Some people call it glamping. Some call it crazy. We called spending a very cold, winter weekend at Arrowhead Provincial Park a little slice of awesome. Our appetites for a cold-weather get-away grew after we spent nearly a week in a yurt at Killarney Provincial Park last year. That trip was awesome, but we decided to move up on the luxury scale for our 2015 winter trip. After seeing stunning photos of Arrowhead’s skating trail we thought renting one of the parks five cabins would be a fun, new experience that provides some creature comforts while allowing us to be a part of everything the park had to offer, even after the gates closed.
We chose the one cabin that was separate from all the others, preferring to enjoy a bit more solitude in the forest. It turned out to be a great choice. The ice trail was just a few meters away on one side of our home-away-from-home, so we could put on our skates while sitting on our front steps and quickly wobble our way to the trail.
The groomed ski trails were just a few meters to the other side. We aren’t skiers, but the advantages of having the trail right outside our door certainly weren’t lost on us. I have to admit, it was very cool to look out the windows of the cabin and see people gliding by on skis out one window and on skates out the other.
Our cabin was a short walk (less than five minutes) from the parking area and sleds are provided to haul your gear. As we walked along the trail the day we arrived the magic of the snowy forest hit us. It was quiet, except for the sound of chickadees in the trees. When we rounded a curve and saw our little cabin, all alone in the woods, we smiled.
Our smiles got bigger when we walked into our home for the weekend. I’m not really sure what I expected, but this cheerful, warm little house was far cosier than I had imagined it would be. Set-up to comfortably sleep five people, the bright little cabin is furnished with solid wood pieces that make you feel at home. Ontario parks provides a bar-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, kettle and a water cooler system for “running” water. You are required to fill the water jugs at the comfort station on your own.
TIP: Use one of the provided sleds to haul the jugs.
You provide your own cooking utensils, pots, plates, cutlery and linens. It’s amazing how a checkered tablecloth instantly makes a cabin feel like your own. And yes, we brought a tablecloth that is actually made of cloth. That’s why they call it glamping, friends.
TIP: Bring sheet for the mattress, even if you plan on using sleeping bags. Also, bring a tablecloth.
The cabins are heated using a propane fireplace, designed to look like a wood stove. A space heater is also provided, but even in -31 Celsius temperatures, we didn’t need it. In fact, we had to turn the heat down our first night, because the cabin was too warm. The fireplace may be propane but it really provided warmth, cheered the room with it’s flame AND was a great place to dry hats and mittens. The cabins have enclosed porches, and it’s tempting to leave your snowy boots out there. But the porch is not heated. It’s a terrible idea to put your feet in freezing boots at the start of the day. They will never warm up. And having cold toes is a sure way to end your adventures earlier than they deserve.
TIP: Keep your skates and boots inside the cabin near the fire, using the boot trays provided with the cabin. They’ll be dry and toasty for when you hit the trails!
While the cabin may be glamping, you still need to do your cooking outside if you want something beyond microwaveable food. Each cabin has it’s own propane BBQ and fire pit. Propane is provided with the cabin and fire wood can be purchased at the park office. Even if you don’t cook over the fire, I still recommend getting a blaze going for some marshmallows and smores, no matter how cold the air temperature may be!
The cabins do not have running water, which means they also don’t have bathrooms. Arrowhead has one Comfort Station open, which includes heated washrooms, showers and a laundry area. We found the time to walk to the comfort station was over five minutes, so keep that in mind if you plan on taking young children. While the distance to the washroom didn’t present a problem, the one thing we weren’t happy about was having to share the facilities with the many, many people who were at the park to go skiing or skating for the day. Our trip took place on Family Day weekend when there were hundreds of people in the park for the day. We didn’t feel their impact at our cabin, but going to the washroom was another story. More than once we found ourselves waiting in line. Should this be a deal breaker about staying in the park? I don’t think so. But I do think you need to be aware.
TIP: If you are staying in the park at a peak time such as Family Day weekend, get to the washroom in the morning before the park opens. Whenever possible, walk to the washrooms from your cabin as parking is not restricted and the Comfort Station parking area becomes overflow parking for day users visiting the skating trail.
Each day after enjoying a snowshoeing trail, or the skating trail or the tubing hill we loved coming home to our cosy little cabin in the woods. Winter glamping at Arrowhead Provincial Park was an awesome way for us to enjoy everything the park had to offer, including the beauty and solitude of being in a forest at night with snow gently falling and stars shining brightly.
You should go! Here’s what you need to know:
Arrowhead Provincial Park is well known for it’s winter activities, especially it’s ice skating trail. If possible, book your cabin long before you plan on visiting. The cabins can be booked through the same online or telephone system you use to book a campsite and are available five months before your arrival date. For more information about Arrowhead Provincial Park and to make reservations go here: www.ontarioparks.com/park/arrowhead