Not too long ago I came across a post in my Facebook feed. I don’t remember the exact wording but it went along the lines of: if you don’t embrace winter, you will still have the same amount of winter and way more misery. Or maybe it was “embrace snow”? Anyway, the point is: rather than complaining about the weather and waiting for winter to go away, it’s way more fun to get outside and enjoy it.
A little cabin in the woods is your gateway to enjoying winter
I wasn’t always a big fan of winter but what helped me learn to love it, apart from good boots and a proper winter coat and snow pants, was winter camping. I guess I should say “glamping” because while we enjoy an occasional winter adventure in a tent, we prefer to stay in a yurt or a cabin. This way we can get the best of both worlds: all the beauty and excitement of winter combined with basic creature comforts. So if you are entertaining the idea of winter camping but are worried about cold weather, roofed accommodations are a great way to ease into the experience.
What could be better than a campfire on a winter day with a cozy yurt to retreat into once it gets too chilly
Now, when it comes to roofed accommodations in Ontario, there are a number of options to choose from. In this post, I will cover the places where we stayed. They are what I’d call within a reasonable driving distance from Toronto. (Is seven hours a reasonable driving distance? Well, it will be up to you to decide.) That means I will not be talking about places like Quetico and Sleeping Giant since we haven’t made our way there in the winter. Yet. (I did visit Sleeping Giant in the winter once but just for a day hike, not an overnight stay).
One day I hope to revisit Sleeping Giant in the winter and stay in one of the park’s cottages
I will also venture outside of Ontario, a little to the south and to the east just to show that there are other options available. So here we go.
Roofed accommodations in Ontario
What is a yurt you ask? If the name makes you think of the tents of the nomadic people from the steppes of central Asia, you are absolutely right: that’s where the inspiration came from. These modern tent-like structures sit on wooden platforms and have either electric or propane heat (except for several yurts in Silent Lake with wood stoves) so they are pretty warm and cozy inside.
Snowy morning in Pinery Provincial Park
Inside you will find two bunk beds that can accommodate up to six people as well as a table with four chairs. Sometimes there is also shelving and coat hooks. Yurts have lots of windows that can be opened to let in daylight (not sure if open is the right word for peeling off outer covers inside and out to reveal a transparent inner layer), and there is electric lighting to read or play board games on long winter nights (again, with the exception of four yurts in Silent Lake that have no electricity).
Inside a yurt: two bunk beds, a table with chairs – everything you need for a comfortable stay
Cooking is not permitted inside yurts. For that purpose, there is a propane BBQ with a side burner right outside (Algonquin is the only park that doesn’t provide BBQs in the winter). You will also find a picnic table and a fire pit just like on any other campsite.
All yurts have a picnic table outside – a great spot for lunch on warmer days
Cooking made easy with a BBQ right outside, or you can go a more adventurous route and cook over a campfire
Yurts in the winter are available in the following parks
MacGregor Point Provincial Park has 16 yurts in total, the most of all Ontario Parks. All of them are located at the Birch Boulevard loop and are accessible by car. A comfort station with flush toilets is less than five minutes away.
After a fun-filled day at MacGregor Point, yurts are a great place for a sing-along
Pinery Provincial Park has 12 yurts open year around. All the yurts are located at the Riverside Campground within a close proximity to a heated comfort station. They all come with spacious decks and BBQs although not all of them provide a shelter so cooking on a rainy day will mean getting a little wet. Four of the yurts have been recently upgraded.
Read more about our yurting adventures at Pinery:
Yurts at Pinery come with big decks and a ramp
Silent Lake Provincial Park offers eight yurts in the winter starting mid-December. Four of the yurts (## 97, 99, 103, and 106) at the Granite Ridge campground have electricity, gas heating and can be accessed directly in your car. The other four come without electricity (so a good lamp is essential) and require a bit of walking from the parking lot, somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes depending on the yurt. So be prepared to transport all your gear. Two toboggans are provided for that purpose next to each parking spot.
Our beloved yurt # 5 at Silent Lake
These yurts have a wood stove, and wood is provided for free in a large bin right outside. (Please note that it is for inside use only, you will need to purchase wood from the office for your campfire). Outhouses are available close by. The only comfort station open during the winter is located near the day-use area, about a five-minute drive. Since this is where you will be getting your water, make sure to bring large enough containers to cut down on your driving.
More about yurts at Silent Lake:
Half of Silent Lake’s yurts come with wood stoves
Wood along with an ax is available right outside
Killarney Provincial Park has six yurts available year round. Park roads don’t get cleared in the winter so a 500-metre walk is required to get to the yurts. Toboggans are provided near the office to transport gear. The deck outside features a BBQ and a food locker. Two heated washrooms with flush toilets and a water tap are located near the park office, which means a one-kilometre round-trip walk with every bathroom visit or water run. Some people don’t enjoy that particular feature of Killarney’s winter camping experience but I think it’s all part of the fun. Just think of it as an additional workout!
