*Wander safe, wander local. Check your region’s local health guidelines before heading out.
If you have been longing to cruise along snowy trails where the winter forest towers over you and the rush of the frosty wind fills your ears, this is the year to get out and explore the landscapes close to home. COVID-19 has made us all feel a little housebound, and flying through a winter wonderland by snowmobile is just the thing to lift our spirits.
Ride local on Ontario’s Highlands’ snowmobile loops that traverse dense forest trails, snow-filled valleys, and rugged Canadian shield. Stop for a hearty lunch and then hit the trail to do it all over again. While planning your trip and before heading out, remember to check the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s interactive map to ensure the businesses you will need to access on your ride are open and available during your trip.
Read on to find out everything you need to know to have an amazing snowmobile daytrip in Eastern Ontario. Your snowmobile exploration of Ontario’s Highlands begins here.
Guides and Gear
So you don’t own a snowmobile and not sure where to go or what to do? No problem – you can rely on the years of knowledge gleaned in the back woods with a guided tour with Back Country Tours in Haliburton, Tom Irwin Adventure Tours in Calabogie, or Highland Wilderness Tours near Maynooth.
You will need a permit to ride on an Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ (OFSC) groomed trails. Remember to ‘Buy Where You Ride’ which means purchasing your trail permit from the club where you will be riding most often. Visit the OFSC website to purchase your trail permit online.
Loops and Trips
Explore one of the loops below for a snowmobiling daytrip through Ontario’s Highlands’ winter wonderland. Remember to check ahead that places to stop to refuel or eat are open and whether they are offering dine-in services or take-out only.
Destinations: Bancroft, McArthur Mills, Coe Hill, Gilmour
Come and play on over 350-kilometres of groomed trails that take you through the beautiful scenery of Hastings County and surrounding areas. Adjoining trails make this a route that will take you virtually anywhere you want to go on the trails.
Where to Eat: The Monarch and the Milkweed in Coe Hill is right off the snowmobile trail and the perfect place to stop for a quick meal and to warm up. Their simple menu has plenty of variety and will taste just like homecooked.
Destinations: Haliburton Forest
Distance: 400+ kilometres
Known as one of the top 10 snowmobiling destinations in North America, this can be the ultimate destination for your snowmobile getaway. Explore 400-kilometres of privately owned and groomed trails where passes are limited so you can avoid extra traffic. Build on your trip with a visit to the Wolf Centre or a dogsledding experience onsite. *Please note these are private trails and permits are required.
Where to Eat: You’ll want to dine at The Cookhouse Restaurant, located right in Haliburton Forest. Try their cauliflower “wings” and pair with a pulled pork sandwich before heading back on the trail.
Destinations: Southeast Bancroft to Mazinaw
Distance: ~ 235 kilometres
Have your breath taken away as you wind along this scenic loop, through picturesque landscapes, rugged terrain, and frozen lakes glistening in the sun in Bon Echo territory.
Where to Eat: Plan your route to stop at Mazinaw Lakeside Resort and Eatery and after a hearty meal order some S’mores Bites to take with you for a sweet treat on the trail.
Destinations: Pembroke, Barry’s Bay, Eganville
Distance: 230 kilometres
Rev your engine along this loop of rail bed and pipeline corridors interspersed with twisting mountainous terrain and soak up some spectacular views while you’re at it. This loop follows the bottom section of the much longer Round Algonquin Park tour but is doable in a single day.
Where to Eat: Stop mid-way through your ride at Wilno Tavern Restaurant in Barry’s Bay for traditional Polish-Kashub comfort foods like jumbo pierogies and cabbage rolls, Polish sausage and sauerkraut, and more.
Destinations: Eganville, Griffith, Calabogie
Distance: ~260 kilometres
With tight forest trails to set a leisurely pace, opportunities to stop in the small communities in the Ottawa Valley, traversing uncrowded trails with picturesque views.
Where to Eat: Plan to take a break at Redneck Bistro in Calabogie and try the local favourite, poutine, which also comes with a gluten-free option. Pair with a local beer from the brewery right across the street, Calabogie Brewing Co.
Destinations: Barry’s Bay, Madawaska, Whitney, Lake St. Peter, Combermere
Distance: 180 kilometres
Enjoy the Valley hospitality along this trail that winds its way along rail corridors and following the Madawaska River. This loop will take you through small communities with plenty of opportunities to stop to refuel and grab a bite to eat.
Where to Eat: The snowmobiles lined up outside Porterville Diner in Lake St. Peter will tell you this is the spot to stop for a bite to eat. Here you’ll find classics like poutine, fish and chips, and wings, and good strong coffee to keep you warm on the trail.
Destinations: Arnprior, Pembroke, Petawawa, Deep River
Distance: 350 kilometres
Step back in time as you follow the route of voyageurs from yesteryear along the Ottawa River through scenic vistas and changing landscapes – from farmland to forest. This route is a little long for a day trip, but still doable if you take few breaks and motor through.
Where to Eat: Grab a bite to eat in Petawawa at Valley Smokehouse for stick-to-your-ribs dishes like pulled pork, smoked chicken, or deep fried mac ’n cheese.