Imagine a quiet evening with no cars to be heard—you and your partner or some friends cozied up in a cabin in the woods, with a fire blazing, snow falling gently outside and some toasty drinks in your mugs. This, my friends, can be your reading week reality, and it’s much simpler than it seems! Here is everything you need to know for a one-night trip to Algonquin Provincial Park.
How to get there
One of the best things about Algonquin: it’s only a three-hour drive from downtown Toronto. In the time it takes you to commute home during rush hour, you could be heading out on an adventure to one of the most award-winning and popular natural spots in Canada!
If you don’t have a car because, hello, you live in Toronto, Enterprise CarShare is a great option. Unlike many rental companies, you don’t have to be 25 years old to use this car-sharing service. It’s fairly affordable, especially when split with friends, and it’s very easy to sign up and to use. With rates starting at $8.25 an hour or $65 a day, this step is no biggie. Another easy way to get there for the same cost is Parkbus, a bus service that runs from downtown Toronto to various parks and conservation areas in Ontario all year round.
Where to stay
Not everyone is an avid camper, let alone an avid winter camper, so choose your level of wilderness accordingly. Algonquin has two great options that will keep you from sleeping on the cold ground.
First, there are yurts. What is a yurt, you might ask? A yurt is a traditional round tent covered in felts and tarps used by nomadic peoples. Today, yurts are used as accommodations in campgrounds all over. They are a fun and unique way for groups to spend a night or two outdoors but sheltered from the cold. Most Ontario parks, including Algonquin, offer yurts for about $20 per person per night when the yurt is full. Algonquin has a handful available for all-season rental.
Secondly, there are cabins. Expect your average log cabin with a wood stove (classic)! Algonquin has a range of backcountry cabin options that can accommodate two to ten people and have a range of parking options available. Compared to yurts, these cabins have plenty of space, offer a bit more warmth after outdoor activities and are truly picture perfect.
What to do
Algonquin has almost as many activities in the winter as it does in the summer. With everything from cross-country ski trails to free-range snowshoeing, from dog sledding to the good old tubing and skating, there are more than enough things to do to fill up your 24 hours in the park. There are a variety of options for snowshoe and ski rentals, as well as dog sledding trips from organizations just outside the park, including Algonquin Park Lodges & Cottages and Adventure Lodge. Mountain Equipment Co-op, located in downtown Toronto, also provides affordable ski and snowshoe rentals, which are easy to bring along with you.
For simple, free activities in the park, there are hiking trails, grand views at lookout points and wildlife to observe. Moose tracks can be easily spotted in the snow this time of year and colourful birds can be spotted among bare branches.
What to eat
Deciding what to eat on a camping trip is always a fun thing to plan with so many lists available on Buzzfeed and Pinterest. Combat the cold with warm foods like oatmeal for breakfast, soup for lunch and chili for dinner. Don’t forget a lot of snacks and hot tea to keep you moving comfortably throughout the day. These foods can be brought from home and warmed up over a fire.
What to bring
There are a few important things to bring with you when winter camping that you might not think of, so here’s a list to help get you started:
- Winter boots
- Winter coat
- Base layer (merino wool or synthetic, not cotton!)
- Insulation layer (wool, fleece, or down)
- Warm socks (and extra pairs!)
- Sunglasses (for when the bright sun reflects off the snow) & sunscreen (really, though)
- Water bottle
- A pot (for boiling water)
- Matches / lighter & firestarter helpers (ex. paper, doritos)
- Food for meals
- Sleeping bag
- A flashlight
It’s easy when living in Toronto to get fed up with winter and be bitter about a season that we can’t hide from forever. Spending a few days of your reading week on a winter adventure is a really cool way (no pun intended) to make winter much more enjoyable, to experience your own backyard and to appreciate an integral piece of our Canadian identity. Take advantage and make some snow angels!