Ultimate Guide to Ontario Provincial Parks

The Ultimate Guide To Ontario Provincial Parks: Everything You Need To Know

Provincial Parks in Ontario Canada are some of the greatest camping destinations in the world. They are home to various outdoor activities like camping, paddling, hiking, biking, fishing, just to name a few.

You generally have two options when camping at one of the literally hundreds of Ontario Provincial Parks:

  • backcountry camping, when you are going to camp relatively far from any road and developed area, and;
  • car camping, of which you can drive right up to the campsite.

In this ultimate guide we will discuss all you need to know about camping at an Ontario Provincial Park, so let us begin with the booking process.

How Do I Book a Campsite In Ontario?

The best way to book a campsite in Ontario provincial parks is through the official online reservation system (https://reservations.ontarioparks.com/).

Here are the steps you should follow:

Step 1: look for the Reservation tab on top, then choose Reserve Online

Ontario Provincial Parks - Bookings 1

Step 2: you can then choose between 6 options: Campsite, Backcountry, Roofed Accommodations, Group Campsite, Day Use Facilities and Backcountry. Choose one according to your preferences.

Ontario Provincial Parks - Bookings 2

Step 3: You can then provide the details of the reservation: which park you are going to book, arrival date, departure date, how many nights you’re going to camp, equipment, and party size.

Step 4: Click Search, and the website would search for a suitable camping site for you, you can then choose the location you’d prefer.

Ontario Provincial Parks - Bookings 3

You’ll see a map like below where you can choose the available camping location.

Ontario Provincial Parks Map

Ontario Provincial Parks Map Legend

Step 5: Choose a location and adjust your preferences, then click on Reserve

Ontario Provincial Parks - Bookings 4

Step 6: Review your reservation, your camping location is now reserved

Ontario Provincial Parks - Bookings 5

How Far in Advance can you Book an Ontario Provincial Park?

Reservations are accepted up to five months in advance. For example, if you book on March 20, then the maximum arrival date you can book is August 20.

Here is some additional information that might be useful for you:

  • Reservations with an arrival date of July 29th, 30th & 31st, will first become available on March 1st at 7:00 am ET. The exception will be during a leap year when reservations with an arrival date of July 29th can first be made on February 29th at 7:00 am ET.
  • You must use the name of the person who will pick up the camping permit for the reservation. You cannot perform multiple reservations in the same name for the same time period.
  • Reservation is guaranteed up until 8 am the day following your booked arrival date. You can contact the park directly if you do not check-in for your reservation.
  • You can check here for current reservation fees. Reservation fees are required for all reservations and are charged at the time of the reservation.

Can you Change or Cancel an Ontario Provincial Park Reservation?

Yes, but reservations cannot be changed or canceled more than 4 months in advance of your arrival. For this, simply:

You will not be charged any administration fee for changing personal information (address, license plate, etc.) or extending an existing reservation. But you will be charged with an administration fee for:

  • a change to a campsite number (e.g., new site in the same park)
  • a change in the permit holder
  • a change to reservation dates

You will be charged with an administration fee of $7.52 + HST for changes made online, and $9.29 + HST for changes made by phone. You can check here for more details about reservation penalties.

Can You Use Generators in Ontario Provincial Parks?

You can use a generator when camping in Ontario provincial parks, but you’ll have to respect the No Excessive Noise rule.

In general, use generators with minimal noise whenever possible. And minimize generator use as much as possible. It’s best to ask the park staff when you arrive to determine the best use of generators at the particular park you’re at.

For a review of some top performing, affordable, ultra-quiet and ultra-portable generators, you can check out our comprehensive generator guide here.

Can you Drink Alcohol in Ontario Provincial Parks?

