McCrae Lake is unique in that it isn’t actually a provincial park. There are no fees or park rangers, and only a few garbage bins at the entry. Finding McCrae is another story, although over the years it has become more and more popular, and at the time of writing, you will be hard-pressed to find a site if you arrive too late on a Friday. The entrance to McCrae is actually off of the on-ramp to highway 400/69. You get off at Crooked Bay Rd, cross over the highway, and then turn to get back on the highway going south, and you’ll see a long driveway off of the on-ramp. Sadly, it’s usually packed with parked cars.
From the small lot at the end of the driveway, you portage about 200 meters to the water, and then paddle for about 20 minutes to the second portage at the bridge. On the map it looks much longer than it really is, but it’s only about 100-200 meters. The narrow channel after the portage appears as land on Google Map.
From here, McCrae Lake is yours to discover, and it’s easy to spend three days exploring! If you get tired of the lake, a small portage (about 15 meters) connects with Georgian Bay, and there are literally hundreds of islands and channels to explore. Just make sure to bring a map!
- Total Distance: Varies
- Number of Portages: 2
- Total Portage Distance: About 400 meters
- Longest Portage: 200 meters
Highlights: McCrae Lake is filled with fun things to do and see. When you enter the lake you’ll see Elephant Rock, which is a small island with a large rock jutting out. To the south there is a large bolted cliff that people use for rock climbing, next to a beautiful peninsula that acts as a fantastic campsite. To the west, at the end of the lake, there is a smaller cliff over some deep(ish) water that you can jump off of. There are platforms at about 10, 20, and 35 feet, and I have seen people jump from far above (about 50 feet) but I would not recommend this as it is set too far back. Next to the cliff jump is a very small rapid next to a rock beach, and beyond that is Georgian Bay.
Downsides: McCrae has become far too popular over the last 10 years, and virtually all wood has been stripped from the forest floor. People have taken to cutting down live trees, and the damage to the forest is unmistakable. The crowds also make it very difficult to find a decent site. Since there is no park authority and nowhere to book in advance, the sites are there for whoever gets there first. If you arrive on a Friday afternoon you may be out of luck. There is also the occasional motorboat, but this is still rare on McCrae.
Note: There is also a marked trail coming from the parking lot, and leading to the south branch of McCrae, to the top of the rock climbing cliff. The trail continues all the way to Georgian Bay, but travels inland, away from the water for most of it.