Many people pack away their camping gear once the leaves hit the ground. While fall is my favourite time of year to visit an Ontario Provincial Park, winter is a close second. While many Ontario Parks close their gates by the last weekend of October, there are still plenty of parks open for those adventurous souls who love the cold season. These are the best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter – and why you should start planning now!
NOTE: Travel is not recommended at this time. These posts are here to serve as inspiration when we can explore again. Hey there – this post likely contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them. This helps me earn a few dollars to run this website.
The Best Ontario Parks to Visit in the Winter
It’s no secret that winter in Ontario is a long, hard season. But that doesn’t mean you should waste it holed up inside wishing that spring would come sooner. In fact – which I can absolutely NOT prove – winter goes by much quicker when you go out and enjoy it.
I’ve visited over 60 Ontario Provincial Parks, many of them in the dead of winter, and I can’t gush enough about how much fun it is to explore these winter wonderlands. Yes, many of the parks close up after the fall, but there are a few parks out there that offer some sweet winter activities, like skating, skiing and winter camping!
This list of best Ontario Parks to visit in the Winter will show you all the parks you have to check out, why you should go during winter AND what to do at each park.
Tips for visiting Ontario Parks in the winter
I love heading to Ontario Parks in the winter, and I usually have a great time, but that’s because I am always prepared for this adventure. Winter can be brutal and no one wants to get frostbite or hypothermia because they weren’t prepared for the weather. Here are some tips for your next winter adventure in an Ontario provincial park:
Dress in Layers
Layering is the best defence against the cold. Start with a thermal, moisture-wicking base layer, which keeps you warm and dry. Next, add a mid-layer, like fleece, to keep in the heat without making you sweat. Lastly, add a waterproof shell layer to keep you dry when you’re frolicking in the snow.
Don’t forget your extremities. Bring warm gloves or mitts, a hat, a buff or scarf, and warm wool socks. You might even want to bring some heat packs for your toes and fingers.
Check the weather
Winter storms can come out of nowhere in Ontario. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather before you head out. And once the sun dips below the horizon, temperatures quickly plummet. Plan accordingly and make sure to leave your plans with a friend or family member.
Be realistic with your comfort levels
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be realistic with your comfort levels. If you don’t enjoy being cold, you may not enjoy spending hours outside. If you are just learning to snowshoe, then don’t head out on the difficult trails. If this is your first-time winter camping, don’t go for a full week.
Start easy and work your way up. You’ll enjoy your time way more that way.
Bring proper sustenance
You tend to exert more energy while doing winter activities, so you’ll need to bring more food to compensate. And I’m not talking about cold food. There’s nothing like enjoying a delicious warm meal after a long day out in the cold. So think about ways you can incorporate warm foods, like noodles or soup into your meals.
Don’t forget to hydrate! Just because you’re cold, doesn’t mean you can’t get dehydrated. Think about ways to keep hydrated outside. A lot of metal water bottles can also keep drinks warm, so try boiling water and adding lemon, or making tea to stay hydrated!
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is a winter lover’s paradise. Known for its epic backcountry camping, canoe routes and glorious fall colours, this park is a top-rated park to visit any time. But once the snow starts flying, Algonquin Provincial Park becomes one of the best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter. You’ll find just about every winter activity here!
Algonquin Provincial Park is located between Huntsville and Petawawa in the Nippissing District. The Park can be accessed either by the west or east gate of Highway 60, which runs along the southern part of the park.
Algonquin is one of the several parks that require booking in advance for your daily park permit. Please do that as far in advance as you can, so as not to be disappointed when you get there. For most of the activities, you’ll want to book the daily permit for the Highway 60 corridor.
Where to stay at Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is a huge, remote park, far from many services. That said, there are still winter accommodations to be found here. You could buy or rent a hot tent and camp at one of the open winter campsites at Mew Lake, the only campground within Algonquin to run all year round. If you have a winterized trailer, sites 1 to 66 have electrical hook up. Or you could book one of the seven yurts located at Mew Lake. The yurts are heated (although the floors are always still cold!), and can sleep up to 6 people.
