Hiking and backpacking are my way of exploring new places and challenging myself physically and mentally. Backpacking the complete La Cloche Silhouette Trail was one of my first long adventures in the wild and remains to this day a memorable accomplishment. If you are considering backpacking this epic trail, I highly recommend it. This guide includes tips on planning for this awesome trail!
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About La Cloche Silhouette Trail
The La Cloche Silhouette Trail is a loop and runs some 80 kilometres through hardwood and softwood forests as well as pink granite ridges and the white quartzite of the La Cloche Mountains. It is suggested to hike the trail, considered demanding, in 7-10 days.
The trail is part of the Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario. It is near the town of Killarney on the north shore of Georgian Bay, about 100 kilometres southeast of Sudbury. Killarney Provincial Park is home to the La Cloche Mountains, countless clear blue lakes, and wildlife.
Be aware of your ability as a hiker to plan the distance you are willing to travel each day on the trail. The trail is considered rugged and challenging.
Which way to do the loop
Most backpackers choose to do the loop clockwise, but they can also do it counterclockwise. Keep this in mind if there is a restricted number of available sites when booking—making the loop counterclockwise might give you more options.
You can make the reservations by phone or online here. To find the appropriate sites while booking online, make sure to select “backcountry” and “hiking” before choosing the park, which in this case would be Killarney Provincial Park.
Maps and Info
I especially liked the La Cloche Silhouette Trail Guide from the Friends of Killarney. The little handbook describes the trail in sections. It is detailed and helps know what to expect every day on the trail.
I also used their Killarney Backcountry Hiking and Canoe Route Map, which came in handy for planning my trip. I highly recommend buying the map in advance.
All campsites have access to a body of water to replenish your water supply. In addition, each site is accessible by a side trail that varies from a few meters up to one kilometre.
The following list is a breakdown of the campsites along the trail (clockwise). All the sites are numbered with the letter H and named for their location (ex: H3 Acid Lake, this campsite is the third one on the trail and is located on the shore of Acid Lake).
Campsites and kilometre markers:
- Trailhead: Goerge Lake Campground
- H1 Lumsden Lake km 2
- H2 Lumsden Lake km 3
- H3 Acid Lake km 4
- H4 Acid Lake km 4
- H5 Cave Lake km 7
- H6 Cave Lake km 7
- H7 Topaz Lake km 9
- H8 Three Narrows Lake km 14
- H16 Three Narrows Lake km 16
- H17 Three Narrows Lake km 20
- H18 Three Narrows Lake km 22
- H19 Three Narrows Lake km 22
- H20 Three Narrows Lake km 25
- H59 Bodina Lake km 25
- H21 Three Narrows Lake km 28
- H22 Moose Pass km 32
- H23 Moose Pass km 33
- H31 Shigaug Lake km 38
- H32 Shigaug Lake km 38
- H33 Little Mountain Lake km 39
- H34 David Lake km 45
- H35 Boundary Lake km 45
- H37 Silver Lake km 51
- H38 Silver Lake km 51
- H45 Bunnyrabbit Lake km 56
- H46 Bunnyrabbit Lake km 56
- H47 Heaven Lake km 58
- H48 Proulx Lake km 62
- H49 Little Superior km 62
- H50 Sealey’s Lake km 68
- H51 Wagon Road Lake km 71
- H52 Wagon Road Lake km 71
- H53 Little Sheguiandah km 72
- H54 A.Y. Jackson Lake km 73 (300 meters from George Lake Campground and end of the trail)
Note: the distances are an approximation rounded up to the kilometre.
My backpacking equipment is the same from one backpacking trip to another. Of course, I always consider the length and difficulty of the trail, the number of days spent on the trail, and the time of year (weatherwise) that I will be out on the trail before making the final list of what I will need the trip.
For this trip, my pack weighed in at 17 kilograms.
Check out Your Ultimate Guide to Backpacking for a complete list of what is usually in my backpack on a trip like this one.
You will need to plan all your meals for the trip. This 5-day backpacking menu will help guide you and give you simple meal and snack ideas to keep your energy up throughout the day. The meals are dehydrated and will keep without being refrigerated, as well as the snacks proposed in the menu.
8 Days of Backpacking on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
The trailhead is at the Lake George campground, where a large sign awaits hikers. We must cross the bridge just behind, and the adventure begins.
