Some Advice for Killarney Provincial Park Camping and Hiking the La Cloche Silhouette Trail
We recently did another camping trip at Killarney Provincial Park Camping and hiked sections of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail. Normally, I do a TON of research about places we’re going, but the info on this area is weirdly sparse, so I wanted to share a few of the things that we learned that I wasn’t able to find. It’s such a great park to camp in, with tons of awesome activities: Gorgeous, challenging hikes; fun swimming, SUPing and canoeing beaches; tons of kids around if you’re bringing the family; lots of shade; just enough washrooms that you don’t feel far from one but not so many that it loses the rustic vibe; and a really friendly park staff. If you’re in Ontario and looking for a park that’s close-ish to the GTA, it’s optimal.
Book early. Like, really early.
People bring RVs and set up for looooong vacations here, and it gets crazy mid-summer. If you have a specific time you want to go in, say, July, I’d book it in March. We waited too late and ended up almost not getting a spot. And the online booking system is pretty easy!
There are no handy convenience stores and the town of Killarney is more than 10 kilometers from the park entrance. There are few grocery stops along the way, and in Killarney, there are zero major grocery store options. Seriously, be prepared with all of your stuff. It’ll make your life so much easier if, once in the park, you don’t need to leave the park. (Plus, I personally think it detracts from camping if you keep running to the grocery store, but that’s besides the point.)
If you didn’t reserve a campsite, there are still some non-reservable ones
We showed up on a Tuesday at 10 am (the park office opens at 8:30) thinking we’d be the first ones there. We were not. Luckily, we scored the last free campsite, but barely—apparently, there were people lined up at the door before the ranger even opened the park office! So show up early if you want to get a spot.
There are also some nearby camping options
It didn’t show up when I was searching for nearby campsites because it isn’t a provincial park, but Point Grondine is just down the road and has some backcountry sites available for camping. This may not be your first choice, but it’s quite cheap and it’s nice to have an alternative option. You’d need to hike in to the spots, so it’s not the simplest choice, but if you’re dead-set on staying in the area, it’s worth considering.
Please wear real shoes to hike The Crack
The signs aren’t kidding that The Crack is a technical hike. It’s awesome and worth it, but you will be scrambling on rocks and the trail, while it starts really easy, gets really really technical and demanding. I’m not saying you need hiking boots, but I saw some people turning around right as the going gets good because they were wearing Crocs or sandals or Converse. Just wear reasonable sneakers and you’ll be fine. (Oh, and it is an out-and-back of about 7 kilometers TOTAL. The signage is not super clear.)
There are outlets around and in the one shower/washroom facility, but even the RV sites don’t have hookups. We have a Yeti Goal Zero (with a solar panel) that we use to charge phones, laptops, headlamps, Garmins, and even a small fan when doing van camping, and it’s great for a 3-4 day stay there. (Last time we camped at Killarney after hiking La Cloche, I actually just brought our rice cooker into the washroom to warm up our rice and canned salmon dinner though!) Side note: I’d say after three years of use that the Goal Zero is ideal for people who are into the idea of #vanlife but not fully committed… and it’s under $200!
There is cell service
For better or worse, we now have cell service in the park where we didn’t last year—LTE data, no less! I admit, it’s nice: We can be online to check in with work and then turn to airplane mode to be campers. So, for two people who run their own businesses, it does reduce stress. Offline is great, but being able to check in for 15 minutes and stay on top of things is really helpful.
Bugs… always an issue
If it’s not mosquitoes, it’s deer flies. We got eaten alive last time we were there in early June, and July was much better but still had some buggy spots/mosquitoes around the park. I recommend keeping an eye on the Bug Report before you go, and planning to have a campfire at night to alleviate the mosquito situation, plus packing long layers even when it’s going to be hot. I was SO happy to have a bandana with me to protect my neck!
Hiking La Cloche? Phone to Book
It’s a pain in the ass to reserve the backcountry sites and honestly, the customer service isn’t amazing. This is the best campsite guide that I’ve found, but be aware that there are NOT many kilometer mentions, so it’s hard to tell exactly how far in campsite H7 or H23 or any of them are. It’s frustrating—and even the map that you can buy doesn’t have super accurate scale. So don’t be afraid to ask A LOT of questions when you book.
Raccoons. They aren’t joking.
The park makes it really clear that food should be stored in your vehicle during the day, and they aren’t kidding. We saw a fat raccoon trying to break into a tent, one meandered into our campsite and wouldn’t leave, and generally, they’re everywhere. We also saw a bear wandering around. So if you’re new to camping, think of this as your friendly reminder to take the wildlife warnings seriously.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about Killarney Provincial Park!!