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What you need to know about booking a reservation at an Ontario park

Camping chairs are seen in this file photo. (Mac DeStroir/Pexels) Camping chairs are seen in this file photo. (Mac DeStroir/Pexels)
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Nature lovers looking to book a campsite at one of Ontario’s provincial parks should start making reservations for this summer.

The battle for the best sites has apparently already begun. Here’s what you need to know:

How early can you book a reservation?

Individuals hoping to book a campsite can do so up to five months ahead of when they want to visit.

For example, if booking this week, campers can look ahead to mid-June. Slots open up at 7 a.m. sharp.

If you can’t look five months ahead in your schedule, don’t worry. It is still possible to book a site later in the year, however choices will be more limited.

How do you book?

Ontario Parks has a website that allows for online reservations. The process is fairly simple, however users must create an account for it to work.

Simply choose the park you are interested in visiting, the dates, how many people will be on the site, and what kind of shelter you will be bringing with you.

There are also choices for backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, and group camping.

Users can also search “all parks,” which provides a more comprehensive look at what provincial parks have availabilities. This tool is especially useful if a campground has no availabilities and you need to look elsewhere.

For those who do not want to booking online, you can call this toll-free number: 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275). The line is operational between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

How long of a trip can I book?

The province made some changes a few years ago to institute shorter maximum lengths of stay at some of Ontario’s busiest parks.

At more than 50 provincial parks, campers can book for a maximum of 14 nights between the Canada Day and Labour Day long weekends. A full list can be found here.

Algonquin Park's Maple Leaf Lake pictured in this August 2020 file photo. (Adam Frisk/CTV News)

At five other parks—Algonquin, Bon Echo, Killbear, Pinery and Sandbanks—the maximum stay is just seven nights.

All other provincial parks are available for a 23-night stay.

The idea was to help prevent people from booking exceedingly long stays five months in advance to guarantee a shorter trip within that time frame. For example, if you book a 20 night stay you can make the reservation earlier and then cancel the first 15 days, while still guaranteeing you get the site you want for those remaining five. There are fees for cancellations, which range between 10 and 50 per cent of the cost depending on when you cancel.

Some campers were even selling their slots on third-party websites like Kijiji.

According to officials, more than 12 million visits were logged at Ontario provincial parks in 2022.

How to book day trips?

During the pandemic, when people were encouraged to spend time in the fresh air, the province launched pre-booking for day trips at select provincial parks.

The purpose of the program was to prevent people from driving to a park only to find out they were at capacity.

Residents can pre-book their day trips online up to five days in advance using the same booking system for campsites.

As of 2023, the program included 57 of Ontario’s most popular provincial parks.

If you can’t get a spot – keep checking back

Ontario Parks encourages people to check for possible campsites last minute. If someone cancels their trip, even up to 24 hours before the date, that slot immediately becomes available.

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