When it comes to winter activities, there’s no beating snowshoeing. It’s not too rigorous, it’s affordable, it’s a whole lot of fun and snowshoeing gets you outside to enjoy the winter months. Which, in Ontario, can be up to five or six months of the year. Any trail can be an excellent snowshoeing trail, which is the beauty of the sport. But if you want a dash of magic, these places are the best places for snowshoeing in Ontario.
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There’s no denying that getting out and doing a fun activity during Ontario’s long cold months can benefit your health. Snowshoeing is a good way to burn calories (who else stuffs themselves with turkey during Christmas?!), and, depending on the trail difficulty and speed you choose, you can get a good workout from the activity.
Being outside and getting fresh air during the winter can help reduce stress, boost your mood and contribute to your overall well-being.
I love strapping on snowshoes and getting out to the forests around where I live. I feel like a five-year-old on Christmas. And snowshoeing in Ontario is pretty stellar, with beginner trails and advanced trails, spectacular views and fun forest adventures.
History of Snowshoeing
Snowshoes are an Indigenous invention and are used to distribute your weight so you don’t sink into deep snow. Snowshoes were typically made from a rounded wood frame and sinew laces. Today, you’ll likely see modern snowshoes made from aluminum and nylon straps.
Snowshoes were developed to aid hunters in making their way through deep snow from the Arctic to the forests to the plains. It was a common tool in many cultures across the world where there is snow. Today, snowshoes are mainly used recreationally, like by winter hikers.
Tips for snowshoeing
If you haven’t tried snowshoeing before, don’t worry, it’s not terribly difficult, but here are some tips to making your next snowshoe adventure a successful one.
You might think that your regular winter outfit will be okay for exercising outside during the wintertime, but let me tell you, it’s not going to fly. Winter can be a fickle fella, and without the proper clothing, it can turn from a fun activity into a hospital trip for hypothermia or frostbite.
The best way to stay warm and dry in the winter is to know your layers.
Start with a thermal base layer top and bottom that is moisture-wicking. I love my Underarmour ColdGear base layer. It’s tight, soft and wicks away sweat quickly. Next, add in a mid-layer like fleece. Then you can add in your waterproof outer shell. Some good quality winter jackets combine the mid-layer and outer shell.
Don’t forget your hat and mitts! If you run warm, as I do, you might only need a glove liner. I love mine from MEC. If you have perpetually cold hands, think about combining a glove liner with waterproof ski mittens. A soft wool hat, like mine from Smartwool, is a great go-to for winter outdoor adventures.
Get some waterproof boots and wool socks
You’re going to need waterproof warm snow boots and wool socks for snowshoeing. The way you walk with snowshoes on your feet will kick up snow, and you’ll want to keep your feet warm and dry. I love my Columbia Newton Ridge boots. They are already waterproof, but I treat them for extra waterproofing. Pair that with my Smartwool socks, and I’m good to go.
Use trekking poles for stability
Trekking poles are always a great debate among hikers. Sometimes they feel like a burden; other times, they help add stability and take the pressure off your joints. Poles for snowshoeing are no different. However, I’d add that you’re more likely to need trekking poles for snowshoeing in Ontario than not.
They help keep your balance when you’re not on stable footing and going up or down hills. They also help you judge how deep the snow is!
Most trekking poles are multi-season and come with snow baskets that act like little snowshoes for your poles. Look for ones that are light and adjustable. Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle and adjust the pole’s length to find the right height for you.
The right weather
A few centimetres of snow won’t cut it for snowshoeing. You’re going to need a good 6 to 10cm of snow to make snowshoeing worth it. You’ll likely have to venture out of the city to find great places for snowshoeing in Ontario. But that’s alright, there so many unique places to discover.
Powdery snow will also be harder to snowshoe through, but not impossible!
Exaggerate your stride
Snowshoeing is not difficult. Most of the time, it’ll feel like you’re walking. To get the hang of it, you’ll want to exaggerate your stride. Space out your feet and pick up your feet more than normal. This will keep you from tripping over or stepping on your snowshoes as you walk. It feels like you’re on an elliptical, and it’s the same kind of workout.
How to choose the right snowshoes
Before you head out into the forests for some epic snowshoeing, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right kind of snowshoes.
