Camping at Windy Lake Provincial Park

Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: June 2021

Windy Lake Provincial Park is located just north of Sudbury and boasts of offering a variety of recreational activities depending on the season. In the winter, Windy Lake has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout the park and during the summer it features a nice sandy beach for swimming, fishing and boating.

We stayed at Windy Lake last summer on our second Northern Ontario road trip and had such a great time that we decided to visit again this summer, but for longer. Similar to last year, we booked one of the walk-in sites, which are, in my opinion, some of the best sites in the park.

Day 1: Onaping Falls

We arrived at Windy Lake shortly after 5p.m and headed to our campsite. Windy Lake is a relatively small park with 100 campsites, seven of which are walk-in campsites located near the lake in a radio-free zone. We managed to snag campsite #W7, which is situated right on the waterfront.

It was lightly sprinkling outside, so we quickly set up our tent. It’s a short walk from the parking area for the walk-in sites to our campsite. After making a few trips back and forth to the car, we were all set up.

But the rain would not do for eating dinner, so we instead drove to the sheltered picnic area. We hung out there for a bit and played a few rounds of cards. We were surprisingly the only ones here and had the place, complete with a nice view overlooking the lake, all to ourselves.

Since it had stopped raining, we decided to go for a little drive as we still had a few hours of daylight left. We headed to Onaping Falls to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout, which is about a 10 minute drive from Windy Lake. A.Y. Jackson is one of the founding members of the Group of Seven. He often drew inspiration from many of the landscapes in Northern Ontario, including Onaping River. There is now an overlook and trail around Onaping High Falls that is named after him.

The lookout is located off Highway 144. Near the parking lot there are some historic mining equipment which were used from the Levack Mine. The mine was discovered in 1888, began production in 1913, was closed during the depression and sustained some damage during a fire in 1929. Operations resumed in 1937 before closing for good in 1999. It operated for a total of 78 years.

There’s a trail in the area that is 2.1km in length and weaves through the forest and crosses the river over the falls. Near the trailhead there’s a scenic lookout of Onaping High Falls. There’s a viewing platform including a plaque that provides more information about A.Y Jackson and his “Spring on the Onaping River” painting. Two years after Jackson painted this picture in 1953, it was purchased by a group of students and placed in the Sudbury Secondary School. Shortly after Jackson’s death in April 1974, the painting was stolen and as of date, has not been recovered.

We then hiked along the trail for a short stretch to the second viewing platform. The trail continues along the river and loops through the forest for another couple of kilometres, but we turned around here as it was getting late.

We then drove back to our campsite to get ready for bed.

Day 2: Hiking and Swimming

The only downside to Windy Lake is its close proximity to the train tracks. And in case you’re wondering, the train does run at all hours in the day (and night). It rained on and off throughout the evening. Since everything was wet when we woke up, we drove to the covered picnic shelter to make and eat our breakfast. The clouds were starting to clear and we could see some blue skies poking out. Afterwards we drove to Halfway Lake, which is located about 30 minutes north of Windy Lake, to spend our morning.

We were a bit delayed getting back to Windy Lake as we went on a bit of a detour in search of the Spanish River Provincial Park. On the drive up to Halfway Lake we passed a sign for the Spanish River Provincial Park so we decided to check it out on the drive back. This turned out to be a complete waste of time as after driving down a sketchy logging road for a good hour, we finally turned around and headed back towards Windy Lake.

We returned to Windy Lake in the early afternoon and drove to our usual spot at the sheltered picnic area to eat lunch. Afterwards we walked to the trailhead for the Transition Trail (3km, rated easy – but should really be moderate as it’s quite hilly and steep in sections). This involved crossing the road, climbing up a staircase and walking along a path that winds up a ridge to the campground. We then had to walk through part of the campground to find the official trailhead which is located between sites #15 and #18.

The trail is signed with yellow markers and leads to the rim of a huge crater made by a meteorite that impacted the earth nearly 2 billion years ago. The path loops through the forest and involves climbing up and down several steep hills.

Afterwards we drove to the beach to go for a swim. We parked right across from the washroom, got changed and walked to the beach. The water was cold, but felt amazing.

We could see dark clouds rolling in off the lake. After swimming for about 30 minutes, the clouds were getting nearer, so we got out of the water. Within a few minutes of us getting out, it started to rain. Hard. We ran back to the car, grabbed our clothes and dashed towards the washroom to get changed. In a matter of seconds the rain became torrential. We reluctantly made a run for it from the washroom back to the car. With not much else to do but wait around, we decided to just drive to Sudbury. We might as well pick up some groceries.

By the time we finished restocking our cooler and snack supply, it had stopped raining so we drove to the Big Nickel, which is a 9 metre replica of the Canadian nickel and the largest coin in the world.

We then headed back to Windy Lake. Since everything was still wet, we figured we might as well return to our usual spot to eat at one of the dry picnic tables underneath the sheltered picnic area. We ate dinner and played some cards until we were ready to go to bed.