Day 1 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from George Lake Campground to H3 Acid Lake
Distance 4 kilometres
Most of the trail to H3 is in the forest with a few mosquitoes. Mosquito repellent is a must here. You get to have the first views of the White Mountains. This part of the trail is busy with day hikers and trail runners.
The H3 Acid Lake site is wide open but close to the main trail. Not much privacy from the passing hikers. There is a platform for the tent, so it is easy to set up. Food and anything that might attract you must hang animals (especially bears) every night. This is bear country!
You will find a privy and a fire pit on all the campsites along La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
Day 2 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from Acid Lake to H8 Three Narrows Lake
Distance 10 kilometres
On this second day, the trail continues through the park’s forested area to give way to a mixture of pink granite rocks and white mountains.
You should enjoy a rest at Topaz Lake. This spot is particularly popular with day hikers spending time at the lake. Some will venture for a swim. The colour of the emerald blue lake and the white mountains in the background are breathtaking.
This part of the trail close to Topaz Lake doubles as a portage. The steady climb up the rocky trail is demanding. Make sure not to miss the sharp left turn at the end of the portage section. There is a blaze that can be hard to spot.
The trail comes up to a dam that hikers could previously cross. However, this crossing is now prohibited. The route has since changed, and the trail now follows Kirk Creek for about two kilometres to a bridge. After crossing the bridge, you get to make your way back to the dam on the other side of the creek to the H8 campsite.
The dam is nearby so you can enjoy sleeping with the sound of running water. It is a reasonably large site, but you can see it from the trail across the creek, so there is not much privacy here.
Day 3 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from H8 to H17 Three Narrows Lake
Distance 6 kilometres
The trail runs along Threenarrows Lake and over a long beaver dam. There are multiple ups and downs and a few creek crossings. The trail continues through a forest populated with mostly cedar and spruce with some sections of maples, birches and poplars.
Today is a short day, and the trail is still relatively easy compared to what is coming in the next few days. The trailhead to H17 is a short 120 meters, and it descends to the campsite that overlooks the Narrows. It is pretty large and completely isolated. Though you might not cross very few hikers on the trail at this point, the privacy is always nice.
Day 4 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from H17 Three Narrows Lake to H23 Moose Pass
Distance 13 kilometres
This section of the trail is still mostly under the canopy of trees and is pretty muddy. However, it is also filled with spectacular views and exciting hiking.
There are two streams to cross. You might want to either take your hiking shoes off and wear your camp shoes or swing your backpack across the creek. Without the pack’s weight on your back, jumping to the other side of the stream is easier.
After these two brooks, the trail goes up and up to come out on a cliff where we can see the Three Narrows Lake and the mountain range behind. This is a perfect spot for a break!
After enjoying the view, head back on the trail, going down on a very steep descent!
As the day progresses, you will cross several more streams and even have to climb a waterfall… yes, the trail goes up through the falls. So put the hiking poles away since you will need your two hands to hang on to the rocks and pull yourself up.
I believe this is my favourite part of the trail so far… scrambling up the waterfall.
The H23 Moose Pass site is not my favourite. The whole site is on an angle, and so is the tent. I cannot find a level spot. This site is not by a lake, there is a creek, but access to it is not easy, as the creek is down a steep slope.
Day 5 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from Moose Pass to H35 Boundary Lake
Distance 12 kilometres
A big part of the day today is spent in a hemlock forest. The trail climbs up right out of the campsite, and breaks are needed along the way. The first climb is a challenge, but the view of Three Narrows Lake is superb.
After descending and climbing to another ridge, the valley of Kirk Creek and Silver Peak offers more spectacular views. Another descent will take you through a mixed forest. After crossing a stream, it is uphill again. As you get higher up, the mixed forest changes to sparse trees.
Another challenging climb leads to a view of Little Mountain Lake, its colour surprisingly blue-green. Again the trail goes up and down and in and out of the forest to the top of the ridge. It runs along the ridge for several kilometres.
This part of the trail is called the “highway of cairns”; we must rely on these inukshuks to guide us since there are very few trees on which we usually attach blazes.
Once again the views are spectacular; valleys, mountains and lakes of magical colour.
H35 is by the shore of Boundary Lake. The only campsite on the lake, some 700 meters from the main trail. It is a spacious site with a nice rocky slab by the lake. My favourite campsite on the trail though I have not seen them all.
