For a long time, if you wanted to camp in the Ontario Parks backcountry, you had to call the Ontario Parks Reservation line and talk to an agent. Well, not anymore! Now you can book Algonquin and Killarney Interior campsites online.
Initially only selected parks had online reservations for backcountry, including the two newer ones, Massasauga and Kawartha Highlands, and the smaller ones like Bon Echo, Charleston Lake and Frontenac. All of these parks offered reservations by numbered site. You had to choose a particular site to be able to stay there. They added pictures to a lot of these sites so you could see what you were booking.
As of March 2015, the backcountry lakes in Killarney and Algonquin are also available through the online reservation system. The earliest you can book your trip through the system is Friday April 24, 2015. In Algonquin and Killarney, the reservation system is booked by lakes not specific sites, and each site is called a tent pad. You can book both canoe sites, and backpacking trail sites (though not the Killarney La Cloche Silhouette Trail). Quetico is also available but it wasn’t working for me when I tried.
There is much to rejoice because now you can look online to plan your route instead of having to call during their hours to talk to an agent and try to imagine your route based on what the operator over the phone is telling you is available.
While it can be rather daunting to look at the lakes offered in Algonquin Interior, do not be afraid of this. Here are the steps to help you confidently plan your trip:
- Choose a time frame for your trip, and an approximate access point.
- Go online, and research possible routes from your access point.
- Based on your route, write down the lakes you want to stay at.
- Go to the reservation system, select Backcountry | Algonuin | Algonquin Interior and Algonquin Canoeing or one of the Backpacking Trails; or choose Killarney | Killarney Canoeing.
- Choose a Party Size (1 is recommended for now) and select the On A Map Button.
- Select an Access Point. This will zoom in the map to that area of the park.
- Hover over the lake, and see how many tent pads are remaining. This is the number of sites on that lake. Backpacking routes have campsites on lakes as well.
- Click on a site, and choose Select. Pay attention to any warnings that pop up.
You don’t want to choose a lake that is too far away from your access point.
- Continue selecting sites along your route until you have your route, and hit Reserve.
Voila! Now you have booked your first Algonquin or Killarney trip online. Always consult a proper map before your finalize your trip. The distances between lakes on the reservation system can be misleading.
Here are some additional things to note: In Algonquin Park, some of the access points have limits, so even if the lake is available, you will have to arrive from a different access point to get to it.
Since sometimes plans change after you’re on your trip, the reservation system usually (but not always) allocated one fewer reservations per lake so that there would be an extra emergency site. You should always confirm on a proper map that there are enough sites on the lake to match the reservation system.
Some popular lakes like OSA at Killarney will have to be booked 5 months in advance at 7 am when the registration window opens.