Start Planning Your Summer 2018 Camping: Reviews of Ontario Provincial Parks

I spent last summer camping with an 18-foot trailer and a 90-pound German Shepherd Dog named Milo. Looking out at the mounds of snow in my backyard, I’m longing for some summer camping. And since you can reserve campsites in Ontario Provincial Parks five months in advance, it is time to start booking sites. I want to return to the best Ontario provincial parks for camping that I visited last summer.


As I was scrolling through last summer’s blog posts, I realized that I was happy in every single place, even the ones that were less than perfect. I’m mostly just happy to be camping. But some places were nicer than others and so here are my reviews of the Ontario provincial park campgrounds that I stayed in last summer:

Aaron Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Balsam Lake Provincial Park: A good place for human contact (no ghosts)
Lots of sites (not all of them but lots of them) at Balsam Lake are just parking places in a big field. If you want to stay here, book early and look closely at the pictures of your potential campsite to make sure it is a place you really want to be.

Caliper Lake Provincial Park: Needs hobbits
Caliper Lake Provincial Park: Quick notes on the campground

Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
I was leery when I arrived because my site was in a campground called “Trailer,” but it was gorgeous, so don’t be put off by the name.
Swan Lake Trail (at Grundy)

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park: Great for people, stinky for dogs

Killbear Provincial Park
Lookout Point Trail at Killbear Provincial Park
The off-leash dog beach is fabulous at Killbear

MacGregor Point Provincial Park: Beautiful sunsets over Lake Huron
MacGregor Point Provincial Park: Yurts and how to say “Hi” to Milo

Mississagi Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada: Here be dragons
When I was at Mississagi, it was wild and empty. 😀

The Beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Pancake Bay has a super dog beach.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada 

White Lake Provincial Park, Ontario: Home away from home

Happy Camping Friends!

Mississagi Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada: Here be dragons

My navigation system expressed some concern about Mississagi. On the way to our campsite it warned me that we were entering an area of “incomplete map data,” and told me to “proceed with caution.” In my perfect world, it would have said, “here be dragons.” I was so pleased–this was the sort of camping I feared I’d lost when I bought a travel trailer.

My last stop was at Grundy Lake Provincial Park—a large professionally run park with programing and staff in pressed uniforms. A tousled teenager in a red T-shirt staffed the gate at Mississagi. The park only has 60 campsites, and I saw a total of six people during my stay. There was no cell service.

path from campsiteMy campsite had a path down to a tiny rocky beach and Milo and I spent most of our time sitting by the water’s edge. Every once in a while, I’d trundle up to the camper to get a snack and refresh my insect repellent. One afternoon a couple canoed by. That is all.

silhouette of a German shepherd dog at the edge of a blue lake surrounded by a pine forest.

This place is perfect, and I’ll be back.

Swan Lake Trail

During our stay at Grundy Lake Provincial Park Milo and I went on a guided hike along the Swan Lake Trail. I’ve found the Ontario Parks websites informative and easy to navigate. Here is how the Grundy website describes this hike:

Swan Lake Trail – 1.5 km loop (1 hour) moderate to difficult. 
Wind through a special area in the park which is protected as a nature reserve. This short hike crosses rocky ridges and lookouts as well as a variety of interesting wetlands. The centerpiece of the trail includes a boardwalk, where wetland plants and animals can be studied. While there, be sure to watch for the Great Blue Heron, beaver, waterfowl, bitterns and other varieties of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, deer, moose and carnivorous plants.

dark green coniferous trees reflected in a body of water.

Swan Lake

Three crisply uniformed Park staff members lead this hike.

Close up of pine needles on a branch

I learned that White Pines look fluffy and have five needles in a bunch. ‘White,’ has five letters: five needles–I won’t forget this!

From their new boots and notepads, I assume two of them were trainees. They showed us where the rocks were scratched by glaciers, identified carnivorous plants in the nutrient-poor lake water, and even pointed out a pine tree where a black-backed woodpecker nested the previous season. Our questions received full, interesting answers.

As we were getting ready to set out I asked the hike leader if I could bring my dog. She said, “Absolutely, as long as he is on a leash.” Hurray. Milo flirted outrageously with the other hikers. When we stopped to look at something I put him in a down-stay to keep him out of the way, but he was so besotted with the hike leader that he’d belly crawl up to her, all the while staying ‘down.’ Not obedience competition winning behaviour, but he made the crowd smile.

This hike was beautiful and fun, and I am grateful I could share it with Milo.

German Shepherd laying on a grey rock.

Milo taking a little break from the Swan Lake hike.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada–great for dogs!

Grundy Lake Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada is a good place to camp with your dog. Except for the beaches, you can take your leashed dog everywhere in the park, and there is a waterfront leash-free pet exercise area. The pet area, adjacent to a parking lot and boat launch, is not the prettiest part of the park, but it does offer a lovely view across the lake, and Milo didn’t seem to notice the aesthetic drawbacks.

grundy dog beach 1

Pet exercise area at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

Probably due to the convenient parking, this pet exercise area gets used. Every time Milo the AwesomeDog and I showed up we met one or two other dogs. Since people tended to keep a close eye on their dogs I felt comfortable letting Milo enjoy this swimming spot.

German shepherd running along the shore of a lake.

Just a dog and his ball at the beach.

Although when one woman did show up with five kids and two big dogs, Milo and I beat a quick retreat. That just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Overall though, Milo spent enough time swimming to tucker him out, which is really the point.

German shepherd trotting along the shore of a lake.

Milo enjoying Grundy Lake.


Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Grundy Lake is a great place to camp with an RV trailer.  The park is large—almost 500 campsites—but those sites are grouped into several smaller and more intimate campgrounds.

Campgrounds with names like Poplar, Jack Pine, and Balsam. Walking into the park office was exciting because this would be be the first time I’d be camping with an electrical hook-up. My enthusiasm waned somewhat as I was assigned to a campground whimsically and romantically named “Trailer.”

Happily, it turns out that Trailer is a great little campground. Its large sites are ringed by mature spruce, pine, beach, and birch trees, which provide both shade and privacy. The campground is quiet and has feeling about it that encourages slow deep breaths.

Grundy Lake campsite

My site in the campground named ‘Trailer.’

I spent the previous two days at Killbear Provincial Park where I camped in the midst of a gaggle of young families—children tearing all over the place, dogs barking, clotheslines draped with beach towels, bedding, and underpants. The general hubbub reminded me of family camping trips when I was little.

Trailer at Grundy Lake has a completely different character. My 18-foot camper was the little one on the block and my neighbors were mostly retired couples in a very different phase of their financial life cycle than the young families at Killbear. The happy babble of kids was replaced with bird song and the sound of crackling fires. Sigh.

I have to admit that I was grateful for the electricity. For the past week or so the weather switched back and forth between torrential rain and blistering heat. I pulled up on a blistering heat day, but the rain left a gift–clouds of droning mosquitos. For some reason, I had to wrestle with the weight distribution bars when unhitching the trailer (looking back I think this was because the site wasn’t level) and by the time I had camp set up, I was a cranky, sweaty, mosquito-bitten mess. I walked into the camper and for the first time ever turned on its AC.

At full blast, it had my trailer at meat locker temperature in about six minutes and I could turn it off and take a delicious nap. That evening Milo and I took a long walk and as we were sitting down to dinner it started to rain. What a treat to be able to retreat into my cozy, dry camper, make a cup of tea, plug in my computer, and settle in for an evening of writing.