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Highland Backpacking Trail is a 22.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Nipissing, Ontario, Canada that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until June. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 22.3 mi Elevation gain 4,996 ft Route type Loop
Dogs on leash Backpacking Camping Fishing Hiking Nature trips Snowshoeing Walking Bird watching Forest Lake Views Waterfall Wild flowers Wildlife Bugs
Description
Waypoints (11)

Technically challenging multi-day trail with several boardwalks to help cross muddy sections. Water from Harness Lake to Provoking Lake is all stained bog water. Water is safe if boiled or filtered with a 1-micron filter and treated with iodine.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (115)
Photos (246)
Recordings (128)
Completed (174)
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Jason Surch
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Linda Lehmann
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Camilo Kobek
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BackpackingBugs

beautiful trail, I got a little lost around the second loop. signs get a little iffy coming up to mosquito creek. challenging if you're not fit. saw a bunch of items left behind, just a reminder if you can't carry it dont bring it! please leave no trace so our future hikers can enjoy.

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Hassan Z
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Jason Surch
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Michael Froggett
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Snowy Owl
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HikingBridge outMuddyRockyWashed out

Full loop (counter clockwise) 2 nights. During high rains make sure you give yourself adequate time to traverse from point A ot point B. The trail was swampy and muddy and required a lot of cat-like hopping rock to rock, log to log...and the many log bridges were very slippery. Highly recommend trekking poles if you don't already use them. The trail is full of roots and small switchbacks, especially from Faya to Head lake, followed by very swampy areas from Harness to Provoking East lake. Recommend as a 1-2 night for the average to advanced backpacker, and 3 nights or more for less experienced travelers. The trail has all types of typical Algonquin areas: deciduous, coniferous, marsh and swamps. The campsites are not all equal, but all are near the lakes they are located at. The first lookout between Faya and Head lake no longer has a view due to tree growth, but is a great spot for lunch. There is a small flat rock area at the end of Fly Lake for a lunch spot to. Provoking East Lake was by far my favorite area for beauty on the trail and detour side trail to the lookout was well worth it. ***As a side-note would like to remind campers that they need to burn or pack out ALL of their garbage! Campfires had fresh bananas, packaging and plastics. The trail had quite a bit of toilet paper along it and some of the thunder boxes had wipes and packaging thrown around on the ground. Please be respectful of the park and other people! Leave-no-trace!

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Michael Carmichael
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HikingBridge outMuddy

Just completed the full loop clockwise over 3 nights, staying at Provoking E, Harness and Faya. Lots of elevation and mud but certainly very manageable for non-experts. Lake campsites are really nice and well kept. No bugs to speak of at all, not even in ‘Mosquito Creek’. Watch for a bridge down between Harness and Head Lake. Quite tricky. Had to fashion our own replacement bridge out of fallen tree logs. Quite an adventure!

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Curtis Young
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HikingBugsFloodedMuddy

We did the full trail in one day under 7 hours moving time. Strava recording gave us 830m elevation gain not 1500m like alltrails has. About 1/4 of the trail is mud which means constant detours unless you plan to walk right through it. Mosquito central as well. I would only recommend it for the challenge or for camping at one of the beautiful sites

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bo diak
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 13, 2020

50 yrs ago a friend and I left his parents' campsite at Mew Lake at sunrise, meaning to hike the small loop, equipped with a chocolate bar and pop each (11yr old boys,) and missed the turnoff. wound up hiking the big loop, and got sick from drinking lake water. when we finally reached the Stsrling L lookout and knew where we were, we decided to take a shortcut back, off trail. ended up in a cattail swamp, and as we reached the blueberry field close to home, a Ministry truck rumbled up to us, asked if we were the boys who were lost and said they were just about to start a search. The sun was literally setting on the horizon. Soloed the loop at 15, and have hiked it alone or with a buddy 6 times. I'm almost 62 now, going again on the 26th to do the small loop

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Alicia User
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Alicia User
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Ally H
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BackpackingMuddy

Beautiful walk. Really enjoyed the forest but the mud is extreme, with some bugs around. I agree with the moderate rating if this trail but there some areas that hikers with less experience may find hard, such as crossing mosquito creek on the eastern trail. Overall the walk is very nice and I especially liked the campground at harness (2nd or 3 rd sites). The. Campsite at Provoking west was also very nice. Elevation gain was very manageable, the hills were generally short in length but steep. Between the steep parts there was either gentle incline/decline or relatively flat parts.