One of the walk-in yurts in Killarney
Algonquin Provincial Park offers seven yurts at its Mew Lake campground. They don’t have a BBQ in the winter so make sure to bring a stove or be prepared to cook on the campfire (may take a while in the winter). A comfort station is a short walk away.
More about our yurt stay in Algonquin:
To learn more about fun things to do in Algonquin in the winter, you can also read:
Algonquin’s yurts don’t have a BBQ in the winter so better bring your camp stove
Windy Lake Provincial Park only has four yurts so they are a great option if you are looking for some solitude. All four yurts are about a ten-minute walk or ski from the parking lot. There is a vault toilet nearby (it is heated and has lighting but still smells) or you can use a proper bathroom in the ski hut by the parking lot (campers are given a code to access it afterhours).
More about Windy Lake park’s yurts and things to do:
One of the four yurts at Windy Lake
Yurts in Windy Lake are a short walk away from the parking lot
During my recent trip to Pinery, I discovered that the park has started upgrading their yurts as has MacGregor Point. (Possibly other places as well but these are the only two I’ve seen with my own eyes). Since then, we were lucky to stay in one at MacGregor Point thanks to someone’s last minute cancellation. So now I can share my excitement about these beautiful accommodations.
New yurts at MacGregor Point are more spacious with a large covered deck
These new structures are twice the size of the old yurts, which means a proper size table – hello board game nights! They also have gas fireplaces and light sconces, which fixes two of my biggest pet peeves with the old yurts: an electric heater (way too noisy and not always effective) and harsh fluorescent lighting. And finally, my personal favourite – they feature a huge skylight that provides lots of light during the day and stargazing opportunities at night.
Inside a new yurt: the same bunk beds
New yurts feature a much larger table, perfect for board game nights
Skylight – the best feature of the new yurts
So far, Pinery has four new yurts (## 477, 478, 480A and 480D). When we visited MacGregor Point last November, there were only two (## 46 and 48) but it looked like more were on the way.
Camp cabins are more recent additions to Ontario Parks. They are larger and fancier than yurts and spot beautiful wooden interior. Cabins can accommodate up to five people with a queen-size bed and a double/single bunk bed. In addition to a table, chairs and some cabinets, cabins offer a mini fridge, a microwave oven, a kettle and a coffee maker. They also have a large, covered porch, perfect for storing gear. Camp cabins come with a deck and a BBQ outside.
Camp cabins are a fairly new addition to Ontario Parks
Camp cabins feature beautiful wooden interior, a gas fireplace and basic appliances
A covered porch is great for storing gear
Camp cabins are now available at several Ontario Parks. Below are the ones that are open in the winter.
Arrowhead Provincial Park is the winter fun central with its famous skating loop, miles of skiing and snowshoeing trails, a tubing hill, gear rentals and a newly opened visitor centre. The park has ten camp cabins close to all the winter delights and within a close walking distance (2-10 minutes depending on the cabin) from the parking lot and a comfort station with heated flush toilets and a dishwashing room. They are hard to book so some persistence might be required. For years, we couldn’t get in there until this past winter, when by some camping miracle, we managed to book a cabin in Arrowhead not once, not twice, but three times.
Read more about camp cabins and all the fun things you can do at Arrowhead:
All of Arrowhead’s cabins are within a short walking distance from the parking lot and a comfort station. Cabin 222 comes with its own detached bathroom.
What a great way to start the morning
Killarney Provincial Park only has two cabins, both away from the yurts for some added privacy, although right next to each other. Killarney was our first foray into camp cabins when a couple of years ago we were lucky to book one for New Year’s. Since then, we also got to stay at the second cabin for a memorable Family Day trip. Both cabins are about 500 metres away from the parking lot so everything about transporting gear and going to the bathroom in the yurt section above applies here as well.
More about Killarney in the winter, its fabulous camp cabins and things you can do:
Both cabins in Killarney are about 500 metres away from the parking lot
Killarney provides plenty of sleds to transport gear
Silent Lake is another park with ten camp cabins, all next to the day use area with its fabulous comfort station. All of the cabins are drive-in so no need to walk or lug gear. Two things make Silent Lake cabins different. The park charges a deposit, which they then return after inspecting the cabin before you leave. Each cabin has a name and a theme to go with it. We stayed at Black Bear’s Den. Our Black Bear’s Den adventure is captured in words and a video in this post:
Black Bear’s Den cabin at Silent Lake is cozy and inviting
Cabin’s decor reflected the theme: we counted 19 bears on curtains, pictures and lamps
Windy Lake has only two cabins, both located down by the lake so you get to wake up to the frozen expanse right outside your window. There are two vault toilets nearby, both with electricity and heat. Read about our stay at one of the cabins at Windy Lake and watch a video about all the great things you can do there:
Cabins at Windy Lake are a great place to cap the day of skiing, snowshoeing and winter adventuring
And you get to enjoy morning coffee with a view
For more information about roofed accommodations in Ontario Parks, visit: http://www.ontarioparks.com/roofedaccommodation
To book a cabin or a yurt, go to: https://reservations.ontarioparks.com/OntarioParks
oTENTiks at Point Pelee
oTENTik is a pun name for permanent A-frame canvas structures in National Parks of Canada. Point Pelee on the Lake Erie coast got its 24 oTENTiks a little about a year ago and we’ve already stayed there three times.
