I've been warned that in the Ontario long weekends in summer and autumn, it is very popular to get out into the nature.

During such long weekends, is there any chance of finding a camping spot on a campground¹ if one has not reserved such a spot weeks, if not months, in advance?

¹I don't necessarily need a campground, but in some areas, camping is not otherwise permitted.


From the Ontario Parks website:

Reservations are NOT always necessary at Ontario Parks; even during busy summer weekends. You can reserve a campsite at most parks five months in advance of your date of arrival. Reservations can be made online or by contacting our call centre at 1-888-ONT-PARK. Some of our most popular parks such as Killbear, Sandbanks and Pinery do fill up quickly but many other parks will have sites available. The vacancy report is a great way to search for campsites. A few parks do not accept reservations and you are always assured of getting a campsite when you arrive at these parks.

In addition to the provincial parks there is the possibility of camping on Crown Land such as in Temagami. Because this is generally not accessible and not serviced in any way (no toilets, no running water, just lakes and islands with no buildings) the number of people who want to get in a canoe and get there is generally small enough that finding a site is not a problem. Note that you cannot camp in conservation areas or on private property. Choose a provincial park that offers services you want (for example showers or flush toilets) and is in a convenient location. The further from Toronto you go, the less likely you are to need reservations. Be aware that some parks are practically within city limits.

I have been car camping and canoe camping in provincial parks and on Crown Land for decades. I have often made reservations (sometimes by a phone call that morning before leaving home) and I have arrived without reservations at smaller parks. Never once have I been left without a place to sleep. If you're considering a particular park, ask about it here or on Great Outdoors for more details including how busy it gets.

  • Aren't there quite many private campsites as well, that are not part of the provincial parks system? I arrived at one last Friday by bicycle, only to learn that it was still closed for the season (I had not done my homework properly...). The only one that was open was the Niagara Falls KOA campground (not exactly what I call "the great outdoors"). – gerrit Apr 21 '14 at 20:39
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    Yes, sort of, but I have never stayed at any of them and have no idea how they work. In my experience they don't have the best locations: they tend to be on highways for people to drive their RVs into. If you want to get into nature, get away from the highway. (If you don't have a car there is a bus to Algonquin.) – Kate Gregory Apr 21 '14 at 20:41
  • I came across a very nice one, secluded valley in the Niagara Escarpment, but perhaps it looked nice only because it was empty. On my topo maps I see literally dozens of campgrounds along the Niagara Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, shores of lake Huron, Lake Simcoe, and the general area of the forests of southern Ontario. If I'm in an area where I can't camp in the wild, and I'm not near any provincial park either, then a commercial campground will do. – gerrit Apr 21 '14 at 20:53

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