For most snowshoeing in Ontario, you’ll want to grab a pair of snowshoes that give you a necessary amount of traction (the crampon on the bottom of the snowshoe). The length of your snowshoe will depend on your weight and height, as well as the type of snow you’re going to be in. The bigger the deck – aka the flat part – the more you’ll be able to stay on top of the snow. (Don’t forget to include your pack weight in the calculations!)
Many snowshoes will have a weight limit guide for you to choose the right ones.
Snowshoes can get expensive for the type of material used. You can get them at a local outdoors store like Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada or REI in the US, but also have a look at your local hardware store for inexpensive options.
You can get a kit with snowshoes, a bag and trekking poles for under $150 CAD at Canadian Tire.
Best places for snowshoeing in Ontario
Take any of your favourite trails and add a dumping of snow, and you have a great place to snowshoe. But if you want to explore a new area, like a provincial park or a forest, this list includes the best places for snowshoeing in Ontario (at least according to me!)
Silent Lake Provincial Park
Silent Lake Provincial Park, located halfway between Toronto and Ottawa, is an excellent park for winter activities. While most of the trails are set up for skiing, Silent Lake Provincial Park is also a great place for snowshoeing in Ontario. Check out the 3km-long Bonnie’s Pond trail, which takes you up to a lookout over Silent Lake. There’s also a longer 5.25km-long Yellow Trail for snowshoeing as well.
This park is so incredible in the snow, so try winter camping at one of the yurts at Silent Lake Provincial Park if you get a chance.
Wasaga Beach Nordic Ski and Trail Centre
Wasaga Beach may be a summer destination, but there’s a little property operated by Ontario Parks just south of the town that is epic in the winter. Wasaga Beach Nordic Ski and Trail Centre is a fantastic place for snowshoeing in Ontario.
There are over 10kms of snowshoe trails here that wind through the forest. The beginner trail is only 3km long, and it’s well-marked. There’s also a 2km intermediate trail loop and a 2.6km advanced trail loop. These loops are in addition to the others. For example, if you want to hike the whole thing, you’re looking at nearly 8kms of snowshoeing.
You won’t get lost at Limberlost Forest, a 10,000-acre property near Huntsville. They’ve got a whopping 70km of trails, all free to use! Plus, you get to see some of the most beautiful natural areas in Muskoka.
You can choose one of the many ski trails or hiking trails, but be sure to pick up a map (and sign the safety waiver) before you go! Buck Lake Trail is a relatively easy, albeit long at 8.5km, trail that takes you past some gorgeous scenery and incredible frozen ice cliffs.
The Limberlost Forest is well known for being an epic place for snowshoeing in Ontario.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is truly a four-season paradise for any outdoors-lover. The park is enormous, and you can virtually snowshoe anywhere except for set ski trails. The best bet would be to pick up a map and look for trails right off Highway 60.
Many of the trails off Highway 60 are short and sweet, leading you through some spectacular forests and to stellar views. I loved Hardwood Lookout Trail, despite it being a blinding snowstorm and not seeing the lookout.
You can also check out Whiskey Rapids and Peck Lake for short trails near the West Gate or Beaver Pond or Lookout Trail for short trails near the East Gate. Most of the trails have an incline or decline, so bear that in mind before you set out.
There are so many trails to choose from, making Algonquin Provincial Park one of the best places for snowshoeing in Ontario.
Rockwood Conservation Area
I don’t know about you, but I love discovering places with a remarkable history. The Rockwood Conservation Area, located outside Guelph, is a great place for beginners looking for snowshoeing in Ontario. There are only two trails, but you get to see fabulous vistas, cool geological formations and a historic mill.
Start at the pavilion, follow the Potholes Trail and check out the glacial potholes and then onto the Harris Woolen Mill Ruins. Loop around the other side of the Eramosa River along the Cedar Ridge Trail to check out the views from the top of the gorge. You can follow the Cedar Ridge Trail to loop back to the pavilion.
If you’re into geocaching, there are quite a few in this park to find.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
I’m a massive fan of MacGregor Point Provincial Park. I’ve winter camped here twice and love the lakeside setting as well as the skating trail through the forest. Ontario Parks has set up several skiing trails, but it is a great place for snowshoeing in Ontario.
