Winter Camping in Killarney Provincial Park

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: December 2021

Killarney Provincial Park is located along the rugged shores of Georgian Bay. It is open year-round and provides a variety of activities depending on the season. In the winter the park features a few trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Killarney also offers walk-in winter camping, six heated yurts and two heated camp cabins.

Last fall we stayed in one of the camp cabins in Killarney and had such a wonderful time that we decided to return again, but in the winter for a different experience. While the main gate into the George Lake Campground is closed from the end of November to the beginning of May, visitors can park at the Park Office and walk in with all their gear. The park even provides toboggans, which makes hauling your stuff in and out much easier when there’s snow.

We arrived at Killarney late Friday night. It was lightly snowing outside and the road leading into the campground was icy. Since there wasn’t much snow on the ground, we carried all our supplies in by hand, or rather backpack. I had called the park in advance to let them know that we were arriving late. They said the cabin would be open. And it was open, except someone else was there.

When we arrived at our cabin we noticed that the lights were on and there were two people inside. They must have seen us put our stuff down on the picnic table and they came outside. It turns out they thought this was their cabin, but they got the numbers mixed up. We ended up swapping since the two cabins are mostly identical. The only difference was the cabin that we initially booked comes with an extra bench. Normally we wouldn’t have minded, except that P, K and E were coming down on Saturday and we could have used the extra seating. But whatever. It was late at night.

Day 1: Let it Snow

We woke up the next morning to a couple of inches of fresh snow outside. We shovelled the snow off the deck and then walked to the Park Office to use the heated washrooms and to fill up our water bottles. We then carried the rest of our stuff from the car to the cabin.

Since we weren’t expecting P, K and E until around lunch time, after eating breakfast we went for a short hike. We returned to the Park Office to check in and then hiked along the Granite Ridge Trail (2km, rated moderate), which is located right across the road from the Park Office.

The trail winds through the forest, climbs a ridge, and features a few lookouts of La Cloche Mountains and Georgian Bay. It is signed with red markers and a series of 13 numbered posts to assist with navigation.

The first part of the path is relatively straightforward and leads through the forest. The first notable viewpoint is at post #4 which features an abandoned car. After that navigation got a bit tricker with all the snow, especially since we were the first people on the trail and there were no footsteps to follow. There were also some wet and slippery sections along the rocks, which added an extra element of challenge.

Somehow we took a wrong turn and ended up at posts #12 and #13, but clearly didn’t complete the entire trail. We didn’t complain too much as we at least got to enjoy one of the scenic overlooks of La Cloche Mountains.

Afterwards we walked back to the cabin to warm-up and eat a snack. P, K and E arrived at the park just before noon. We walked back to the parking lot to meet up and help them lug their gear in. This time we used the toboggans since there was enough snow.

After getting settled in, we set off to hike the Cranberry Bog Trail (4km loop, rated moderate). We first had to walk through the campground to reach the trailhead, which is located by campsite #101. The hike along the road was quite the adventure with all the ice, but the clouds had cleared and we even enjoyed some sun.

The trail passes by several bogs, marshes and swamps and features plenty of nice views of the surrounding area. It is well signed with red markers and twelve numbered posts. Thankfully a few other people had hiked along this trail, which made navigation much easier.

Towards the end of the trail, there were a few warning signs to indicate that the path overlaps with La Cloche Silhouette Trail, a strenuous 80km trail that takes up to 10 days to complete. We paid extra attention to follow the red markers.

As we neared the trailhead, we watched the sunset from on top of the ridge.

Afterwards we walked along the shore of George Lake before heading back to our cabin. We made dinner on the BBQ and spend the remainder of the evening just hanging out.

Day 2: Granite Ridge

We slept reasonably well considering there were five of us sleeping in the same room. We had a slow start to the morning and made a late breakfast on the BBQ. We then packed up and made a couple of trips back and forth with the toboggans to lug our gear back to our cars. It was a bit chilly outside and overcast, but at least it wasn’t windy.

After checking out of our cabin, we went for a hike along the Granite Ridge Trail (2km, rated moderate). Except this time, we actually hiked along the entire trail, or at least most of it. It helped that we now had footprints to follow in the snow. I’m glad we returned as the views overlooking Georgian Bay and La Cloche Mountains were spectacular with all the snow.

