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COVID-19

Information current as of June 3, 2020

Ontario Opening Backcountry Camping in Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves

As of June 1, limited backcountry camping will be available at Ontario Parks, including access points, paddle and portage routes and hiking trails. Those with reservations made for backcountry camping beginning June 1 and onward will be allowed to proceed.

Following current provincial restrictions no more than 5 people can occupy a backcountry campsite during their stay, unless from one household.

The closure of all other overnight camping and some day use activities at provincial parks and conservation reserves and backcountry camping at Charleston Lake, Fushimi Lake, Grundy Lake, Halfway Lake, Mississagi, Murphy’s Point, Restoule and Wakami Lake will continue to be reassessed and has been extended up to June 14 at this time. Buildings and facilities including, campgrounds, roofed accommodations, visitor centres, park stores, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and beaches remain closed. Washroom facilities may be available at some parks – visitors should check their individual park page at www.OntarioParks.com to see what facilities are available before visiting.

To ensure the safety of visitors and park staff, Ontario Parks has been conducting critical maintenance and other start-up procedures and ensuring operational and safety protocols are in place so that more recreational activities and facilities can open when it is safe to do so.

Please review FAQs for additional details and continue to check back and follow Ontario Parks social media channels for the most up-to-date information.

  • Question:

    Why are you only opening backcountry camping in Ontario Parks right now?

  • Answer:
    The government is gradually introducing more activities, facilities and services at Ontario Parks in order to keep staff and visitors safe.

    Beginning June 1st, limited backcountry camping will be available at Ontario Parks, including access points, paddle and portage routes and hiking trails. Those with reservations made for backcountry camping beginning June 1 and onward will be allowed to proceed.

    Following current provincial restrictions, no more than 5 people can occupy a backcountry campsite during their stay, unless they live in one household.


    By opening backcountry camping on June 1st, we are helping do our part to continue to limit travel throughout the province, ensuring small group sizes are maintained and providing more activities to get out and enjoy nature that are in line with physical distancing recommendations.

    Please be aware that Ontario Parks staff are still in the process of conducting spring start up maintenance to backcountry campsites, trails and portages. You may experience areas that appear to be in early spring like conditions. Over the next few weeks, we will ensure areas have received initial assessment and maintenance.

    Ontario Parks’ is working towards ensuring that public health and health and safety protocols are in place so that more recreational activities and facilities will be available when it is safe to do so.

    To find out more information on backcountry day use and camping experiences in operating provincial parks and safety tips please visit www.ontarioparks/backcountry


  • Question:

    Why backcountry camping and not campground camping?

  • Answer:
    By opening backcountry camping on June 1st, we are helping do our part to continue to limit travel throughout the province, ensuring small group sizes are maintained and providing more activities to get out and enjoy nature that are in line with physical distancing recommendations.

    Backcountry camping is a low-risk activity, and typically campers are in small groups, fully equipped with supplies, and do not normally require the use of any facilities, such as washrooms, showers or other roofed accommodations.

    The government is gradually introducing more activities, facilities and services at Ontario Parks in order to keep staff and visitors safe.

  • Question:

    When will you be opening campgrounds?

  • Answer:
    At this time no further decisions have been made. Ontario Parks has automatically cancelled and provided a full refund for all campground and roofed accommodations reservations up to and including June 14.

    To find out what is available at the park you wish to visit please click on the “Parks” drop down menu at www.ontarioparks.com to view the Facilities and Activities icons.

  • Question:

    What remains closed?

  • Answer:
    All buildings and facilities including, campgrounds, roofed accommodations, park stores, visitor centers, playgrounds, picnic shelters and beaches continue to be closed. Washroom facilities may be available at some parks – visitors should check their individual park page at www.OntarioParks.com to see what facilities are available before visiting.

    Ontario Parks has been conducting critical maintenance and other park start-up procedures and ensuring operational and safety protocols are in place so that more recreational activities and facilities can open if and when it is safe to do so.

    To find out what is available at the park you wish to visit please click on the “Parks” drop down menu at www.ontarioparks.com to view the Facilities and Activities icons.

