Winter Camping in Algonquin Park
Why would anyone want to winter camp in Algonquin Park?
After a great summer of camping in Algonquin Park, many campers are busy packing away their gear for another year and are left dreaming of next summer’s trips to the Park. For others though, the prime camping season is just around the corner. That’s right, I’m talking about winter! Winter has become my favorite time of year to camp. When I tell people I’m going winter camping in Algonquin Park, I’m usually met with perplexed looks, and comments like, “Why on earth would anyone ever want to camp in the winter?” or “You must freeze out there!”. The truth is with some preparation, decent gear and an open mind, winter can be an amazing time of year to camp.
Why on earth would anyone ever want to camp in the winter?
There are a couple major advantages to camping in the winter over other seasons; no bugs and no crowds. It’s a great feeling to not be lathered in bug spray or to be able to sit around a campfire without swatting swarms of mosquitoes or black flies away. It’s also nice to do a hiking trail without seeing another person at all. I’ve stayed at Mew Lake in February when I was literally the only person in the entire campground. The Park has an empty, wild feel to it and I love it. Wildlife is also abundant and there are birds everywhere. It’s not unusual for Grey Jays and Chickadees to feed right from your hands. With fresh snowfall it becomes very clear how much wildlife exists in the Park, as the snow is often carved with highways of animal tracks. There’s nothing like waking up to a new snowfall and seeing fresh Fox tracks skirting your campsite. If you’re lucky you may see other wildlife such as Moose, Fox, White-Tailed Deer, or even a Wolf.
One of the questions I often get when I tell people I am going winter camping in Algonquin, is where do I camp? The beauty of Algonquin is that there are several options to choose from, catering to all levels of winter campers. Mew Lake is the only campground that stays open year-round. Mew Lake offers non-electric sites, electric sites and Yurts (eight-sided, tent-like structures are mounted on a wooden deck floor and offer electric heat). There is also a heated comfort station with showers and laundry facilities. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can camp in the back-country in the winter as well. Simply load your gear onto a toboggan and find your own piece of heaven! You can camp anywhere in the park in the winter as long as you are not on a summer site, or within 30 meters of any lake shore, trail or portage. If you find you are lacking gear for your winter adventure, Algonquin Outfitters at Oxtongue Lake and Huntsville are open all year and rent much of the equipment you would need (Algonquin Outiftters Winter Rental Program).
While on your winter excursion to the Park, there are lots of activities to do to keep you busy. You can explore miles of back country trails via dogsled, snowshoe, fat bike, ice skate in the forest at Mew Lake or cross-country ski on some of the best ski trails in Ontario. All of the hiking trails remain open and are easily navigable, even in deep snow. The Visitor Center also opens up on weekends and is a great place to check out and grab a steamy cup of hot chocolate.. If you are into star gazing, the cold, clear nights make for some incredible night skies and on occasion, The Northern Lights can be seen dancing across the sky. Every year Algonquin Park hosts the “Winter in the Wild Festival” where you can learn more about winter in the Park through demonstrations and displays. The festival is a great way to learn and sample some of the activities you can experience on a winter trip to Algonquin Park.
So whether you come to the Park for the day, or stay for several nights, I’m fairly confident that Algonquin Park will satisfy all of your winter adventure cravings. Stay tuned for more winter camping talk, where the topics of winter camping shelters, winter camping gear, winter clothing, places to explore in Algonquin Park, and general winter camping tips will be discussed in more detail!
Useful Winter Camping Links
- Winter in Algonquin Park
- Winter camping at Mew Lake Campground in Algonquin Park
- Algonquin Outfitters winter rental gear: skis, snowshoes and more
- Winter trail maps for Algonquin Park
- Ontario Parks winter ski report
- Algonquin Park Winter in the Wild Festival (Mid February)
Algonquin Outfitters Winter Rental Gear Note
Stephen is an award winning, published photographer who specializes in Weddings and Fine Art prints. He has won numerous international photography contests, and has had the honour of being published in TheBigWild.org, Photo News Magazine and ProNaturePhotographer.com. He offers photography workshops in Algonquin Provincial Park, and is also available for private / group workshops.