With a learning curve not quite as steep as downhill skiing or snowboarding, cross-country skiing is a favourite winter activity for Canadians who still want to get their exercise outdoors in the winter. Some of the best cross-country skiing is in the heart of cottage country and can even be tied in with a winter getaway at a remote lodge or luxury resort. If you’re looking for more detailed guides, check out our in-depth look at popular cross-country areas like Algonquin Park or Sauble Beach.
Arrowhead Provincial Park, Huntsville, Ont.
A tried-and-true Muskoka staple, Arrowhead Provincial Park is a winter wonderland with many all-season activities, including an extensive network of groomed cross-country ski trails. Rentals are available on-site. Be sure to check the Ontario Parks website for trail reports and conditions.
Gatineau Park, Ottawa, Ont.
A quick drive from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park is a dream for both beginner and hardcore cross-country skiers. With tons of trails at varying levels of difficulty and wide paths for skate skiers, a visit to Gatineau Park for this sport is a no-brainer for those in the area.
Algonquin Park, Ont.
This multi-season provincial park boasts more than 110 kilometres of cross-country ski trails, some being multi-use and groomed regularly for easy access. Before heading out, check conditions on the highway leading into the park, as it can vary come winter. For the more adventurous, there’s also one wilderness ski trail that is not track-set (groomed).
Gravenhurst campground, Muskoka, Ont.
Another excellent Muskoka option, this popular campground run by the well-regarded KOA (Kampgrounds of America), offers more than 15 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails. You can buy or rent equipment on-site, and many other family activities are offered here throughout the winter months.
Bragg Creek, Calgary, Alta.
Situated about 40 minutes from Calgary, Bragg Creek is a small hamlet resting on the edge of the beautiful Kananaskis Provincial Park. What’s better than cross-country in an idyllic mountain setting? The West Bragg Creek Day Use Area is the starting point for many trails, which are heavily used by beginners and experienced skiers alike. There are also multiple skate-ski tracks available.
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Ont.
A popular summer destination for its towering waterfalls, Kakabeka Provincial Park offers equally impressive options for Nordic skiers. Regarded as one of the best-kept secrets for excellent skiing in the area, you can enjoy more than 13 kilometres of groomed and ungroomed trails. To visit, you must purchase a day-use pass at the main parking lot, and be sure to bring your gear with you.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ont.
With reliably heavy snowfall all year, Northern Ontario is one of the best areas in Canada—and arguably North America—for cross-country skiing. Insiders love Sleeping Giant Provincial Park for skiing, especially because many of the trails are sheltered by huge evergreen trees, shielding you from wind and harsh conditions.
Monte-Saint-Anne Ski Resort, Quebec City, Que.
This world-class ski resort, about an hour’s drive from Quebec City, boasts one of the largest cross-country ski trail networks in North America. Anyone familiar with outdoor activities in this part of the country knows it can get brutally cold, but luckily, the trails around Mont-Sainte-Anne are equipped with shelters along the way. Some of them are built to accommodate overnight stays if you’re looking to make a trip out of your cross-country ski adventure.
Stokely Creek Lodge, Algoma, Ont.
Billed as an all-inclusive ski and snowshoe resort, Stokely Creek Lodge is a must-do for lovers of both of these winter sports. Located in the picturesque, remote area of Algoma, the endless networks of groomed trails offer excellent all-levels options. You don’t need to be a guest at the resort to use these trails, but if you’re interested in a winter getaway, it’s definitely worth looking into.
Kivi Park Lodge, Sudbury, Ont.
Located in the more than 400-acre area that spans Kivi Park, this lodge is a perfect launch point for the park’s cross-country ski, snowshoe, and winter hiking trails. The lodge also makes for an excellent getaway, but you can visit Kivi Park just for the day and rent your gear on-site as well.