There are over 300 parks and reserves all over Ontario, protecting some of the province’s most beautiful and important natural areas. Ontario Parks can also be an amazing place to elope if you and your partner are up for an adventure! These are tips for eloping in Ontario Provincial Parks.
Tip 1: Reach out to the park warden
Ontario Parks recommends that you and your photographer reach out to the specific park directly to see if they can accommodate the request. The day will go much more smoothly if the Parks staff know what’s going on!
Tip 2: Be mindful of other visitors
Since you’ll be at a public park, know that your elopement may be attended by members of the public who are sharing the space with you. The more popular the spot, such as the Crack in Killarney or Lookout Trail in Algonquin, the more people will be there. Most people are respectful of people getting married, but you might run into the odd person that gets rubbed the wrong way.
Tip 3: Follow the Leave No Trace Principles
Ontario Provincial Parks are protected areas and that means we need to be respectful of the land. I personally follow the Leave No Trace principles, which are:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
These can also apply to many different things when it comes to your elopement. For example, if you’re planning to bring flowers, like in a bouquet, then make sure all the flowers you are using are native to the area since you do not want to bring an invasive species into the park by accident.
Another example is the ever-popular champagne pop. Make sure to collect the cork and avoid spraying it everywhere.
There are so many things to consider here, so it’s best to talk to an elopement planner, your officiant and your photographer about their Leave No Trace principles.
Tip 4: Prepare for roughing it when it comes to hair and makeup
Some Ontario Provincial Parks are quite remote and their facilities are basic, which means you may not have access to hair and makeup like in a regular wedding. Even if you do bring in a makeup artist or hairstylist, you’ll want to consider how far you will be hiking to your elopement spot.
For example, if you’re hiking all the way to the Top of the Giant in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, that’s a cool 11km strenuous hike to the top. I’d be red-faced and sweaty! But if you’re walking to a lookout point at Ouimet Canyon, then that’s only an easy 1km hike. It all depends on where you want to go.
Tip 5: Be prepared to get a little dirty
Just like hair and makeup, it’s likely that your dress is going to get a little dirty if you hike with it to your elopement location. You could hike in regular clothes and change when you arrive, but you might also want to get hiking photos in your dress.
Tip 6: Rent a roofed accommodation, cottage or resort nearby to host an after-party
What happens after you elope in Ontario Provincial Parks? Why not rent a cabin, yurt or campsite for your after-party, aka you are your significant other. You could talk to an elopement planner to make the spaces look extra special for the two of you after your “I dos.” You could also go to a nearby cottage, cabin or resort for something a little more on-the-grid.
Tip 7: Aim for off-peak days, but be mindful of opening dates
Summer in Ontario Provincial Parks can be a little crazy. To avoid the crowds in summer, you could pick a weekday to elope, but there will still be lots of people about. Some parks are also incredibly busy in the fall, such as Algonquin Provincial Park, so a weekday is preferred in fall too.
Otherwise, aim for a shoulder season date. Just be mindful of the closing dates of the park. Most parks are open from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving. There are some with extended seasons, like Killbear, which is open until the end of October. And there are some parks that are open year-round.
Also, it’s important to note that most parks have an alcohol ban for a couple of weeks around Victoria Day and some other long weekends. Be sure to inquire with the specific park to find out what those dates are.
Fees for eloping in an Ontario Provincial Park
Since fees for eloping in Ontario Provincial Parks isn’t clear on their website, I reached out to someone at Ontario Parks to get a clear answer. Here’s what they said:
“At a minimum, all visitors would need to purchase a valid day-use permit and there could be additional facility rental fees as well depending on the park, size of the wedding and location selected.”
They also recommended that elopers read up on the rules of the park before they visit.
Want to elope in an Ontario Provincial Park?
Then reach out for all your photography needs! I’ve been to 60 Ontario Provincial Parks and can recommend amazing locations to exchange your vows.
Adventurous elopement in Algonquin Provincial Park
I was so excited to meet Brad and Mackenzie for an adventurous elopement shoot in Algonquin Provincial Park. These two stuck it out through rain, clouds and a chilly wind for this epic location. Lookout Trail in Algonquin is a popular trail, but somehow, ended up with very limited people visiting the park while we were there.
We then travelled to Algonquin Outfitters at Oxtongue Lake, just outside the park to take some photos in a canoe! I swear I thought they would tip and fall into the lake, but they were pros!
Lastly, we walked to the most beautiful waterfall in the area, Ragged Falls. And took some epic photos in golden hour.