Yes, except for a two-week period around the Victoria Day weekend. For 2021 it is not permitted to drink liquor from May 14 to May 24 in the following parks:

  • Arrowhead
  • Awenda
  • Balsam Lake
  • Bass Lake
  • Blue Lake
  • Bon Echo
  • Bronte Creek
  • Craigleith
  • Darlington
  • Earl Rowe
  • Emily
  • Ferris
  • Fitzroy
  • Grundy Lake
  • Inverhuron
  • Killbear
  • Long Point
  • MacGregor Point
  • Mara
  • McRae Point
  • Murphys Point
  • Oastler Lake
  • Pinery
  • Point Farms
  • Port Burwell
  • Presqu’ile
  • Rideau River
  • Rock Point
  • Rondeau
  • Rushing River
  • Samuel de Champlain
  • Sandbanks
  • Sauble Falls
  • Selkirk
  • Sharbot Lake
  • Sibbald Point***
  • Silver Lake
  • Six Mile Lake
  • Sleeping Giant
  • Sturgeon Bay
  • Turkey Point
  • Wheatley

Also, you can’t drink alcohol around the Labor Day weekend in Sibbald Point, from September 2 to September 6 in 2021.

Can You Fly Drones in Ontario Provincial Parks?

Generally speaking, you can take your drone camping, but you have to get prior approval from the field unit superintendent.

You can go here to contact your park’s field unit superintendent. Also, make sure your drone meets Transport Canada’s requirements, which you can check here.

Specific for Ontario provincial parks, you can use this contact form and include the following information in your inquiry:

  • Camping dates and confirmation information
  • Campsite number or location (where you intend to fly the drone
  • Drone registration number
  • Your drone flight experience if applicable

What are the Best Ontario Provincial Parks?

Below, we will discuss some of the best camping sites in Ontario provincial parks, their unique qualities, and a bit of our experience on each site.

#1. Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin_Cache_Lake_Lookout

Algonquin is one of the most popular camping sites not only in Ontario but Canada in general. It is a massive park, with a lot of campgrounds that can accommodate thousands of campers at any given time.

Algonquin is located roughly 300 km away or a 3 hour drive from Toronto.

Algonquin Provincial Park Driving Map

Algonquin park features a massive 7,635 square kilometers of bogs, forests, rivers, and lakes. The main highlight of Algonquin is its rocky ridges, a great number of lakes, and impressive maple hills.

There are eight campgrounds, 14 interpretive trails, and you can also visit Algonquin’s Logging Museum and Art Centre.

Key Highlights:

  • Great fishing spots, world-class trout fishing
  • Wildlife photography opportunities
  • Hiking and biking trails
  • Birding opportunities

What’s Allowed:

  • Biking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Canoeing
  • Birding
  • Fishing
  • Dog Sledding
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Swimming

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Boating
  • Motor Boating
  • Camping Backcountry
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Dog Free
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Camping Walk In
  • Camping Winter
  • Discovery Program
  • Hiking Overnight Trails
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Snowmobiling
  • Whitewater Paddling

#2. Killarney Provincial Park

Killarney-Provincial-Park

Another popular camping destination in Ontario provincial parks is Killarney Provincial Park. It is located approximately 416 km from Toronto, roughly a 4-hour drive.

Killarney Provincial Park Driving Map

Camping in Killarney will provide a lot of unique opportunities from kayaking, canoeing, seeing the wildlife, and also some interesting hiking trails.

The George Lake Campground is the biggest campground in Killarney park, and you can choose to camp near the beach, on the cliff-top, or several parts of the wooden areas.

You have a wide range of choices about the kinds of environment you’d like to experience.

Key Highlights:

  • Killarney is 645 square kilometers in total, showcasing the wild Georgian Bay Coast of pink granite and over 50 lakes
  • Canoeing and sea kayaking opportunities
  • Hiking opportunities
  • Yurt accommodation available year-round

What’s Allowed:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Canoeing
  • Hiking Overnight Trails
  • Skiing
  • Snowshoeing

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Boating
  • Discovery Program
  • Hunting

#3. Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico-Provincial-Park

Quetico Provincial Park is another well-known camping destinations in Ontario and is often regarded as the most beautiful provincial park in Ontario. As a camping site, it also offers various different activities you can explore.

