When you're on an ATV or side-by-side, the muddier the backroad or trail, the better. When the mud starts spraying and the road gets bumpy, this is when the fun really begins.
ATVing in Ontario’s Highlands will ensure you are satisfactorily sweaty, dirty, and loving every minute of your adventure. Our hilly and rolling terrain makes for an exhilarating ride from the moment your bum hits the seat until you turn your equipment off for the last time of the day.
Whether you’re new to ATVing or an experienced rider, find the ideal trail, tour, and gear for your ATV adventure below.
Tours & Rentals
Renting an ATV and safety equipment (helmet etc.) or booking a guided tour is a good way to dip your toe into the ATV world, where the experts know the terrain and are happy to share their insider tips to get the most out of your adventure. Here are a few options to get your adventure started:
- Tom Irwin Adventure Tours: These knowledgeable folks offer a guided half day (three hours) or full day (six hours) tours through the Madawaska Highlands in Renfrew County that includes a catered lunch and all the equipment you need.
- Outdoor Adventure Rentals: Park and ride your rented ATV or side-by-side from Outdoor Adventure Rentals in Perth.
- Urban Sport: Rent from Urban Sport’s impressive fleet of ATVs and side-by-sides, and if you’re looking for a guided tour or self-guided adventure, you’ll find it here.
Get Muddy: 5 ATV Routes and Runs
Tay Havelock Trail (145 kilometres)
The full loop runs parallel to Hwy 7 from Havelock through Kaladar and on to Perth. Park and ride for a fun day excursion taking you from the outskirts of Arden east to the heritage town of Perth. At 22 kilometres this section of the trail is short enough to make it a half day excursion if you’re short on time. There are two parking areas along the trail, 18471 Hwy 7 and 460 Armstrong Line. Make a detour to Sharbot Lake to stop for lunch.
Points of Interest: There’s a lovely little boat launch that makes for a nice place for a picnic just off of Glen Tay Road in the heart of Glen Tay.
Trailside Dining: A hearty soup or sandwich from Cardinal Café + Shop will keep you going on the trail. Top it off with one of their renowned homemade desserts.
ATV-friendly Accommodations: Rockhill Bed and Breakfast in the village of Sharbot Lake is not only a great place to spend the night but it’s also a five-minute ride from the K&P Trail, another multi-use trail (see below).
Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT) (296 kilometres)
Spanning nearly 300 kilometres from Smiths Falls to Mattawa, the OVRT is a one-stop adventure for those who love a longer journey full of the unexpected. As a former rail bed with a gravel base there won’t be as much mud on this trail (even in spring) but staying dry isn’t always a bad thing. Stop at one of the small towns along the way to explore and spend the night for a multi-day adventure.
Points of Interest: Stop for a swim at the public beach in Pakenham or Calabogie.
Trailside Dining: Redneck Bistro in Calabogie is the perfect place to stop for a hearty meal along the trail.
ATV-friendly Accommodations: Calabogie Lodge Resort in Calabogie is ATV-friendly and the perfect place to spend the night before hopping onto one of the Ottawa Valley connecting trails the next day.
Hastings Heritage Trail (156 kilometres)
This trail is one which quite literally has it all: muddy lowlands, forests, and farmlands. With more than 150 kilometres to traverse, the Hastings Heritage Trail starts in Glen Ross and ends at Lake St. Peter. It’s also connected to the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance (EOTA) so your options for adventure are virtually limitless.
Points of Interest: Charge up the steep trail to Bancroft Eagles Nest Park to view the York River Valley.
Trailside Dining: After roughing it on the trail all day you will enjoy a little pampering at The Granite, right in Bancroft.
ATV-friendly Accommodations: If it’s not booked up a good option for ATVers is Creekside Retreat, a cottage rental made for ATVers and snowmobilers in Bancroft.
Settler’s Route Trail System (106 kilometres)
Travel a 106-kilometre route that runs from Pikawkanagan to Killaloe, Wilno and Foymount, and operates primarily on abandoned railbeds and gravel roads. Connecting two trail systems, the Pakkotinna and the Opeongo, this trail system will take you from Golden Lake to Wilno.
Points of Interest: Visit the Polish-Kashub Heritage Museum to get the history about the oldest Polish-Kashub settlement in Canada.
Trailside Dining: Stop for a hearty Polish-inspired meal at the Wilno Tavern. Pro tip: their pierogies are a must-try.
ATV-friendly Accommodations: This region is rife with ATV-friendly accommodation options. Choose from Sands on Golden Lake, Deacon Escarpment cabins or Spectacle Lake Lodge, to name a few.
This is a nice loop that begins in the village of Tweed and takes you past Stoco Lake, and ultimately on to Bancroft. Stop for some fishing in the lake, or to explore Marmora Mine, en route. Don’t miss a stop at Eagle’s Nest lookout over the York River, worth it for the photo opportunity alone. This loop takes you north to Gunter and then south again to Flinton before returning to Tweed.
Points of Interest: Tweed is home to the Tweed Jailhouse, the smallest jailhouse in North America and worth a stop.
Trailside Dining: Addison’s Restaurant has hearty, stick-to-your-ribs homestyle meals to keep you fueled on the trail.
ATV-friendly Accommodations: Limerick Lake Lodge & Marina is located near Gunter and is ideal to stay and play on the trails over multiple days.
Newbies take note there is an etiquette to follow on the ATV trail. Be responsible of the others on the trail, get your permits in order before heading out, and plan your route to ensure you are able to refuel (your equipment or yourself) at the right spots on your trip.
- Depending on your trail, permits may be required. Permits can be obtained for specific routes from the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles or the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance.
- Remember that many of the trails in Ontario are shared with hikers, cyclists, and equestrians, and ATVs are expected to yield to others.
- Connect with the ATV association in the region you are looking to travel. Not only will they be able to tell you what permits are required, but they can also give you details on where are the best places to eat and stay along your route.