winter camping
Credit: Julian Bialowas

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Many people believe you have to be an expert or crazy to go camping in the winter; to those people we say you’re the ones missing out on the fun. Ontario is filled with spectacular parks to enjoy; many of those are still accessible in the winter. Take pleasure feeling cozy in a winterized hut; enjoy the pristine wilderness without the nuisance of bugs; watch the northern lights dance in the crisp sky; fall asleep in the pillowy snow to the sound of your dogsled team howling at the moon. Time to pack your bags and strap on those skis - it’s time for winter camping.

 

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Quetico Provincial Park

Northwest Ontario

Located 45 kilometres east of Atikokan, the Dawson Trail Campground is a very popular location accessible throughout the winter. It has the only drive-in camping sites in Quetico with parking available at the ‘Chippewa’ and ‘Ojibwa’ loops. Choose from 100+ drive-in campsites or 2000 backcountry sites accessible from the Campground. Enjoy 40 kilometres of groomed ski trails, fantastic ice fishing, and photogenic nature trails.

With electrical and non-electrical sites, both loops have comfort stations with flush toilets, showers, laundry and water taps. The campground has 2 heated yurts and log cabin that include portable heaters, wood stove, firewood, 20 litres of water, picnic table, bbq and more. Winter park fees are payable through a self-serve registration box located at the Information Pavilion; backcountry campers need an interior camping permit from the Ranger Station.

 

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Northwest Ontario

Positioned on a beautifully rugged peninsula one hour east of Thunder Bay, parking at the Sleeping Giant is at the end of highway 587 and accessible all winter. There is a self-serve fee station at the parking area to pay for your backcountry permits. From here take the Kabeyun Trail (easy) and make your way towards the magnificent cliffs soaring out of Lake Superior. From the Kabeyun Trail take the Talus Lake Trail (moderate) leading to the Top Of The Giant Trail (challenging). Get rewarded with unbeatable views of Lake Superior and the surrounding region.

With over 100 kilometres of trail systems, 50 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails, 40+ backcountry campsites scattered throughout the park (each with its own fire pit), the Sleeping Giant is a perfect place for families, weekend warriors and multi-day backcountry adventurers. You don’t need to sleep in a tent and hike the backcountry to stay at the Sleeping Giant; plan ahead and book your winter basecamp in one of 6 fully equipped cabins available year-round. Each cabin has 3 bedrooms, washroom, shower, kitchen, linens, fire pit, picnic table, heating, and the list goes on.     

 

Killarney Provincial Park

North East Ontario

Situated in the iconic provincial park of Killarney Ontario, the George Lake Campground off Hwy 637 is open year round with 6 heated yurts, 30 walk-in sites, and 200+ backcountry sites throughout the park. During the winter the gates at the park office are closed; you will need to walk 500 meters to your campsite (gear sleds available).  After long days exploring enjoy the best sleeps from the comfort of insulated yurts equipped with electricity, beds, picnic table, BBQ, fire pit and food storage. The comfort station is closed during the winter however washrooms do exist beside the park office with hot water and flush toilets.

From your campground enjoy 33 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails and snowshoe the scenic trails of Killarney. Warm your bones at the Winter Warm-Up Hut at the day-use area. Those more experienced may enjoy the serenity of the Collins Inlet Trail looping 14.3 kilometres through open fields, mature pine forests, and breathtaking landscapes. 

 

Windy Lake Provincial Park

North East Ontario

Conveniently located just 50 kilometres northwest of Sudbury along Hwy 114, Windy Lake is open all year. Visitors to the park can stay overnight at one of 93 drive-in sites close to large comfort stations with flush toilets, hot showers, change tables, laundry facilities, and drinking taps. There are 7 walk-in sites available for more of a backcountry experience, and 2 large group campsites each with their own fire pits, bathrooms, picnic shelter, water tap, and BBQ. Book your trip in one of the campground’s four heated, fully equipped yurts tucked away on existing campsites.

During winter the park offers some of the best snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the region, with a ski chalet open on weekends. There are 15 kilometres of professionally groomed trails both for classic and skate skis, meaning beginners and experts alike can enjoy what this park has to offer. This area is also well known for excellent fishing.

 

Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Park/Almaguin Highlands/Muskoka/Parry Sound

Located in Whitney Ontario, Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most well-known parks in Ontario. Open throughout the winter, it offers just as much fun and excitement as it does in warmer seasons. The Mew Lake Campground on Hwy 60 is open year round (first come first serve) with easy access to drive-in camping and yurt accommodations. Permits are required and available at the East and West Gates; self-serve station is at the campground.

Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the park except for on the 70+ kilometres of groomed beginner to expert cross-country ski trails. One of the parking lots at Mew Lake Campground is transformed in to a skating rink with hockey sticks and nets available nearby. For a more unique experience try dogsledding through one of the park’s outfitters, or go on a backcountry adventure taking advantage of 11 backcountry cabins available throughout the park. 

 

Arrowhead Provincial Park

Algonquin Park/Almaguin Highlands/Muskoka/Parry Sound

Located off Hwy 11 at exit 226, Arrowhead Provincial Park is Huntsville’s winter camping paradise. Open throughout the year and loaded with fun activities, the main road/parking lots to the drive-in sites are ploughed all winter. Campers can stay at the Roe Campground with private sites, the East River Campground closest to the scenic Stubbs Falls, or the forest covered Lumby Campground. Each campground has picnic tables along the shore and comfort stations with showers and toilets. Arrowhead has 2 deluxe yurts and 6 cabins available for rent with propane/electric fireplaces, high quality mattresses, kitchenettes, tables, chairs, gas BBQ and picnic table. The park grooms over 33 kilometres of cross-country/ skate ski trails rated from beginner to expert.