It is located quite far from Toronto, around 1537 kilometers from Toronto and you can reach it in slightly over 16 hours by driving via the highway.

Quetico Provincial Park Driving Map

Quetico has a lot of natural attractions you can enjoy, from its majestic waterfalls, rivers, large streams, spruce forests, and rugged cliffs. However, it is also rich with wildlife, including predators like black bears and packs of wolves, although if you are a true naturalist, this won’t be too much of an issue.

Key Highlight:

  • A famous destination for backcountry canoeing with 2,000 lakes
  • 460,000 hectares of remote wilderness with rock cliffs, waterfalls, rivers, and lakes.
  • 35 km of hiking trails
  • Winter cross-country ski trails

What’s Allowed

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Skiing
  • Snow Shoeing

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Camping Backcountry
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Seasonal Campsite
  • Camping Winter
  • Discovery Program
  • Hiking Overnight Trails

#4. Lake Superior Provincial Park

Lake-Superior-Provincial-Park

Lake Superior is famous for its large, evergreen forest areas and mesmerizing sandy coves. It’s relatively far, 887 km away from Toronto, and you’ll need around a 9-hour drive via the highway.

Lake Superior Provincial Park Driving Map

However, although reaching Lake Superior might require a bit of an effort, it is a great campsite offering various outdoor activities from canoeing and especially hiking.

Lake Superior offers various types of hiking trails that can please virtually all hikers, from the 65 km-long Coastal Trail to the 8 KM-long Orphan Lake Trail.

Key Highlights:

  • The Lake Superior coast and shoreline
  • Diverse scenery from beaches to cliffs, river valleys, waterfalls, and lakes, among others
  • Hiking and paddling trails along the shoreline
  • Agawa Rock pictographs
  • Two campgrounds with 200 backcountry campsites

What’s Allowed:

  • Biking
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hiking Overnight Trails
  • Swimming

You’ll Need Permission For

  • Motor Boating
  • Camping Backcountry
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Camping Seasonal Campsite
  • Discovery Program
  • Hunting

#5. Bon Echo Provincial Park

Mazinaw_Rock_Bon_Echo

The Bon Echo is another camp destination park in the eastern Ontario, you can reach in in around 3-hour drive via the highway, located 272 kilometers from Toronto.

Bon Echo Provincial Park Driving Map

The main highlight in the Bon Echo provincial park is the Mazinaw lake, which is the second-deepest lake in Ontario that also features the spectacular Mazinaw Rock which is covered in hundreds of ancient pictographs.

The Bon Echo features various camping programs, including activities like kayaking and canoeing, and is also one of the best camping locations in Ontario if you are looking for memorable scenic views.

Key Highlights

  • 100-meter high Mazinaw Rock with over 260 ancient pictographs
  • Interpretive boat tours on Mazinaw Lake
  • Great hiking trails, the longest is 17 km in length
  • Canoeing and hike-in sites available

What’s Allowed:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Canoeing
  • Swimming

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Boating
  • Motor Boating
  • Camping Back Country
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Walk In
  • Discovery Program
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Rock Climbing

#6. French River Provincial Park

Recollet_Falls_French_River_Ontario

The French River provincial park offers one of the most well-rounded backcountry experiences you can get in Ontario.

The driving distance between Toronto to French River Provincial Park is 332km, and it will take around 4h 24m if you drive from Toronto to this park.

French River Provincial Park Driving Map

A unique highlight is that all locations and camping destinations can only be accessed via a boat or canoe, and to reach the good camping grounds, you’ll need a bit of effort.

It also features the Recollet Falls Trails, one of the relatively challenging hiking trails in the area, despite being a fairly short trail.

Key Highlights:

  • A 105 km canoe route featuring interconnected gorges, lakes, and rapids from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay
  • The French River is the first designated Canadian Heritage River
  • Award-winning French River Visitor Centre with its unique “Voices of The River” exhibit
  • Fishing, wilderness paddling, motorboating available

What’s Allowed:

  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Swimming

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Whitewater Paddling

#7. Awenda Provincial Park

awenda-provincial-park

Awenda Provincial Park is an especially great choice if you are looking for a place where you can enjoy the wilderness without having to drive too far.