oTENTiks at Point Pelee offer glamping at its best
Inside you will find bunk beds, a table with four chairs, a kitchen island with some basic cooking and eating utensils (a pan, frying pans, plates, cups, glasses, spoons and forks, knives, a spatula, a can opener, a water jug – everything you need to prepare and consume a meal). The deck features two Muskoka chairs in a different colour for each oTENTik, and there is a BBQ outside. Oh, there is also a bear-proof food locker. (Not that there are bears at Point Pelee but pesky raccoons are frequent visitors.) Half of oTENTiks have gas heating and the other half comes with a wood stove, always my preferred option. Park staff deliver wood right to the oTENTik. During our most recent stay there, they stopped by twice just to ask if we needed anything.
oTENTiks have lots of beds and a nice big table
Relaxing by the fire inside or out
Each oTENTik comes with two Muskoka chairs in different colours
Some of the newer oTENTiks come with smaller shelving units and tables not very conducive to board games
Half of the oTENTiks feature wood stoves
All oTENTiks are walk-ins with lots of wagons available to transport gear. There are two comfort stations – one for each loop – with bathrooms, showers, a laundry room and the fanciest, industrial quality dishwashing room I’ve ever seen in a park.
All oTENTiks are walk-ins with wagons to transport gear
More information about oTENTiks is available here: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/pelee/activ/otentik
To book one, go to https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/PointPelee/CampHenry (this link doesn’t always work properly so you may need to click on it more than once or try copy and paste).
Read more about two of our Point Pelee glamping trips:
Four-season tents at Gatineau Park
We are now leaving Ontario to explore other roofed accommodation options or, as they call them in Gatineau, ready-to-camp units. While Gatineau is technically in Quebec, it’s no more than 30 minutes away from Ottawa so we aren’t getting far away from Ontario just yet. Four-season tents are basically oTENTiks without a smart name and are more rustic.
Four-season tents in Gatineau are oTENTiks without a clever name
They do look a bit different inside but also come with bunk beds, a table and chairs, a kitchen counter with cooking paraphernalia (no plates, cups, spoons or forks though so make sure to bring those). There is no electricity but a small solar lamp is surprisingly efficient. A wood stove provides heat and a place to cook. Although, there is also a BBQ if you prefer that. Wood is available right outside. A couple of outhouses are within a close walking distance.
Multi-level beds are great for sleeping and climbing
A kitchen nook with some cooking paraphernalia and a wood stove to cook delicious meals
A wood stove always adds a certain ambience to the room
There are four tents in total, and all four are almost four kilometres away from the parking lot. You can choose whether you want to snowshoe or ski in with your gear but make sure to bring a sled. Also, don’t forget water because melting snow is a time consuming process. Transportation service is available at an additional cost. You can also order a large jug of water to be delivered right to your site.
Lots of wood available close by
In addition to four-season tents, Gatineau also has yurts and cabins that can accommodate anywhere between 4 and 17 people. All accommodations are rustic and require walking, which is part of the attraction. We absolutely fell in love with our four-season tent after we rang in New Year there a couple of years ago. It is unfortunate Ontario Parks don’t offer backcountry cabins like that in the winter.
Gatineau also features cabins and yurts
For more information about ready-to-camp accommodations in Gatineau Park, visit http://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places-to-visit/gatineau-park/camping-accommodation/ready-to-camp
To book a four-season tent, a yurt or a cabin, go to https://reservations.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/Home.aspx
See more pictures and read about our adventures in Gatineau Park:
Cabins in Quebec
Once we stayed at a rustic four-season tent in Gatineau, we wanted more of that solitude and hard work so we started looking even more to the east and a little bit up north. That’s when I discovered SEPAQ – a provincial park system in Quebec. Quebec parks offer a much broader range of roofed accommodations than Ontario: from fancy eco-cabins and cottages to rustic backcountry shelters. Last year we decided to go with La Cigale – a rustic cabin in Parc National d’Aiguebelle.