  • Question:

    Does this mean day-use is no longer free for visitors?

  • Answer:
    Yes, we will begin collecting fees for day-use and backcountry camping access as of June 1st. Please visit www.ontarioparks.com and click on the “Fees” tab to find out more.

    In some provincial parks, there may be staff present to collect fees or a self-serve or pay and display pay machine to purchase a permit which is to be displayed on the dash of your vehicle when visiting.

  • Question:

    The park I want to visit is outside my community. Can I travel there for backcountry camping, boating or other self-guided activities?

  • Answer:
    In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, we all need to do our part. That’s why we’re asking that Ontarians only visit Ontario Parks close to where they live.

    During this very challenging time, we owe it to our frontline and essential workers, families, friends and neighbours to avoid non-essential travel as much as possible and act responsibly, take any supplies with you, and physically distance, particularly when we are outdoors. Our actions today will minimize the risk to others and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Question:

    When will parks be fully opened?

  • Answer:
    The health and well-being of visitors and staff will always be our number one consideration as we decide how and when to open parks and services. That’s why, over the next several weeks, we will gradually increase the recreational opportunities we offer at Ontario Parks, including campground camping, but only when it is safe to do so. We will be continually assessing our approach and may need to make adjustments to services depending on ongoing public health advice.

    We understand this gradual approach to opening parks may impact many Ontarians’ summer plans. The health and well-being of visitors and staff will always be our number one consideration as we decide how and when to open parks and services.

  • Question:

    Do I need a reservation to go backcountry camping in Ontario Parks?

  • Answer:
    Advanced reservations or registrations will be required at most of the 19 operating provincial parks that are offering backcountry camping.

    Reservations will be required at:
    • Algonquin
    • The Massasauga
    • Kawartha Highlands
    • Quetico

    Reservations are strongly recommended to ensure you secure the park and backcountry location of interest at:
    • Bon Echo
    • Frontenac
    • Sleeping Giant
    • Killarney

    For our backcountry parks that do not accept reservations visitors are required to purchase their backcountry permit (“registration”) online up to two weeks in advance of arrival. Parks available for online registration for backcountry camping arriving June 1st and onward include;
    • Biscotasi Lake
    • French River
    • Missinaibi River
    • Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater
    • Lake Superior
    • Makobe-Grays
    • Obabika River
    • Spanish River
    • Sturgeon River
    • Solace
    • Wabakimi
    • Woodland Caribou

    Additional Vehicle Permits for backcountry camping in all provincial parks are available to purchase online at the time of reservation. A copy of the vehicle permit must be displayed on the dash of your vehicle when parked in a designated area within an operating provincial park.


  • Question:

    How do I check in for my backcountry camping reservation?

  • Answer:
    For back country camping reservations at Algonquin and The Massasauga, in-person check in will not be required for arrivals. Backcountry campers reserving online will be e-mailed their confirmation letter, and the confirmation letter will serve as their backcountry camping permit. Campers are responsible for ensuring they have an electronic or printed permit when using the backcountry.

    Starting June 1st, backcountry campers at Bon Echo, Frontenac, Sleeping Giant, Quetico and Killarney are asked to check in at the park upon arrival to obtain their permits. Visitors are encouraged to check the website or contact the park to confirm hours of operation prior to their arrival date.

    For our backcountry parks that do not accept reservations five months in advance, no in-person check in is required. Campers need to purchase their backcountry permit (“register”) online up to two weeks in advance of arrival. Campers registering online will be e-mailed their backcountry and vehicle permit and are responsible for having an electronic or printed copy of their permit with them when in the park. A copy of the vehicle permit must be displayed on the dash of your vehicle when parked within a designated area of an operating provincial park.

  • Question:

    Are there any restrictions for backcountry camping due to Ontario’s current restrictions? What are the rules for backcountry camping?

  • Answer:
    Yes, no more than 5 people can occupy a backcountry campsite following the province’s current restrictions, unless live in the same household.

