Killarney Provincial Park in Winter - A Yurt Trip Planner

“What time do you think it is? Feels like 10 pm.”

I’m basing my time-of-day assumptions on the encroaching wall of darkness pushing against the rays of light from our camp fire, squeezing our living space into a meagre 20 ft in any direction. Plus it’s been a long day. A mid-day departure from Toronto, a four-hour drive north, back and forth to the car shuttling gear, wood chopping, fire building, food prepping and finally—ahhhhh—time to relax. Our brains refocus from work mode to the "be here now" mode. Sounds are reduced to the swoosh of wind high in the trees and the crackle of the fire, which is now struggling against darkness and dropping temperatures.

“What time do you think it is? It must be pushing 10.”

The screen on the phone flickers with light: 7 pm. Damn… We’re laughing on the outside, but inside, the idea of 12 hours of impending darkness stirs up some anxiety. "Sleep as long as you like" might sound like a wonderful problem to have but, since I’m used to getting about half of that, I worry I won’t have what it takes to sleep the night away. And then it happens—my body and mind embraces the darkness and silence, taking in the best sleep I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

What’s that? Rain? We wake to a pitter-patter on the roof. I push open the door—it’s snowing. Six centimetres of the white stuff has already coated the deck, but with temperatures hovering around zero, it’s more ice than flake.

Killarney Provincial Park in the winter, and the yurt experience, has been on my adventure to-do list for a long time. After years of trying to get it organized, finally all the cards fell into place—availability of time and yurt, plus a break in my son’s high school exam scheduling, made a father and son experience possible.


Our main objective is to snowshoe the Granite Ridge Trail for a view of the famed La Cloche Mountains, but with the low hanging clouds and no views to be had, some plan adjustments are in order—a bit of XC to start the day. We swing by the office, finish up the registration process, then trade in the skis for snow shoes. With winter being a no-show back home, the Killarney winter wonderland sure is a treat. And to have the whole place practically to ourselves, amazing. After refuelling the body with a quick lunch, it’s back to the hills, this time with toboggans in tow. By the end of the day we stake our spots by the fire and watch the night close in. Long night’s sleep—no problem.


Morning number two: the pitter-patter on the roof is replaced by loud snap, crackle and pops in the forest. I push open the door just to be slapped in the face by a blast of cold air that makes the inside of my nostrils ache. This morning’s temperature is -19C, and the serenade of loud pops is courtesy of trees and the yurt’s structure adjusting to the bitter cold. On the plus side, the sky is blue and the sun is shining.

We need to be on the road by noon, so no time to dilly-dally. We click into our skis and push off along the Freehand Trail. With the track freshly set the first tracks are all ours—not really a choice since we’re the only ones here. Then it’s back to camp to load the toboggans and head for the car. Just like that, the winter yurt in Killarney adventure is in the bag. The winter landscape, the solitude, ski, snowshoe, toboggan, evenings by the camp fire and a chance to share it all with my son—as the saying goes, priceless.

The Trip Planner

If you're interested in staying in a yurt, you must book ahead a minimum three days before arrival. This can be done online or by phone. The onsite park office is open 9am to 3:30 pm. You must check in to the office to finalize your registration. If you arrive after hours you’ll find an information package (be sure to read it) waiting for you by the information bulletin board. Here you will also find a toboggan that you can use to get your gear to the yurt. Across the parking lot there is the wood shed.

It takes around 10 minutes to walk to the yurt—the trail is groomed so winter boots will suffice but having snowshoes as backup is a good idea. At the yurt, the door should be unlocked and you will find light and heat controls inside by the door. If you're arriving late in the day, a reliable headlamp or flashlight is crucial. Be sure to visit the office the next morning.


Each yurt has a full size BBQ with a side burner so you can get as gourmet as you like, but keep in mind you must carry in all food prep equipment. I personally like to keep it simple—hot dogs and hamburgers on the BBQ. No fuss, no muss. There is a food locker outside the yurt but during the winter months you can keep the food inside the yurt to keep it from freezing. There is no water supplied—it’s up to you to bring it in.



Staying warm and dry is the key to good times. A good pair of winter boots is a must. Applying the three layer system of synthetic or wool based clothing with a water- and wind-proof outer layer will keep you warm and dry. Adjust your layers to the activity you are doing so that you won’t get wet from your own sweat. The nice thing about the yurt is you always have a place to warm up. You will need a pillow, sleeping bag or blanket for a good night’s rest and, as for your day time activities, you can explore the 33 km of cross country ski trails, or strap on some snowshoes and plot your own trail. Or if you prefer a guided path there are designated trails to enjoy.


The Ontario Provincial Park winter yurt experience in Northeastern Ontario is uniquely unforgettable. We chose Killarney Provincial Park as our destination but you can also enjoy a yurt stay at Windy Lake Provincial Park.

About Martin Lortz

Martin Lortz is a freelance photographer/writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Whether he is covering adventure motorcycling, kayak fishing or family oriented outdoor pursuits, his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the people that partake in it, is evident in his work. His photos and articles have appeared in magazines such as Ski Canada, Explore, Bike, Mountain Life, Couloir, Kayak Angler and Family Camping, as well as in calendars, catalogs and brochures.

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