You can snowshoe on the campgrounds’ unplowed roads, through the 9.4km-long double-loop of Tower Trail and Lake Ridge Trail, on the 1.2km Huron Fringe Trail or along the Old Shore Road Trail, a 6km linear trail along the shored of Lake Huron.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park is a wonderful place for anyone who enjoys the snow, especially if you want to try out winter camping in a yurt.
I love Loree Forest; it’s a great hiking area in Grey County near Blue Mountain Village. Here, you’ll get a taste of the Beaver Valley section of the Bruce Trail and see some epic views of Georgian Bay.
Getting to Loree Forest is simple. You can find the parking area along Sideroad 21 just east of Grey Road 2. There is a separate access trail further down the hill, which offers a more challenging hike if you’re looking for it.
The Loree Forest trail system looks like a giant umbrella. The main Bruce Trail is the rounded top of the umbrella, following the Niagara Escarpment. The Len Gertler Side Trail acts as the umbrella’s base, and the 600-metre access trail is the umbrella handle. You can make an approximately 5km loop with the entire trail system. At the top tip of the umbrella, you can see some pretty amazing views from the top of the Georgian Peaks Ski hill overlooking Georgian Bay.
The trails are unmaintained but are wide and well used, so they are perfect for beginner snowshoers, making this a great place for snowshoeing in Ontario.
NOTE: Part of the trail is closed, but you can still create a nice loop with the trail’s open part.
Kolapore Uplands is a natural area that encompasses Metcalfe Rock and County Forests in Grey County. In the summer, you can hike and bike along it’s rocky and rugged trails. In the winter, it turns into a cross-country skier’s haven.
If you look at the map of Kolapore Uplands, which you can find at the Ravenna Country Market or the Kimberley General Store, they have 15 trails crisscrossing the forest, but none of these trails are for snowshoeing. However, if you go to the eastern access point along Grey Road 2, you’ll see a sign for the Kolapore Uplands snowshoe trail.
The trail is broken up into three parts, one winding through the forest, one heading down a wide trail through another part of the forest, leading down into a third looped section. In total, it’s about 5 km of snowshoeing.
Ball’s Falls Conservation Area
If you’re looking for a snowshoe that will take you to an extraordinary place, then you’re going to want to visit Ball’s Falls Conservation Area near St. Catharines. It’s a great place for snowshoeing in Ontario.
You’ll start your journey at the parking lot for Ball’s Falls Centre and follow the trail down the hill and over a wooden bridge that crosses Twenty Mile Creek. Then follow the Village Trail that takes you into a historic 19th-century industrial hamlet with a family home, flower mill, lime kiln, church and more.
You can snowshoe through the village to get to Lower Ball’s Falls, a breathtaking waterfall the sometimes freezes in the winter. If you want a longer trek, cross back over the wooden bridge and follow the Cataract Trail to the Upper Ball’s Falls lookout.
Crawford Lake Conservation Area
If you’re looking for a great place for snowshoeing in Ontario near the city, then you don’t want to miss Crawford Lake Conservation Area. This park has more than 8km of snowshoe trails that lead you through a forest, and you can even check out the Crawford Lake Trail loop for some great views.
There’s a specific 3.4km snowshoeing trail, or you can take one of the red or green marked trails through the forest. There are snowshoe rentals available in a typical year, and Crawford Lake Conservation Area also hosts a moonlight snowshoe hike for adults that ends in a hot cup of cocoa.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
Arrowhead Provincial Park is such a stellar place for snowshoeing in Ontario. It is located close by to Huntsville and easily accessible, and they have such great trails that take you to spectacular lookouts.
My personal favourite is Stubb’s Falls trail, a 2km trail following Little East River to Stubb’s Falls, a rock chute waterfall. You can also snowshoe to the Big Bend Lookout but make sure to stay off the Skijoring tracks on your way there.
There’s plenty of other trails and other winter activities like skating on a forest trail and winter tubing.
Any trail near you!
Seriously, any trail makes a great snowshoe trail when there’s enough snow. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of perfect trails for snowshoeing in Ontario. You can use a tool like AllTrails to help find trails near where you live.