Did you know Ontario Parks is now taking campsite reservations for summer 2015? The provincial park agency has a 5 month advance booking window. This means that anyone planning to camp in late June, for example, can book their campsite now.
During the busy five month advance reservation period, Ontario Parks processes about 102,000 reservations (3o% of its total reservations for the year). The peak weeks for booking five months in advance are mid-January to March 31. Pinery, Algonquin, Sandbanks, Killbear and Bon Echo Provincial Parks are the busiest. Ontario Parks suggests trying a new park in 2015 and offers some excellent alternatives to its busiest five. Check this Ontario Parks blog for new parks to try, online tools to help you choose a park and much more.
6 Booking Tips that will help
1. Sites are not all booked in advance.
During the busy five month in advance reservation period (November to March), Ontario Parks processes about 102,000 reservations (30% of the total for the year). The peak weeks are mid-January to March 31st, when 94,000 reservations are processed for the arrival dates of mid-June to the end of August. The top five parks (Pinery, Algonquin, Sandbanks, Killbear and Bon Echo) process over 43,000 reservations during the busy five month in advance reservation window (Nov to March). Don’t despair the top five parks still process over 70,000 reservations after April 1st!! And this online tool allows you to easily explore different parks, campgrounds, and dates, and check for availability. It even includes photos of campsites and the FAQ section is also helpful.
2. Try a new park?
About 40% of the reservations in the November to March period 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 this Park Blog post.
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 suggests 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 9, 2015, will cover how to get started, clothing, equipment, water treatment and outdoor safety. Cost for the workshop is a daily vehicle permit. More information can be found here.
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. Since then, over 4,000 people have participated in the program, located at 9 provincial parks across Ontario. Feedback has been phenomenal with 99% of participants reporting improved camping skills and confidence to camp on their own. And this is just one of many testimonials from participants:
“I will say here that this experience was one of the best of my life. Having people from all walks of life coming together to learn about something that is so quintessentially Canadian. Going camping can be a very daunting thought. This program really provided the confidence to do more in Ontario’s parks. I have and will continue to talk about this program to anyone who will listen. I think it’s an important program and a noble cause.”
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.