Ice skating trails to lace up and try this winter

man and woman skating through forest Photo by Karen Burgess/Shutterstock

Though skating has always been a staple winter pastime, skate trails—areas carved out within natural environments—have become popular in recent years, especially in cottage country. And for a good reason, skating through a forest covered in a dusting of snow makes for an idyllic winter experience. The options on this list are public skating areas, but if you’re looking to skate on the lake right outside your door, be sure to brush up on how to do so safely.

Patinage en Foret, Lac Des Loups, Que.

About an hour’s drive from Ottawa, this skating trail is a popular winter day trip. The name ‘skating through the forest’ is apt, as you weave in and out of tall trees, making it feel like a magical winter wonderland. You can buy either a daily pass or season’s pass, and prices vary based on age and group size.

RiverOak skating trail, Ottawa, Ont.

A beautiful location within Ottawa’s city limits, RiverOak is a year-round event venue hosting weddings, conferences and more. It’s located on a small waterway that makes for the perfect skating loop in the winter. The trail is shorter than other places on this list, so it’s a good option for youngsters and beginners.

Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail, Huntsville, Ont.

This is a classic if you’re familiar with the area! Arrowhead Provincial Park has great offerings for skating and other winter activities like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. This popular spot gets very busy, especially on weekends, so make sure to plan and check conditions beforehand.

MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Port Elgin, Ont.

Billed as a ‘best kept’ winter secret, this 400-metre skating trail near the shores of Lake Huron is an easy getaway that can accommodate skaters at all levels. There are trail lights used at night so that you can skate until as late as 10 p.m. There’s also a large ice hockey area and warming huts for when you need some rest.

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh trail, Bala, Ont.

You may be familiar with this cranberry marsh as a popular fall activity in Muskoka, but did you know the farm also has a skating trail come winter? This 1.2-kilometre loop takes you around the 12 acres of cranberries and its surrounding forest. Weather permitting, the trail lights up with 400 tiki torches for what’s known as a ‘Light the Night’ skate each Saturday.

Kivi Park, Sudbury, Ont.

While this all-season park is known for its Nordic skiing, it unveiled a skating trail called Nina’s Way Skating Path this past season. A 1.3-kilometre long trail that loops through the park’s tall birch trees, the path is open at night and lit up, and there are skate rentals and warming cabins on site.

Lake Louise, Alba.

Although it takes place on an open lake rather than a trail, we couldn’t talk about the best winter skating spots without naming the beautiful, iconic Lake Louise. Skating on the lake typically starts around mid-December, but always be sure to check conditions in advance. You can also skate at night for an even more magical experience.

Fort Whyte Alive, Winnipeg, Man.

This large, impressive nature area transforms into a winter paradise each year, with skating, snowshoeing, and hiking available. There is a fee for day-use of the site and a check-in spot where you can find ice trail conditions and the best options for your group and experience level.

Lake Windermere Whiteway, Invermere, B.C.

Clocking in at 29.98 kilometres, this ice skating trail is the longest in the world! Not sure if you can skate that  far? The track is also open to cross-country skiers and skate skiing. There are three entry points to the Whiteway with maps and a donation box: at Kinsmen beach in Invermere, Invermere Bay Condos, and at Windermere Beach.

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