The Explorers’ Edge region of Ontario has thousands of kilometres of exceptional trails to delight snowmobilers, all within a half day’s drive of Toronto and spots further south. It’s also the perfect destination for first-time riders to give this quintessential Canadian winter activity a try.
If you’ve never ridden a sled, there are plenty of operators and accommodations that can hook you up with everything you’ll need to head out – just have your valid driver’s license ready.
GUIDED TOURS & RENTALS
If this is truly your first time, a guided tour is the best place to start. (Remember – riding on trails on your own requires an Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs permit, so don’t just head out without being informed.)
Many local resorts and operators offer tours with experienced instructors who’ll train and tour with you. Many tours can be customized for families, using machines designed for passengers, and with routes featuring more frequent stops at local attractions and spots to break.
If you already have some snowmobile experience but don’t have your own sled, this may be the season to rent a machine and explore the trails yourself. Rentals generally include your trail permit, gas, and often helmets come with the package or can be rented. Some operators even provide all the outdoor gear you will need to stay warm and dry.
Below is a partial list of outfitters, guide services and resorts who’ll help you experience the adrenaline rush of sledding in Canada this winter:
Eagle Lake Narrows Country Store – Almaguin Highlands
At Eagle Lake Narrows Country Store in South River, you can tell snowmobiling is popular as there are always sleds parked outside in winter. The store (and gas station) has three snowmobiles for rent as well, which can be booked for half-day, full day or for multiple days and include helmet and maps. Guided tours can also be arranged from their location. (And check out the Almaguin Highlands this year for the “best snow in Ontario.”)
Back Country Tours – Muskoka
Operating out of their Muskoka Adventure Store in the town of Dwight, Back Country Tours rents machines in half day, weekday and weekend packages that are available with all gear necessary, including outerwear and helmets. They also provide guided tours of various lengths for individuals, families or groups. Back Country Tours also offers resort accommodation packages with resort properties, including Deerhurst Resort, Hidden Valley Resort and The Couples Resort on the eastern border of Algonquin Park. Their comprehensive website lists all their partners, what you will need to rent with them, and lots of testimonials from satisfied customers.
Muskoka Sports & Recreation – Muskoka
Located next to the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, Muskoka Sports & Recreation offers snowmobile rentals and tours. Guided tours come with all the required outdoor gear, and rentals can be arranged for a single day or multiple days (up to a week).
Muskoka Wharf Marine – Muskoka
Muskoka Wharf Marine has snowmobiles for rent and offers guided tours from their Gravenhurst location. Head out onto world-renowned Lake Muskoka once it is safe to do so, and enjoy a peak at the famous Muskoka Steamships when they are locked in by ice. (And keep an eye out for overnight sledding package deals at the nearby Residence Inn by Marriott.)
Red Line Outdoors – Muskoka
Red Line Outdoors offers machine rentals by the day, multi-day or full week. Red Line also offers rider safety courses for beginners to become more confident in their riding. Helmets and all permits and insurance fees are covered.
Near North Recreation – Parry Sound
Near North Recreation in Parry Sound has a selection of snowmobiles for single day, multi day or full week rentals. Helmets are included and outerwear can be provided at a nominal cost.
Rosseau Road Powersports & Marine – Parry Sound
Located on the trails in Parry Sound, Rosseau Road Powersports rents machines daily, or for multi-day or weekly rentals. All necessary gear can be rented on site. Guided tours can be booked and Rosseau Road will also deliver and pick up snowmobiles to your cottage or local resort. (Be sure to ask owner Bill about the trails around Parry Sound as well – he knows them inside and out.)
Muskoka Stay N Play Tours – Bala
Housed in a newly renovated historic cottage just a stones throw away from the OFSC trails in Bala, Muskoka Stay N Play Tours offers accommodation and outdoor adventure packages for the beginner to seasoned enthusiast. Their various tour packages include a knowledgeable local guide, accommodations, lunch, and all equipment to ensure your experience is a memorable one. If you’re looking to add a little something more to your package, they also offer ice fishing, snowshoeing, and ice skating adventures on site.
Visit the great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto this winter and make it your mission to learn this quintessentially Canadian outdoor activity while you’re here.
To plan your winter getaway to Ontario’s cottage country, click here.
Want more info? Contact the district snowmobile clubs in the Explorers’ Edge region.
Always check with the local OFSC club about the trails you wish to travel to ensure that they are open and safe for use before heading out. Please do not venture out onto the ice without first contacting the local clubs; safety should always be the first priority.
Guest Blogger: Bill Farnsworth
Bill Farnsworth is a freelance writer who has lived in Muskoka for more than 30 years. When not writing, Bill can be found cycling, running, paddling and trying to keep up with his two adventurous boys.