It’s another fantastic day on the trails at Windy Lake Provincial Park, a cool Ontario winter recreation destination – only 45 minutes from Sudbury. The sound of crisp, fresh snow squeaks under our snowshoes, while cross country skiers glide by on nearby trails.
The park partners with the Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club, which maintains and grooms 15 km of high quality, well-designed cross-country ski trails. Volunteers can often be found after a fresh snowfall, grooming the trails on the Club’s Piston Bully or track-setting snowmachine. The trails begin at the ski chalet inWindy Lake Provincial Park, where some of the easy trails are located, and continue onto the Club’s property adjacent to the park. The trails wind through the snow-covered forest of jackpine, spruce and birch, and on the more challenging trails, up and over hills and valleys. The trails at Windy Lake are often the first in the area to get snow, and hold it well through the periodic thaws, and lasts late into the season.
The Club rents skis, boots and poles on weekends from the Chalet, a newly renovated hub of the trail system. The wood stove allows skiers and snowshoers to warm up, and seating and tables provide plenty of space for refreshments from the snack bar or your own lunch. Washrooms are available when the Chalet is open.
Windy Lake’s winter season begins right after New Year’s and continues through March. The park and area holds its snow well into late winter, so when the trails are melting down south, Windy still has great skiing and snowshoeing.
The Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club and its trails are where Devon Kershaw, champion cross country skier and Canadian Winter Olympian, first learned to ski and spent much of his youth skiing. Devon grew up in Sudbury, and began cross country skiing at age 4. In 2010, the Club named their 5km trail the “Devon Kershaw Trail” and presented Devon with a plaque in recognition of his achievements. A January 2014 article in the Toronto Star called Devon “Canada’s most successful male cross country skier”.
The park also has 8 km of snowshoeing trails that lead ‘shoers out along an ancient beach high above Windy Lake, with some great views across the frozen lake. More “off-trail” snowshoeing is available along the shores of Windy Lake. The ski club plans to add snowshoeing trails to their trail system in the future.
Located “trailside” are four yurts the park operates year round. The yurts are winterized, and have electricity, heating and lights. Two large bunkbeds can sleep six comfortably, and for meals, there’s a large BBQ on the deck and table and chairs inside for dining. Each site has a fire pit and firewood is available from park staff. The park provides a toboggan to haul gear from the parking lot to the yurt – park staff are available seven days a week to assist visitors to get settled in, and can make arrangements for campers arriving late. There is a new, heated privy near the yurts and washrooms are available at the Chalet weekends during the day.
Camping out in the winter is a unique experience. Camping in a yurt makes the experience a warm and comfortable one. With ski and snowshoe trails right at your door, it’s also a healthy and fun one.
The Ski Club celebrates its 40th anniversary this season, and will be hosting a loppet to mark the event (www.onapingfallsnordics.com for details on events, memberships, and day and weekend packages for trail passes). For information on Windy Lake Provincial Park, including trail conditions and yurt reservations visit: http://www.ontarioparks.com/park/windylake
This video shows you some of the trails and winter activities in the park along with some of the other cool things Windy Lake Provincial Park has to offer. Have a look and let us know the things you think are cool in Ontario Parks!