Ontario’s winters are icy, with cold temperatures and frequent snowfall. There is no escaping it during the colder months, so you might as well embrace it. Rather than hiding inside until the season passes, why not try winter camping in Ontario?
The snow might stop the fun for some, but this time of the year is a great way to escape the summer crowds. Plus, campgrounds are usually cheaper during the off-season. From rustic tent sites to fully serviced log cabins, there are options for everyone.
For an incredible weekend getaway, you can combine camping with your favourite winter activities in Ontario, like hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
So whether you’re more of a traditional camper or a glamper, don’t let the cold winter stop you from this amazing experience.
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Winter Camping Sites in Ontario
There are many locations where you can enjoy winter camping in Ontario despite the freezing weather. These camping sites suit both traditional campers and non-traditional campers. You can head out for a solo adventure or plan a weekend with the whole family.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most well-known provincial parks and the perfect place for romantic getaways in Ontario. The park is in south-central Ontario, just under three hours away from both Ottawa and Toronto on Highway 60.
There are a few campgrounds within the park, but Mew Lake Campground is the only one open year-round. Set up your tent in one of their 131 campsites, or relax in your RV. They also have yurts available for the glampers. Camp facilities include toilets, showers, laundry facilities, and electrical sites.
You don’t have to stay inside your tent the whole day. The park has plenty of activities to keep you warm. There are a few hiking trails open during winter for people of all hiking capabilities. The Spruce Bog Boardwalk is a great hike for a stroll, while Algonquin’s Mizzy Lake Trail is for more experienced hikers.
Snowfall can be pretty heavy in the park, but that doesn’t stop the outdoor fun. Hike the Hardwood Lookout Trail to see Smoke Lake, which looks especially beautiful covered in snow. The park has fun snow activities like skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating.
Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park is in Georgian Bay on Highway 637. It is a captivating park bursting with lush shrubbery and over 50 lakes. The beautiful scenery and great park facilities make it the perfect backdrop for any camper.
The park has many hiking trails ranging from moderate to strenuous, offering excellent opportunities to see amazing lookouts and a few animals along the way. There are three additional trails in the park only accessible during winter, which all offer incredible scenery of snow-covered forests, lakes and iced marshes.
The park has a total of 347 campsites that cater to all campers. There are also six yurts and two cabins if you’d prefer a more comfortable camping experience. These roofed accommodations get heated by a propane fireplace and have electricity to keep you warm. The two heated washrooms are only a few minutes away.
Killarney’s backcountry is an excellent option for an advanced camper who loves hiking and canoeing. It is a great area to pitch a tent and enjoy the views of George or Bell Lake without much interruption. There are also great remote hiking trails against the LaCloche mountain range.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
When you think of Huntsville Camping, Arrowhead Provincial Park should be at the top of your list. The park is only 10 minutes from Huntsville, just off Highway 11. Its well-known winter activities make it an excellent stop for an Ontario winter camping adventure.
Its snow-filled activities include skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and hiking. You can bring your own equipment, but rentals are also available for a small fee. The park holds its yearly Fire and Ice Night event from January to March. Ice skaters partake in a nighttime skating trail of about 1.3km, lit up by hundreds of torches.
There are a total of 378 private campsites in the park with both tented and roofed accommodations. The three campgrounds in the park are near its beaches. Roe and Lumby allow tent camping, while East River Campground is great for RVs.
The park has one deluxe tent on top of a wooden platform and ten camp cabins. These roofed structures sleep up to five people for a two-night minimum stay. The deluxe tent only has a kitchenette, while the cabins come equipped with kitchenettes, electricity and electric fireplaces.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
MacGregor Point Provincial Park is just south of Bruce Peninsula, near Lake Huron. This provincial park is an ecological haven with many small animals and birds flocking to its wetlands and forests.
There are a few biking and hiking trails ranging from beginner skills to advanced. These trails are available throughout the year and go along the Lake Huron shores, the park wetlands, and beach areas. Some of the easier hiking trails are also wheelchair accessible.
During winter, some of these trails are great for skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating, making the park a great option for year-round camping in Ontario.
Altogether, there are three campgrounds with 346 campsites. Two campsites are group campsites that permit groups of 9 to 36 people. The campsites come equipped with showers, toilets and running water.
If you prefer glamping in Ontario, a yurt or rustic cabin might be more your speed. The park has ten cabins and six yurts in the Birch Boulevard campground, including one dog-friendly yurt. The cabins sleep five people each, while the yurts sleep six, and both have electricity
Frontenac Provincial Park
Frontenac Provincial Park is a great place to stop by for camping in southern Ontario. The park is just north of Kingston, near North Otter Lake. Beginner winter campers shouldn’t shy away from this experience. The park provides complimentary introductory winter camping workshops to get you up to speed with all the camping essentials.
This is a great camping site in Ontario for nature lovers as their beautiful backcountry offers over 22 lakes and long winding hiking trails to explore. The park is open all year round, with great winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. You can rent gear from the Park Office if you don’t have your own equipment.
There are many wildlife and historical sites on these grounds of the Frontenac Arch, which you can experience through the many backcountry campsites. These campsites offer unique opportunities to disconnect from the world and reconnect with nature.
If you decide to go backcountry camping in Frontenac Provincial Park, you will need to get interior camping permits from the Park Office beforehand.
