How to Enjoy Ontario’s Provincial Parks Responsibly
Ontario is home to over 330 Provincial Parks. The parks cover 82,000 square km, which is about 8% of the land mass of Ontario. Almost one third of the Ontario Parks have camping and facilities for visitors. They’re home to 19,000 car accessible campsites, over 8,000 backcountry/wilderness campsites and countless opportunities to enjoy Ontario’s beautiful landscapes.
Ontario Parks’ Mission
- Protection: To permanently protect representative ecosystems, biodiversity, and provincially significant elements of Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage, and to manage these areas to ensure that ecological integrity is maintained.
- Recreation: To provide opportunities for ecologically sustainable outdoor recreation and encourage associated economic benefits.
- Education: To provide opportunities for residents of Ontario and visitors to increase their knowledge and appreciation of Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage.
- Science: To facilitate scientific research and provide points of reference to support the monitoring of ecological change on the broader landscape.
- Visitors also have a role to play in the long-term sustainability of Ontario’s Provincial Parks by showing respect and consideration for the environment, wildlife and other park visitors at all times.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while visiting Ontario Parks:
Pick up your trash
There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a beautiful park only to find that the trails, beaches and picnic areas are littered with garbage left behind by those who visited earlier. Unfortunately, as visitation numbers rise, the ‘leave no trace’ principles are sometimes forgotten. These principles guide visitors on to have as minimal an impact as possible on the natural world. So please remember, if you’re new to camping or to visiting Ontario Parks, utilize proper receptacles available to you in parks or bring your trash home with you whenever possible.
Stay on marked trails and maintain the natural environment
When exploring an Ontario Park, stay on marked trails, roads and campsites. This will ensure visitors stay safe and the environment stays healthy. Do not touch any plant life or wildlife, remembering they are both protected in provincial parks.
Some great memories can be made around a campfire. But campfires can also be dangerous. Before building a fire, always make sure that there are no fire bans in the area. Firewood and kindling can be purchased locally or in parks that have a camp store. Never gather wood from the forest, even if it has fallen. Don’t bring firewood from home for risk of introducing invasive species. And always remember that fires are only permitted in designated fire pits and cooking areas.
Be mindful of visitor limits
To avoid over-crowding, parks offer limited campsites and limited day passes. If you are intending to spend a day, it is recommended that you arrive either before 10:30 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. when parks are less busy. Weekdays are generally quieter than weekends, but be mindful that parks are very popular destinations in summer when more people take vacation. If you are in your vehicle and lined up to enter a park, be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t toss your garbage out the window, don’t lay on your horn if traffic is not moving quickly, and be careful of pedestrians in the area. You may have travelled quite a distance to get to an Ontario Park, but many locals also enjoy nearby parks.
Look further afield
Many Ontario Parks located closer to large major centres are quite popular destinations, as are the most iconic parks. So when choosing a park for your trip, look at those that may take longer to travel to and are perhaps less well known (though no less stunning) as these parks may be less crowded. In a time when uncrowded space is so important, and many people are dreaming of quiet getaways, a visit to a park in Northern Ontario may be a perfect option. Still, be sure to book well in advance. You can book your campsite up to 180 days prior to your arrival.
The five busiest Ontario Parks are:
- Algonquin Provincial Park
- Killbear Provincial Park
- Pinery Provincial Park
- Sandbanks Provincial Park
- Bon Echo Provincial Park
Booking can be done via telephone toll free (North America wide) by dialing 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275) or you can book online.
So get out and enjoy an Ontario Provincial Park, remembering that we all must do our part to protect these Ontario treasures.