After eating a quick snack in the parking lot, we drove into Killarney, the town. Except there wasn’t much to see as it was winter and everything was closed (although that could have also been because of the pandemic). We then headed home. We left a bit earlier than planned as there was a snowfall warning in effect and the forecast was calling for 15 to 20cm of snow overnight, followed by freezing rain.

While some of the hiking trails in the park are inaccessible or even more challenging in the winter with all the snow and ice, it was nice to experience a different and quieter side of Killarney. Who knows, we may try to make this an annual tradition, assuming we can book one of the heated cabins of course. Winter camping in a tent just doesn’t seem all that appealing.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

56 thoughts on “Winter Camping in Killarney Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    Excellent post and outdoor outing Linda. I wondered where you were going with the winter camping title. The cabin would be the perfect way to go. I, like you could not tent in winter. The hikes and views look phenomenal and love the old car covered in wintry white. Thanks for sharing and Happy Monday. Allan

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I’ve tried winter camping in a tent before and while it wasn’t too terrible, it’s just so much nicer to have someplace warm to return to after being out in the cold during the day. Plus we have way more space in a cabin and can actually make proper meals. Hope you enjoyed the long weekend. Take care. Linda

      Like

  2. Ab says:

    I am convinced that there is no bad season to go to Killarney. Your Fall outing last year looked great and this winter outing looked wonderful. And I still dream about our summer day trip.

    You are very accommodating to the couple who got your original cabin by mistake! The cabin you got looked nice. I can only imagine how competitive it is to get those spots. I’d really like to try one of these days.

    The trails and outlooks looked wonderful as did that sunset. Hard to believe winter seems like a memory ago. Summer season and hikes await!

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Killarney is one of my all-time favourite parks. I tried to book one of the cabins for October, but I had no such luck so far. I’ll keep trying again for November, so fingers crossed.

      It’s funny because while we were walking in, I had made a joke about what we would do if someone was in our cabin. Thank goodness we arrived when they were still awake!

      It was nice to see a different side of Killarney in the winter when the landscape was covered in snow. I would definitely return in the winter to do some cross-country skiing, but that’s assuming we can book one of the heated cabins or yurts. I have zero interest in sleeping in a tent during the winter again. And agreed, winter does seem so long ago. I am glad to have put away my winter clothes!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        I can imagine the Fall is fully booked because of the autumn colours. It looks so beautiful from photos.

        Two separate colleagues stayed at the Killarney Lodge. Might be an alternate (more comfy) alternative to a cabin! 🙂

        Like

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The rates at Killarney Lodge are a bit steep compared to the cabins and yurts in Killarney. No wonder they book up so quickly!! It is nice to have an alternative option though in case we want to experience the fall colours in the park.

        Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You bet. We tried winter camping in a tent last year at MacGregor Point. While it wasn’t terrible, it’s just so much nicer to have heat, electricity and more space to move around and make food. It was nice to visit during the winter and seeing the park transform into a winter wonderland.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. John says:

    Wow, I would love to visit this beautiful park! I love the rolling hills and beautiful scenery. That’s a great photo of you guys, have wonderful new week! 🇨🇦

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The landscape in Killarney is gorgeous. It was nice to visit in the winter to experience a different side of the park and to see how the scenery changes when covered in a fresh layer of snow. Take care. Linda

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve tried winter camping in a tent before and I gotta say, it’s so much nicer to be in a heated cabin, especially in the evening when the sun goes down. I’m glad it snowed overnight as it transformed the landscape into a winter wonderland. Plus, it was so much easier to walk on compared to the ice underneath.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Little Miss Traveller says:

    The cabin looked cosy and I agree that sleeping in a tent in those Co fictions would have been a non-starter. It’s strange that these other people took your original cabin by mistake unless they were left unlocked as the keys should have been different. The trails you followed looked scenic and I really like your wool hat!