If you really like to rough it, you could try your hand at backcountry winter camping, which is really only for the experienced winter camper.
If you can’t find any open reservations at Algonquin, it’s worth looking into the nearby Limberlost Forest, an epic resort park that offers cabins and camping sites.
If yurts aren’t your thing, or if you’d rather not walk through the snow to the outhouse, then you could also book accommodations at a nearby lodge, like Bongo Pix Lodge near the east gate or stay at a gorgeous cabin in the woods near the west gate.
Best things to do in Algonquin Provincial Park in Winter
As mentioned, Algonquin Provincial Park is THE place to be for winter-lovers. There are so many amazing things to do here, like cross country skiing at Fen Lake Ski Trail, Minnesing Trail or Leaf Lake Ski Trail.
There’s also snowshoeing everywhere in the park, except for the groomed cross country trails. Stop at one of the gates to pick up trail maps for each trail you want to explore along Hwy 60.
Don’t forget to bring your skates since part of Mew Lake is turned into a skating rink each winter.
There are two locations in the park that are open for dog sledding! This exciting winter adventure is run by commercial operators, like Snow Forest Adventures, Call of the Wild Adventures, and Highland Wilderness Tours, which you’ll have to book in advance. It is a pretty epic way to explore the backcountry.
If you love cycling during the summer, then you’ll also want to check out fatbiking. Fatbikes, which are bikes with beefier tires to better grip in snow and sand, can be rented at the Algonquin Outfitters Huntsville location. The park staff recommends the Old Railway Bike Trail, which is groomed in the winter as a multi-recreation trail.
Snowmobiling and ice fishing, which are popular winter pastimes, are not permitted in Algonquin provincial Park.
Silent Lake Provincial Park
If you’re looking for a relaxing place to enjoy a winter getaway in nature, then Silent Lake Provincial Park is the place for you. Its remote location and cozy yurts make Silent Lake Provincial Park one of the best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter.
Silent Lake Provincial Park is located between Peterborough and Bancroft in Haliburton County. The park can be accessed year-round off of Highway 28.
Where to stay at Silent Lake Provincial Park
Silent Lake Provincial Park has several accommodation options in the winter. For tent or trailer campers, there are several sites open and with electrical hookups.
There are 10 rustic cabins in Silent Lake Provincial Park. These heated cabins are one-room bunkies, with room to sleep 5. Inside, you’ll find a kitchenette (microwave, mini-fridge, kettle) and a dining table with chairs. Outside, each cabin comes with a screened-in porch, a gas barbeque and a picnic table.
Silent Lake Provincial Park has seven yurts available. Three of the yurts have a wood stove and firewood is included. The remaining yurts have electric heating. The one I stayed in had an electric fireplace that warmed up the room quite nicely and gave off a very cozy feel.
Best things to do in Silent Lake Provincial Park in Winter
Silent Lake Provincial Parks is a great place for winter activities. There is more than 30km of trails – ranging from novice to difficult – for cross country skiing.
For snowshoe lovers, the Bonnie Pond Trail – which is about 3km) – makes for a great snowshoeing trail. If you don’t have a pair, you can rent snowshoes from the Park Store.
Silent Lake is also a great destination for ice fishing. I couldn’t get over how thick the ice gets there, but make sure to check ice conditions before going out on the lake.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
MacGregor Point Provincial Park and I did not get off on the right foot. My first experience there was during an unseasonably warm week that winter and the snow was mostly melted, and fog hung around the entire time we were there. However, I returned a few years later and had an absolute blast. That trip made this one of the best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter for me.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park is located along the shores of Lake Huron, just south of Port Elgin in Huron County. The park is accessible off of Highway 21.
Where to stay at MacGregor Point Provincial Park
There are 12 yurts available at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. These yurts have two bunk beds that can sleep up to 6 people. They also have a table and chairs, a heat source, lighting and a propane barbecue.
Best things to do in MacGregor Point Provincial Park in Winter
I think MacGregor Point Provincial Park has the best-kept secret of winter activities! But before I get to that, there are lots of other winter activities to keep you busy at this park. There is an 11km trail, Deer Run Trail, that is perfect for any level of a cross-country skier. The park also has several roads that remain unplowed during the winter and are open for skiing and snowshoeing.
