Plan an exotic winter adventure at Ontario Parks

Summer campers love Ontario Parks but many have never experienced their favourite park in winter.  Ontario Parks aims to change that. Nineteen provincial parks are open this winter season with cross-country trails to ski.  Thirteen have groomed or track-set trails. And eight of the nineteen have comfortable roofed accommodation for rent. Designated snowshoe trails are in many parks. Some have skating and tubing too. Three parks will host ski loppets. Another will host an annual snowshoe race and at least five plan to celebrate February’s Family Day weekend with special events. Below are tips to help visitors plan their own exotic park adventure this winter:

Roofed accommodation

Algonquin, Arrowhead, Killarney, MacGregor Point, Pinery, Quetico, Silent Lake, Sleeping Giant and Windy Lake Provincial Parks all have winter roofed accommodation and excellent ski trails. Rent a heated yurt, cabin, cottage or even a park lodge suitable for a group of friends or a family reunion.  If you plan to book a rental, reserve early or try mid-week for the best availability in Southern Ontario. For a truly exotic adventure, fly to Thunder Bay or Sudbury airports, pick up a car rental, and visit Sleeping Giant, Quetico, Windy Lake or Killarney Provincial Parks in Northern Ontario. All four are noted for their annual snowfall, choice of roofed accommodation and spectacular trails with good conditions lasting well into late winter.

Cross-country ski Ontario Parks

The Ontario Parks Ski Report is LIVE.  Its interactive map shows where the 19 winter parks with groomed ski trails are located. Trail conditions are updated regularly and there are links to each park’s amenities and to local weather forecasts. If you want to cross-country ski but don’t have your own equipment, rent from Arrowhead, Pinery and Wasaga Beach Provincial Parks.  Cross-country ski loppets are fun to join. More details on loppets planned at Arrowhead, Sleeping Giant and Quetico Provincial Parks are included in this Park Blog post, Ski an Ontario Parks Loppet.

Snowshoe Ontario Parks 

Snowshoeing is the world’s fastest growing winter sport. Hikers, walkers, backcountry adventurers and even runners are discovering snowshoeing at Ontario Parks. Frontenac Provincial Park, north of Kingston, will host its annual 6.5 kilometre Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race, Sunday, January 18 (weather-permitting).  If you want to try the sport this winter but you don’t own a pair of snowshoes, rentals are available at Arrowhead, Pinery, Wasaga Beach and Killarney Provincial Parks.

Skate Ontario Parks

One of the coolest things at Ontario Parks in winter.  Imagine gliding through the woods on a pair of blades. You can at MacGregor Point and Arrowhead Provincial Parks. Every winter, park staff flood campground loops at both parks to create ice trails for skating.  Organize a skating party.  Warming fires are located where you can toast hotdogs and marshmallows over a campfire or book a MacGregor Point yurt or Arrowhead cabin for an overnight stay. Both skate trails are lit at night during weekends.  This Ontario Parks’ Facebook has a video of the MacGregor Point trail,  Algonquin, Pinery and Bronte Creek Provincial Parks also have outdoor rinks.  Skate rentals are available at Arrowhead and Bronte Creek.

Winter Wildlife Viewing

Winter can be a great time for wildlife viewing. Winter mornings especially after a light dusting of snow, are when you can often spot animal tracks.  Wolf tracks are often visible on snow-covered Lakes. This Park Blog post provides tips for identifying park wildlife by their tracks.  Also, birds are much easier to hear in the quiet of winter. In February, Family Day events are planned at provincial parks that include naturalist-led hikes and wildlife viewing.  Visit this Park Blog for Family Day details, Family Day 2015 at Ontario Parks.

For more information on winter activities, visit our Winter Experience page.