Love Canada’s oldest provincial park in the warmer seasons? Then you’ll be delighted to learn that Algonquin Park is a fascinating place to visit in the winter too.
Year-round trails, pristine snow and the vast solitude of Algonquin Park’s network of ski and snowshoe trails or backcountry adventures are the main draws, but there’s so much more to see and do in the great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto. Here are just a few suggestions:
Fireside Chats with Park Staff
New this year are fireside chats with park naturalists at West Gate! On weekends, gate staff will keep a fire going and the gatehouse open for warming and rendez-vous-ing. Park naturalists will talk about all the beautiful creatures to watch out for while you visit, and you can ask all the questions you want.
Follow the Algonquin Park Facebook page for schedule and details.
Grab the ‘Shoes
When it comes to snowshoeing in Algonquin Park, the great appeal is the endless terrain to explore. For beginners, the Old Railway Trail out of Mew Lake Campground or the Spruce Bog Boardwalk are a good place to start. For more experienced snowshoers: try tackling the Centennial Ridges Trail, a very demanding 10.4 km loop trail, or the Mizzy Lake Trail, an almost 11 km trail that requires planning for an early start and a full day to complete.
Winter In The Wild Festival
The Friends of Algonquin Park and Ontario Parks have announced the return of the annual Winter in the Wild Festival, happening this year on February 17, 2024 (the Saturday of Ontario’s popular Family Day weekend).
This family-friendly festival celebrates winter in Algonquin Park through indoor and outdoor events held at various locations throughout the Highway 60 corridor of the park, including many at the Algonquin Visitor Centre. For complete event details click here.
Whether you’re a cross-country skiing expert or a beginner looking for an easy glide through the woods, Algonquin has a trail for you. There are 85 km of groomed and track-set trails across three networks, consisting of loops of varying lengths and difficulties.
If you are new to skiing, try the multi-purpose trail that starts at Mew Lake. It crosses the Old Airfield, and connects with the historic Old Railway Bike Trail.
The Fen Lake Trail system winds through hardwood forests typical of Algonquin’s west side. Here you’ll find 18 km of groomed and track set ski lanes. The trail offers stunning views and some challenging terrain.
The Leaf Lake Ski Trail system is a premiere cross-country ski trail well-suited for experienced skiers. It features multiple loops that vary from easy to very challenging, with steep uphill sections and long downhills. The trails go through hardwood forests and offer lookouts and views of a number of lakes. There’s plenty to explore with 45 km of groomed and track set trails.
The Mew Lake Campground has become the epicenter of winter in Algonquin Park, with so much going on. Campsites and yurts are reservable up to five months in advance through the centralized Ontario Parks Reservation System only. Sites are plowed as time and weather allow.
Snowshoeing, fat biking, backcountry skiing – you can do it all here. Perhaps the most memorable experience is the chance to lace up your skates for a few laps on the spectacular ice rink that’s surrounded by iconic Canadian pines. Relax by the outdoor fire pit as the rink-side lights keep things lively into the night. If you bring some friends or make some new ones, there are nets and enough hockey sticks for a quintessential northern experience of a game of shinny.
Whatever you do, ice skates should definitely be on your winter in Algonquin gear list!
Camp Cabins are also reservable in Algonquin Park during the winter months as well. These one-room, roofed and accessible cabins are also located in the Mew Lake Campground and easily accessible by vehicle. A fully-winterized comfort station (flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities) is also available there.
Fat Bike Fun
Algonquin’s Old Railway Bike Trail is the place to be if your prefer two peddle power. The approximately 12 km trail, stretching from Pog Lake to Cache Lake along the out-of-use rail bed, is typically groomed during winter to allow for walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking. This mostly-flat trail is a good way to take in the sights and sounds of Algonquin Park. You can arrange fat bike rentals at Algonquin Outfitters or The Bike Shop in Huntsville.
Winter Rentals Near Algonquin Park
Not sure how to dress or what to have with you in winter? Need some gear? These outfitters are here to help make your snowy adventure a success:
Algonquin Accommodations Whitney (free rentals and Algonquin Park Day Pass for guests)
Algonquin Basecamp Kearney (winter camping rentals)
Algonquin Outfitters Huntsville & Oxtongue Lake
Camp Bongopix Whitney
Voyageur Outfitting Algonquin Park Access Point 1
Guided Winter Tours in Algonquin Park
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Check the Ontario Parks Snow Report for updated ski and snow conditions before you set off on your Algonquin Park adventure!
Not just Algonquin Park
Algonquin is not the only provincial park in the area which offers winter activities. Arrowhead Provincial Park has incredible winter activities with great snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails. There is also the famous skating trail – the first of its kind in Ontario. Visitors must have a day permit to visit the park, and these sell out quickly. Check the Ontario Parks booking site to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun.
Killbear Provincial Park near Parry Sound, Ontario is new to the open-in-winter scene, and they’re making up for it big time! There are 32 drive-to-electrical campsites and a fully winterized comfort station, which features flush toilets and hot water. The area is also becoming famous for its snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, so wrap up in some warm layers and get out and explore!
This winter, discover all that Algonquin Park has to offer. For general park information, including details on permits, updated snow plowing, parking and visitor experiences in the winter months, click here.
To plan your stay in the great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto, click here.
Featured photo of the Algonquin Park moose by wildlife photographer Colin Bruce.
Find him on Instagram