Camping at Non-Operating Provincial Parks in Ontario

Key Takeaways

  • Ontario Parks maintains 340 provincial parks, over 200 of which are non-operational
  • Non-operational provincial parks are free to use
  • Parks may have road access, but many are only accessible by hiking or paddling
  • Some parks allow camping, much like a crownland location, but others have strict no-camping rules due to the potential environmental impact
  • Pets are permitted at all non-operational Ontario Parks as long as owners are respectful of nature and other park visitors

When the conversation of where to camp in the province of Ontario comes up, two types of locations are generally mentioned – Ontario Parks campgrounds and Ontario Crownland. There are many types of camping that fall within those two categories. You can check the Ontario Parks reservation site, and you will find cabins, yurts, electrical/non-electrical front-country campsites, and hiking/paddling back-country campsites.

There are 340 provincial parks in Ontario, but many of those locations are “non-operating.” What is a non-operating park, and can you still camp at these locations? Are pets permitted in non-operating parks?

In this article, we’re going to answer these questions and more! Let’s get started…

three dogs in a tent looking out the window | Camping at Non-Operating Provincial Parks in Ontario

What Are Non-Operating Ontario Parks?

Non-operating provincial parks are locations maintained by Ontario Parks but are not staffed and do not offer any facilities.

Some locations were once operational parks, while others were never used as official campgrounds. They were usually deemed provincial parks for the purpose of managing and protecting vulnerable ecosystems.  

As the use of the parks varies considerably, so too will the possible amenities waiting for you when you arrive.  

Many non-operating parks will have hiking trails that you can explore. If they were previously an operating campground, campsite spots might still be accessible with firepits.

However, several parks are completely inaccessible by car. To visit these locations, you will need to hike or paddle in.

How Many Non-Operating Provincial Parks Are There in Ontario?

Of the 340 provincial parks in Ontario, over 200 are categorized as “non-operating.” These parks exist across the province but are primarily located in Northern Ontario.

To find non-operating parks in Ontario, you can use the Park Locator on the Ontario Parks website.

This is a map of Provincial Parks in Ontario that is divided into Operating Parks, Non-Operating Parks, and Conservation Reserves.

If you know you are interested in a specific non-operating park, there is a dropdown list where you can select a park by name for more information.

Are Non-Operating Ontario Parks Free for Day Use?

Yes! All non-operating parks are free to access. However, many of these parks have specific rules regarding how they can be used and what areas are accessible to the public.

These rules are in place to help with environmental conservation.

A location may be designated as a provincial park for the purpose of protecting a vulnerable plant or animal in the area. In these situations, rules are set with the safety of that plant or animal in mind.

Make sure to research and find out what areas you are allowed to explore before your trip. Simply hiking through an area that is off-limits could result in irreversible damage.

cat sitting outside by a tree | Camping at Non-Operating Provincial Parks in Ontario

Can You Camp in Non-Operating Ontario Parks?

The short answer, maybe. Some parks allow camping on the property, while others strictly forbid it. To complicate things further, the list of non-operating parks that allow camping may change slightly from year to year.

Parks that do allow for camping are treated much like Crownland. There are no facilities available, it is first come, first serve, and campers are expected to adhere to “leave no trace” principles.

Albany River

Alexander Lake Forest

Amable du Fond River

Aubrey Falls

Beekahncheekahmeeng Deebahncheekayweehn Eenahohnahnuhn

Bissett Creek

Black Sturgeon River

Blind River

Brights and River

Chapleau-Nemegosenda River

Chiniguchi Waterway


East English River

Egan Chutes (only on the lower York River addition)

Fawn River

Grant’s Creek

Jocko Rivers


Kenny Forest

Killarney Lakelands and Headwaters

Kopka River

La Cloche

Lake Nipigon

Lake of the Woods

La Verendrye

Little Current River

Little White River

Lower Madawaska River

Magnetawan River


Mattawa River

Mississagi River


Noganosh Lake

North Channel Inshore



Otoskwin-Attawapiskat River

Pahngwahshahshk Ohweemushkeeg

Pokei Lake/ White River Wetlands

Pukaskwa River

Puzzle Lake

Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands (only on existing campsites)

River Aux Sables

Sahkeesuhkuh Weesuhkaheegahn

Sandpoint Island

Severn River

Slate Islands

St. Raphael

Steel River

Temagami River

The Shoals

Turtle River-White Otter Lake

W.J.B. Greenwood

Weeskayjahk Ohtahzhoganeeng

West English River


Widdifield Forest

Winisk River

Winnange Lake

Wolf Island (only on existing campsites)

Are Pets Allowed in Non-Operating Provincial Parks?

Yes! Just like Crownland, there are no restrictions to pets when camping at a non-operating park in Ontario. This includes allowing any type of pet and any number of pets.

But all pets must be respectful of the natural environment around you and any other outdoor travellers in the area.

As a responsible pet owner, you need to abide by the following rules:

  • Clean up after your pet
  • No excessive noise, including barking that could disturb others
  • Don’t allow your pet to roam off any designated trails or locations freely
  • Always have your pet behaved and under control

While most dog owners would love to enjoy their time outdoors with their dogs off-leash, be realistic about your dog and their capabilities. A dog that doesn’t have a solid recall could get into serious trouble if allowed to run loose.

This includes encountering wildlife and predators (like coyotes, wolves, or bears) or ingesting toxic plants growing in the area.

It is your job to keep your pet safe. If that means keeping your dog on-leash until they are better trained, then the responsible thing is to keep that leash on!

camping at non operating provincial parks in ontario pin

Have you ever camped at any of the non-operating provincial parks in Ontario? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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    1. It’s going to depend on where you’re looking and what you consider to be ‘southwestern.’ The further south you go, the more challenging it is to find a spot like that both in terms of non-operating parks and crownland. Those are opportunities that are largely located in the northern part of the province. BUT, you can access a map from Ontario Parks here: and check the area you are hoping to stay. Compare that to the list of parks that offer camping to see if there is a park available nearby.

  1. Hi Britt, thanks for this great information. I’ve been going through your list of non-operating parks that offer camping and I’m just wondering – how do you find where you can camp? As in actually getting there and what it’s like? We camp with a truck and need to make sure that there is somewhere we fit, and not just backcountry camping (we need about 25ft in length). We’re also, obviously, looking for the free areas 🙂

    1. This can be a challenge, for sure. We often begin by asking in camping groups if anyone else has been to the park in question. That’s the best source of information because it’s the most up-to-date – especially as trails and roads start to get overgrown without regular maintenance and things like that. We also do a google earth search so that we can see an overview of the area. This makes it easier to spot roads that may or may not exist in the vicinity. In some parks, you can even catch a glimpse of the sites themselves with this view. That being said, we don’t worry as much about space, given we tent camp and can adjust easier to smaller areas. So, I would definitely start with talking to others in groups that may have a similar setup. They may even have recent photos to help you see what you would be working with 🙂