The Best Provincial Parks to Camp at in Ontario

Summer is coming, and with that comes one of my favorite things: camping. I’ve been an avid camper for 11 years now and I’ve gotten the chance to visit many of the provincial parks in Ontario. I decided to pick my top five favorite provincial parks that I’ve camped at and write a little review about each. I hope that if you love camping or you want to start that you will find this useful.

Arrowhead Provincial Park  

(Located north of Huntsville, Ontario)

 

 

Bike Path(s): Arrowhead has a five kilometer biking trail around the lake, uphill and downhill.

Hiking Trails: Arrowhead has four hiking trails ranging from one km to seven km long. My favorite is the Mayflower Lake trail around the small Mayflower Lake. The trail is very beautiful; however, it is mainly uphill, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. The longest hiking trail that Arrowhead has is the Beaver Meadow Trail which is seven km and will take roughly two hours to complete.

Lake: The lake is a good size and the beaches are well kept. The lake gets deep at a good inclination so you don’t have to go too far out to get fully submerged. I have never come across any water snakes in the lake, but a large turtle does live underneath the dock that people jump off of. Arrowhead Lake has lots of Small Mouth Bass. A valid license is needed to fish.

Boating: This is a beautiful park to bring out the canoe, kayak or paddle board. You can boat around the lake or down the small creek, which is always my favorite part. Paddling down the creek takes you to Stubb’s Falls in about 20-30 minutes. When you get to Stubb’s Falls you can pull your canoe up onto shore and enjoy the falls. There’s also a stream that goes around Arrowhead’s Big Bend lookout. You have to drive five minutes out of the park to start this trail and it can take two to three hours to complete. Motorized boats are prohibited at Arrowhead Lake.

Falls: Arrowhead is home to the beautiful Stubb’s Falls which you can stand/swim in.

Overall: Arrowhead is at the top of my list for best provincial park in Ontario. It has a lot to offer. The lake is walking distance and easy to get to. There is a creek you can canoe on that leads to the falls. It’s quiet and away from the lively beach. Everytime I have canoed or kayaked down the creek, dozens of colorful dragonflies have landed on my boat, my paddle, or myself. Arrowhead also has a beautiful Big Bend lookout that you can watch get bigger with erosion over the years. You can canoe in the creek below and write your name in the sand like many campers have done before. There’s always a lot of nature at Arrowhead, and in the 10 years I’ve been camping there, I’ve seen about two moose, three bears and many deer. The possibility of wildlife sighting is always exciting.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park

(Located near Britt, Ontario)

 

Bike Path(s): Grundy doesn’t have an official bike path. You can, however, bike around the campgrounds on the dirt roads. My family often bikes over to the cliffs or over to the park store for snacks.

Hiking Trails: Grundy does have good hiking trails. There are three official park trails ranging from 1.5 km to 3.6 km. The trails offer the possible sighting of Great Blue Herons and other wildlife.

Lake: Grundy has eight beaches open for swimming. The main beach is the most popular swimming spot. Northern Pike can be caught in the lake, and the park offers fishing lessons.

Boating: The park mostly has open water canoeing in the lake, but there is a small channel that connects you to the cliff jumping spots. Motorized boats are allowed at Grundy.

Cliff Jumping: Grundy has great cliff jumping. The park has three popular spots that campers often jump from. King Kong is known to be the big rock people jump off of. The jump is 25 feet and it’s rocky at the shoreline so you must jump up and out. Only the bravest campers jump off of King Kong, and I am not one of them. I stick to the 15-foot jump.

Overall: I always enjoy my time at Grundy. My family sets up a badminton net when we’re there, and we go cliff jumping and hiking everyday. It’s the perfect spot to make memories.

Algonquin Provincial Park

(Located an hour away from the closest town of Huntsville, Ontario)

 

Bike Path(s): There are numerous bike paths in Algonquin. Biking is one of the best ways to explore this large park. The biking paths range from 4.7 km to 23.4 km.