Visitors will especially enjoy the skating rink and skating trail which is lit by torch in the evening. If skiing or skating isn’t your thing grab a pair of snowshoes and easily hike 2 kilometres from the East River Campground to the frozen Stubbs Falls. Arrowhead’s Beaver Meadow Trail is a moderate 7 kilometre trek taking you past the Porcupine Bluffs circling a large beaver pond where otter, moose, beavers, and blue herons are regularly seen. Cross country ski equipment, skates, and snowshoes are available for rent at the main gate. Arrowhead also offers free tubes for people to experience the fun of sliding down the tubing hill. Warm up in one of two warm-up shelters or enjoy the open fire pit at the top of the hill. 

 

MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Bruce Peninsula/Southern Georgian Bay/Lake Simcoe

Near Port Elgin, Ontario along the shores of Lake Huron, MacGregor Point Provincial Park is waiting for your visit. Located just south of the Bruce Peninsula and accessed via Lake Range Road (Hwy 33), the road is ploughed during the winter and parking for campers or tent trailers is available at each campsite. Enjoy the outdoor fire pit, picnic tables, kitchen shelter, propane BBQ, and access to a comfort station with toilets, showers and drinking water year-round. Choose instead to book your stay in 1 of 16 yurts found at the Birch Boulevard area with beds, table, chairs, electricity and heat.

This park is most famous for its 400 meter skating oval through the trees that is lit up at night providing a unique and fun winter camping experience suitable for all ages. There are a number of easy to moderate trail systems each with their own scenic viewing areas and showcasing educational storyboard signs. With 11 kilometres of quality tracked ski trails, there are many more kilometres left unploughed for hikers on snowshoes and cross-country skiers. Take the 3.5 kilometre looped Tower Trail (easy) to see the panoramic view of the wetlands from the observation tower, or try the 4 kilometre Lake Ridge Trail (moderate) in to the interior of the park. A trip to MacGregor isn’t complete without a trip to the Visitors Centre with live displays, exhibits, and where interpretive educational programs are offered. 

 

Frontenac Provincial Park

South Eastern Ontario

Located just north of Sydenham Ontario only a few hours from Toronto, Frontenac Provincial Park is open year-round for all your backcountry and interior needs. Access this park via Salmon Lake Road and park your car in the lot; there are no drive-in camping sites or yurts available to rent. You are welcome to call the Park Office ahead of time and discuss with your route/ campsite plan in order to book a reservation. Travel through Frontenac’s 22 frozen lakes and 100 kilometres of established trail systems can be enjoyed by ski or snowshoe to reach some of the 48 backcountry campsites available year-round. Hiking distances range from 20 minutes to over 3 hours from where you park your vehicle; visitors should be prepared to carry all of their equipment and supplies.

When there are suitable conditions the park also offers 11 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails with set tracks.  The only flush toilet is located at the Park Office; it is also home to an impressive variety of displays, animal mounts, interpretive panels, maps, and information boards. Explore over 5000 hectares of beauty, great wildlife viewing and awesome interior camping opportunities.     

 

Silent Lake Provincial Park

Haliburton Highlands Region

Located 25 kilometres southwest of Bancroft Ontario, the beautiful vistas of Silent Lake Provincial Park can also be seen and enjoyed during the winter months. The main roads leading in to the Silent Lake’s campground off Hwy 23 are ploughed with parking spaces available. This makes it really easy for people to get set up quickly and go enjoy what the park has to offer. If you don’t feel like tenting, why not try a stay in one of their 6 available yurts (3 include woodstoves) with beds, table, chairs, propane BBQ, picnic tables, fire pit, and firewood. For camper’s convenience, Comfort Stations are located in each campground and include flush toilets, vending machines, showers, and laundry facilities.

Strap on your snowshoes and go for a 3 kilometre trek down Bonnie’s Pond Hiking Trail, or why not try your luck fishing for Lake Trout in the Silent Lake? Boasting more than 40 kilometres of groomed ski trails that are suitable for all skill levels, each trail is colour coded and starts/ ends at the day-use parking lot. Ski and snowshoe equipment is made available to rent from the Park Office 

 

Pinery Provincial Park

Southwest Ontario

Pinery Provincial Park is located on the southern shore of Lake Huron near Grand Bend, Ontario. Just 70 kilometres west of London Ontario, access this park by following the Lakeshore Road (Hwy 21) to 26th Sideroad. The park is open year-round and offers campers many fun things to experience like designated snowshoeing trails, 30+ kilometres of cross-country skiing, an evening lit toboggan hill for the family, a Winter Chalet open on the weekends, a skating rink, and a Winter Activity area.

Pinery has 12 fully equipped heated yurts, 1 cabin, and 2 soft sided shelters that are all available for rent. If you’re looking for something a little less plush, electrical and non electrical basic camp sites are available all year on a first come first serve basis. Enjoy the convenience of vault toilets throughout the park, as well as Comfort Stations with laundry facilities, flush toilets, and showers and sinks.  

 

Whether it’s in an RV, tent, yurt, cabin, or the pure wilderness; Ontario has something for everybody to experience the joys of winter camping!

 


Where is your favorite place to camp in Ontario? 
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Another great article brought to you by our friends at KEEN. We're strapping the Revel III's into snowshoes and marching right off the grid. Waterproof yet breathable they're perfect for precipitous weather. Plus, they're dual insulated for toasty toes. Which winter campsites will your KEENs take you to?

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