ontario parks reservations

Campers made more than 58K reservations at Ontario parks in the first few weeks of 2021

While Toronto may still be in the thick of winter with more snow on the ground than we've seen all season, it seems many Ontarians are already making summer plans. 

And though that may seem a little hasty to some, anyone hoping to go camping in a provincial park when the warm weather arrives would be wise to prepare in advance too, because campers made a whopping 58,475 reservations at Ontario Parks campsites in just the first few weeks of 2021.

According to Ontario Parks, this represents an almost 100 per cent increase in bookings made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5 compared to the same time last year, when just 29,504 reservations were made.

"With double the number of customers attempting to make reservations during the months of July and August compared to last year, it is more competitive when trying to obtain a site," says Ontario Parks. 

"In many instances there can be hundreds of customers vying for the same site for the same arrival date."

As a result, Ontario Parks created a tip sheet to help prospective campers avoid the headache that is trying to book a campsite in 2021.

The first tip, as previously mentioned, is to plan in advance and book early. 

Ontario Parks says their online reservation system opens at 7 a.m., five months in advance of the first date of a trip, so those who want the best chance of getting their dream site should pick a campsite in advance, prep their device and book as soon as the window opens.

"And if you're aiming for one of our five busiest parks," they wrote, "have a few back-up sites on your list — those parks fill fast."

The five most popular provincial parks in Ontario are Algonquin Provincial ParkKillbear Provincial ParkPinery Provincial ParkSandbanks Provincial Park and Bon Echo Provincial Park, so trying out a new, less popular location is also a good idea this year. 

Ontario Parks even provided some suggested alternatives to their busiest parks if the one you're hoping to stay at is all booked up.

And if you're not able to book your preferred campsite well in advance, Ontario Parks actually recommends waiting until the last minute instead. 

"Not all of us know our vacation days five months in advance," reads the tip sheet. "Our parks get thousands of cancellations every year, many at the last minute. Savvy campers keep a close eye on the reservation system, ready to snatch up newly available sites."

Campers should also be sure to double-check their selected filters when trying to book a site, and Ontario Parks says the more flexible you're able to be about campsite specifics, the easier it'll be to land one — especially at a busy park or during a busy weekend.

Electric sites in particular and sites that accommodate large RVs are extremely popular, according to the tip sheet.

Booking on weekdays or during shoulder seasons is also a good trick if you're hoping to stay at a coveted park or site, as campsites and cabin/yurt rentals tend to book up quickly on weekends, holidays and during peak vacation times (July/August).

Finally, Ontario Parks recommends booking a trip further north if you're looking for a more secluded campsite, a campsite on a busy weekend or holiday or simply wants to see "awe-inspiring natural beauty."

"This recommendation is one we provide annually, but we recognize that 2021 is not a typical season," notes Ontario Parks. "We're counting on everyone to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following the advice of public health officials."

Lead photo by

Jack Nobre

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