Camping with the Coles

Spring Camping at Pinery Provincial Park

No crowds, no mosquitos and our pick of the best campsites in the park!

By Ben and Cheryl Coles

Old Ausable Channel rental canoes - Ben & Cheryl
Old Ausable Channel rental canoes – Ben & Cheryl

One of our favourite parts of having an RV is being able to extend our camping season beyond the busy Canadian summers. For most campers in Ontario, the beginning of the camping season is the Victoria Day long weekend or as many people call it, the May two-four. But for us, it can start as early as the beginning of April. If you want to enjoy some of the most popular provincial parks in Ontario, spring camping is definitely something to consider.

Our campsite
Our campsite

We headed to Pinery Provincial Park on the first weekend of May. Pinery, with over one thousand campsites, is one of the five most popular provincial parks in Ontario. Enjoying it without the summertime crowds is a real treat and we were able to get one of the cherished riverfront campsites.

Cheryl and I have been coming to this park for years, first as a young dating couple in a two-person tent, then as a married couple with three small kids and a dog in a six person tent, then with three teenagers and a dog in a nineteen foot hybrid travel trailer, and now, as empty nesters with a young dog in a twenty-five foot travel trailer. We’ve camped at this park in all four seasons and have a pretty good idea of what each time of year has to offer.

On this trip, we stayed in Riverside Campground, Area 4 in a 30/15-amp electric campsite that backs onto the Old Ausable Channel – a site that’s almost impossible to get during peak-season.

Painted Turtles
Painted Turtles

We started out by heading to the central hub of activity where the park store, restaurant, ice cream shop and rentals are all located. It’s also the area where many people gather to make use of the free Wi-Fi.  This can be a very busy spot in the summertime, but today there were just a few people milling about. Cheryl bought an Ontario Parks puzzle at the store and then as part of our Pinery camping tradition, we checked out the Visitor Centre to see the natural history and park wildlife presentations. They have live turtles and snakes in terrariums to view, which our kids loved back in the day. One thing we’ve always enjoyed is going in the little movie theatre to watch a film about some aspect of the park.

Since 2019, Cheryl and I have been reviewing parks for our YouTube channel, Camping with the Coles. Reviewing the parks has caused us to delve so much deeper into what each park offers. Pinery is a park that we’ve been to so many times before, but while preparing this review, we realized that we had never actually hiked any of the ten hiking trails in the park. It was time to change that and we had no excuse since the weather was beautiful and sunny during most of this trip. Yes, it was beautiful enough for hiking in shorts and t-shirts. We decided to walk out from our campsite to the nearest trail, which was the Nipissing Trail: a two-kilometer loop through the woods that took us to the top of the oldest and largest sand dune ridge in the park. There is a wooden viewing platform at the top, where we sat and enjoyed the view of the treetops and Lake Huron.

Ben & Jax at the dog beach
Ben & Jax at the dog beach

The second hiking opportunity we explored was the Wilderness Trail. This is a three-kilometer loop trail through a mixed Red Pine and Oak-Pine forest. This is a good hike to bring the dog, as about half way through, the trail passes right by the dog beach. We walked down the wooden stairs from the top of the sand dune to the beach so our dog Jax, could have some fun splashing in the water and rolling in the sand.

Heritage Trail viewing platform
Heritage Trail viewing platform

Our final hike of this trip was on the Heritage Trail. This trail is two and a half kilometers and is one of three trails in the park that is wheelchair accessible. This flat trail through an Oak Savanah habitat took us to a viewing platform overlooking the Old Ausable Channel. We’ve seen this viewing platform many times from the water, but never from the land. It was very peaceful and quiet with a nice view of the channel.

Lake Huron Sunset
Lake Huron Sunset

As you may have gathered, there are two bodies of water at Pinery: Lake Huron and the Old Ausable Channel. Pinery is well known for its ten kilometres of sandy beach on the shore of Lake Huron. The beach is set up in nine day-use sections and two camping sections. The farthest day-use section is the on-leash dog beach. This lake is where you want to be for sunning, swimming and to see a stunning Lake Huron sunset. The Old Ausable Channel is the place for paddling. We brought our own kayaks with us so we didn’t need to rent any, and we drove to the canoe/kayak launch to start our trip downstream. The area around the rental dock can get very congested with people and watercraft in the summer, but today it was just us and only a few other people out on the water. It’s a great time to visit a park. There isn’t much of a current so it’s easy going both up and downstream, where you can watch the many painted turtles sunning themselves on logs. We even saw a wild turkey walking not too far from the shore and we heard so many honking Canada Geese, it was almost comical.

Old Ausable Channel rental canoes
Old Ausable Channel rental canoes

As much as we love the park, there are a couple of things to be wary of when visiting. First, there is a lot of Poison Ivy. Many campsites and trails are lined with it. It’s best to keep children and dogs from going off the beaten path. The other thing to be wary of are ticks. We have been to over fifty provincial parks in Ontario and found Pinery to have the most ticks. On one fall weekend, we removed over thirty ticks from our dog. I was mostly to blame because I had him in our campsite on a tie-out that was long enough for him to get into the long grass. That being said, these drawbacks have never stopped us from going to Pinery and thoroughly enjoying it. We now take precautions for ticks and Poison Ivy, which are health and safety concerns you should be thinking about at any park in Ontario.

Deer Tick
Deer Tick

Pinery Provincial Park is open year-round and is an excellent camping choice in Southwestern Ontario.

About Pinery Provincial Park

  • Pinery Provincial Park, 9526 Lakeshore Rd, Grand Bend, Ontario
  • 3 campgrounds with 516 electric sites (30/15 amp) and 493 no service sites, 8 rustic cabins and 6 yurts
  • 18 comfort stations
  • 2 sanitation stations
  • 1 cycling trail – 14 km loop
  • 10 hiking trails – ranging from 1 km to 3 km and all rated as easy
  • 10 km of sandy beach
  • 1 Visitor Centre
  • 2 Park Stores
  • 1 Restaurant
  • 1 Amphitheatre
  • Rentals of mountain bikes, coaster bikes, tandem bikes, bike trailers, canoes, Corcls, SUPs, kayaks, tandem kayaks, hydro bikes and in the winter cross country skis and snowshoes.

For more information, please visit the Pinery website at:

For tips on dealing with Poison Ivy, please read this RV Lifestyle Magazine article:

For more information on Ticks, please visit this page:

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