The Rock Lake Access point is the starting point for this trip. It is located 8km south of Highway 60 around the 40km mark of the park (near the visitor's centre). Here, register at the park office along with the crowds of car campers. Our group included 4 adults and 2 children ages 6 and 8. We took 5 days and 4 nights to complete the loop and paddled it from July 28-Aug 2, 2017.
Day 1: Rock Lake Access to Penn Lake (10km or 3 hours)
After obtaining your park permits, drive down to the parking lot and load your boat in the small creek. We began our trip here around 1PM after driving to the park in the morning. Bear left on this creek to the main Rock Lake and enjoy the views for which the lake is named. Follow the right hand side of the lake into a small narrow at the south end and portage the 375m around a dam to Penn Lake. When entering Penn Lake you can paddle through a small narrowing of rocks between the islands (will only fit one canoe through at a time) or go left around the islands. We paddled over half way down this lake and settled into our campsite for the night. Penn Lake offers several beach and rocky shored campsites along it's narrow shape.
Day 2: Penn Lake to Welcome Lake (6-11km, or 4 hours)
Leaving Penn Lake we entered into a small creek before reaching our first portage of the day of 295m. Entrance to this creek is on the left of this wetland. The portage was an unexpected surprise for us as it included a couple sets of waterfalls and small rapids. Side trails from the portage take you to the waterfalls and other scenic viewpoints. Check them out! This short portage goes uphill and is quite bushy so be prepared to get your heartrate up as there isn't too many places to stop and rest.
Jumping back into the boats, continue through a creek paddling through some weak beaver dams and before you know it you are at the 2170m portage. This portage, although daunting in distance features some rolling hills and wide and open. Two-way traffic can pass with ease. The ending of the portage brings you to the beautiful sand beaches of Welcome Lake. This circular lake is not large or deep, but is home to many amazing beach camping spots and sandy swimming shorelines! An Algonquin gem for sure.
Exiting Welcome Lake we passed through a creek that connected us with Harry Lake. A short paddle through Harry re-assured us that we made that right decision to stay on Welcome Lake the night before. There was only one campsite on Harry that looked decent for a buggy July stay. We continued through a second creek that connects to Rence Lake that included a large beaver dam obstacle astutely built across an old bridge foundation. After hauling over the dam and paddling a few minutes across Rence Lake, you paddle into a creek with a perfect canoe parking spot for unloading your boat at the 320m portage! This Rence lake beaver dam was not present when I did this loop in Spring 2023.
The morning paddle down Lake Louisa was stunning. This lake is one of Algonquin's best kept secrets. Louisa has multiple amazing campsites, crystal clear lake waters, and picturesque landscapes. It took over an hour for us to paddle down the lake but we loved it all. What we didn't love is when it ended and the 2895m portage began. That said, what we found out was this this portage trends downhill or is flat. Again, a long but easy portage in this direction only. I did have to double back on this one and the hills going the opposite direction would make this portage unenjoyable to say the least. Finishing the almost 9km of portaging (after doubling back) is definitely sweat producing, hunger inducing and completely satisfying. We paddled out to ever busy Rock Lake full of all sorts of traffic: Motorboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and SUPS. We chose an island site for the night and soaked in another amazing summer night in the park. Alternatively, you could paddle out the final 3km back to the parking lot and end your journey here.
We ended our trip on the morning of Day 5 and were in the parking lot by 10AM.
After paddling in the park for more than 25 years, this was my first trip south of Highway 60 and I was pleasantly surprised by the great campsites, easy but long portages, and beautiful lakes. I will planning more south of 60 trips in the near future!
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