UPDATE: On May 14, 2020 the Ontario Government announced: "Private parks and campgrounds may open to enable preparation for the season and to allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract." If this applies to you, reach out to your private park or campground for more information.
For so many people, including the Great Lakes Guide team, the warmer months mean a chance to pack up the car (or the Parkbus) and head out of the city for a chance to sleep under the stars. But, like many things in our lives these days, the COVID-19 pandemic has pressed pause on our usual plans.
Heading into the long weekend, and with Ontario's parks opening back up, many of us are starting to think about camping.
The facts about going camping in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic
Provincial Parks have been opened for limited daytime use but washrooms, water taps, campgrounds, backcountry campsites, roofed accommodations, playgrounds, and beaches continue to be closed.
While some conservation areas have opened their trails, their facilities are closed too. We have the full list of which national parks, provincial parks, municipal parks, and conservation areas are open during the coronavirus outbreak here.
The province has also banned camping on crown land until further notice and campgrounds at National Parks will remain closed until at least June 21st. Seasonal campgrounds have strict restrictions and are only available for people whose RVs and trailers are their only residence during the warmer months and don’t have anywhere else to go.
Where can I go camping in Ontario during COVID-19 pandemic?
You can’t camp at any of the places that you normally would because proximity to other people and shared facilities could increase the spread of COVID-19. Backcountry and crown land camping isn't allowed because no matter how safe and experienced you are, something could go wrong and that could put first responders at risk and place a greater burden on medical health professionals who are our front line against COVID-19.
Best camping destination number 1 during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Your own backyard
If you have one, camping in your yard can be a fun way to get out of the house while still practicing physical distancing. Bring out your camping gear and practice your skills so that you'll be a pro once you can get out to a campground again.
How about a little friendly competition to hone those skills? Who can put up the tent the fastest? Who can roll up their sleeping bag the fastest (and the tidiest)? How about a backyard pillow fight? Tie dye, anyone?
The best part about camping in your own backyard is that you don’t have to pack or even take the tent down. The tent can become a fun clubhouse or escape for when you need a break from the rest of the household. It’s also a great place to hang out and play bird bingo, name the clouds, and spot some rainbows (or make them yourself).
Best camping destination numbers 2 and 3 during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Your living room or balcony
So, you don’t live in a house, have a backyard, or tent? Time to build a fort. Those couch cushions and blankets don’t need to be weatherproof (though you might want them to be if you're building on your balcony).
You can be creative with your campfire by bringing out the holiday lights in May, or lighting up a virtual fire. Here is a recipe for s’mores made in the oven that will make your “camping” experience complete.
Camping anywhere but the Great outdoors is never quite the same
We know, we’re feeling it too. Staying inside and away from friends and family. Things can feel especially difficult if you don’t have a backyard or balcony to escape to. After weeks and weeks (seriously, how many weeks has it been? We’ve lost count) of physical distancing, the novelty of staying in your pyjamas all day binging Netflix may have worn off (no matter how entertaining Tiger King is).
You may find yourself dreaming of the trees and the water, and you may even be missing the mosquitos and the black flies (okay maybe not that last part). We keep reminding ourselves that this won’t last forever, that things are going to start to ease, and that for now, the birds, the clouds, and the rainbows can all be found on a walk in your neighbourhood.