Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
Has spring arrived?  It depends on where you are!

Watching winter go by is something magical. The snow is melting, temperatures are rising, and some of our fair-weather bird friends are returning.

However, Ontario is a huge province and the arrival of spring looks very different depending on where you are.

Spring is slowly coming to many provincial parks.

Every year people are surprised to learn that while urban areas may be blooming, many provincial parks, like Algonquin, are still covered in snow and ice.

This can lead to unwanted surprises and unsafe situations for visitors expecting warm weather and spring-like conditions.

Snow and ice covered trail in Algonquin during spring.

If you’re taking a day hike or camping in a park in central and northern Ontario this spring, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

Temperatures may remain winter-like

The weather is unpredictable. Snow flurries are common, even in April, May and June. Nighttime temperatures, in particular, can be downright freezing.

Many campsites still have a layer of snow and ice well into spring. You may be imagining setting up your tent on a grassy site and instead finding completely frozen ground.

Camping in the snow-covered forest.

It doesn’t matter if you come for the day or to spend the night, it is essential that:

  • Check the weather (including nighttime temperatures) for that specific area and be prepared for sudden changes
  • backpack for cold temperatures (from shoes to sleeping bags)
  • Know your limits and stay within them.
  • Learn about spring camping safety and winter emergency preparedness.
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A biting cold

Ice can take weeks to break.

ice on the misty lake

Many lakes remain frozen until late April, which may not be the scenic spring sight you were hoping for.

Water temperatures can be dangerously cold in spring. This creates an additional risk of hypothermia and other safety problems.

Waterfall in forest with ice accumulation.

Water levels in streams, rivers and streams may be higher (or rise rapidly) in the spring and currents may be strong and fast. Take extra precautions to be safe and always wear a PFD when near water.

Mud and mess, oh my!

It’s no exaggeration that “mud” should be its own season in many parts of Ontario. Snow can melt and soil can dry quickly in the southern parts of the province, but it’s a much longer (and complicated) process further north.

Mud boots in the mud and snow.

Trails could be covered in ice and snow well into May. Many trails and transportation are isolated by dense forests, and spring takes much longer to reach these areas.

Thawing during the day and freezing at night when temperatures drop creates messy and unpredictable conditions on roads and trails. Proper footwear is essential as the trails can be a combination of ice, snow and deep, slippery mud. Is shape Too early to take off your sandals.

Many roads in parks are not maintained until the spring thaw is complete. You may encounter icy, muddy or impassable roads, depending on local conditions.

It’s not always a walk in the park

We understand. After a long, cold winter, everyone is looking forward to getting outdoors.

But spring in the parks isn’t always a walk in the park, so be prepared.

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Snow covered trail in Algonquin in spring.

Plan and pack based on temperature and weather forecast, not calendar date.

Conditions can vary greatly, and if you’re not prepared, you could be in for a big icy surprise.

Please play it safe this spring!