The Yurts of Algonquin
If you’re playing word association try "Algonquin" and see just how prevalent the word "canoe" will be. Although the park has mountain biking, skiing, hiking, backpacking and a wealth of nature viewing, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is, of course, canoeing. (Directions to Algonquin)
Recently, I was introduced to a strange new word when I asked someone for a word association for "Algonquin", the word "Yurt". I was surprised at this, particularly since I didn’t even know what a "Yurt" was. As I found out yurts are tent structures, used by the nomadic peoples of Mongolia. Not unlike a round circus tent in shape, they are of course much smaller.  
Straight walled and originally the size of about a large bedroom, they were supported by wood and covered by hides. Decorated as the Mongols did they presented a rather rich and romantic abode with the additional ability to be broken down and moved easily. This later feature was essential in order to take advantage of new grazing lands for their animals.

The yurts of Algonquin share the same design as those of the Mongols (More on Yurts) but the original materials have been replaced by high tech counterparts. Supported by extruded aluminum poles and covered by a quilted insulated plastic material. The exterior of the yurts are green, no doubt to help them blend into their wilderness surroundings.

The interiors are white, which helps reflect the available light (there are five windows) and add to the shelters ambiance. On closer inspection these modern day copies make liberal use of Velcro and quick insertion pins (in place of screws) making these yurts easily portable, as were the originals. The overall structure is supported on an insulated wooden platform to keep the floor reasonably warm in the winter. I was intrigued by the yurts history and the unique design so I vowed to pay the park a visit in the winter to see first hand what a weekend in a Yurt would be like.  
Since the yurts require reservations I decided to phone a few weeks in advance. I was told that they were booked solid on the weekends for the next several months. I was fortunate that my visit would be during the week, so I had no trouble securing a two-night stay. I later learned that the yurts have become another of Algonquin’s success stories and several other parks are now making them available including Silent Lake, Pinery and McGregor Point.
Algonquin’s yurts are located at the Mew Lake campground almost exactly half way through the parks main corridor. I had been warned to arrive before the office closed, since the yurts are locked and a key is required to gain access. Once the fees were paid I received a short list of do’s and don’ts, after which I secured a description of the cross country and snowshoe trails, which I hoped to take advantage of tomorrow. I arrived at the Yurt and began investigating its features as well as its surroundings, before I settled in for the night.  
Each Yurt comes equipped with two bunks, which will comfortable accommodate four to six people. There is a set of tables and chairs inside the Yurt and a picnic table and fire pit on the outside. Each Yurt has electricity, which provides heat and lighting. A shovel, broom and dustpan were available to keep things in order. Dogs, smoking and cooking are not permitted inside the Yurt. The last restriction was easily dealt with by setting up my camping stove on the picnic table just outside the door. Finally there are vault toilets nearby along with a fully heated, full serviced bathroom just a short walk away.
Enough of the nuts and bolts, let me try and remember why I’m here. Two days of kicking back, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. (Winter Activities) Algonquin is beautiful in the winter particularly when the boughs are laden with snow and the crowds have move to the ski slopes. The park has excellent areas for cross country skiing including the Minnising Trial, which is the largest area, the Fen Lakes trails near the west gate and the Leaf Lake trails just within the east gate.  
All of these trails lie along the main corridor, highway 60. You can choose from loops or interconnecting trials (Leaf Lake) to suit your fitness and mood. Snow shoeing can be done around Mew Lake or you can choose from any of the summer hiking trails along the corridor.

On my outings I saw some fresh bear tracks (but not the bear), as well as tracks of moose, deer and rabbit. After some strenuous exercise the yurts comfort and warmth were very much welcome as was the electric light, which allowed me to finish my long neglected novel. ( Algonquin Provincial Park )

Directions to Algonquin Park:

Algonquin Park’s main corridor (Highway 60) is located in the eastern section of Ontario about 2.5 hours from Ottawa, 4.5 hours from Montreal or 3.5 hours from Toronto.

Montreal and Ottawa

From Montreal follow highway 40 west (Trans-Canada) to the Ontario border where it turns into the 417. Follow the 417 through Ottawa which turns into the 17. At Renfrew, pick up the 60 which will take you all the way to Whitney and the east gate of the park.


From Toronto follow the 400 north (from the 401) passed Barrie then follow the 11 to Huntsville. At Huntsville, pick up highway 60 which will take you to the west gate of the park just passed Dwight.

Winter activities in the park include:

  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Snow Shoeing
  • Dog Sledding
  • Winter Camping (Tent or Yurt)
  • Nature Viewing

The park’s visitors center is open on the weekends during the winter.

For more information and fees have a look at the Ontario Parks website.

More on Yurts:

Yurts offer very efficient use of enclosed space combined with low materials cost, easy construction and low maintenance. They can be used as temporary structures, storage areas, recreational shelters and even (building codes permitting) permanent housing. If you can envision a use for a Yurt the following links may be of interest.




Algonquin has 8 yurts available. Other Ontario Parks with yurts are as follows:

Bon Echo 2 - Ontario East
Bronte Creek
3 - Southwestern Ontario
Killarney 6 - North Eastern Ontario

MacGregor Point 12 - Central Ontario North
Pancake Bay 5 - North Eastern Ontario
Pinery 12 - Southwestern Ontario
Quetico 2 - North Western Ontario
Silent Lake 6 - Ontario East


Algonquin Map- Wonderful online map created by Jeffrey McMurtrie under Creative Commons - make a contribution to show your appreciation for his work.



Algonquin Park



Algonquin Outfitters - Canoes, XC Skis, Snowshoes, Guiding, Huntsville, Main Corridor, West Entrance
Call of the Wild - Dog Sledding


Related Links

Out-There's Greater Toronto - Ontario's major city
Out-There's North Central Ontario Region - Bruce, Grey, Simcoe and Muskoka - West of the Park
Out-There's Eastern Ontario Region -- East of the Park
Ontario's North Eastern Region - North of the Park

Out-There's Central Ontario North
Out-There's Toronto
Out-There's Prince Edward County

Out-There's Ontario
Ontario Tourism


Official Site

Algonquin Provincial Park from Parks Ontario
Friends of Algonquin

Out-There's Algonquin

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