GeekDad Camping: Arrowhead Park, Ontario, Canada

Reading Time: 5 minutes

View of a meandering river from Arrowhead Provincial Park's Big Bend Lookout trail.View of a meandering river from Arrowhead Provincial Park's Big Bend Lookout trail.

The view from Arrowhead’s Big Bend Lookout trail. Photo by Jody Moon.

I’m writing this post while sitting in the trailer, laptop tethered to my iPhone for Internet access (thanks to those cell towers disguised as pine trees), enjoying a little respite from the kid-fuelled mayhem of our final major camping trip of the season. This time we’re at Arrowhead Provincial Park, about 10 minutes away from Huntsville, Ontario. For those of you familiar with Ontario, it’s in the Muskoka region, a few hours north of Toronto. This is our first stay at Arrowhead and I must say it’s been a blast. We’ll definitely be adding it to the regular yearly rotation, despite the six hour drive.

In my experience, Ontario provincial parks can be somewhat hit and miss when it comes to privacy. Our least favorite to date has probably been Darlington, largely because of the way many of its sites are packed closely together. Camping there was like being part of a bustling suburban neighborhood, complete with roving packs of kids on bikes pulling wheelies through your site. We also had a police chopper circling overhead one night, spotlight playing through the campsites. Not my idea of enjoying nature. Arrowhead is pretty much the exact opposite and, in fact, is the most private campground we have ever stayed in. Our campsite is tucked away in mixed forest with a nice canopy overhead and a level, sandy surface. It’s big, yet walking the perimeter, you can’t see any other campers. If you really squint, there’s a flash of white just visible in the distance through the trees that’s all that can be made out to be the trailer next door. We can’t even see our friends across the road. This morning there was some crashing behind the trailer and when I went out to investigate, a white-tailed deer was watching me from maybe 20 feet away. Mercifully, no bears in evidence here, although we are in bear country, so I’m still taking all the recommended precautions with food storage — as annoying as that can be, especially with a refrigerator in the trailer.

We discovered the downside to the privacy when I went to hook the trailer up to power, only to discover the designated electrical outlet is roughly 100 feet from the trailer. Three extension cords later (and only a few feet to spare), we had power, but that gives you some idea of how much space is between sites. The park actually rents extension cords, so clearly we aren’t the only ones who have been caught off guard.

Kids climbing over the rocks and in the rapids at Stubb's Falls.Kids climbing over the rocks and in the rapids at Stubb's Falls.

The rock slide and rapids at Stubb’s Falls was infested with kids (and their watchful parents) from dawn to dusk. Photo by Jody Moon.

While Arrowhead is relatively compact (just over 3,000 acres compared to nearby Algonquin Provincial Park‘s 1.9 million acres), it packs a lot within its boundaries. There are multiple trails, ranging in length from under a mile to 4.5 miles, most of which are kept wide enough for two or more people to walk side-by-side — which also makes them ideal for biking. The trails offer many scenic viewing areas, including Stubbs Falls, which was an absolute magnet for kids. Hurtling down hills is obviously in Canadians’ DNA; lacking snow and toboggans, there was an endless stream of children sliding down a natural rock chute that has been polished smooth over the decades. When that got tiring (and/or bruising), sitting in the pools among the rapids was considered to be the ideal relief method.

Our kids have been on full wildlife patrol since arriving and have been rewarded with multiple deer sightings, chipmunks, red squirrels, assorted toads and frogs, snakes and variety of birds. Actually, the bird sightings proved the perfect opportunity to put some of our apps to use, notably Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Birds (currently $9.99 at the Apple App Store). I picked this one up when it was on sale a few months ago and it’s already proven itself ideal for quick identification. Simply pick the colors of the bird, choose a size (sparrow, or robin-sized, for example), choose the region you’re in and it gives you a selection of potential candidates. Perfect for kids to quickly narrow down the choices. The digital edition improves over the printed versionby including extras such as recordings of the bird calls and the ability to report a sighting. While an iPad is obviously a bit big to lug around on a hike, you can also run it from an iPhone for greater portability.

A "camping eclair," freshly baked over the campfire coals.A "camping eclair," freshly baked over the campfire coals.

The best thing to come out of my wife’s current Pinterest obsession: the camping eclair. Wrap Pillsbury crescent roll dough around the end of a wooden dowel, bake it over coals, remove, fill the hole with pudding and/or whipped cream and top with chocolate frosting. Photo by Brad Moon.

Arrowhead also offers a number of sandy beaches, along with canoe rentals. Between the beach, the waterfalls and the trails, our campsite itself has seldom seen much use, other than mealtimes and campfires (and me stealing off to write now and then). Which is a sign of a good camping trip — when your tent or trailer is just a place to eat and crash, that’s a campground worth a return trip.


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