Trip report: Cross-country skiing and yurt camping at Algonquin February 2019

After such a great experience yurt camping for the first time last winter at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, my friend Rebecca and I decided to do it again. This time, we would be joined by Jen, who had never stayed in a yurt before. There is so much to do at Algonquin in the winter!

Our plan was to borrow cross-country skis from Algonquin Outfitters, and in my case, to try them out for the first time in more than 10 years! Last year, we borrowed fat bikes and had a blast!

Unfortunately, Jen was unable to ski due to a knee injury, but she was still keen to get away with us for a few days!

Skiing in fresh snow on the Fen Lake trails at Algonquin after 25 cm of fresh snow had fallen. [Photo by Rebecca]
Snow-plowing my way down a steep hill on the Blue Spruce Resort trails. [Photo by Rebecca]

I’ve already written about my cross-country skiing adventures with Rebecca on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, so I’ll skip that part (it was super fun) and focus instead on winter camping in a yurt!

We pulled into Mew Lake and headed for our yurt. Before even parking our car at our campsite, we had already spotted 2 pine martens. Their little faces are so darn cute!

Pine marten beside our yurt.

Jen had arrived just before us, so we went into the yurt and decided who was going to sleep in which bed, and where we were going to stash all of our stuff. A yurt is much bigger than a tent, but start piling gear in there and it fills up quickly.

Since there were only 3 of us, Jen and I each had a double bed (bottom bunk) to ourselves, with Rebecca on a top bunk. The yurts sleep 6, and while there are 6 chairs, the table is tiny. As you can see in the pictures below, there is a long shelf above the table, perfect for keeping paper towels and kleenex and other things out of the way.

There is an electric heater in the yurt, which takes the edge off the cold, but you still have to dress warmly. As the heater cycles on and off, I often found that I was most comfortable wearing multiples layers, including a winter hat (I may or may not have worn the same long johns and running pants for 3 days straight)! But at night, I was quite comfortable in regular pajamas and my -7C sleeping bag. There is a single overhead fluorescent light, which is plugged into the only electrical outlet in the yurt. This means you have one outlet to plug in your phone, kettle, etc. unless you bring a power bar.

Insider tip: bring a very long extension cord to reach the power outlet outside and behind the yurt. You can feed this into the yurt through a window (they close with velcro), and then you can have an outlet that works when you turn the light off. Otherwise, when you turn the light off, the other outlet turns off too! Jen read up on yurt camping and learned lots of useful tidbits, including putting a sheet on the double mattress to make the bed more cozy!

Note the bedsheet on Jen’s bed! Smart!

Jen also brought a mat for just inside the yurt door, and we all brought “inside shoes” so that we didn’t track snow and water all across the floor. There were a couple of rubber mats to put our footwear on, and several hooks to hang coats. Our door didn’t quite shut properly (it seemed misaligned), so it’s no wonder it never really warmed up in there.

Rebecca, Jen and I.

We had a sneak peak at a newer model of yurt across the road from us, complete with newer bunk beds, a wooden table, and a fireplace! It sounds like all of the older yurts will be replaced in time with the newer model.

Extension cord giving us power even when we turned the light off.

While Jen wasn’t able to ski, she was able to go for walks, so we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield at sunset, which was just as pretty as always.

Jen and Rebecca in the old Mew Lake airfield.

Another time we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield to the Old Railway Trail, then back along the Highland Trail to the waterfall, and finally along the Track and Tower Trail back to Mew Lake.

While we didn’t skate at Mew Lake, there is a rink beside the comfort station (hot and cold running water, flush toilets, a shower, and laundry facilities), complete with hockey nets, sticks, pucks (and shovels!) for campers to use. There’s also a warming tent with picnic tables and a fire in it.

Warming tent and skating rink.

While we were camping, the only occupied campsites were the 7 yurts, and 3 sites with trailers on them (including the camp hosts). It quiet – and lovely!

Our 2nd day at Algonquin saw a snowstorm blow in, and when it was all done the next morning, 25 cm of snow had fallen! We couldn’t leave until a tractor came to plow the roads (which happened before 10 AM). We had to dig our cars out, and sadly, head for home!

Just a little snow fell!

I love that in a yurt at Algonquin you can hang your clothes to dry, be cozy at night, and have nature’s playground at your doorstep. It was a great 3-day mini winter getaway, with cross-country skiing, hiking, card playing, lots of laughs, tons of sweets (and hot chocolate!) and relaxation! Algonquin, I’ll be back!

On the road to our campsite! [Photo by Rebecca]

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4 thoughts on “Trip report: Cross-country skiing and yurt camping at Algonquin February 2019

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