Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park's stunning wilderness is a great place to see the Northern Lights

Quetico Provincial Park is world-famous for its backcountry canoeing and breathtaking wilderness, but it is also one of the best destinations in Ontario to see the Northern Lights.

The park borders Minnesota west of the shores of Lake Superior, and has has over 2,000 lakes and 460,000 hectares of remote wilderness to explore.

In 2021, Quetico received designation as an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, making it the 3rd publicly-owned land in the region to achieve Dark Sky status.

In order to receive Dark Sky status, Quetico worked hard to create a light management plan to bring its light fixtures into compliance. This included any lights being fully shielded, only lighting what they need to and therefore minimizing any extra light emitted.

Recognition as a Dark Sky Preserve isn't solely for the benefit of visitors who come to go stargazing; a night sky free of light pollution is integral to maintaining Quetico’s ecological integrity.

Many plants and animals who live in the park rely on the natural rhythms of light and dark, for feeding, migration, breeding, and predator avoidance. The health of Quetico's environment goes hand in hand with preserving the natural night skies.

The best time to see Northern Lights is when the sky is clear of clouds and at its darkest around midnight. It is also best to choose a night with a waning or new moon, to avoid the bright light emitted from a full moon.

While the Northern Lights can appear in every season, winter is typically the best time of year, as the cold air contains less moisture than warm summer air.

Besides stargazing and watching for the Northern Lights, Quetico has incredible sights to discover. There are 35 km of hiking trails with towering cliffs, waterfalls, pine and spruce forests, rivers and lakes.

The trail to French Falls leads you to a small frozen waterfall on the French River, which you can snowshoe or cross-country ski to.

The Camp 111 Trail is a longer ski loop with maintained trails, and seeing moose tracks along the path is common.

Quetico also has year-round camping in the park, including cozy rustic cabins to rent in the Dawson Trail campground.

If you plan to visit, you will need a permit to enter the park which you can book on their website. You can also reserve your campsite or one of their roofed accommodations online.

Lead photo by

Ontario Parks

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