Day 6 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from Boundary Lake to H46 Bunnyrabbit Lake
Distance 16 kilometres (including 5 km side trail to Silver Peak)
This will be the longest day in terms of distance to cover.
The trail continues on the “highway of cairns” to then descend among the marshes.
At the intersection of the Silver Peak trailhead, I suggest you hang everything you don’t need to climb the mountain in a nearby tree. That is, of course, if you plan on hiking to the top of Silver Peak. You will want to lighten your pack as much as possible for the climb. No sense in dragging up a tent and a sleeping bag to the top of the mountain. You will find them again on your way back down Silver Peak.
Silver Peak side-trail
This side trail is a two-and-a-half-kilometre steady climb to the summit of the highest peak in the park.
At the top, take time to fully admire the landscape and take several photos.
The entire park is visible from this viewpoint, and you can easily retrace your route through the mountains so far. In the distance, we can see Georgian Bay on one side and the city of Sudbury on the other.
Back at the foot of the mountain, don’t forget to retrieve your gear from the tree where you left it hanging before continuing your journey. After a few glimpses of Silver and Clearsilver lakes from down below comes a few steep scrambles to get a view of the lakes from above.
A little way on the trail brings you to a narrow passage between two rock walls. Another challenging climb awaits. It takes you to the top of a ridge where smooth white rocks prevail. The views again don’t disappoint. Watch for trail blazes and cairns in this section of the trail. They can be hard to spot.
Reaching the junction to H46, the trail takes hikers over a beaver dam and around to the other side of the lake, some 700 meters from the main trail. Bunnyrabbit Lake campsite is a charming lake with mountains in the background.
Day 7 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from Bunnyrabbit Lake to H50 Sealey’s Lake
Distance 12 kilometres
Last big day of hiking. Today’s first two climbs offer a beautiful view of Lake Shingwak and the White Mountains and a superb view of Little Superior Lake. Make sure to spend a little while admiring the scenery from the top of this mountain. The colour of the lake, the cliffs and the mountains make for a beautiful sight!
Back on the trail, the multiple ups and downs will take you into the hemlock forest or out on the ridge. The trail meets with a portage where you walk on wooden planks. Be on the lookout for the markers. You don’t want to miss the left turn-off for the main trail as the portage continues straight ahead.
After many rather exhausting climbs and descents, you will finally arrive at “The Crack.” This is a popular day hike. There will likely be quite a few hikers in this section at the top and on the trail.
The view at the top is beautiful. We can see Killarney Lake, O.S.A. Lake and Fine Bay below, and in the distance, Georgian Bay and Manitoulin Island. After a long nice pause and a snack, you will need to continue down the crack. It is literally a narrow crack between two rock cliffs whose middle (the crack) is filled with large boulders on which we must scramble down… very impressive as a landscape. Another favourite part of the trail for me.
Once at the bottom of the Crack, the trail continues mostly flat and wide.
The campsite site for the night is just a few kilometres away. H50 Sealey’s Lake is a nice large site. The lake is not as clear as the others I’ve camped on along La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
Day 8 on La Cloche Silhouette Trail
from Sealey’s Lake to George Lake campground (end of the trail)
Distance 5 kilometres
For the last time, I pack up my tent and put my gear back in my backpack. I purify a last 3L of water, and I put on my hiking boots, ready to finish this adventure. I woke up this last morning to the howls of wolves or coyotes, which probably weren’t very near but the sound echoing across the lake made it sound as if they were.
This last section of the trail is mostly flat, with some ups and downs. It passes through wet sections and beaver dams.
The main trail also joins the Cranberry Bog day hike Trail. Be sure to follow the blue blazes, as both trails will eventually go their separate way.
Before reaching the end, you will be rewarded with one last beautiful view of Lake A. Y. Jackson with its pink granite shores.
The trail then descends all the way rapidly to the end, where hikers are greeted by another large sign to indicate the end of the adventure!
I get to the end with a feeling of relief at having finished, of accomplishment for having done it but also a little pang in my heart leaving this beautiful part of the country behind. Backpacking La Cloche Silhouette Trail was an amazing adventure!
More backpacking Adventures
- 3-day backpacking adventure in Cape Chignecto Provincial Park in Nova Scotia
- Backpacking in the Chic-Chocs in Gaspesie, Quebec