Ontario is chock-a-block with great snowshoeing trails. From the north shore of Lake Superior to the Bruce Peninsula to the Haliburton Highlands (and everywhere between and beyond), there are miles of trails waiting to be discovered by those who understand that wandering through the woods shouldn’t be limited to warm weather.
If you’re looking for a snowshoe trail with a little something extra, though, here are some interesting options. Some involve trails with a historic connection, others are noteworthy for their geography and some are perfect if you’re just starting to snowshoe and need an easy trail to practice on. Regardless of which one you choose to explore, this is a perfect opportunity to enjoy winter while it’s still around.
Christie Lake, Dundas
If you’re a beginner, Christie Lake is a great place to try snowshoeing for the first time. The trails are gentle, well marked, and there are a variety of lengths, so if you have a really tough time, you won’t be stuck slogging through a 10-km loop. Plus, the park is 20 minutes away from Hamilton, but feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Christie Lake doesn’t offer snowshoe rental or concessions, but you can rent gear at Mountain Equipment Coop in Burlington (reservations are recommended on weekends). A thermos of hot chocolate and some yummy sandwiches will round out your winter trekking. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, and want to try something different, check out the ice climbing at nearby Tiffany Falls, weather permitting.
Crawford Lake, Milton
Find out how snowshoeing began as you shush through Crawford Lake’s 8.5 kilometres of trails that wind through its reconstructed 15-century Iroquian village. The park offers easy sunset hikes for families, complete with nature activities and hot chocolate, or more strenuous moonlight treks for adults (14 and up) with advice on snowshoeing techniques and a little more info on the history of snowshoeing. Aluminum-frame snowshoes are available for rental, so no worries if you don’t have your own gear.
Wye Marsh, Midland
The Wye Marsh has both traditional and modern snowshoes for rent and a variety of trails, including the dedicated 22-km Graham McDonald Snowshoe Trail. One of the best ways to experience the marsh, though, is with a three-hour, four-kilometre guided ecotour, which combines instruction on how to snowshoe with insights about the area’s unique ecosystem. Feed chickadees out of your hand and learn how to identify trees in the winter — a useful skill when there are no leaves to look at! Plus, ecotours head to areas where the public isn’t usually allowed and will warm you up with some traditional cedar tea and bannock around a crackling fire.
If you tend to avoid Algonquin in the summer because of the crowds, you’ll love it in the winter. There’s year round camping available at Mew Lake Campground, with campsites and yurts available for rent. The park’s visitors’ centre is open on weekends year-round, and daily during March Break. Snowshoers can tromp along just about any of the hiking trails. The only ones you’ll have to avoid are the designated groomed cross-country trails. For some extra education, check out the interpretive trails along Highway 60. If you’d like to take a break from Algonquin, head west to nearby Ragged Falls, just above Oxtongue Lake. The site, made famous by the Group of Seven, has a mostly gentle trail from the parking lot to the falls.
Scenic Caves, Collingwood
If you want a trip with a photo-worthy stop, head to Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, where you can snowshoe across southern Ontario’s longest suspension bridge and take in Georgian Bay in all its winter splendour. Scenic Caves boasts 10 kilometres of snowshoeing trails, many of which boast places to pause and take in the wintry views from atop the Niagara Escarpment. If you’re an experienced snowshoer, you’ll want to check out their expert trail, but they’ve got lots available for beginners and intermediate trekkers too. For a change of pace, book one of their guided night snowshoe hikes for an unforgettable experience under the stars.
Loring Deer Yard, Loring-Restoule
If you’re interested in an up-close-and-personal nature experience, head to the Loring Deer Yard in the Loring-Restoule area south of Lake Nipissing. The 500-km Deer Yard is home to one of Ontario’s largest herds of white-tailed deer, who congregate in the area during the winter when the snow gets too deep to find food elsewhere. The hemlocks in the area reduce snow cover under them, making it easier for the deer to find food. (There are “emergency feeds” by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry during especially harsh winters.) For snowshoers, there’s a trail you can access off of Little River Road. Look for deer trails along the way to catch glimpses of deer throughout the woods.
Torrance-Barrens Conservation Area, Muskoka
Torrance-Barrens was the world’s first permanent designated Dark Sky Preserve, which means it’s an area of the province where light pollution is avoided as much as possible. Large swathes of open area means you can get a spectacular 360-degree view of the sky. Winter stargazing is easy with or without snowshoes, but there’s nothing quite like a tromp through the woods under the stars. Bring a telescope if you’ve got it, but there’s also good stargazing to be had with a simple pair of binoculars. Just check before you go to make sure the weather’s going to be clear — there’s no sense in trying to stargaze through clouds.
What’s your favourite Ontario snowshoeing trail?