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Tristan Ognibene
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Jonathan Lessard
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BackpackingBugsMuddy

Really enjoyable trail that's relatively easy. Despite the nearly 5000' of elevation gain, the climbs are fairly gradual and the steep parts don't last very long. Make sure to stop at all the lookout points as they offer some amazing views of the lakes. The section between Provoking Lake and Harness Lake is fairly boring but you are more than rewarded with the amazing campsites right on the beaches of Harness and Head Lake. The mosquitoes were really bad at the lower elevations, so definitely bring bug spray, a mesh face covering and long sleeves. We stayed at the "backpackers only" campsite on Head Lake which was gorgeous and had its own beach area that was great for swimming. Definitely recommend this as a two day trip.

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Josh M
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 23, 2020
BackpackingBugs

38.1km/10.5 hours Day 1: ~18.3km | trail head, south along provoking west, and west along the south side of loop 2 to harness. After provoking east, if you take loop 2, there is really no great spot to take a break. As the description said - stained water along this part (4L filtered prior for the two of us was plenty in 30 degree heat). Bugs were BRUTAL though - worse than they were in the upland trail in June. That being said if you’re taking this trail in late May - early September, I’d fully recommend the entirety of a bug suit. It does at times feel a bit like the trail that never ends as it is dense forest with no open areas or lakes. That being said, despite rain the day prior the ground was dry which made for a pretty straight trip. Stayed at second campsite at harness lake. Good site with lots of privacy (only one bench though, not good for larger groups), steep path down to the lake but the rocks made for some great drying after a quick swim. Was able to wake up and look out to the fog rolling off the lake which is incredible. Day 2: ~19.8km | north from harness to head, east along the north side of loop 2 back to trail head. Awesome day - bugs were totally manageable. Lots of chances to take a breather with small waterfalls, a look out, and more open area. Shout out to the group that told us to cross the bog - when we got to it didn’t need to think twice! A little muddy but lots of rocks to help make traversing quick and easy. Overall, trail was well marked and worn, but definitely technical with lots of roots, rocks and decent elevation gain. I’d fully recommend going clockwise on loop 2 if you can - means your hike out will be full and scenic! On a side note - bummed at the amount of trash and things left behind on the trail - not okay! Leave no trace is super important, especially during this climate where the backcountry is one place we can get away for a few days in!

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Nicolas MacCordick
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BackpackingBugs
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Jesse Hulley
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Hiking

perfect shortcut to see the waterfalls

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Cristina Lupu
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HikingBugs
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Josh Wiebe
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HikingBugsMuddyRocky

Just got back from this trail this weekend, three nights placed around Provoking and Head. Good trail for experienced hikers. My wife and I are in good shape and we struggled with it- make sure to have bug jackets, pack light-ish and have good shoes. We were almost not going to bring our good hiking shoes but are so glad we did with all the rocks, roots and heavy elevation changes. The correct amount of water is also important. We had two filter bottles and that was under what we required (we had a reserve thermos that we used on the 17Km hike back from Head to Provoking West.) Also, for beginners: do not rely solely on the trail outline in AllTrails. There are times when the trail disappears- look around for the markers and the actual trail. Don’t just blindly follow the AllTrails line, it will get you lost (like we did). For example, there is a spot where you need to cross a beaver dam. Immediately after that you need to do some searching for the real trail to make sure you don’t get lost; getting lost out there is easily very dangerous. Had an amazing time, we just weren’t expecting that degree of difficulty.

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Wanda Esch
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HikingBugsFloodedMuddy

Did this hike counterclockwise. Hiked into Norah Lake the first night. Sad to see TP & garbage left hanging around at the campsite. Traveled into Maple Leaf Lake for second night. One if the boardwalks was flooded out and we removed the hiking boots and went to water shoes. Water level would have been over boot tops. When we made it to campsite we were sad to see more TP left laying all over and gear/garbage left all over. Very sad. Loved the hike, was muddy in spots but that is to be expected after rains. Unfortunately park workers need to do some cleanup.

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