    Normally, no more than 9 people can occupy a backcountry campsite with the exception of no more than 6 people can occupy a backcountry campsite at Bon Echo, Charleston Lake, Frontenac and Killarney hiking trail.

    All other rules for backcountry camping apply. Please visit the Backcountry Rules section at www.ontarioparks.com - Reservation Rules for a full listing.

  • Question:

    I already cancelled my reservation. Now that backcountry camping is allowed, can I keep that reservation?

  • Answer:
    No. Unfortunately, once a reservation has been cancelled it cannot be reinstated. You will need to make a new reservation either online or by contacting the Ontario Parks Reservations Call Centre at 1-888-668-PARK (7275) open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

  • Question:

    What do I need to keep with me when as proof of registration when I am using the backcountry?

  • Answer:
    Campers who are able to reserve and register online are responsible for having an electronic or printed copy of their permit with them when in the park. A copy of the vehicle permit must be displayed on the dash of your vehicle when parked within a designated areas of an operating provincial park.

  • Question:

    What do I need to know if I am backcountry camping in non-operating provincial parks or conservation reserves? Do fees apply?

  • Answer:
    The maximum stay on any one backcountry site in non-operating or operating provincial parks is sixteen consecutive nights. For conservation reserves, the maximum stay is no more than 21 days in a year.

    At this time, all backcountry campsites have a maximum occupancy of five people following the current provincial regulations due to COVID-19. Normally the group size for backcountry camping is a maximum nine people.

    No fees apply in non-operating provincial parks or conservation reserves unless you are a non resident.

  • Question:

    I have a reservation in June for campground camping or roofed accommodation, is my reservation going to be cancelled?

  • Answer:
    Reservations for arrivals up to and including June 14 will be automatically cancelled and you will receive a full refund with no penalty. There is no need for you to contact Ontario Parks to receive your refund.

    Please allow up to ten business days for your refund to appear on your credit card statement.

  • Question:

    Can I make a change to my reservation without incurring a change fee?

  • Answer:
    Yes, Ontario Parks is offering free changes to your 2020 reservations, depending on availability. If another date or location is unavailable, Ontario Parks is offering penalty-free cancellations.

    If you wish to make a change to your reservation online, please log in to your reservation account at reservations.ontarioparks.com.

  • Question:

    Can I make a future reservation for the 2020 camping season?

  • Answer:
    Ontario Parks will continue to monitor reservation bookings and may need to limit the number of reservations available based on advice from Public Health Ontario.

    Reservations can be made three ways:
    1. Online at reservations.ontarioparks.com,
    2. By phone at 1-888-668-PARK (7275) - open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, or
    3. In-person when registration offices are open.

  • Question:

    What activities are currently permitted in Ontario Parks?

  • Answer:
    Currently self-guided day-use activities such as walking, hiking, biking, boating, paddling and fishing is permitted in provincial parks and conservation reserves. Beginning June 1st, Ontario Parks will also be offering backcountry camping at 20 operating provincial parks.

    Other facilities including campgrounds, roofed accommodations, park stores, beaches, visitor centres, picnic shelters, playgrounds and beaches will remain closed at this time.

    To find out what is available at the park you wish to visit please click on the “Parks” drop down menu at www.ontarioparks.com to view the Facilities and Activities icons.

  • Question:

    Do I have to pay a fee to visit Ontario Parks?

  • Answer:
    As of June 1st, Ontario Parks will begin collecting day use and backcountry camping fees.

    In some provincial parks there may be staff present to collect fees or a self-serve or pay and display pay machine to purchase a permit which is to be displayed on the dash of your vehicle when visiting.

  • Question:

    Will my picnic shelter reservation be cancelled?

  • Answer:
    Yes, the extended closure also includes picnic shelters. All picnic shelter reservations will be automatically cancelled and you will be provided a full refund.

  • Question:

    What’s the difference between a non-operating park and an operating park?

  • Answer:
    Non-operating provincial parks offer limited recreational experiences, fewer facilities and generally no dedicated staff or fee collection. Operating parks offer a variety of services and facilities, such as campground camping, roofed accommodations, washrooms, and discovery programs and charge fees.