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Sleeping in a heated cabin sure beats being in a tent during the winter! It was funny because as we were walking in, I had made a joke about what we would do if someone was in our cabin. It would have been much worse if someone was in the other cabin as well! Despite the cabin mix-up, we had a wonderful time in Killarney. The landscape looked beautiful covered in snow. It made the hiking a bit more tougher than usual, but we were up for the challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve been to Killarney before, but it was nice to return in the winter to see how the landscape transforms when it’s covered in snow. Despite the cold, we had a fabulous time. It helps that we stayed in a heated cabin instead of a tent.

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We had a wonderful time in Killarney. It was a bit chilly outside with all that snow, but the scenery looked stunning. It helped having a warm cabin to return to so we could warm-up after being outside in the cold. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

      Like

      • elvira797mx says:

        You are welcome, Linda.
        It is a pleasure follow your blog.
        I like snow, I don’t have it in Mexico.
        I looks like si beautiful. Try hot chocolate with spices, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. Traste delicious and it’s help you.
        Enjoy the rest of the week too.
        Elvira

        Like

  5. Bama says:

    I had to look up Killarney on Google Maps to understand where exactly it is, and wow! Its location nestled between two lakes (one big, the other small) seems to guarantee good vistas. Although I could feel the freezing temperatures from your photos, I think I would enjoy a morning stroll at a leisurely pace there. It’s nice to see a photo of you and K! 🙂

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a bit of a drive to get to Killarney, but it’s so worth it to escape from the city. The scenery is beautiful since most of the park is surrounded by pristine wilderness. One of the benefits of visiting in the winter is that the trails were quieter and there weren’t many people around. It was nice to have a heated cabin to return to after a day of hiking in the cold.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The landscape in Killarney looked beautiful covered in a fresh layer of snow. The hiking was a bit challenging because of it, but so worth it to enjoy the lovely views of the snowy scenery.

      Like

  6. Janet says:

    Nice to see you! Cute cabin. Sturdy looking furniture. The car as a trail marker is different. 🙂 Pretty sunset. I don’t like tent camping in the snow either. I don’t even like walking in the snow. What a fun tradition this would be though.

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though there were five us staying in a single room in the cabin, it was nicely designed and the layout worked well. And hey, it sure beats sleeping in a tent! We’ve tried winter camping in a tent before, and I have no desire to do it again. I’m hoping to book the cabin again for this November 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. wetanddustyroads says:

    Camping in snow (although not in a tent – fortunately), but still … this is something new to me! But oh wow, you have so many beautiful snowy photo’s! Love that sunset picture 💌 … and a great photo of you two.

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s amazing how the snow can just transform the landscape. Even though it was a bit chilly outside, the snowy scenery looked beautiful. I’m also glad we had a warm cabin to return to after a day of hiking in the cold.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. rkrontheroad says:

    I had to smile that a toboggan was provided to haul your stuff in – it sounds so Canadian! Despite the winter snows here in Colorado, I’ve never heard of that. Glad you were able to solve the cabin problem. A beautiful place to hike even in winter. Nice photo of you both.

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Using a toboggan to lug your stuff in definitely sounds very Canadian! I gotta say, it was very convenient. I’m glad the cabin situation worked out, even if we had to swap. It would have been even more concerning if both cabins were occupied!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve been to Killarney a couple times before, but this was our first time visiting in the winter. I’m glad it snowed overnight as the landscape looked gorgeous covered in a fresh layer of snow. It sure made me appreciate that we were staying in a warm heated cabin!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, the Places We See says:

    You may be some of the bravest people I know. We’re not campers, and this just seems to be the ultimate test of bravery. Your reward, however, is awesome: white layers of snow in a wilderness setting. Beautiful!

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! As you can tell from our smiles, we were happy to be outdoors in the snow. I’m glad we had a fresh snowfall overnight and were able to see the landscape transform into a winter wonderland. Killarney is one of my favourite places in Ontario and we’re hoping to return again this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. alisendopf says:

    Lucky you to have such a cute and warm cabin to stay in. So sweet! It must be nice to visit these busy places in the winter, and to have it all to yourself. I find it amazing that the water is open, but I guess that’s the lower elevation for ya.

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was so nice to visit Killarney in the off-season when the park is empty, especially when we had a warm cabin to return to after a day of hiking in the cold. We visited at the beginning of December when winter was just getting started. I think the lake typically freezes over as it gets quite cold (and snowy) here.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s