Silent Lake Provincial Park
Another beautiful option for those interested in Ontario Parks winter camping, Silent Lake Provincial Park is just off Highway 23 in Bancroft, Ontario. There are two sandy beaches and, of course, the beautiful Silent Lake. The lake is also full of wildlife like deer, lynx, and foxes, which will occasionally make an appearance.
The hikes are the park’s highlights, with amazing lookouts at the end of each trail. In winter, thick snow blankets the forests, swamps, and trails. This is the ideal time for snowshoeing, skiing, and ice fishing.
Silent Lake Provincial Park has special fishing exceptions, so it’s always best to know the Ontario Fishery Regulations.
The park has many campsites, including walk-in campgrounds and two car-camping campgrounds. These forested car-camping areas, Pincer Bay and Granite Ridge, are partially powered. During winter, ploughed car campsites come on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are additional campgrounds that have a few wheelchair-accessible yurts and camp cabins available. The cabins sleep up to five people and have additional facilities like a porch, kitchenette, and inside dining area. The yurts sleep up to eight people and have similar amenities except for outside cooking facilities.
Windy Lake Provincial Park
Windy Lake Provincial Park is just west of Sudbury on Highway 144. This park has beautiful sandy beaches, which provide hours of fun regardless of the season. It is a winter wonderland come snowfall (between January and March) with many wonderful winter sports activities.
Boating and canoeing are popular water pastimes in the area. Ice fishing is another great activity when it becomes too cold to be on the waters. You can rent all of the ice-fishing equipment you’ll need from the park, with staff helping you transport and set up everything. Other winter activities also include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
This park is great for winter yurt camping in Ontario, which you can only access via the ski trails. These four spacious yurts are heated and sleep about six people. Each yurt has a spacious deck, picnic area, fire pit and propane barbeque.
On the park’s west side, there are also two rustic cabins. These come equipped with a kitchenette, dining area and propane fireplace. There is space for only two vehicles nearby, so it’s best to pack light.
There are also a few car camping sites with selected campsites offering electricity. These campsites are secluded and have all the needed amenities like bathrooms, laundry facilities, and running water nearby. A nearby playground is perfect for the kids. The park’s two group camping sites can accommodate both tents and trailers.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Best known for the stunning turquoise water at The Grotto, Bruce Peninsula National Park offers year-round adventures for those interested in exploring the area. This includes some of the best hiking and winter camping Ontario has to offer.
If you’re interested in experiencing a Bruce Peninsula winter adventure, there are several options. The park has ten yurts, each able to sleep five. They include a woodstove, a large deck, and a propane BBQ.
Would you prefer a more traditional camping experience? Cyprus Lake Campground is open for tent camping. However, campers must park in the P2 parking lot and walk their gear in, meaning that it will not accommodate trailers and RVs. During the off-season, there are limited amenities for frontcountry campers, including one outhouse facility, the Parks Canada Visitor Centre, and the Cyprus Lake Campground Office. You can find groceries and other supplies in the nearby town of Tobermory.
For the most experienced campers, Stormhaven and High Dump backcountry camping is available year-round. Pay careful attention to the cut-off time for access trails during the winter season. Stormhaven is a 3-4 hour hike from the parking lot, while the sites at High Dump will require an 8-10 hour hike.
Tips for Winter Camping in Ontario
Now that we have shared several incredible campgrounds open in winter for you to explore let’s take a moment to discuss tips and tricks for a successful winter camping adventure.
Use a 4-Season Tent for Added Insulation
The most significant difference between a 3-season tent (spring/summer/fall) and a 4-season tent is their ability to protect you safely from cold temperatures. Most 3-season tents are made to be breathable with more windows and lighter fabric construction.
A solid 4-season tent, like the ALPS Mountaineering Highlands 2, will be constructed with heavier material, including a rainfly that goes all the way to the ground to protect you from cold winds and heavy snow. Some also offer a snow skirt. This allows you to pile snow onto the snow skirt, sealing the space between the rainfly and the ground to prevent winds from blowing snow under the edge.
Add Extra Layers Under Your Bedding
It may seem counterproductive if you aren’t used to off-season camping, but your extra blankets should be placed under your bed. Not on top. If you are sleeping in a 4-season tent and are careful to keep the doors closed as much as possible, the air inside the tent will heat up with the help of your body heat. However, the cold ground doesn’t warm up as easily.
For a cozy night’s sleep, combine a sleeping bag rated for the colder temperatures, a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4.5 or higher, and extra blankets underneath you.
Dress Appropriately for Winter Nights
When selecting your pyjamas, you will want to add a few extra accessories to keep you from feeling a chill during the night. When winter camping in Ontario, you should always pack a toque. While this is helpful during the day, you should also wear it at night.
Put a pair of socks on before going to sleep. Make sure these are fresh, clean socks. Wearing the same pair you were wearing all day can have the opposite effect as they have absorbed sweat from your feet. Like any damp clothing, this can cause a chill when the damp material meets the cold winter air.
Experience the Joy of Ontario Winter Camping
Ontario’s snow-covered landscape is breathtaking. Another plus is the fun winter activities like skiing, ice fishing, and ice skating on the beautiful lakes in the parks. The lack of crowds also means you’ll enjoy a more tranquil natural experience and maybe even see a few animals come to say hi.
The best way to experience the tranquillity of nature is by camping in winter in Ontario. While winter camping in a tent is not for the faint of heart (especially in freezing temps), there are a few alternative accommodation options like yurts and rustic cabins.
Dress warm and prepare for an incredible adventure!