There are several snowshoe trails in one of the campgrounds, and the park recommends snowshoeing through the giant snow drifts that form along the Old Shore Road Trail.
Finally, the best-kept secret at MacGregor Point is the 400-metre ice skating trail that weaves through the forest. This enchanting skating trail is lit up at night and makes for a magical winter experience.
Of all the skating trails I’ve been on, the one at MacGregor Point Provincial Park is my favourite!
Arrowhead Provincial Park
There’s something truly wonderful about Arrowhead Provincial Park. This four-season park is in a prime location and because of its amazing offering of seasonal activities, Arrowhead makes the list of best Ontario Parks to visit in winter. I’ve been here in three of the four seasons and find a new thing I love about it each time.
Arrowhead Provincial Park is located just outside the town of Huntsville in the Muskoka Region. It’s accessible all year round just off Highway 11.
Arrowhead is one of the several parks that require booking in advance for your daily park permit. Please do that as far in advance as you can, so as not to be disappointed when you get there.
Where to stay at Arrowhead Provincial Park
There are several accommodation options at Arrowhead Provincial Park, including campsites that are perfect for winterized trailers or hot tents.
There are 10 rustic cabins at Arrowhead. These heated cabins are one-room bunkies, with room to sleep 5. Inside, you’ll find a kitchenette (microwave, mini-fridge, kettle) and a dining table with chairs. Outside, each cabin comes with a screened-in porch, a gas barbeque and a picnic table.
Note: I’ve found that it is nearly impossible to book these cabins during the weekend, even if you are looking 5 months ahead. If you’re one of the lucky ones, please tell me your secrets! If you are like me and can’t get a booking, then I recommend searching for an Airbnb or hotel room in nearby Huntsville.
Best things to do in Arrowhead Provincial Park in Winter
There’s a reason that Arrowhead continues to be very busy in the winter and that’s because they offer some of the best winter activities!
There are 28kms of cross-country skiing trails that weave along the park, ranging from easy to difficult. These trails are set up for classic cross-country skiing as well as skate skiing. While I’m not an expert, from what I understand, skate skiing is a more difficult type of cross-country skiing technique that is similar to what you see at the Olympics.
For those with energetic dogs, you can try your hand at skijoring, which is a type of winter sport where you ski being pulled by a dog. Arrowhead has a short trail that is dedicated to this fun winter activity.
Arrowhead also has a lovely ice-skating trail through the forest that is a magical experience at night. On select nights, Fire and Ice Nights, the trail is lit up with lights and tiki torches. These tend to be the busiest nights, so plan accordingly!
Lastly, for the child at heart, Arrowhead has set up a tubing hill that is absolutely epic. You don’t even need to bring a toboggan or tube, since that’s all provided with your daily permit into the park. Tubing at Arrowhead Provincial Park is something you don’t want to miss out on!
Killarney Provincial Park
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to visit Killarney Provincial Park. I finally visited in the summer of 2021 and the park took my breath away. Killarney is a four-season park and offers something for every type of camper, which makes it one of the best Ontario Parks to visit in the Winter
Killarney Provincial Park is located on the northern shore of Georgian Bay, and south of Sudbury. The park is about 40 minutes off the Trans Canada Highway.
Where to stay at Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney offers year-round camping at their George Lake campground, so whether you have a hot tent or a winterized trailer, you’ll fit right in at the campground.
Killarney also offers two camp cabins. These heated cabins are one-room bunkies, with room to sleep 5. Inside, you’ll find a kitchenette (microwave, mini-fridge, kettle) and a dining table with chairs. Outside, each cabin comes with a screened-in porch, a gas barbeque and a picnic table.
There are also six yurts in Killarney. These yurts have two bunk beds that can sleep up to 6 people. They also have a table and chairs, a heat source, lighting and a propane barbecue.
