Not ready to say goodbye to Frontenac’s 100 km trail network? This winter, trade your hiking boots for a pair of snowshoes or skis!
Nature-lovers come from around the globe to explore Frontenac Provincial Park‘s trails. Perched on the southern arm of the Canadian Shield, this park features granite outcrops, vast wetlands, scenic lakes and mixed forests.
Twenty-six provincial parks across the province are open this winter and many offer extensive trail networks. Some even have their own designated snowshoe trails. Just steer clear of any groomed cross-country ski trails you may see. These are reserved for cross-country skiers and Ontario Parks’ staff and members of local cross-country ski clubs work hard to maintain them in top-notch condition. If you decide you want to break your own trail, know your limits and follow these easy winter park safety tips. The Ontario Parks Ski Report which is updated regularly, is a good place to check for the latest park snow conditions. Many winter parks offer heated roofed accommodation too.
Imagine a couple newly in love ditching their trip down south to sleep in a yurt in northern Ontario and snowshoe the week away while communing with nature.
That is exactly what one young couple did a few years ago after deciding to winter camp at Windy Lake, north of Sudbury. With the wood stove to keep them warm at the chalet and a whole lot of wanderlust to help them snowshoe through the park, the couple had a blast. And why not?
Summer campers love Ontario Parks but many have never experienced their favourite park in winter. Ontario Parks aims to change that. Nineteen provincial parks are open this winter season with cross-country trails to ski. Thirteen have groomed or track-set trails. And eight of the nineteen have comfortable roofed accommodation for rent. Designated snowshoe trails are in many parks. Some have skating and tubing too. Three parks will host ski loppets. Another will host an annual snowshoe race and at least five plan to celebrate February’s Family Day weekend with special events. Below are tips to help visitors plan their own exotic park adventure this winter:
Maybe they have a greater connection to the earth’s polarity, or perhaps their shadow is a true “finger on the pulse” of Canada’s long term weather forecast… but this year, every single one of Canada’s weather predictors came to the same conclusion: spring is going to come early. Alberta’s Balzac Billy, Manitoba’s Winnipeg Willow, Quebec’s Fred, la marmotte de Val-d’Espoir, and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam did not see their shadow. Where does that leave us in Ontario? Wiarton Willie thinks he knows best and was the only one predicting six more weeks of winter.
Everyone I have talked to seems to be fed up with the “polar vortex’, the growing driveway snow banks and the messy commutes to work. Even on the radio they ask listeners, “don’t you wish for warmer weather?” It doesn’t matter if you believe the pint-sized meteorological marvel’s predictions or not, I figure… instead of having the next six weeks drag along for you, why not embrace the snow for a day or two head on?
The first step is to pick something fun that has a connection to nature. Snowshoeing is a great place to start as you don’t need a lot of equipment and some parks (including Arrowhead, The Pinery, Killarney and Wasaga Beach) rent snowshoes. With Family Day just around the corner, consider Algonquin’s Winter in the Wild Festival, or Killarney’s Winter Activity Day. By travelling to a place away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, it will certainly clear your head as you enjoy the crisp clean air. The parks offer numerous trails for all skill levels and each take you somewhere scenic where the trees are a little taller and the snow is a little deeper.
On the trails at Presqu’ile (left) and Algonquin (upper right).
My secret to enjoying the winter is layering. I usually don’t have much stored away in the trunk of my car, so I throw in piles of thermal layers, sweaters, jackets, toques and gloves. That way, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is, I’m prepared, protected, and actually enjoying myself because I’m not shivering. Be sure to bring a camera or at least your phone charger so that your batteries are full and you can capture these moments in Ontario’s beautiful parks.
A bite-size weekend adventure into the outdoors will help you through the tail-end of winter, and who knows, maybe even give you an appreciation for it or kick start your thinking of summer retreats. Don’t forget you can book a camping spot five months in advance.