The park is located in central Ontario only 166 km away from Toronto. Which means you can get there in about 2 hours, making it one of the most accessible camping sites in the area.

Awenda Provincial Park Driving Map

It’s not as big as other famous Provincial Park sites in Ontario, but it does offer six different campgrounds located under the Sugar Maples and Red Oaks that are stretched along the provincial park.

If you are looking for a campsite but don’t want to get ‘back to the nature’ too much, you’ll still get tap water, an electricity line, central comfort station, and vault toilets in Awenda Provincial Park’s camping sites.

It doesn’t offer too many backcountry camping options, but you can still try various family-friendly activities like discovery trails, swimming, and biking.

Key Highlights:

  • 31 km of trails
  • Interior lake for canoeing
  • Summer interpretive programs
  • 17 km ski trails in winter

What’s Allowed:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Canoeing
  • Birding
  • Fishing
  • Skiing
  • Snow Shoeing

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Motor Boating
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Dog Free
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Canoeing
  • Discovery Program

#7. Chutes Provincial Park

chutes-provincial-park

The Chutes Provincial Park is located roughly 487 km away from Toronto, and will take around a 5-hour drive if you are visiting from Toronto.

The Chutes Provincial Park Driving Map

Chutes is a relatively small provincial park, but there are so many campsites you can use, and each campsite has pretty small occupancy so you can still get some privacy in your camping activities.

It has pretty stunning hiking trails and waterfalls, and the Twin Bridges Trails (6 km long) is a pretty famous trails with a pretty decent challenge level, making it a great choice for both beginners and veteran hikers alike.

Key Highlights

  • Quiet and private campsite located on the Aux Sables River
  • 6 km long hiking trail (Twin Bridges Trails)
  • Close to the town of Massey with unique cultural museum and amenities
  • Closely located to Manitoulin Island and the Lake Huron (North Channel)

What’s Allowed:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Swimming

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Camping Group
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Camping Seasonal Camping Site
  • Discovery Program
  • Rock climbing

#9. Killbear Provincial Park

killbear-provincial-park

One of the jewels of Ontario is Killbear Provincial Park. It is a very popular provincial park destination during the summer months, not only because the park is breathtakingly beautiful, but because of its close proximity to Toronto.

Located only around 3 hours away from Toronto, 271 km to the north. So, to reach this provincial park you won’t need to spend too much time and effort.

Killbear Provincial Park Driving Map

There are plenty of activities to do at Killbear Provincial Park, including hiking, swimming, cliff jumping (yes you read the right…cliff-jumping off beautiful granite rock cliffs), and windsurfing.

That said, you might want to know that the park is also populated with rattlesnakes, although up until today there hasn’t yet been any fatalities from rattlesnake bites in the area.

Key Highlights:

  • 6km long trail for biking and hiking
  • Rocky shoreline mixed with sand beaches
  • Great for sailing and windsurfing
  • Enjoy the Georgian Bay sunsets

What’s Allowed:

  • Biking
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Swimming

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Camping Car
  • Camping Group
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Discovery Program

#10. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park

kakabeka-falls-provincial-park

The Kakabeka Falls is the second-largest falls in Ontario, but besides this famous waterfall, there are also various activities you can do in this provincial park, and also a great site for backcountry camping.

It is relatively far from Ontario (1411 KM), and it will take 15 hours and 5 minutes to drive from Toronto to the Kakabeka Falls.

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park Driving Map

Although it’s a long trip, it’s going to be worth it if you want to see the Boardwalk Trail and Mountain Portage Trail, both are impressive, must-see trails that will mesmerize you with their various views from the forests, cliffs, and the famous Kaministiquia River.