Best things to do in Killarney Provincial Park in Winter
The reason why Killarney Provincial Park makes the list of best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter is because of its dark sky designation. The park has some of the best dark skies in the province and is perfect for stargazing. In winter, on a cold, clear night, you’ll be amazed at what you can see. You might even get the chance to see the Aurora Borealis – aka the Northern Lights. Make sure to check out the observatory that is right in the park too!
Killarney has 33km of classic and skate cross country ski trails that cross through the park. The three trails are all over 8km, so you’ll need some cross-country skiing experience to try them out. Otherwise, grab your snowshoes and try some of the trails in winter.
While the Crack (aka the La Cloche Silhouette trail) is an epic experience in the warmer months, come winter, this already difficult trail becomes more challenging. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. My friend did it by herself with snowshoes, but she’s also a moderate hiker. So know your limits!
If you get cold at all during your stay, Killarney offers a warming hut located in the day-use area with a wood stove that’s always burning.
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Windy Lake Provincial Park
If you are into ice fishing, then Windy Lake Provincial Park is the destination for you! It makes the list of best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter because it’s a popular spot for anyone who likes to freeze their butts off in the middle of a frozen lake.
Windy Lake Provincial Park is located on Highway 144 northwest of Sudbury and is accessible in the winter from Jan 1 to the first day of Spring.
Where to stay at Windy Lake Provincial Park
Windy Lake Provincial Park has just two options for winter accommodations, yurts and cabins.
Windy Lake has two camp cabins. These heated cabins are one-room bunkies, with room to sleep 5. Inside, you’ll find a kitchenette (microwave, mini-fridge, kettle) and a dining table with chairs. Outside, each cabin comes with a screened-in porch, a gas barbeque and a picnic table.
There are also four yurts in Killarney. These yurts have two bunk beds that can sleep up to 6 people. They also have a table and chairs, a heat source, lighting and a propane barbecue.
Best things to do in Windy Lake Provincial Park in Winter
As I mentioned, Windy Lake is the premier destination for ice fishing. For those who don’t have any ice fishing gear, but want to try it out, Windy Lake offers an Ice Fishing rental package that includes everything you need for a day on the frozen lake. The package includes two rods/reels, tip-ups, a bait bucket/stool, fishing tackle, an ice auger and a sled that transforms into a portable ice fishing shelter (complete with 2 seats). The staff even transport the gear for you to a predetermined spot on the lake and help you set up!
For the non-fishers out there, Windy Lake offers some stellar cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Onaping Falls Nordic Ski Club operated the 15km trail network, with trails that range from beginner to advanced. They even had a ski chalet that will warm you up after a day out in the snow.
Also, make sure to stop at the A.Y. Jackson lookout over Onaping Falls, which is just a short drive south of Windy Lake Provincial Park on Highway 144.
A note about staying in yurts in Ontario Parks
Yurts are probably one of my favourite things about winter camping. These cozy structures are pretty simple, usually a waterproof soft-sided structure with a floor and a heat source. But just because you are technically “inside” these cabins don’t stay all that warm.
In my experience, the yurt floor is always ice cold, no matter how warm the yurt is, so my tip is to bring slippers so there’s always something cozy on your feet.
The heat source is not perfect inside the yurts. One time we had a broken heater that thankfully was promptly fixed by the Parks staff. Another time the heater had just two settings: off or full blast.
There is a misconception that the yurts have washrooms attached, and that’s not the case. While most campgrounds have a comfort station nearby, in Silent Lake you had to drive to the nearest heated comfort station, so we had to use a frozen outhouse (during an extreme cold warning). Keep that in mind when you book your yurt.
Speaking of booking, since there are so few yurts across the province, booking one, even five months in advance is nearly impossible. If you really want to stay at a yurt or camp cabin, my tips are to try to book for a weekday rather than a weekend and keep checking the site for cancellations!
The best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter
Here’s a quick round-up of the best Ontario Parks to visit in the winter:
- Algonquin Provincial Park
- Silent Lake Provincial Park
- MacGregor Point Provincial Park
- Arrowhead Provincial Park
- Killarney Provincial Park
- Windy Lake Provincial Park
So what are you waiting for? Grab your snow boots and your layers and let’s go enjoy Ontario’s longest season!