the night on the lake, rather than just paddle through. My one visit to McIntosh Lake was during my Trip Report titled “Six Days Solo In Algonquin”. The route took me from Magnetawan Lake, through the Petawawa River to Misty Lake, White Trout Lake, McIntosh Lake, and back to Magnetawan Lake through Timberwolf Lake.

I knew that McIntosh Lake was a popular lake, and the weather forecast was looking favourable during the trip, so I started my day from White Trout Lake bright and early and arrived to McIntosh Lake at 1:00 PM. The best part? I had the entire lake to myself for the evening! You can read the full Trip Report for more details.

The Verdict... Camp or Skip?

I’ve only spent one night on McIntosh Lake (at the time of writing this report), but based on that one night, I absolutely want to go back. The lake is visually beautiful and there are plenty of gorgeous campsites to choose from. It’s deep enough in the backcountry to instill a sense of accomplishment when arriving to the lake, while also being central to many different canoe routes, making it easily accessible from a handful of different access points.

One thing to consider is the almost circular shape of the lake. This means that many campsites are in view of each other. Plus, sound travels very easily over open water. So while McIntosh Lake gets an easy “camp” verdict, I would be more inclined to choose it as a destination lake during the shoulder season months.

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