Hiking Trails: With 21 hiking trails, Algonquin is the place to go if you are a big hiker. One of the best trails is the Track and Tower Trail which is 7.7 km and takes about three hours to complete. The trail leads to a lookout over Cache Lake and the scenery is incredible.

Lake: Each of the eight campgrounds has its own designated swimming area and lake. I’ve camped at Pog Lake and Canisbay Lake, and I enjoyed swimming at both.

Boating: There are many lakes to canoe or boat in. I’ve canoed in Pog Lake and in The Lake of Two Rivers. Motor boats are permitted in some but not all of the lakes and there are rules based off of horsepower, all of which can be found on the website. There are over 2,100 km of canoe routes in Algonquin, some involving portaging, and you can even choose to camp in a site that you canoe to.

Overall: Algonquin is very large. Within the park there’s eight campgrounds, and that doesn’t even account for the other half of the park. The park has thousands of lakes in a variety of sizes. The majority of the park is a nature reserve and you can only really explore it by canoe. The portion of Algonquin that you can camp at is along a 56-kilometer stretch of Highway 60. Camping at Algonquin really makes you feel like you’re in another world. The closest town is an hour away and you are constantly surrounded by nature. Even driving from one end of the park to the other takes 30 minutes. The park is quite extraordinary and full of history. For art enthusiasts, you can see some of the many sights that Tom Thomas painted such as Canoe Lake, and even buy Tom Thomas souvenirs at the park store.

Awenda Provincial Park

(Located in Tiny, Ontario)

 

Bike Path(s): Awenda has three biking trails (the Beach, Bluff and Brule trails) that are shared with both hikers and bikers. The trails range from 1 km to 13 km.

Hiking Trails: Besides the three shared biking trails, Awenda has four other trails dedicated to hikers only.

Lake: Awenda has a beautiful but rocky beach on the shoreline of Georgian Bay. Although the rocks hurt on the way out, it’s a really enjoyable place to swim once you are past the small rocks. The beach is a short drive from most campsites.

Boating: Awenda has separate swimming and boating lakes. Awenda’s Kettle Lake is a popular spot for canoers and kayakers.  

Overall: I always enjoy going down to the beach to watch the sunset or stargaze at night. I’ve been camping at Awenda for eight years now, and the park is the perfect place to build memories with your family and friends.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

(Located on Lake Ontario near Picton, Ontario)

 

Bike Path(s): There are no designated biking trails, but there are walking paths that you can bike on. The trail I like to bike down is the Sandbanks Dunes Trail, which is 2.5 km and is considered to be a hiking trail. I stayed at the Woodlands Campground and the trail connected me to the sand dunes/beach.

Hiking Trails: There are three hiking trails ranging from 2 km to 3.5 km.

Lake: If you love the beach and spending the day in the sand and in the water, then Sandbanks is for you. The Lake is nice to swim in and the sand dunes are gorgeous.

Boating: Powerboats are allowed, but not near the swimming areas. Sandbanks is really a place for the beach, and when I camp there I don’t bring my canoe or kayak so I can not vouch for the boating quality, but it is all open water boating.

Overall: Sandbanks is a fun place to camp if you love the beach. The sand dunes are a cool sight to see and it’s lots of fun to run up and down the dunes, playing manhunt with your family. I enjoy going to Sandbanks but unfortunately I don’t get a chance to go often as it is a bit too far to drive to, especially with a dog who hates cars.

The Final Verdict:

Best Canoeing: Arrowhead Provincial Park

Best Hiking and Scenery: Algonquin Provincial Park

Best Swimming/Beach: Sandbanks Provincial Park

Best Cliff Jumping: Grundy Lake Provincial Park

Best Bike Trails: Awenda Provincial Park

Now you know what each park is known for and hopefully you can pick a campground more easily based on your preferences. Whether that’s a beach like at Sandbanks, scenery like at Algonquin or whatever makes you a happy camper!

All photos courtesy of Averie Severs.