Year-round cottagers and residents know that Muskoka has a secret winter side which tourists rarely see. Cottage country in Ontario is just as much of a playground in the winter months as the summer, you just have to know where to look.
As the days darken and fall recedes, the area is transformed into a show stopping winter wonderland, boasting snow-covered forests, glistening lakes and frosty hillsides.
Whether you’re planning a family outing or in the mood for a bracing hike, here are some suggestions for outdoor winter fun.
1. Ice skating
Located north of Huntsville, Arrowhead Provincial Park is one place where you’ll see Muskoka at its wintery best. The park is well-known for its range of outdoor winter activities, which include ski trails, ice fishing and winter hiking.
One of the most popular attractions, however, is the winding ice skating trail that meanders through the snowy forest for 1.3 kilometres.
The park is generally busy during winter, so it’s a good idea to make a reservation if you’re planning on visiting. You can book online and purchase a vehicle permit up to 5 days before your visit.
The ice trail is open daily from 9am to 5pm, although keep in mind that it closes between 11:30am and 1pm every day for maintenance.
There are several good spots to strap on your snowshoes in the Muskoka area, but the locals head for the trails around Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville to catch the stunning views around Peninsula Lake. A highlight is the Starlight Trail which lights up from 5pm to 11pm, making it even more magical.
Trails at Deerhurst are open from late December to March, depending on weather conditions.
3. Cross country skiing
Grab your skis and bundle up! Muskoka is home to hundreds of varied cross-country trails suitable for all ages and abilities.
Arrowhead Park and Algonquin Park are the most popular sites, with their extensive backcountry routes, but it’s also worth checking out the Muskoka Bay Resort in Gravenhurst and Bayview Wildwood Resort in Severn Bridge where you’ll find cross-country ski courses for all levels from beginner to experienced.
4. Ice fishing
Ice fishing is a unique and fun experience. Everyone should try it at least once. Dress warmly, bring a few friends (and a flask of hot chocolate) and it’s an unforgettable day out – whether you catch anything or not!
Muskoka lakes and winter weather conditions can be tough to predict so don’t go it alone. Use an experienced guide, make sure you have the proper equipment and always follow safety instructions.
Several Muskoka resorts offer ice fishing packages, including Muskoka Shores Cottages on Three Mile Lake where you can rent an ice hut and try your hand at catching pickerel, perch, and large and small mouth bass.
Muskoka is one of the most popular snowmobiling destinations in Ontario, thanks to its huge network of more than 1,600 kms of approved trails.
Muskoka Stay and Play combines snowmobiling with ice fishing and ice skating in several of its specialised packages, while its basic snowmobile experience includes 3 hours on the trails, lunch and all gear.
More experienced riders can pick up a rental and head out alone to explore self-guided routes like the 125km Muskoka Magic Loop around Muskoka Lake or the more Northern Lake of Bays Watch trail which covers around 200 kms.
A classic Canadian winter pastime, sledding is peak family fun. You’ve two options in the Muskokas – traditional dog sledding or kick sledding.
If you don’t fancy the idea of being pulled around by a pack, ditch the dogs and go under your own steam. Deerhurst Resort offers kick sledding, which is described as ‘a self-propelled dog sled’.
7. Fat biking
If you thought biking was a summer sport, think again. You can take to the trails on two wheels courtesy of a fat bike – a bicycle kitted out with extra wide tires so it can navigate snowy conditions.
It’s not just a unique way to see winter up close, it’s also a great workout. If you’ve fitness fanatics in the family, rent them a fat bike at Deerhurst Resort and they’ll have a blast sweating it out in the snow.
Each activity and business listed is open with possible pandemic restrictions in place – make sure you call before you go to make reservations and check on the venue’s COVID restrictions and measures.
Whether you’re new to Muskoka or a longtime resident, Muskoka Window & Door Centre can help you create the perfect lakeside dream home. From door installation to window fittings, we offer a range of home services. Reach out to our team today to see how we can help with your next project.