Day 3: But First Breakfast

Windy Lake lived up to its name. And the nice thing about having a campsite so close to the lake was that the wind somewhat helped dry our tent overnight. We woke up just before 7a.m and figured we might as well pack up since it wasn’t raining … yet. We then drove to the sheltered picnic area to make breakfast and cut up some veggies and fruit for snacks for the day. Since we were there, we figured we might as well hang our fly and footprint up on a picnic table to dry them out a bit more.

We left shortly before 8:30a.m. As we were driving out of the park it started to lightly rain and it continued for the next hour along the drive to our next stop at Marten River Provincial Park. But hey, I’d rather it rain while we’re driving than hiking (or setting up our tent)!


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

69 thoughts on “Camping at Windy Lake Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    Ahhhh. Tent camping and rain. The imperfect combination. Glad you managed some hiking, a swim and a bit of fun anyway. I can see why Jackson painted in this area. The falls are pretty. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Looking back over the past couple of months, it seems like we went camping during one of the wettest weeks of the summer. We sure could use some of that rain now. Thankfully most of the rain occurred overnight or while we were driving, so I can’t complain too much. And yes, glad it didn’t interfere with the activities we had planned. Onaping Falls is beautiful. We visited last year and decided to return again this summer and check out the two viewing platforms. Thanks for reading. Linda

  2. wetanddustyroads says:

    Hats off to you guys camping in the rain! But hey, sometimes that’s what you gotta do 😁. I was wondering about your sheltered picnic area … what a great place to spent time when it’s raining and you don’t want to sit inside your tent!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Camping in the rain is never fun. At least the bulk of the rain occurred overnight and didn’t interfere with our hiking or swimming too much. We’ve become such a fan of parks that offer a sheltered picnic area. We ate most of our meals here and didn’t encounter a single person in this area the whole time we visited. It was lovely having this place all to ourselves, especially since it was quiet, dry and provided great shade coverage when it wasn’t raining.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We didn’t have great (or any) reception while trying to find the Spanish River Provincial Park so we weren’t able to read more about it in advance. It really was an impulse decision to try to find one of the access points. Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure! I think you’re right though about how the Spanish River is mostly used for paddling and isn’t really maintained.

  3. Ab says:

    That looked like a wonderful weekend out at Windy Lake, despite the rain and the noise of the busy train tracks!

    That trail and lookout with the waterfalls and river is so beautiful. I can only imagine what it was like in person!

    I went to a school named after AY Jackson, and it is nice to learn more about his life and legacy and impact on Canadian culture as I get older.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Windy Lake is a bit of an underrated park. I have no complaints as the campground was generally quiet and washrooms very clean. K didn’t even hear the train go by in the middle of the night, but I’m such a light sleeper so I found it a bit annoying. Onaping Falls is beautiful and it was definitely worth the detour. After spending some time in Northern Ontario, I have much more of an appreciation of the Group of Seven and have found it interesting to learn more about them and the landscapes that inspired some of their famous paintings.

  4. salsaworldtraveler says:

    Well, the farmers and critters were probably thankful for the rain. You’d done amazingly well avoiding it so far. I like boardwalk trails. They seem to add a spring to my step as well as keep the trail dry.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The timing of the rain worked out quite well during our road trip as it usually either rained overnight or while we were driving. I’m glad it didn’t interfere with any of our planned activities. We’re currently in the middle of a heat wave and it’s been such a dry summer. We could sure use some of that rain right about now. I tend to enjoy trails with a boardwalk too. I don’t have to worry as much about tripping over rocks or roots or getting my feet wet.

  5. ourcrossings says:

    I love camping and being outdoors, and that’s why I don’t let the rainy Irish weather ruin our family adventure plans. If the weather forecast looks a little drizzly for our upcoming camping trip, having a waterproof tent and packing an extra groundsheet for added protection, one for under our tent and one for the floor inside can make a huge difference. The falls look lovely and so does the wooded boardwalk. I am glad to hear you had a great time camping at the Windy lake provincial park. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, it’s always good to plan for the worst in terms of weather and hope for the best. We’ve learned the hard way when it comes to camping gear and have since traded up tents for one that is waterproof. We always put a groundsheet underneath and I can second that it does make a huge difference. After visiting the falls I can easily see why they inspired one of the members of the Group of Seven. It’s such an incredibly scenic area. Thanks for reading. Linda

  6. Little Miss Traveller says:

    I wondered why it was called Windy Lake Linda until near the end of the post when you explained! What a nuisance about the rain but it can’t be helped! The trails looked pleasant and the lake crystal clear and I’m so pleased to see yet another Park badge. I think I love them just as much as you now! Marion

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Windy Lake definitely lived up to its name, which worked out for the best as it helped dry off our tent a few times after the rain! Luckily it mostly rained overnight and didn’t interfere with our planned activities too much. As an added bonus, the wind also helped keep the mosquitoes away. I’m happy to add another patch to my collection. They are so beautifully designed. Take care. Linda

  7. Planet Paul says:

    When you say small park with 100 campsites… do you actually mean 100 sites with multiple pitches… or 100 pitches? I mean a ‘small’ park with 100 campsites highlights the difference in scale between Canada and the UK!

