Huntsville, Muskoka: Winter’s Outdoor Adventure HQ

Muskoka’s biggest town is a beacon for those who embrace the snowy season and all things outdoors.

The list of things to do in Huntsville this winter is longer than a luge run – but this should come as no surprise. Outdoor adventure is practically the town’s middle name in all four seasons, and the colder months are no exception.

For starters, Huntsville is a gateway to two popular attractions: Algonquin Park and Arrowhead Provincial Park. Many people are surprised to learn that Algonquin is open in winter, but in fact there’s a lot happening in Canada’s oldest provincial park. Various trails are groomed for skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking, and a cleared outdoor rink for skating can be found at the Mew Lake camp site (as well as some funky yurts).

A highlight of the season is the Winter in the Wild Festival that takes place on February 17 this year. Take the family to enjoy indoor and outdoor events held at various locations across the Highway 60 corridor of Algonquin Park, including many at the Algonquin Visitor Centre. All of the activities during the festival are free with the purchase of a daily vehicle or camping permit (with the exception of food).

Close to Algonquin, intrepid snowshoe fans should consider a trek into Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park. Though the park is not monitored in winter, many outdoor adventurers head out to explore some of the most iconic scenery in the region. (Be sure to keep a safe distance from the falls themselves.)

RaggedFallsWinter2 RESIZED FOR DIGITALFor the ultimate skating adventure, a visit to the Ice Trail at Arrowhead has now become a bucket list item. Glide over a 1.3 km loop through a snow-frosted forest and experience the wonder of a Canadian winter like a kid again. (Try to visit mid-week when the trail is less crowded.) The “Fire & Ice Nights” are most special of all, when the trail is illuminated with tiki torches and by the stars up above.

arrowheadArrowhead is also home to over 30 km of exceptional x-country ski trails – and annually hosts one of the biggest Nordic races in the province, the Muskoka Loppet.

You can also snowshoe at the park, stay overnight in a heated cabin, and take a slide down the tubing hill. Watch for organized skiijoring events with the folks from The Sport Lab as well.

In between Algonquin and Arrowhead, take a detour to explore the Limberlost Forest & Nature Reserve. With 10,000 acres of unspoiled Canadian Shield terrain, mixed forest and stunning shorelines located here, Limberlost Reserve is an unforgettable year-round retreat offering a variety of outdoor activities. Great adventuring can also be found around Lake of Bays at the Echo Valley Nature & Bike Trails.

Hidden-Valley-Highlands-1-1Moving towards town you’ll find the Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, a downhill spot with a dozen runs that’s the “home hill” of Olympic slope style gold medallist, Dara Howell. This family-friendly hill is a great place to learn to ski or board, or to reacquaint yourself with your skills from days gone by. Ask about packages with area accommodations, about special events, and about lessons and rentals.

sleigh-ride-1If you’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, then North Ridge Ranch in Huntsville can introduce you to this quintessential Canadian adventure. For a more sedate pace with animals in winter, consider a charming horse-drawn sleigh ride through the forest at Back of Beyond Equine Centre or at Deerhurst Resort.

Looking to encapsulate the hues of winter in a work of art? Consider en plein air painting throughout town and at numerous scenic locations: you’ll be surprised at how many different colours you see in a snowy landscape. (Photo below by Gerry Lantaigne, artistic director of the Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery.)

winter palette gerry lantaigneMany accommodations in the Huntsville area offer a range of outdoor activities, including outdoor rinks for skating and hockey at most spots on a lake. Here are a few options to consider when you’re making your winter adventure plans:

Beauview Cottage Resort
Outdoor hot tubs
Skating on Lake of Bays
Snowmobiles welcome

Blue Spruce Resort
Nordic Skiing

Blue Water Acres Resort

  • Bondi Village Resort
    Nordic skiing – 20 km of groomed and track set trails
    Toboggan and tubing Hill
    Skating on Lake of Bays
    Snowshoe frisbee golf

Deerhurst Resort
Nordic skiing
(All equipment rentals included in nightly resort fee)
Sleigh rides
Winter horseback riding
Children’s petting farm
Yamaha Snowmobiling Adventures – guided snowmobile tours (with mini-sled rides for kids 6 – 10)

Fern Glen Inn B& B
Bird watching & feeding (chickadees)
Dogsledding (arranged)