Please note: Our new ‘Great Canadian Wilderness’ website has replaced the old one that ran under our company name, Explorers’ Edge. From time to time in an older post, you may see references to Explorers’ Edge.
It’s no secret that ATV sales have been booming since international travel has been restricted, and with thousands of new riders entering the sport, we figured it was high time to take a good long look at the trails in our region – specifically those best suited for new riders.
An ATV is an incredible machine that can take you places that would otherwise be completely inaccessible by any other means. And there is so much territory to explore, and so many activities that an ATV opens access to – from backcountry fishing, paddling and even crown land camping.
But they also need to be treated with respect – they are powerful, heavy, and require skill to operate. That’s why we recommend getting your feet wet with some shorter, simpler trips to advance your familiarity with the machines. Trust us, you’ll still have a blast, and you’ll be much better prepared when nature throws something unexpected at you.
In order for new riders to have the best experience on the trails we recommend taking care of a few key things before heading out. Book accommodations well in advance, as many people are travelling right now, and we’d hate for you to be stuck without a place to stay overnight.
Bring lots of water, food, sunscreen and bug spray on your trip. If you have all these things, you can likely endure any adverse conditions. It never hurts to bring spare clothes and a blanket, in case you get really stuck – and of course your fully charged cell phone with an extra battery and waterproof/dust-proof case. But the routes we’re recommending here should keep you out of harm’s way.
New riders should consider destinations and routes that allow for lots of stops and travel short distances. When the terrain is rough, it takes longer to cross, so we like to recommend that you keep your days under 50km until you’ve had a year or two to get acquainted with ATVing.
That said, there are some perfect trail systems and routes in the Great Canadian Wilderness north of Toronto that should make your life much easier, and still keep up the adventure!
This is our best bet for riders new and old – we love that it gives you a broad introduction to the scenery and landscape you’ll find in our region, as well as a more graceful introduction to ATVing. You’ll still get your tires wet, but because the majority of the trail was built on an old rail line, the grade is quite gentle, and it’s also wide enough for side by sides if you’re travelling as a family! You’ll find lots of fuel and accommodations along the way, and plenty of breathtaking moments as the scenery reveals itself.
This system is accessible right outside the doors of the ATV accommodation specialists at Edgewater Park Lodge. There is a wide variety of trails on this system, so we highly recommend reaching out to the club to plan your trip. The terrain can vary from flat and straight to quite hilly and rocky – what long-time ATVers call “technical.”
Directly south of the Algonquin West trails, and connecting to them, is the Lake of Bays trails – you’ll find the terrain here veers more towards lakes and trees than hills and rocks, and its suited to riders in their second or third year of riding.
Generally we think of the core ATV season as spring and fall – with good reason. Worn ATV trails in the mid-summer heat tend to generate a lot of dust. If you’re riding alone, that’s not much of an issue, but if you’re at the back of the pack, it can present some challenges.
Spring and fall both tend to keep the ground wet (or frozen) enough to keep the dust down, and there’s the added bonus of seeing wildlife in fall, or crossing overflowed streams in spring. Just make sure you have a spotter, and are travelling in areas you’re familiar with.
Winter ATV is definitely possible – some ATVers use trails specifically groomed for ATV riding in winter, using regular wheels with chains or studs, but these trails are limited. Some use tracks instead of wheels on their ATVs
Places to Stay
As mentioned above, the Edgewater Park Lodge is a renowned ATV haven, with gas pumps and pressure washers, they know how to treat their customers.
But there are plenty of other great places to stay while ATVing in the great Canadian wilderness. The Jolly Roger Inn and Resort just outside of Parry Sound is a great place for riders just past the off-ramp for the Park to Park trail (AKA the Seguin).
The Caswell Resort is home to snowmobilers all winter long, so they’re quite versed in hosting the motorhead crowd. You’re right on the shores of Lake Bernard, with good access to the Algonquin West ATV Club’s trails.
Finally, the Lake of Bays Lodge is close to the Lake of Bays ATV Trails, and we’ve personally rolled up with half a dozen ATV’s, so we know they are good hosts for quad riders.
The great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto has literally dozens of trails for the new rider – and ATVers love to share their knowledge of where to ride. So don’t hesitate to reach out to the local clubs to help plan a trip that you won’t soon forget! Happy trails!
Guided Tours & Rentals
If you don’t have your own machine and want to start out with a guided tour or a rental, check out some of the operators below who are ready to help get you out on the trails.
Guest Blogger: Mike Jacobs is a lifelong ATV enthusiast who has ridden all over Ontario, from Thunder Bay to James Bay. He loves riding and writing about his travels in the Great Canadian Wilderness!
All photos in this article are by Mike Jacobs unless otherwise noted.