As temperatures drop, many outdoor travel lovers store their camping gear and declare the season over. But it doesn’t have to be! During the colder winter months, a new adventure awaits those willing to brave the ice and snow – winter camping with dogs!
Whether you’re new to winter camping in Ontario or an experienced off-season camper searching for ways to include your best friend in your travels, we’re here to help.
In this guide, we will share everything you need to know about winter camping in Ontario Parks with your pup. This includes a list of the types of camping available during the off-season, our tips to take a dog winter camping for the first time, and our favourite dog-friendly winter activities.
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Types of Winter Camping in Ontario
When we mention camping during the off-season, most people instantly think about winter tent camping. That may be exciting for some but intimidating for others – and that’s okay!
Here at The Kas Pack, we firmly believe there is no “right way” to get outdoors.
Luckily, there are many opportunities to go camping this winter at our provincial parks, from tenting in the now to cozying up next to a fireplace in a rustic cabin.
Roofed accommodations like cabins and yurts are an excellent option for first-time winter campers. These options also involve minimal gear, providing all the basic amenities.
You will need to bring:
- Bedding & pillows
- Flashlight or headlamp for walking to the bathroom
- Water jug (there is no running water in the cabin/yurt)
- Food and drinks
- Dishes, cutlery, pots, and pans
- Warm winter clothing
- Indoor activities & outdoor gear
You can also go winter RV camping or trailer camping with some advance preparation. Most units are not designed for use during below-freezing temperatures without risking waterline damage.
The best way to avoid this is by properly winterizing your trailer or RV and dry camping during the winter season.
Finally, for the more experienced winter adventurers, you may be interested in tent camping. This includes backcountry and car camping in winter weather.
However, backcountry camping should be reserved for those with a solid foundation of winter survival experience. Otherwise, you may be placing yourself (and your dog) in an unsafe situation.
If you are interested in winter tent camping for the first time, consider attending an in-person workshop or taking an online course to teach you the basics, like the Winter Camping for Beginners course taught by Christina Scheuermann, aka Camper Christina or the Friends of Frontenac winter camping introductory course.
Are Ontario Parks Open for Winter Camping?
Yes! The good news is that several Ontario Parks are open year-round, allowing you to enjoy camping every season.
Before deciding on a park for your next adventure, winter camping with a dog, you must decide what type of camping you are interested in. The available options will vary from park to park.
Winter Cabin Camping
Cabins offer a great baby step into the world of winter camping, allowing you to enjoy all your favourite outdoor winter activities while providing you with the comfort and amenities of a heated roofed accommodation to return to at the end of the day.
Each cabin has lights, power, beds of different sizes, a barbeque for cooking, and a small kitchenette.
Dogs aren’t allowed to stay at most Ontario Parks camp cabins, but there are a few pet-friendly cabins available in the winter:
- Algonquin Provincial Park (Mew Lake): Cabin 37
- Arrowhead Provincial Park: Cabin 224
- Silent Lake Provincial Park: Cabin 201
- Sleeping Giant Provincial Park: Cabin 4
- Windy Lake Provincial Park: Cabin 201
Winter Yurt Camping
Many dog-friendly travellers are enjoying winter yurt camping in Ontario, and for good reason!
They are heated tent-like structures permanently set up with lighting, hydro, bunk beds, and a small seating area. A barbeque on the deck is the perfect place for cooking.
Like cabins, dogs aren’t allowed in most Ontario Parks yurts.
The limited number of yurts that allow winter camping with dogs can make booking a spot difficult but don’t give up. It’s well worth the effort.
- Killarney Provincial Park: Yurt 6
- MacGregor Point Provincial Park: Yurt 90
- Pinery Provincial Park: Yurt 480C
- Silent Lake Provincial Park: Yurt 5
Winter Camping in an RV or Tent – Car Camping
Our preferred form of winter camping with the dogs is car camping, and several Ontario Parks are open for camping on select existing campsites.
Parks that allow campers to drive into their campsite provide plowed roads, picnic tables, and fire pits for warmth.
Camping in a winterized trailer or RV will protect you from the elements. If you have a heater, you can create a cozy atmosphere to return to after a day out in the cold.
Another option is to try winter tent camping with your pup.
Set yourself up with a 4-season tent, an appropriately rated sleeping bag, and layers of insulation between you and the ground.
Tent heaters like the Mr. Heater Buddy Heater can be used to take the chill off by heating the tent before heading to bed. But turn them off while sleeping for safety reasons.
Hot tents are also an option. These specialized tents allow you to run a woodstove inside the tent for warmth all night.
What’s the best part of winter camping with dogs? Snuggling in with them at night.
Ontario Parks that are open for car camping through the winter include:
- Algonquin Provincial Park (Mew Lake)
- Arrowhead Provincial Park
- Killarney Provincial Park
- Killbear Provincial Park
- MacGregor Point Provincial Park
- Pinery Provincial Park
- Quetico Provincial Park
- Silent Lake Provincial Park
Winter Backcountry Camping
Do you want to fully immerse yourself in nature, leaving the rest of the world behind? If so, you may be up to the challenge of winter backcountry camping.
This isn’t for the faint of heart. If something goes wrong, you are out in the wilderness with only yourself (or your travel partner) to rely on.
Tenting is a great way to ensure you will be safe from the elements at night.
If you prefer hot tenting, there are ultralight, portable wood stoves that can be carried to your campsite. Most dogs will be more than happy to bask in the heat.
Another excellent option for those with smaller dogs, like our little man Lucifer, is hammock camping in winter.
In addition to your standard hammock camping setup, an underquilt will provide insulation to keep you and your pup warm and cozy all night.
The following Ontario Parks are open for winter backcountry camping:
- Algonquin Provincial Park
- Frontenac Provincial Park
- Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park
- Killarney Provincial Park
- Quetico Provincial Park
- Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
- Wabakimi Provincial Park
- Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
Fun Winter Camping Activities for You and Your Dog
One of the best aspects of winter camping with dogs is getting out, exploring, and enjoying the brisk winter air with your best friend.
From hiking the winter trails to pulling out your snowshoes, there are many ways to warm yourself by getting active when the temperatures drop.
Here are a few of our favourite winter outdoor activities with dogs:
Our favourite dog-friendly winter activity, without question, is hitting the winter trails for a good hike.
Many of our go-to Ontario Parks maintain trails throughout the off-season, allowing you to get out and explore without navigating deep snow.
Don’t overlook the importance of hydration during the winter months. While you may not be overheating, dehydration is still a serious concern for you and your dog.
Pay careful attention to trail conditions and ensure you stick to trails that you are fully prepared for. This is not the time of year to get stuck outside without the appropriate gear.
The best part about hiking is that it gives high-energy dogs like our boy Lucifer a positive outlet for their energy. We can wear him out a bit, allowing him to relax comfortably in the tent or trailer that evening.
If you’re camping with a senior dog, like our girl Daviana, choose your trails accordingly with their limits in mind.
Another fun way to hit the trails is to strap on a pair of snowshoes. This allows you to navigate trails that may otherwise be inaccessible or difficult to travel.
Of course, for your dog, the deeper snow can add to the difficulty.
If you have a small dog that can’t handle the deeper snow drifts, consider carrying your pup in a backpack like the K9 Sport Sack, which we used for Lucifer when he needed to be carried early after adopting him.
An activity that we have considered trying this year is skijoring with Lucifer. This involves cross-country skiing with your dog connected to your waist with a special harness that allows them to pull you.
I have been cross-country skiing most of my life, but the joring aspect will be new to us.
Confirm with the park or location if dogs are permitted on the skiing trails before heading out.
Often, dogs aren’t permitted as they can disturb an otherwise groomed trail. This can increase the risk of an accident for your fellow skiers.
If you’re new to the sport, like us, you can start by introducing the harness at home.
John has always enjoyed fishing with his boy Indy by his side – but what about fishing during the colder winter months?
Who better to hang out with than your furry best friend in your fishing hut?
Before taking your dog ice fishing (or fishing in general), ensure they are well-exercised, calm, and trained to relax by your side.
Some dogs will thrive with this type of low-energy activity, while others, like Lucifer, will struggle to stay relaxed for an extended time. Consider your dog’s personality carefully.
Final Thoughts – Winter Camping with Dogs
If this is your first time considering Ontario winter camping, we encourage you to try it! There is something so beautiful about the peace and silence that winter brings.
Whether you’re planning a winter getaway over the holidays or simply looking to extend your camping season by starting a few weeks earlier, many options are available for camping enthusiasts during the off-season months.
Enjoy the comfort of a heated cabin or challenge yourself with a winter hammock camping adventure.
Any trip with your pup is sure to be memorable. So grab your winter coat (and a coat for your dog, if needed) and get outdoors this winter!
Have you ever been winter camping with your dog? What type of winter camping do you enjoy most?