    The nickel is the sort of thing that I’d expect to see in USA but if that’s in Canada… then great!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are 100 campsites at Windy Lake, but each campsite can accommodate a range between one to three tents. Some of the sites also offer electricity and can accommodate an RV or camper van. In comparison to some of the parks close to Toronto, which can offer more than 500 campsites, Windy Lake is definitely considered small.

      The Sudbury area produces a lot of nickel, so I guess it seemed fitting to build this massive monument of a nickel, which is our five-cent coin, probably as a way to attract tourists into the area.

  8. carolinehelbig says:

    Good thing for covered picnic areas! It looks like you also have an MSR tent? So happy with ours. The beach is pretty and I’m glad you got in a swim before the rain came again.
    The giant nickel is a laugh! I’ve noticed in my travels that some countries, particularly in SE Asia, have a lot of whimsical/interesting/over-the-top monuments. I’m not a fan of all kinds of crazy, tacky stuff, but it’s kind of fun, on occasion, seeing something unexpected like that giant nickel.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Those covered picnic areas are the best. A few of the parks offer them and I’m always surprised that no one really uses them. No complaints from us as that means we usually have it all to ourselves! It’s a great area to go when it’s raining or it’s really sunny outside.

      I have nothing but great things to say about our MSR tent. We’ve had ours for a number of years now. I heard the “updated” version they put out in 2019 was complete garbage and the fly wasn’t even waterproof.

      The Giant Nickel is located outside of the Dynamic Earth science museum in Sudbury, which seems like an interesting place to explore. Unfortunately it was still closed due to COVID when we visited. Either way, it was good to escape the rain by going for a drive.

  9. Christie says:

    We passed by the Big nickel last week, impressive!! Did you have a chance to go underground? We didn’t, but it would be nice, maybe one day..
    We noticed that every time we pass by Sudbury is kind of cloudy.. this year, last year, and back in 2018. Coincidence? LOL

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Unfortunately the Dynamic Earth science museum was still closed when we visited due to COVID. It seems like such a cool place to spend the day. I think it reopened a few days after we were in Sudbury as some of our restrictions eased around Canada Day. It’s too bad the timing didn’t work out, but we’ll likely be back in this area next summer.

  10. carol hopkins says:

    I love your commentary and photos – just beautiful! North-western Ontario has some truly gorgeous scenery. I also love the history you include. It seems you do much more than camp, you collect awesome historical tidbits which I enjoy. Thanks for sharing!!

  11. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Such a beautiful area. Too bad about the rain but of course it does tend to show up at these times! I remember reading about the AY Jackson painting a long time ago. I think it must be hidden in someone’s private collection as it is a rather important and valuable piece. I hope it’s eventually found.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a bit of a wet start to our summer, but it’s been so hot and humid the past few weeks. We could sure use some of that rain now. Sudbury is such a beautiful area. We’ll be heading back up there in a week and a half for when we embark on our big Northern Ontario road trip. I can’t wait.

      That’s such a shame to hear that someone stole the painting. I hope it’s eventually found too and returned.

  12. leightontravels says:

    I can only echo the sentiments of other readers. A gorgeous lake and forest, with some great history to boot. A pity about the weather, but it still made for some atmospheric shots.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were lucky that most of the rain happened overnight or while we were driving and that it didn’t interfere too much with our planned activities. Windy Lake is such a nice park that is generally clean and quiet. It’s very peaceful and a great way to reconnect with nature.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. I love how quiet, clean and peaceful this park is. It’s a great spot to unwind and relax. Having a nice sandy beach to go swimming in is always a plus after a day of hiking. Thanks for reading and commenting. Linda

  13. Oh, the Places We See says:

    I do love these falls — so pretty. But the big surprise was the Big Nickel! Haven’t even heard of it, but I love it. Guess that’s the charm of reading blogs — you never know what’s going to turn up. Thanks for sharing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Windy Lake lived up to its reputation. I’m glad we managed to snag a site along the shore as the wind helped keep away those pesky mosquitoes and helped dry our tent off quicker from the rain. The waterfall is located really close to the park and it’s a great detour that isn’t too far out of the way. It’s a very peaceful and scenic area.

  14. Irene says:

    Scrolling through the first couple of pics my thought was it was such a peaceful setting. Then, I got to the water cascading down. All beautiful. 😁

  15. annemariedemyen says:

    More beautiful sights from Ontario! You two should be working for the Ontario tourist industry. Your photos are gorgeous and your writing is so pleasant to read. I always feel like I am there!

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