    Please visit the Park Locator to find a provincial park near you.

  • Question:

    How do I know what facilities or activities at available at the operating provincial park I wish to visit?

  • Answer:
    To find out what is available at the park you wish to visit please click on the “Parks” drop down menu at www.ontarioparks.com to view the Facilities and Activities icons.

  • Question:

    Why are you suspending sales through the Ontario Parks Online Store?

  • Answer:
    Due to the temporary closure of all Ontario Parks offices, ministry staff currently do not have access to the product inventory of seasonal permits, maps and physical gift cards to fulfill the orders.

    Printable eGift cards will continue to be available through the Online Store.

    In order to keep Ontarians safe, our government is working to slowly phase-in the opening of Ontario Parks — taking a gradual approach to the introduction of activities and services that prioritizes the health of visitors and staff.

  • Question:

    What if I placed an online order for a Seasonal Day Use Vehicle Permit, paddle route map or gift card and I haven’t received it yet?

  • Answer:
    If you purchased a 2020 Summer or 2020/21 Annual vehicle permit, paddle route map or gift cards through the Ontario Parks Online Store and have not received your order, you will receive an email with more information. Customers will have two options:

    • Cancel your order for a full refund that will be provided automatically or;

    • Have the order shipped to you once Ontario Parks resumes regular operations.



  • Question:

    Can I return my 2020 Seasonal Day Use Vehicle Permit for a full refund?

  • Answer:
    Yes. We are offering full refunds for a 2020 Summer or 2020/2021 Annual day use vehicle permit up to July 26, 2020.

    You can return your permit by mail. Please follow the instructions for submitting a refund request form and mail your seasonal permit and the completed refund request form to:

    Ontario Parks Revenue Administration Office
    Refund Request
    P.O. Box 2178
    Orillia, Ontario
    L2V 6S1

    Please allow 4 to 6 weeks to process the refund after Ontario Parks resumes regular operations.

    If you have any questions regarding your order or the status of your refund, please reach out to us via our contact page, select Online Store purchase as the topic.

    Please continue to visit OntarioParks.com and Ontario Parks social media channels for the most up-to-date information and park opening dates.

  • Question:

    Why will it take 4-6 weeks after Ontario Parks resumes full operations to process my refund?

  • Answer:
    Due to the high volume of refunds, please allow longer than normal time to process the refunds. We appreciate your patience and understanding at this time.

  • Question:

    How long will you extend my permit due to the closure?

  • Answer:
    For visitors who have purchased and received either a 2020 Summer or 2020/21 Annual Seasonal Vehicle Permit, Ontario Parks will extend the expiry date of the seasonal vehicle permit for the full length of the park closure period. When parks are fully operational, the extension will begin to apply.

    That means for each month Ontario Parks is not fully operational, a full month will be added to the end date of the Summer and Annual Seasonal Vehicle Permit. No further action is required; this will be applied automatically.

  • Question:

    The government just announced that parks will begin to slowly open. Will the online store still be closed?

  • Answer:
    Yes, the store remains closed. While providing access to provincial parks and conservation reserves for limited recreational day-use activities, Ontario Parks will not be collecting fees.

    Additionally, due to the temporary closure of all Ontario Parks offices, ministry staff currently do not have access to the product inventory of seasonal permits, maps and physical gift cards to fulfill the orders.

    In order to keep Ontarians safe, our government is working to slowly phase-in the opening of Ontario Parks — taking a gradual approach to the introduction of activities and services that prioritizes the health of visitors and staff.

    During the COVID-19 outbreak, we will be continually assessing our approach and may need to make adjustments to services depending on the advice of health experts.

  • Question:

    Does the newly announced “limited recreational day use” count towards the extended expiry date period?

  • Answer:
    No, the access to provincial parks and conservation reserves for limited recreational day-use activities is not part of the extended expiry period. When parks are fully operational, the extension will begin to apply.

Contact Ontario Parks

Please check the frequently asked questions before emailing us. If you don’t find your question already answered, or have other feedback, continue on to our email page.

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