Ontario parks guide

Keywords: ontario parks guide
Description: Especially for people looking for a camping destination accessible by car, this guide to Ontario's parks is a great reference to compare different parks. (Diana Mumford Wave Length Magazine )

Especially for people looking for a camping destination accessible by car, this guide to Ontario's parks is a great reference to compare different parks. (Diana Mumford Wave Length Magazine )

There are hundreds of national and provincial parks and conservation areas in Ontario, and choosing between them for a camping trip is no easy task. [This book is] useful, especially for novice campers, as a knowledgeable overview of options. (Andrew Ryan Globe and Mail 2005-07-09)

Donna Carpenter has been writing guidebooks for the past ten years. She is the author of the popular Daytripper series and has explored the cities and villages, highways and back roads of Ontario in all seasons.

Ontario enjoys a remarkable natural heritage. In our public parks you can partake of such diverse delights as Algonquin's wolf-howl excursions, a top-of-the-world view from the Sleeping Giant, Arrowhead's exhilarating toboggan run, and the northern lights over Nagagamisis. Our equally fascinating cultural heritage, from Agawa's red pictographs to voyageur canoes travelling the Mattawa River, comes to life in the creative programs offered in many parks.

Ontario has hundreds of parks to choose from. Most come under one of three different administrations: national parks, provincial parks or conservation areas. Consider the number of different park types and then factor in the variety of Ontario's physical landscape and you are left with a mind-boggling array of park experiences to choose from. Selecting a park for quality campsites, facilities, scenery and location is not an easy task. This book can help you identify which of these parks is just right for your needs. One of these could become your next home away from home.

A Camper's Guide to Ontario's Best Parks can help you choose a park for your next camping trip. Forty-four of Ontario's best parks are described under the headings of natural environment and history, special activities, campgrounds and local attractions.

If you have a preference for a particular kind of scenery -- beaches or mountains, for instance -- then read the natural environment and history section of a park description. It is a good guide to the size of the park and its general landscape. The special activities descriptions highlight the best ways to enjoy each park. Information on hiking and ski trails, boating, fishing and interpretive programs is found in this section.

The campgrounds section gives the number of campsites, the number of sites with hydro hookups, and recommends the "best" sites in each campground. The sites recommended here are usually the most private and quiet, with a good vegetation buffer surrounding the site. The local attractions section of the park description identifies local villages, museums, events and activities that are worth including in your travel plans. Park staff are usually good sources of ideas on the best tourist resources in their region.

A Camper's Guide to Ontario's Best Parks describes only those parks that offer camping thus, day-use parks are not discussed. Although canoe tripping and long-distance hiking are popular activities, bookstores already provide guidebooks that address the needs of wilderness adventurers. Thus, while opportunities for hike-in or paddle-in camping are mentioned, this book is best for campers who are looking for a good campground accessible by car.

This book identifies parks within each geographic region of the province and within each of our different natural landscapes. In addition, there are listings for excellent parks close to every major community in the province.

Ontario has about 10 or 12 parks that have celebrity status; these are very heavily used from spring to fall. Off-season, the most popular parks can offer superior camping experiences. However, during the prime season, from mid-July to mid-August, you could have a better park visit if you opt to camp in one of our lesser-known parks. Your decision will be rewarded with a better campsite, more privacy and quiet, and an equally beautiful park.

Each of the 44 parks described in this book is rated according to natural environment, activities and campground. The rating system is 1, 2, 3, with 1 the lowest rating and 3 the highest rating. The natural environment rating refers to the scenic beauty of a park. The activities rating describes three features: interpretive programming, diversity of opportunities for outdoor pursuits, and the number of top-notch local attractions. The campground rating refers to the privacy and size of campsites.

Campsite reservations are a good way of ensuring the success of your expedition, and are especially advisable at all of Ontario's most popular parks.

The type of park determines how you may reserve a campsite. In the case of national parks and conservation areas, sites are reserved by a telephone call to the park office. Phone numbers are provided with each park description. In the case of provincial parks, sites can be reserved at most parks through a central telephone or internet reservation system. The central reservation telephone number is 888-668-7275 and the line is staffed daily. The Ontario Parks web site address is http://www.ontarioparks.com. The web site has maps of each campground indicating campsite features, and the telephone receptionists can provide detailed campsite descriptions.

Whether you reserve by telephone or by internet, you will want the following information handy when you call or go online:

  • Dates of arrival/departure
  • Park of interest (and campsite of interest, or at least a description of your requirements in terms of campsite size, proximity to water, comfort station, etc.)
  • Camping equipment (tent, trailer, motor home, etc.)
  • Home address, contact information, name of person that will be staying on the site
  • Number in party
  • Method of payment (by telephone, you may pay with credit card, cheque or money order; by internet, you may pay by credit card only)

Some provincial parks, primarily those that are more remote or lesser-used, are not part of the central reservation system. Sites at these parks are rented on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, the parks that are part of the reservation system hold a few sites for allocation on a first-come, first-served basis.

In response to consumer interest in "soft adventure," the Ontario government has created a variety of roofed accommodations in many provincial parks. These accommodations rent at very reasonable rates, and are especially ideal when cool spring or fall weather can make tent camping unappealing.

One of the most common alternatives is the "yurt." Yurts are canvas structures on a wood platform, furnished with a fully equipped kitchen, beds for up to six people, and other necessities. Yurts occupy regular campsites and include a gas barbecue.

Some provincial parks rent cabins on a per-night or weekly basis. Some of these cabins are former cottages, staff houses or remote forest-ranger cabins. Larger groups may rent bunkhouses or lodges that are available in a few provincial parks.

Each park description in this book notes what type of roofed accommodation, if any, is available. Reservations for roofed accommodation are handled through the central reservation system.

Ontario's provincial parks are going out of their way to make camping as convenient as possible. Most parks rent canoes and some parks also rent boats, paddleboats, kayaks, bicycles and cross-country skis. A small number of parks rent tents and other necessities, and store trailers and boats off-season. Each park description notes the type of outdoor or sports equipment rented at each park. For information on camping equipment rentals, please contact the park you are interested in visiting.

Camping in Ontario's wonderful parks is a great way to enjoy a holiday, travel across the province and soak up some backcountry solitude. Be sure to put a park on your next travel itinerary.

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