Backcountry camping returns

by Editorial Staff | June 1, 2020
Stone campfire on a riverbank
A campfire on Crown land. (Photo by Jason Bain)

The province reopened camping in Ontario Parks and on Crown land — including access points, paddle and portage routes, and hiking trails — on Monday, June 1.

Day-use activities were also expanded to include picnicking and off-leash pet areas. Ontario Parks first suspended operations in March while Crown land camping was banned in April.

“We are all eager to get outside this time of year, and backcountry camping will give people a low-risk way to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors while following physical distancing rules,” Environment, Conservation, and Parks Minister Jeff Yurek stated May 30. “We’re counting on people to be responsible when enjoying our parks and continue to follow all of the public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Facilities remain closed

As per provincial restrictions, no more than five people can occupy a backcountry campsite unless they live in the same household, officials stated. Crown land remains open for recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and hunting.

The closure of all other overnight camping and some day-use activities at provincial parks and conservation reserves has been extended to June 14 and will continue to be reassessed.

All buildings and facilities including campgrounds, roofed accommodations, visitor centers, park stores, playgrounds, and beaches remain closed. Some washroom facilities may be available.

Practise health measures

Those camping on Crown land are asked to continue to adhere to public health advice by practicing physical distancing, wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge, and frequently washing their hands.

“Even as we begin to reopen camping so that Ontarians can enjoy our beautiful outdoors, people’s health and well-being remain our top priority,” Natural Resources and Forestry Minister (MNRF) John Yakabuski stated. “We have to work together to ensure we open our province in a responsible, cautious manner. We are starting to contain the virus, but we cannot risk undoing all of the progress that we have made by reopening the province too quickly.”

Fee collection begins

Ontario Parks begins collecting fees for day-use and backcountry camping access June 1. More information is available by clicking the “Fees” tab at ontarioparks.com .

Advanced reservations or registrations will be required at most of the 20 operating provincial parks offering backcountry camping, officials stated.

Ontario Parks manages some 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation reserves, covering more than 9.8 million hectares of land in the province. Crown land, managed by the MNRF, represents approximately 77% of the province.

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