Trip planning tips for Ontario Parks

Looking for adventure? Ontario Parks has you covered. 7,000 backcountry campsites only accessible by canoe or on foot are tucked away in 21 different provincial parks across Ontario. Backcountry campsites are basic- typically a pit privy, a few tent sites and a fire ring. The paddling and hiking are second to none. Trip planning is essential. Choose a backcountry experience that matches your skill level. These park staff tips will help you source good trip planning ideas for Ontario Parks:

Research the Ontario Parks web site,
– Links to 21 backcountry parks with basic information on canoe routes, trails, rentals, and backcountry amenities
– “Park Reports” include possible fire bans, boil water advisories and seasonal activities like fall colours and cross-country ski conditions
– The Park Blog has more posts on trip planning and backcountry camping
– “Park Locator” is a search tool for sourcing park amenities

Check the Friends’ sites
“Friends” groups are community-based, not-for-profit, volunteer organizations that support Ontario Parks. Many Friends sites have good trip planning information.

Call park staff to ask their advice
Once you’ve narrowed down where you think you want to go, call the park(s) of your choice and speak directly to park staff. They can fill you in on park details not easily found anywhere else.

Topographical maps are a must
– Most Ontario Parks with backcountry have maps, either published by the park or by the “Friends”(with cartography by the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Geomatics department), or by one of the map-making companies.
– Chrismar mapping also makes some great topographic maps from the most recent air photos available, and includes all sorts of important recreational information on them like campsites, trails and portages.
– Always check with the park to see if there are changes to portages and campsites.

Other helpful sources of information
– Magazines: Explore, Canoeroots, Canoe and Kayak, Kanawa, Sea Kayaker and Canadian Geographic.
– Web sites: Canadian Canoe Routes , Ontario Trails Council and Happy Camper
– Books: Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario by Kevin Callan.

Favourite gear

– Waterproof barrel packs to keep food dry and safe from critters on canoe trips. Large plastic olive barrels, with their screw top lids (available from many grocery stores) work well and the price is right!
– A reflector oven allows you more recipe options including deep dish pizza, baked mac and cheese, lasagna and desserts.
– The best and most comfortable waterproof canoe packs are the ones with proper hip belts similar to those on heavier-duty backpacks.
– Although paddles are a personal preference, some staff prefer the ‘T’grip paddle to the typical flared grip that most paddles have.