Key Highlights:

  • The second highest (40 m) waterfall in Ontario with year-round viewing access
  • Kaministiquia River, with 1.6 million year-old fossils at the bottom of the falls
  • Voyageurs historic route
  • Endangered lake sturgeon at the base of the falls

What’s Allowed:

  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Birding
  • Fishing
  • Skiing
  • Snow Shoeing

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Camping Car
  • Camping Group
  • Camping Seasonal Campsite
  • Snowmobiling
  • Swimming

#11. Pinery Provincial Park

Pinery-Provincial-Park

To reach Pinery Provincial Park, you’ll need to drive around 3 hours of Toronto for roughly 229 km, making it one of the more accessible Provincial Parks near Toronto.

Pinery Provincial Park Driving Map

The Pinery Provincial Park is famous for its riverside beach campsites, sand dune campsites, and there are various outdoor activities you can do in this provincial park with a lot of scenic trails that you can explore while biking or hiking.

Key Highlights

  • Beautiful park with 10 km of sand beach on the shores of Lake Huron
  • Rare oak Savanna and Coastal Dune Ecosystems with over 300 bird species and 800 vascular plants
  • 21 sq. km of rare forests with 10 walking trails 14 km bike trail and 38 km ski trails
  • Rent a canoe, hydro bike, paddle boat or a single or double kayak to explore the Old Ausable Channel

What’s Allowed:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Skiing
  • Ice-Skating
  • Snow Shoeing
  • Tobogganing

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Camping Car
  • Camping Dog Free
  • Camping Group
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Camping Walk In
  • Camping Winter
  • Discovery Program

#12. Arrowhead Provincial Park

arrowhead-provincial-park

Arrowhead Provincial Park is located at the heart of Muskoka, making it one of the best Provincial Parks in Ontario with a lot of outdoor activities you can do while visiting the famous park.

Located just 2 and a half hour drive away from Toronto (238 km), it is also pretty accessible.

Arrowhead Provincial Park Driving Map

You can see serene and tranquil natural wilderness in this Provincial Park, surrounded with rocky landscapes and forests that are full with sugar maples, poplar, yellow birch, and other interesting vegetation.

Key Highlights:

  • Three sand beaches on Arrowhead Lake
  • 15 km of hiking trails,
  • Rental canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and mountain bikes during the summer season
  • Rental skis, sit-skis, snowshoes, sledge and ice skate rentals during the winter. Well-known for its winter activities

What’s Allowed:

  • Fishing
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Birding
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Skiing
  • Snow Shoeing

You’ll Need Permission For

  • Motor Boating
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Radio Free
  • Camping Winter
  • Discovery Program
  • Tobogganing

#13. Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks-Provincial-Park

One of the most unique provincial parks in Ontario, and is one of the most popular destinations for car camping near Ontario. This is mainly due to its expansive sandy beach, which is great for serene and quiet camping activities where you can chill and relax.

To reach Sandbanks Provincial Park you’ll only need to drive to the east from Toronto for 218 km, around 2 hours and 20 minutes of driving. So, it’s not too far away from the city.

Sandbanks Provincial Park Driving Map

There are three beaches and a sand dune formation, making it a unique destination in Ontario. You can also visit the mesmerizing wetland area that is full with limestone cliff and a great campsite.

Key Highlights:

  • World’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation
  • Three of the best beaches in Canada
  • Great walking trails where visitors can experience the dune and wetland
  • Bird migration hotspot in spring and fall

What’s Allowed:

  • Fishing
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Birding
  • Hiking

You’ll Need Permission For:

  • Boating
  • Camping Car
  • Camping Dog Free
  • Camping Group
  • Camping Winter
  • Discovery Program

Ontario Provincial Parks – Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot of “ground” in this comprehensive guide to Ontario Provincial Parks. Regardless, of which park you choose, you will be blown away by the beauty these parks and Ontario have to offer.

One parting tip we should make, is if you’re planning to visit an Ontario park, be sure to book it as soon as possible (no greater than 5 months out of course). Spots do fill up quickly, especially for some of the more popular parks listed here.

If you enjoyed this guide, be sure to check out some of our other ones below: