Glamping at Arrowhead or what’s the point of weekend getaways in the winter

“In winter we wait for spring, in spring we wait for summer. Always waiting for something,” says a woman standing next to me in the elevator. I can see her friend nodding vigorously, and I find myself agreeing as well. While I am committed to embracing whatever each season brings, some days it is easier said than done. Case in point: our recent trip to Arrowhead or rather the obstacles of getting there.

Arrowhead provincial park in the winter

Arrowhead Provincial Park is the winter fun central. Name any winter activity, they’ve got it: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, a skating loop, a tubing hill. And all of it comes with equipment rentals. For many years the park was called the best kept secret in Muskoka, and we spent many a Family Day there. That was before we discovered yurts and cabins in provincial parks so we used to book a hotel room in the nearby Huntsville, spend the day on the trails and then return to our warm beds and the pool at night (it had its charms). Until one year we had to spend over an hour in a car line-up to get into the park. It was clear that the secret was finally out. Seemed like the best way to enjoy Arrowhead was to come on a regular weekend and stay in one of the park’s cabins. Booking one, however, wasn’t an easy task. After years of trying, we finally succeeded and were super excited to go back.

Then the weather had to throw in a wrench. After weeks of season appropriate conditions, winter decided to take a break. Two days before our departure, the temperature crept into positive teens bringing rain. Then it dropped suddenly on Friday causing a flash freeze. The rain transformed into freezing rain, then snow just in time for the evening commute, turning all roads and highways into parking lots. It took my husband three hours to get home. Our son spent close to five hours on a bus from Waterloo (normally a one-hour trip). By the time we were ready to leave for Arrowhead, we’d collectively spent enough time on the road to get to Killarney and back. Good thing Arrowhead isn’t too far away from Toronto. Plus leaving late at night had its advantages: the roads were empty by then.

But as I was seating in the car, with our kids sleeping in the back, trying to stay awake to keep my husband company, I started to question the whole idea of going away on regular weekends in the winter. At least on long weekends, you get an extra day to spend in the woods to compensate for all the trouble you have to go to getting there.

That feeling was gone when we woke up in our cabin the next morning.

inside cabin 225 at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

Arrowhead has 10 cabins, all beautiful wood decor trying to look rustic. Although with electric light and heating, a microwave, Keurig coffee maker, electric kettle and fridge, they can hardly be called that. There is also a bbq outside and a large covered veranda with two muskoka chairs. Some amenities are still missing, like running water or indoor plumbing but they are available at a comfort station a few minutes away.

cabin 225 at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the witner

inside cabin 225 at Arrowhead provincial park in the winter   inside cabin 225 at Arrowhead provincial park in the winter

inside cabin 224 at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

In the winter, the cabins can only be accessed on foot but the walk is very short and toboggans are provided to transport gear. So even though we arrived in the middle of the night, it didn’t take us long to move all our stuff. It took us longer to figure out how to turn on the gas fireplace. It’s not that it was cold with the electric heat on but the fireplace adds a nice ambience. In the end, we gave up on it and went to sleep. The park staff later explained that for the fireplace to kick in we had to turn off electric heat. So we decided not to bother.

The next morning, after we finally figured out how to work the Keurig (what’s wrong with a regular coffee-maker?) and made a decent cup of coffee, we hit the trails. Some of my favourite memories of Arrowhead are about skiing through its snow-covered woods. This time, however, only two very short trails were open so we decided to skip skiing and go snowshoeing to Stubb’s Falls instead.

Arrowhead provincial park in the winter

snowshoeing to Stubb's Falls in the winter   snowshoeing to Stubb's Falls in the winter

snowshoeing to Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

Stubb’s Falls is one of Arrowhead’s landmarks, and it’s always fascinating to watch it change from one season to another. The powerful stream wasn’t completely frozen pushing apart sheets of ice. Our son, as always, couldn’t forgo an opportunity to break some of it apart.

Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

ice at Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter   ice at Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

ice at Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter    ice at Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

playing at Stubb's Falls at Arrowhead Provincial Park in the winter

We also made a trip to the Big Bend, another of Arrowhead’s famous spots. A round peninsula sat down below in a white frame of the Big East River. It was hard to believe we once paddled around it.

Big Bend in the winter at Arrowhead Provincial Park

The park was abuzz with activity, especially a skating loop. The cabin area, however, remained quiet apart from a loud conversation between blue jays and insistent tapping of woodpeckers.

blue jay    woodpecker in the winter

As I stood on the porch on the morning of our departure, crisp air filled with winter joy, all the drama of our arrival seemed to be forgotten. Three days later I stumbled upon an unexpected cancellation at one of the Arrowhead cabins. I couldn’t remember why I thought going away on regular weekends was a bad idea so I booked it. After all, why wait for another season to do something we enjoy?

view from cabin 225 at Arrowhead provincial park in the winter

7 thoughts on “Glamping at Arrowhead or what’s the point of weekend getaways in the winter

    • It always is. Sometimes, however, when you are on the road and the traffic is terrible, or when you have to pack and go after work, it’s easy to forget how much those weekend getaways, no matter how short, can do for your wellbeing.

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    • Thank you. Our kids are older but sometimes it can be even harder to get everyone together with different schedules. Winter getaways are definitely worth the trouble. And getting a yurt or a cabin is a great way to do it, especially with kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree based on your story that the trip was worth it but I can’t help but to be impressed how you and your family prioritize camping and enjoying your parks. Confronted with the bad weather and travel delays I’m sure most people would have turned back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be honest I was ready to admit defeat and stay home. Luckily my husband can be pretty stubborn. It was the right decision in the end because a couple of days in the woods can do wonders. And while we try to get outside as much as possible close to home, nothing compares to waking up to the views of a snow-covered forest.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Groundhog Day or another trip to Arrowhead | Gone Camping

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