November 10, 2012
Winter camping at Ontario Parks
By JIM FOX, Special to QMI Agency
Consider booking a yurt or heated cabin getaway now or face being left out in the cold this winter at Ontario Parks.
For those hearty souls looking for a winter escape that doesn’t involve hibernating or migrating, the parks’ roofed accommodation could be the answer.
“We're seeing more young families who camp in summer at Ontario Parks book winter yurt or cabin adventures especially at parks that have skating, snow tubing and tobogganing,” said Lori Waldbrook, senior marketing specialist.
This makes it easy for families, couples and groups of friends to visit Ontario’s signature landscapes this winter, she added.
Get your yurt on
Traditional yurts originating in the 13th century were portable, bent wood-framed dwellings used by nomads in Central Asia.
The tent-like structures have been adapted in Canada and the U.S. at ski resorts and campgrounds and are semi-permanent, canvas-covered structures mounted on a wooden deck above ground.
At Ontario Parks, they are ideal in the winter as they have electric or propane heating and lighting, bunk beds, tables, chairs and plywood floors.
All winter yurts and cabin rentals have heat and electricity and most are accessible by cars.
Yurts sleep six while cabins accommodate five or more to provide warm, dry winter digs.
Let the snow fly
Ontario Parks provides details about three of the seven “dramatically different” provincial parks with winter activities and roofed accommodation.
First of all is the Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron that has a new camp cabin and deluxe yurt this season.
These are the latest accommodations to be added at the park west of London, Waldbrook said.
The park has 12 furnished campsites, each of which has an eight-sided yurt, at the Riverside campground located beside the picturesque Ausable River.
The yurts are attached to a wheelchair-accessible platform and have bunks for sleeping, table and chairs, electric lighting and a heater. As well, a gas barbecue and picnic shelter is supplied with each facility.
Pinery’s visitor centre is open most days and guided nature hikes on trails are held on select dates throughout the winter.
There are 38 kilometres of cross-country ski trails that form a series of loops and in the centre of the park is a heated chalet and toboggan hill.
Expect to see flocks of black-capped chickadees, red and white breasted nuthatches and the tufted titmouse at Picnic Area 9. Owls also breed in the park in the winter.
On Family Day Weekend in February, an Owl Prowl is planned while snowshoes and cross-country skis are available for rent and the tobogganing hill is lighted at night. www.ontarioparks.com or www.pinerypark.on.ca
It’s a howl at Killarney
Hear the wolves howl at Killarney Provincial Park on the north shore of Georgian Bay.
“Don’t be surprised if you hear one of the park wolf packs howl at night,” said park superintendent Chuck Miller.
The forested park in Killarney offers a “ski-in yurt adventure” with sleds available to carry gear to the accommodation located about a half-kilometre from the park gate in the George Lake Campground.
There are 30 kilometres of groomed classic ski trails in a backcountry wilderness setting and summer portage routes become winter snowshoe trails.
Some winter activities include the Christmas Bird Count and Activity Day on the Family Day Weekend. www.parkreports.com
Spot a Canada lynxâ¨
A perfect place to spot and photograph the elusive Canadian lynx in the wild is Quetico Provincial Park, west of Thunder Bay. The park’s Dawson Trail Campground is close to an area in the park populated by snowshoe hare, a winter food source for lynx.
Accommodation is available in one of the campground’s heated yurts easily accessed from Highway 11.
Skiing and snowshoeing are available on 25 kilometres of groomed trails from the cozy yurt. www.ontarioparks.com
Here’s where to order
Reservations for winter roofed accommodations are now being accepted for stays at seven provincial parks at www.ontarioparks.com
In addition to Pinery, Killarney and Quetico, the parks are Algonquin, MacGregor Point, Silent Lake and Windy Lake.
Details on the parks with winter activities and fees for yurts ($91.50 a night plus the reservation fee of $9.50 online or $11.25, call centre) and cabins are at www.ontarioparks.com
There is also a parks locator at www.ontarioparks.com
The Ontario Parks’ ski report will be updated as soon as the snow flies at www.parkreports.com/skireport