Our province is home to hundreds of provincial parks — over 330 to be exact! Whether you’re planning a leisurely day trip or an overnight excursion, it’s important to be aware of Ontario Parks’ safety guidelines before you head out.

There are over 82,000 square kilometers of provincial parkland in Ontario and there’s a lot to consider when it comes to navigating these diverse landscapes.

Here are some general guidelines from Ontario Parks to help you stay safe while you explore.


Before you go, do your research. Get familiarized with your destination of choice.

On the Ontario Parks website under the “Activities” tab, each trail will have a difficulty rating and a brief description of what to expect.

The on-site staff are also a great resource for additional info, such as the trail’s conditions and animals to look out for.

Be sure to come prepared with weather-appropriate clothing, comfortable hiking shoes, and a backpack with necessary gear like sun protection, bug spray, water, and nutrient-dense snacks like trail mix.

Ontario Parks says that the motto is “pack in, pack out” meaning everything that you bring in, you take out with you.

Stay on designated trails and keep your dog on a leash at all times.

Whistle or wear a bell while you walk if you are hiking in bear territory.

After the hike, remember to check your whole body for ticks, as well as children and pets. Areas to check thoroughly include the groin, navel, armpits, scalp, and behind ears and knees.

Most importantly, do not hike after sundown. Give yourself enough time to complete your hike before it gets dark. Not only is it easy to get lost, but it can also lead to injuries.

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Water Safety

Even if you’re an experienced swimmer, a well-fitting personal flotation device (PFD) is a must when you are paddling.

Our Canadian lakes and rivers are cold, and sudden exposure could impact your body’s functioning and ability to swim.

Make sure everyone on board is wearing one — including your dog! Participating provincial parks have PFDs you can borrow for free.

Ontario Parks says that mandatory safety equipment is required by law on smaller watercraft, like canoes, kayaks, and even paddleboards.

If you’re going for a leisurely swim, be sure to stay in designated swimming areas only — these areas are clearly marked and lined with buoys.

They also say children should wear PFDs and be supervised at all times while in or around the water.

Life vests are important for shoreline safety too, in the event of a fall.

It’s also a good idea to swim with a buddy and test the waters with your feet before jumping in. Don’t underestimate the chilly water temperatures!


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Campfire Safety

First and foremost, many Ontario parks have fire bans in place during wildfire season. Ontario Parks keeps an up-to-date list of alerts and bans in place at all locations and they are strictly enforced.

In the advisory, you can see a list of items that are permitted for cooking and warmth instead.

If campfires are permitted, most campsites have a designated area. Or, you can create one by clearing one metre of space and removing all pine needles, grasses, leaves, and twigs.

Pick a site that is sheltered from high winds and has easy access to water.

By law, your fire cannot be more than one metre high and one metre wide.

Ontario Parks says to never leave your fire unattended, and be sure to have a pail of water and a shovel nearby to control the flames.

When you’re ready to put out the fire, pour lots of water onto it and stir the ashes with a stick. Keep doing this until there is no more hiss or smoke.

Now that you’re well equipped with Ontario Parks’ safety guidelines, it’s time to pick a destination and enjoy. Stay safe, friends!