La Cigale rustic shelter at Parc national d’Aiguebelle in Quebec
Sure, it was a challenging four-kilometre snowshoe hike up a hill to get there but the view and complete solitude of that experience are remembered often and, for the most part, fondly in our family. If it wasn’t for our desire to try something new every year, we’d be back in that cabin ringing in 2019. This year, we are also heading to Quebec, this time to Parc National du Mont-Mégantic where we have a backcountry cabin booked for New Year’s. So come back in January to read about that trip.
La Cigale came with a trek up a hill and a phenomenal view
Now going back to La Cigale, the cabin was fairly small but there was enough space for the four of us. It came with a table and benches, a wood stove with wood stacked in a shed outside. There was a propane camping stove (you have to bring your own gas) but we never used it – a wood stove worked just fine. The outhouse offered an invigorating experience every time we had to use it. It was a blast.
The cabin was small but there was enough room for our family of four
The other side of the cabin
And the cabin tour is done
In addition to La Cigale, the park offers a number of other rustic shelters, all named after bugs. Some of the cabins can be accessed in a car, others require even more skiing or snowshoeing. If lugging gear is not your thing, you can order a transportation service directly from the park but some French will be required. Speaking of French, the reservation system is available in both languages and the central calling service has people speaking English as well.
No winter trip is complete without a board game
For more information about roofed accommodations in Quebec parks, go to https://www.sepaq.com/hebergement/index.dot?language_id=1
To book your stay, visit https://www.sepaq.com/reservation/
And to read all about our New Year celebration at d’Aiguebelle, go here:
Cabins in Allegany State Park
If you don’t mind going a little south of the border, then Allegany in the State of New York is a great place to visit. It is our fallback destination whenever we miss a reservation deadline for Ontario Parks. With over a hundred winterized cabins in the park, there are always a few available even last minute. The park is less than three hours away from Toronto so works even for a quick weekend getaway. The town of Salamanca where you can get groceries and firewood is only a ten-minute drive away.
Cabins on the Summit Loop in Allegany State Park
View from our cabin on the Congdon Loop in Allegany
I know a hundred cabins sounds crowded but the park is huge and the cabins are scattered all around it in loops. So at any given moment you’ll be in close proximity to no more than twenty cabins or so. Each loop offers accommodations of different shapes and sizes but they all come with beds, tables and benches, a kitchen area, which includes a full-size fridge and a full-size stove with an oven and all. So say goodbye to cooking outdoors. Quite a perk on a cold winter day. Some cabins come with electric heat, others have gas. All of them have electric lighting, and each loop has a blistering hot (I am not exaggerating) comfort station.
Allegany’s cabins all have a full-size fridge, a stove and long tables – perfect for family meals and board games
Some cabins are one-room with bunk beds, others come with separate bedrooms
So far, we’ve stayed in a cabin on three different loops: Sugarbush, Congdon and Summit. The Sugarbush cabin was a bit worn out, and getting on the upper bunk required some physical prowess. Congdon cabins were all sparkly and new, and came with stairs to get to the upper bunks. The Summit Cabins are the most convenient if you plan to do some skiing as they are located right next to the Art Roscoe Nordic Centre with ski trails and gear rentals. A toboggan hill is also nearby. They are more spacious than one-room cabins at Sugarbush and Congdon – with two bedrooms and a dining/kitchen room.
Cabins on the Sugarbush Loop were a bit worn out
Two bundles of wood might have been a mistake but at least there was no shortage of campfires
For more information about Allegany State Park and to book a cabin, go to https://www.reserveamerica.com/camping/allegany-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=31
Posts about our winter trips to Allegany State Park:
Here are some bad news: roofed accommodations in Ontario Parks get booked months in advance, five month to be exact, especially for holiday weekends. Does that mean you will have to wait till next year? Here are some tips on how to fit a winter glamping trip in the next few months.
- If you can get away in the middle of the week, go for it. Not only is it easier to find a cabin or a yurt, there will be fewer day visitors, which means trails all to yourself.
- It’s hard to predict the future when you are booking a site five months in advance: plans change, new engagements come up. So keep checking for last minute cancellations. That’s how we managed to get to MacGregor Point in November and visit Arrowhead three times at the beginning of the year.
- Try Point Pelee National Park. With oTENTiks being fairly new, they aren’t as popular yet so you have a better chance of getting one for your preferred date.
- SEPAQ parks in Quebec have lots of options so if you don’t mind driving a bit further, there will be a cabin waiting for you.
- As I already mentioned, Allegany State Park almost never runs out of options.
- Once you book your stay, make sure to connect with the park regarding their check-in procedures, especially if you are planning to arrive late. Keep in mind that office hours are usually much shorter in the winter.
We are now on the lookout for a yurt or a cabin for mid-January so the Ontario Park reservations is my most visited page. And if that doesn’t work out, we haven’t been to Allegany in quite some time.
Enjoy your winter glamping trip and we look forward to seeing you out there!