Pinery Provincial Park in winter is a magical wonderland with lots of opportunities for outdoor fun. You can still go hiking, stay in a yurt overnight, car camp, discover winter sports like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and even visit the beach. Okay, a trip to the beach might not exactly be the same as in the summer months. But, it’s spectacular and stunning in its own right.
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Pinery Provincial Park offers a rare ecosystem in southwest Ontario on the edge of Lake Huron. It’s the largest remaining tract of Oak Savanna in the province. It’s also home to one of the lengthiest freshwater coastal dune ecosystems in Ontario.
If you’d like to plan a day hike in Ontario this winter or even an overnight getaway, Pinery Provincial Park is magnificent in the winter season. Bundle up in the chillier weather and enjoy the quiet beauty of winter nature.
Pinery Provincial Park Map
Here is a Pinery Provincial Park map that shows all of the hiking trails, beach areas, and camping areas. This Pinery Provincial Park trail map, however, shows all of the trails that are open in the summer. It’s important to note that you can only hike on some of these trails in the winter.
Some of them are not accessible in the winter months, and some of them are transformed into cross-country skiing trails. Feel free to reference the map above when I’m writing about specific trails that you can hike in the winter months.
Hiking and Snowshoeing at Pinery
For most of the year, Pinery Provincial Park has 10 hiking trails to explore. It’s important to note that not all of these trails are maintained during the winter months. For the hiking trails that aren’t groomed, you’re welcome to strap on the snowshoes and go for an adventure.
If you are venturing out on snowshoes, please be sure to stay out of environmentally sensitive areas and away from steep slopes that could give way. Even though it’s the winter, it’s still important to stick to the trail as much as possible.
There are two main hiking trails that are properly maintained in the winter months: the Cedar Trail and the Heritage Trail. I decided to hike around the Cedar Trail during my stay at Pinery Provincial Park. When I visited, there was only a light dusting of snow on the ground. I wore my regular winter boots on the trail without any need for crampons or snowshoes.
The Cedar Trail
The Cedar Trail at Pinery Provincial Park is a 2.3km loop. It’s an easy hike with a flat terrain. There’s also a 1km extension trail that connects to the shores of Lake Huron. I mentioned earlier that Pinery Provincial Park has the largest remaining tract of Oak Savanna in Ontario. On the Cedar Trail, you’ll be able to journey through this rare habitat, as well as groves of Eastern Red Cedar.
At one point during your hike, you’ll see a wooden boardwalk leading towards the river. At the end of this wooden walkway, you’ll be able to admire wonderful views of the Old Ausable Channel, partially frozen in the wintertime.
When I visited in the winter, there weren’t any other people on this hiking trail. It was perfectly peaceful and had all the great elements of a serene stroll through the forest. If you’re looking to get out into nature this winter, the Cedar Trail at Pinery Provincial Park is a lovely place to go hiking.
The Heritage Trail
The Heritage Trail at Pinery Provincial Park is another great winter hiking option. It’s a 2.5km hiking trail that’s also a relatively easy, flat terrain. Much like the Cedar Trail, there’s another viewpoint of the Old Ausable Channel at the midpoint of your hike. I didn’t end up hiking on the Heritage Trail, but you could easily hike both the Cedar Trail and the Heritage Trail in one day.
Snowshoeing and More Hiking Trails
If there’s a lot of snow at Pinery Provincial Park, you can opt to go snowshoeing on any of the 10 hiking trails. The remaining eight hiking trails include:
- Bittersweet Trail (1.5km)
- Carolinian Trail (1.8km)
- Hickory Trail (1km)
- Lookout Trail (1km)
- Nipissing Trail (2km)
- Pine Trail (0.8km)
- Riverside Trail (1km)
- Wilderness Trail (3km)
Cross-Country Skiing at Pinery
When I visited Pinery Provincial Park in winter, I was supposed to go cross-country skiing. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough snow (even in February!). The region has experienced some warmer temperatures than usual over the last few years. It’s best to check in advance if the cross-country ski trails are open. They will be open, but it all depends on a good amount of that fluffy white stuff.
There are five cross-country skiing trails at Pinery Provincial Park on 38km of groomed trails. It’s some of the best cross-country skiing in southern Ontario (when there’s snow, of course!). Here are a few details about the cross-country skiing trails at Pinery:
- Ausable Trail (4.7 km): Track-set, classic skiing trail. Medium difficulty.
- Dune Ridge Trail (9.4 km): Track-set, classic skiing trail. Challenging difficulty.
- Huron Trail (9.6 km): Track-set, classic skiing trail. Medium difficulty.
- Chickadee Trail (4.2 km): Track-set, classic skiing trail. Easy difficulty.
- Skate Ski Trail (11 km): Trail groomed for ski-skating. Easy difficulty.
Pinery Provincial Park Winter Beach
While a trip to the beach might not be on your winter bucket list, you’ll want to at least take a peek down by the waterfront at Pinery Provincial Park. Lake Huron is so beautiful in the winter, whether you’re checking out the scenery during the day or at sunset. There are nine beach areas in total (P1-P9), as well as Burley Beach and Dunes Beach.
The easiest beach to visit by car in the winter is the beach at P9. I recommend going to the P9 beach at Pinery Provincial Park in winter. Park your car at the large parking lot and it’s only a short walk down to the water. You can also walk to Dunes Beach from the yurts and the campground if you don’t feel like driving anywhere.
Visiting the beach at Pinery Provincial Park in winter is truly awe-inspiring. You’ll likely have the whole place to yourself, and it’s so beautiful. The waves keep crashing against the shore, and you’ll walk through snow instead of sand. Giant chunks of ice float on the surface of the water, which is a stunning shade of deep blue. Rather than the rolling sand dunes that you might see in the summer, you’ll witness vast snowy expanses along the shoreline.
It’s much colder on the shorelines than the forest. You’ll need to really bundle up because the wind off the water is absolutely frigid. But, it’s so worth checking it out, even if it’s only for a few moments.
Pinery Provincial Park Visitor Centre
If you happen to visit Pinery on a weekend, their Visitor Centre will be open. It’s also open daily during March Break and Christmas Break. It’s a very informative place in the park where you can learn more about the ecology and wildlife there.
The friendly and helpful staff will answer any questions you might have. There are also some rescued turtles to visit, too!
Spending the Night
You have a couple of options for spending the night at Pinery Provincial Park in winter. There is one more luxurious cabin accommodation called the Camp Cabin. It can sleep five people with one queen bed and one double bunk bed. There’s also a kitchenette, a mini-fridge, a microwave, and there’s heating. There isn’t a bathroom, so you’ll need to use one of the shared comfort stations that’s a short walk away.
Most people will opt to stay in one of the yurts or go car camping at Pinery Provincial Park. When I visited Pinery Provincial Park in winter, I spend two nights in a heated yurt and really enjoyed my stay.
Pinery Winter Camping
You can go winter car camping at Pinery at the Riverside Campground. This campground stays open all year round. Burley Campground and Dunes Campground close during the winter months. The Riverside Campground has comfort stations, laundry facilities, and water taps. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous or have access to your own heated trailer, stay at the Riverside Campground. I felt most comfortable opting for one of the Pinery Provincial Park yurts.
Pinery Provincial Park Yurts
The yurts at Pinery are open all year long, and it’s a brand new experience during the winter months. There are 12 yurts in total at Pinery, and you’ll want to reserve them in advance because they get booked up pretty quickly. Sleeping in a yurt is pretty similar to glamping as it’s a bit more luxurious than glamping.
For those of you who don’t know what a yurt is, it’s the Russian translation for what people in Mongolia call a home or dwelling. Mongolians have lived in yurts for thousands of years, especially nomadic people who move from one place to the next. While the Pinery Provincial Park yurts vary from traditional yurts as they don’t have fireplaces, these ones are outfitted with heating and electricity. While they are a circular shape with a domed roof, they stay in one place at Pinery unlike traditional ones.
These Pinery Provincial Park yurts have heating, electricity, and two sets of bunk beds. They’re fully accessible, come with their own parking space, wooden deck, a gas barbecue, and a little fire pit for bonfires. As there isn’t any running water or bathrooms inside the yurts, you can use the shared comfort stations that are a short walk from the yurts. If you’re staying in a yurt, you’ll need to pack your own bed sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, toiletries, and a water bottle (the taps at the park have safe drinking water).
What to Bring on a Winter Hiking Trip
Your packing list for a winter hiking trip will look much different than one in the summer! Here are some important things to consider bringing with you on a winter day hike.
- Waterproof day pack
- Water bottle for cold drinks or insulated bottle for hot drinks
- Hand warmers / toe warmers
- 3-in-1 jacket (for men and for women)
- Insulating layers (base layer top for women and for men)
- Base layer tights (for men and for women)
- Snow pants
- Swiss Army knife
- Warm hat, scarf, and mittens
- Waterproof hiking boots or winter boots
- Fast Mask neck gaiter
- Portable charger for cell phone (phone battery dies quicker in the cold!)
- Flashlight or headlamp (the sun goes down more quickly)
- Hiking poles
- Snacks / trail mix
- At least one change of hiking socks
Looking for more winter hikes in Ontario? I’ve got you covered! Here are the best hiking trails in Ontario to explore in the winter.
Where to Stay in Grand Bend
Here’s a handy booking tool where you can see all of the Booking.com accommodations and Airbnbs in one place. It’s easy to compare prices and find the best rate for your trip to Pinery.
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