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How To Spot The Northern Lights In Ontario

November 11, 2022 4 min read

Green and yellow northern lights.

Audio Version

Best Places For Catching The Northern Lights

There are240 nights of active Northern Lights annually in the Northwest Territories; witnessing these lights is a dream for manypeopleworldwide.

One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is to partake in one of the oldest outdoor winter activities for adults: hammock camping in winter. From your secluded view, the Northern Lights display is guaranteed to take your breath away.

So, keep reading to learn how to spot the Northern Lights from Ontario. Remember to bring your camera!

What Are Northern Lights?  

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is one of the best-known atmospheric phenomena globally. They are beautifully breathtaking waves of coloured light that float across the skies. Colours range from greens and purples to red, blue, yellow, and pink.

While it may look peaceful, this phenomenon is a very violent event. The aurora is created when energized particles from the sun crash into our upper atmosphere at speeds greater than67 millionkilometres per hour.

Our planet's magnetic field protects us from this onslaught as it redirects particles toward the poles. That is why there are also auroras in the SouthernHemisphere.

What IsThe Best TimeTo Spot Northern Lights?  

While the Northern Lights are available for 240 nights of the year, there are periods that are better for viewing this marvel. But, of course, because it's an occurrence of nature, there is no guarantee of a showing.

Due to how the aurora is created, the summer months are not a great time to attempt to see them. The light cast by the sun renders them invisible to the eye.

Instead, you want to schedule your backcountrytrip in Ontario for the winter months. The three most popular months to visit, if you want to photograph the Northern Lights, is January to March. These months typically have the longest nights to allow for the best viewing.

When planning your Ontario outdoor activities, you want to schedule your Northern Lights viewingbetween 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. However, the peak viewing timeistypicallybetween 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.

WhereTo See Northern LightsIn Ontario  

So if you've travelled to Ontario, Canada, for a Northern Lights viewing, what are your options? Below are our suggestions forviewing the Northern Lights in Ontario.

Sunset Country  

If you want to experience the Northern Lights inSunset Country, you may have a chance of seeing it if you're driving on Highway 599 fromPickle Lake toIgnace. You'll get the whole show for free if you're lucky enough to catch the aurora on your drive.

Algoma Country  

In Algoma Country, your chance to view this spectacular display can be found on St. Joseph Island. Here you have a choice of hotels and campgrounds. If you need a map of the island to help you decide on your accommodation, you canfind one here.


Lake Temagami is also another place you can go to view the Northern lights. You must purchase a permit to camp overnight in one of Temagami's backcountry provincial parks. However, there are several options when it comes to camping in Temagami.

If luxury hidden tents are your thing, you may like glampingatOutpost Co.


If you want a unique way to view the aurora borealis, considerMoosonee. Just hop on thePolar Bear Express in Cochrane. The train only runs four days per week in the winter months, though, so be sure to book aplace to stay. Along with viewing the aurora, you can also partake in snowmobiling andsnowshoeing.

Depending on the season, you can also see sightings of foxes, lynxes, moose, snowy owls (hello, Hedwig!), and loons.

Thunder Bay  

If you're going Northern Lights viewing in Thunder Bay, you'll want to make your way to either Pukaskwa National Park or Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. You can also catch sightings from the Mount McKay Scenic Lookout, andtheTerry Fox Monument.

If you're lucky enough to see the Northern Lights here, it should be a spectacular view over the water.

And if you're feeling brave, you could even tryhammock camping atQuetico Provincial Park.

Manitoulin Island  

Manitoulin Island isnot as far northas some other places we've mentioned, but you can still successfully see themthere. In addition,Gordon's Park isone of Canada's few designated DarkSkyPreserves, so you should get agood view.

Tips for Spotting the Northern Lights  

Now that you know where to go for Northern Lights viewing, you have to know when to go. Here are our best tips:

Check Spaceweather  

Spaceweather has an Aurora Alerts feature, which you can subscribe to for a nominal fee, but it's also a great place to manually check for the planetary K-index. The higher the Kp value, the more chance you have of a successful Northern Lights viewing. For example, a Kp value of six would be better than a value of two.

Plan Your Trip  

Plan your trip carefully. You don't want to travel to see them in the wrong months; that would be a wasted trip. Check local websites about sighting predictions before you book anything.

Prepare for Hammock Camping  

Hammock camping in winter is a great way to take your time inviewing the aurora borealis. For example, picture this: being nestled under a blanketin a camping hammock, with snow all around you and the Northern Lights dancing across the sky.

Tips For Taking Photos Of the Northern Lights  

Of course, if you're going to see the Northern Lights, you'll be taking photos. Here are our tips if you want to photograph the Northern Lights:

  • Use a low aperture (e.g. F/2.8)

  • Use a high ISO (e.g. 3200 to 6400)

  • Use a shutter delay between 3-25 seconds

  • Use a tripod

  • Always seek the location with the least amount oflight pollution

Plan Your Outdoor Winter ActivitiesFor Adults Today  

The Northern Lights are spectacular and have been captivating humans since the dawn of time. If you can afford it, it's worthwhile taking a trip for a Northern Lights viewing and can be great for family bonding time.

If you're keen to start planning your outdoor winter activitiesfor adults, we suggest starting with hammock camping in winter.

Look atour collection list to see which hammockwould best suit your needs.