6 tips for booking at Ontario Parks

Ontario Parks received almost ten million visits last year – an increase of 50,000 visits over 2010. If you plan to visit Ontario Parks this summer, did you know that you can reserve your campsite or roofed accommodation five months in advance of your arrival dates? Book online at OntarioParks.com or by calling the Ontario Parks reservation line, 1-888-ONT-PARK (Canada & USA). These six tips will make your 2012 Ontario Parks trip planning easier:

1. Sites are not all booked in advance.
Less than 30% of all reservations made in a year at Ontario Parks, are booked before March 31. This online tool allows you to easily explore different parks, campgrounds, and dates, and check for availability. It even includes park photos.

2. Try a new park?
Over 50% of total reservations made between January 1 and February 29 are generally for Ontario’s busiest provincial parks; Algonquin, Killbear, The Pinery, Sandbanks and Bon Echo. To find out which parks are good alternatives to Ontario’s busiest five, check here.

3. Choose the perfect park for you.
Of the over 330 provincial parks in Ontario, more than 110 are operational, offering a wide choice of locations, facilities, services and activities. Some have natural heritage education programs, special events and equipment rentals. Many parks offer TackleShare and PFDs (visitors can borrow fishing tackle and lifejackets free of charge). Roofed accommodation at many Ontario Parks ranges from historic ranger cabins to cottages, yurts, and lodge rentals. The Park Locator allows visitors to narrow their choices of parks to visit. Click here to check which parks have roofed accommodations.

4. Use your park permit to explore new parks
Did you know that you can stay in one provincial park and visit other provincial parks nearby with your camping permit? Exploring other parks can help you plan future visits. Staff suggest walking through different campgrounds to note which sites you like, trying a different natural heritage education program or discovering a new beach. On Lake Erie’s north shore, for example, eight of nine provincial parks have beaches and three are within forty-five minutes of each other.

5. Stretch your boundaries. Book a backcountry site.
At many Ontario Parks, there are interior sites that are easy to get to. You can walk or paddle to some of Frontenac Provincial Park’s interior sites in minutes. Learning programs in this provincial park north of Kingston, are taught year-round. An Introduction to Backcountry Camping on May 12, will cover how to get started, clothing, equipment, water treatment and outdoor safety. Cost for the workshop is a daily vehicle permit.

6. Learn to camp.
One quarter of all Ontarians have never gone on an overnight camping trip and seventy-four percent of new Canadians surveyed by Ontario Parks said that a hands-on course about camping would be important if they were considering a park visit. Ontario Parks launched Learn to Camp in Toronto area provincial parks in 2011. In 2012, watch for Learn to Camp to expand to select parks across Ontario. Led by park leaders, the overnight sessions teach new campers how to set up camp, how to build a campfire, and how to cook on a camp stove. Almost all the equipment required is provided.