Northern Ontario offers some of the best ATV experiences in the world. From the scenery (which inspired Canada’s most famous painters) to the extensive network of towns with hotels and motels catering to ATV enthusiasts, a day on these trails should be on every ATVer’s bucket list. A thriving community of ATV enthusiasts, the Algonquin West ATV Club (AWATV) operates the trail system here, where riders of all levels enjoy camaraderie and fun in the great outdoors.
“The trails are the equal of, or superior to, any other clubs trails that I have ridden,” says former director and webmaster of AWATV Adam Columbus. “And I have ridden many in Ontario, and several in US states as well, including the famed Hatfield McCoy trail system of West Virginia.” We chatted with Columbus to get all the essential info riders need for an epic day of ATV riding in this beautiful part of Ontario.
Scenic ATV trails near Algonquin Provincial Park
With around 450 kilometres of trails to choose from, there’s an ATV trail for everyone at Algonquin West. Just a three-hour drive north of Toronto, it might as well be a different world. “Most of the trails are in very hilly terrain, deep in the bush just outside the western edge of Algonquin Provincial Park with stunning scenery at every turn,” says Columbus. Riders will have the opportunity to see lots of wildlife, too. More than 55 mammal species, 32 kinds of reptiles, and 140 species of birds make this area their home including moose, deer, beavers, black bears, and loons—so be sure to bring binoculars if that’s your thing.
More experienced travellers looking for a challenge should check out trails 18, 24, 32, 44, 36, and 37, advises Columbus. “All very fun, a bit tricky, and extremely scenic to boot,” he says. Access is available everywhere there is a road intersection, with no riding restrictions in the catchment area. (The four-lane Highway 11 the only spot ATVs aren’t allowed, but it can be easily traversed via a snowmobile tunnel in Emsdale or via one of the many road bridges that cross it.)
Trails are open year-round, and offer new challenges depending on the season and the weather. Columbus points out that an easy, dry riverbed ride can turn into a muck-filled adventure after a heavy rain. And after a bit of snow, riders will find themselves in a pristine winter wonderland. The autumn is also a popular time to ride—it’s hard to beat that Northern Ontario fall foliage. After all, as English author John Ruskin reminds us: “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
Riders should remember that no matter what the weather, cell service can be spotty in some areas so always travel with a trail map or download or screenshot a trail map here.
Love ATVs? Join the club.
A day pass with the Algonquin West ATV Club gets riders access to the massive 450 km trail system. Riders can also consider the annual membership which comes with loads of benefits: access to the club’s premium trails plus reciprocal benefits at numerous other clubs including the Haliburton ATV Club's 1,700 km of trails, and access to KATVA's trail system in the Kawarthas. Members can also take part in free club rides with on-trail BBQ lunches. Additional perks include a free HATVA and AWATV map. Day passes can easily be bought online here.
Ride, sleep, and ride again
The Algonquin West area boasts hundreds of lodges, motels, hotels and campgrounds at various price points making it an easy spot to spend a few days. The town of Kearney is extremely ATV-friendly, and accommodates riders in every way possible. “Katrine, Burks Falls, Emsdale, Sundridge, and South River are all also easily accessible from the trails for food, fuel, and accommodation,” says Columbus.
Travellers can’t go wrong at Kearney’s Edgewater Park Lodge, a favourite among ATV and sled enthusiasts. Located on Sand Lake, the Edgewater offers cottages, a motel, RV camping, and a full-service restaurant called the Red Canoe. After a day on the trails, riders can fortify themselves with an Edgewater Burger, made with fresh ground brisket.
Nearby, the Sand Lake Cottages & Inn offers cottage rentals with lakefront views and great access to the AWATV trails. Amenities at Sand Lake Cottages include a sauna and hot tubs for those aching muscles plus campfires, canoes, and equipment rentals. Algonquin West ATV Club trail permits and maps are available on site.
The Silver Sand Resort is a family-friendly option offering motel rooms, cottages, and camping spots. There’s also an on-site restaurant known for its pizzas and hearty breakfasts. Wherever riders choose to sleep for the night, they’ll wake up to thousands of kilometres of trails just waiting to be explored.
Paying it forward in true Canadian fashion
What’s a day of adventure in the great outdoors without a little bit of community improvement to go along with it? Day trippers purchasing a day pass can feel good knowing that those funds go to help keep the trails open—all maintained by club volunteers. The AWATV also uses its resources to help local snowmobile clubs with time, money, and labour. “The club has donated significant funding directly to the local snowmobile clubs, and provided labour as well to help build shared bridges,” says Columbus of the group’s efforts.
The club also possesses an excavator attachment that’s able to remove large amounts of brush from the trails to keep them clear—if there’s an obstruction, they’re on the case! Well-maintained trails make for a better experience for everyone, so riders can feel good about being part of a caring community of fellow ATV lovers.
Event horizon: community trail rides, BBQs and rallies
There are always new events to take part in with the Algonquin West ATV Club.
Activities include 9 am trail rides—riders can meet at the Royal Canadian Legion in Kearny. Or register for one of the big rallies! Ticket holders will enjoy an all-day ride that includes a trailside BBQ lunch.
Start planning your trip today at algonquinwestatv.com and get ready for incredible scenery, amazing food and hospitality, and an adventure of epic proportions!
Check out our series on Ontario's best ATV trails: