Winter in Ontario is a special time for outdoor lovers. Fresh, fluffy snow, quiet landscapes, and brilliant bluebird skies invite you to bundle up and experience everything this beautiful season has to offer. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous getaway or a comfy and cozy escape, winter in Ontario offers something for everyone. Read on to discover our favourite winter activities, then start planning your own ultimate winter bucket list and discover why winter is the absolute best time to visit Ontario.
1. Tobogganing and Tubing
Nothing says old-fashioned winter fun in Ontario quite like grabbing a toque and a toboggan and rocketing down a snow-packed slope—then hiking back up for more. Snow tubing takes that all-thrill, no-skill winter excitement to the next level on groomed slopes. Think flying downhill in a spinning inner tube amidst a cloud of snow, and you’ll know what to expect!
- Enjoy snow tubing by day or after dark at Mount Jamieson Resort, formerly Kamiskotia Snow Resort, just outside Timmins
- Experience Ontario’s longest snow tubing hill, complete with magic carpet ride back to the top, at Horseshoe Resort. The resort is just a one-hour drive from the GTA and tubing is free for overnight guests.
- Ask a local to point you to Finn Hill in Sault Ste. Marie for classic tobogganing fun
2. Cross-country Skiing
Combining fitness, adventure and snowy splendor, cross-country skiing is a great way to experience Ontario’s natural beauty while keeping active this winter. You’ll find scenic trails, equipment rentals and lessons at dedicated Nordic ski centres across the province. Many Ontario Parks also offer cross-country skiing. Since trail conditions can change daily, be sure to check out the Ontario Parks ski report when planning your trip.
- Explore the extensive trail network at North Bay Nordic Ski Club. This volunteer-run club offers lit trails for night skiing, equipment rentals, lessons, a clubhouse and fun ski events—all just minutes from the amenities of the city of North Bay.
- Experience the stunning scenery of the Algoma Highlands from Stokely Creek Lodge’s endless cross-country ski trails, complete with cozy trailside warming huts and challenging hills. The resort offers day passes, rentals, lessons and all-inclusive stay-ski-eat packages.
- A winter visit to Killarney Provincial Park rewards skiers with 34 km of groomed trails through mature forests and across frozen lakes. Winter days are short—plan on a couple days to enjoy everything this iconic park has to offer. Make reservations for a heated yurt, or treat yourself to the luxury of nearby Killarney Mountain Lodge.
3. Ice Climbing
Few winter activities offer an adrenaline rush quite like scaling a frozen waterfall. Join a guided ice climbing adventure this winter and you’ll learn how to swing ice axes and kick crampons to ascend vertical ice cascades. At the top, revel in the view (you’ve earned it!) before rappelling gently back down to your climbing partner. With loads of steep rock and falling water, Northwestern Ontario boasts some of the best ice climbing in Canada.
- Join Outdoor Skills and Thrills for half- and full-day beginner ice climbing adventures from Thunder Bay and Nipigon
- Sign up for guided ice climbs and instruction with Ontario’s oldest climbing school, Algoma’s Superior Exploration, Climbing & Adventure
- Join Liv Outside for introductory to advanced ice climbing packages in Muskoka
- Get an introduction to ice climbing in Haliburton with Yours Outdoors
4. Ice Skating Trails
All over Ontario, in provincial parks, conservation areas, cities and towns, incredible ice skating trails offer skaters a fun and unique way to take to the ice. These smooth ribbons of outdoor ice feature maintained surfaces and wonderfully varied scenery. Glide through a frosty forest, enjoy skyline views from a frozen lake, or revel in after-dark skating along torchlit trails. Just remember that skating trail conditions are weather-dependent—be sure to check ice conditions before travelling.
- Visit Bala’s Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery after freeze-up to witness this cranberry marsh transformed into a stunning 1.2-km ice skating trail. Don’t miss Saturday night torchlight skating!
- Cruise Blue Mountain Resort’s 1.1-km Woodview Mountaintop Skating loop while enjoying extraordinary views along the Niagara Escarpment. After dark, thousands of interactive lights draped above the trail light up magical night skating.
- Discover Sudbury’s beautiful Nina’s Way Skate Path, which winds 1.3 km through the brilliant white birch trees of Kivi Park. Recharge at trailside warming cabins and relaxing outdoor fireplaces, fuel up at the Kivi Café, and keep skating into the evening accompanied by music and twinkling lights.
- Aside from Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park is almost certainly the best-known skate pathway in Ontario. Visit midweek to avoid crowds along this 1.3-km forest gem. Rent skates at the park. Don't forget to purchase your daily vehicle permit in advance online. You can find more information about visiting Arrowhead this winter here.
5. Outdoor Rinks for Hockey and Skating
For a quintessential snow season experience, lace up your skates and take to one of the outdoor rinks that materialize each winter on lakes and ponds across Ontario. Whether you invite some friends for an informal game of pond hockey, or simply enjoy the meditative rhythm of skating outside, there’s no shortage of outdoor rinks in Ontario.
- Sudbury could be the capital of outdoor rinks, with more than 50 volunteer-built rinks emerging each winter. Get your groove on at the city’s two premier rinks: the Queen’s Athletic Skating Oval and Ramsey Lake Skating Path, a 1.5-km swath of well-maintained ice winding along the lakeshore. Warm up with a decadent hot chocolate and delicious, home-baked pastry at Beard’s Bakery & Coffee Bar.
- Join the locals for skating and shinny at Timmins’ Hollinger Park, a former mine site that has become one of the city’s finest parks. The park features the Hollinger Skateway, Ontario’s newest skating trail, as well as traditional ice pads.
- Sault Ste. Marie is a proud hockey town, so it’s no surprise you’ll find three popular outdoor rinks here, as well as a speed skating oval and the Clergue Park Skating Trail. Find out more.
6. Fat Biking
Fat biking is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Ontario in winter. These monster mountain bikes feature oversized tires that can float on packed snow, turning just about any snowy trail into a cycling winter wonderland. Hop in the saddle and you’ll see: these big bikes put a whole new spin on winter fun.
- Savour the stunning views and technical terrain at Sudbury’s Kivi Park and nearby Walden Cross Country trail centre. Fat bike rentals available.
- Spin 20 km of groomed fat bike trails at Sault Ste. Marie’s Crimson Ridge, then unwind with perfect pub fare and microbrews at Outspoken Brewing
- Find your flow on the easy Centennial Park trails in Thunder Bay. Rent equipment and get the scoop on trails and conditions at these friendly local bike shops: Petrie’s Cycle, Rollin’ Thunder and Fresh Air Experience
7. Winter Hiking
The great thing about winter hiking is that you really can do it anywhere. Ontario’s trails are beautiful in all seasons, but winter adds that extra level of magic when water vapours hang in the crisp air above ice-fringed lakes and you’ll have epic vistas all to yourself. Keep in mind that winter hiking without snowshoes is best done on well-travelled trails or when the snow is very firm. Compact, pull-on ice cleats add traction to your boots when conditions are slippery.
- See the “Niagara Falls of the North” at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. Hike the Mountain Portage Trail for spectacular views of the gorge and historic Kaministiquia River. Then treat yourself to a cozy log cabin stay and gourmet meal at nearby Rose Valley Lodge.
- Escape the crowds that throng Bruce Peninsula National Park in the warmer months by visiting in winter. Hike to the Grotto to see turquoise waters contrasting with icy cliffs and crisp white snow. Go guided with EcoAdventures from January through February.
8. Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Outstanding downhill skiing and snowboarding are closer than you think. Ontario’s acclaimed ski and snowboard resorts make the most of the province’s generous lake-effect snowfall and impressive natural escarpments. Plus, you can enjoy slopeside accommodation and dining at many of Ontario’s best ski resorts.
- Enjoy 700 vertical feet, 132 inches of annual snowfall and a terrain park at Searchmont Resort, just 40 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie
- Near Mattawa, discover Antoine Mountain, a hidden gem with stunning views of the Ottawa River valley and home to Ontario’s longest run
- Don’t miss Blue Mountain Resort, Ontario’s largest and best-known ski and snowboard destination. Perched on the Niagara Escarpment in Collingwood, the resort offers 720 vertical feet, 42 runs and an extensive menu of snow sports activities, including all-inclusive eat-play-stay experiences.
- Head to the highlands outside Thunder Bay, where Loch Lomond and Mount Baldy offer lessons, rentals and weekend night skiing, along with views of mighty Lake Superior
9. Northern Lights
Canada ranks as one of the finest places on the planet for seeing the Northern Lights. If you’re lucky, you can catch this elusive light show at Ontario’s aurora hot spots. For the best viewing, you’ll need a dark sky with no light pollution and a clear view of the northern horizon. And remember, the farther north you go in Ontario, the better your odds of seeing a dramatic aurora display.
- Go winter camping at Killarney Provincial Park, one of three Ontario Parks with internationally designated Dark Sky status
- Plan a relaxing getaway to Manitoulin Island to experience some of the darkest skies—and most tranquil vibes—in Ontario’s near north. Set on 12 untouched acres in the heart of the island, Twin Peaks B&B offers elegant rooms and unobstructed astral views.
- Join Northern Edge Algonquin’s Fire & Ice Winter Getaway, where you’ll stay in a private forest cabin nestled in the snowy woods of Algonquin Park and enjoy guided skiing, snowshoeing and after-dark ice skating on a frozen lake
- Make the trip to Quetico Provincial Park, designated a Dark Sky Preserve in 2021. This iconic wilderness park is one of the best spots in Ontario for watching the Northern Lights and is an adventurous winter destination for outdoor lovers.
When you step into a pair of modern, lightweight snowshoes, you are joining a tradition that is thousands of years old. Developed for efficient winter travel in deep snow, the classic elongated snowshoe shape was inspired by the oversized feet of snowshoe hares, which can sprint at up to 45 km/hour in dense snow! After the first few clumsy strides, we promise you’ll quickly get the hang of this accessible winter activity and see for yourself why there’s no better way to explore off-trail.
- Base yourself in the cozy comfort of Bellevue Valley Lodge and snowshoe out your door to the snowy summits of Algoma region’s ancient hardwood mountains
- Visit Collingwood’s Scenic Caves and follow winding snowshoe trails to Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge with sweeping vistas of Georgian Bay
- Experience a winter wonderland just minutes from Mattawa at Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge. Pick up a day pass to explore miles of pristine trails with views of the Laurentian Mountains, or stay in the on-site log cabins and yurts for an extended winter vacation.
11. Build a Quinzhee or Igloo
Constructing a snow shelter like a quinzhee or igloo is a great way to reconnect with your snow-fort-building inner child—and create a functional shelter that can even be used for winter camping. Wondering what the difference is between a quinzhee and an igloo? Traditionally, igloos are more permanent structures built from carefully cut snow or ice blocks, while a quinzhee is usually a more temporary shelter created by shoveling snow into a large pile and then hollowing it out.
- You can build a backyard quinzhee with a snow shovel, a bit of instruction and a lot of snow. Or learn with the pros with Outdoor Skills & Thrills’ half- and full-day winter skills courses.
- For the ultimate winter experience, join Algonquin Basecamp’s two- or three-day fully supported winter camping program, where you’ll build and sleep in an igloo in the Algonquin Park backcountry
12. Winter Camping
Pack your warmest layers and plenty of hot chocolate—winter camping in Ontario is this season’s must-try experience for outdoor adventurers. With cozy camp cabins, heated yurts and traditional tent camping options aplenty, there’s a winter camping experience for everyone.
- Enjoy stargazing and campfires just steps from your toasty yurt or cabin at more than a dozen Ontario provincial parks. Some of our favourites include Windy Lake (yurts), Sleeping Giant (cabins), Quetico (cabins), Arrowhead (cabins) and Algonquin (yurts). Be sure to reserve your stay well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Join Lure of the North for a traditional, fully guided winter camping expedition where you’ll travel by snowshoe, pulling your gear on a toboggan and sleeping in the comfort of a canvas hot tent.
- Learn to winter camp amid the magical winter landscape of Algonquin Park with Algonquin Basecamp. Choose to cold camp, hot tent or igloo camp during this fully supported weekend package.
13. Frozen Waterfalls
Ontario is home to hundreds of spectacular and accessible waterfalls, hidden away along scenic trails or plunging dramatically just steps from the road. These natural marvels are even more incredible in winter when the glittering, ice-draped scene will have you feeling like you’ve just stepped into the movie Frozen.
- Hiking to the top of Ragged Falls in Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park is a must for winter enthusiasts. Book a gorgeous log cabin at nearby Wolf Den Nature Retreat and visit the falls in late afternoon when the icy cascades glow with golden light.
- Take a self-guided waterfall tour in Grey County. Make a weekend out of visiting these six stunning cascades by staying right beside a rushing waterfall in Walter’s Falls at The Falls Inn.
- View the breathtaking 100-foot-tall Aguasabon Falls in Terrace Bay and don’t miss hiking down to see the lower falls and Lake Superior on the Casque Isles Trail
14. Ice Fishing
Thousands of lakes, a great variety of desirable fish and a long deep-freeze make Ontario one of the best places in the world for ice fishing. Add in a wealth of ice fishing operators dedicated to ensuring first-timers and seasoned anglers have an amazing experience, and there’s no reason to ever ice fish anywhere else.
- Lake Nipissing is the perfect place to try ice fishing for the first time. Jig for walleye, pike, perch, whitefish and cisco (lake herring) from a cozy “ice bungalow” with North Bay area outfitters Bear Creek Cottages or Snowfari Adventures.
- Reserve an ice fishing package at Windy Lake Provincial Park, including all the equipment you’ll need to catch tasty lake trout and whitefish. Stay in nearby Sudbury, or better yet, book a heated yurt inside the park.
- Join Muskoka Stay N’ Play Tours for half- or full-day guided ice fishing and snowmobile-ice fishing combo tours on and around Muskoka’s lakes. The best part: your guide prepares and cooks your catch right on the ice!
15. Ice Roads
Canada’s best-known ice road may be located in the Northwest Territories, but for many remote Northern Ontario communities, ice roads play an equally critical role in winter transportation. From freeze-up to thaw—typically January through March—winter ice roads become seasonal highways reaching into the farthest corners of Northwestern Ontario.
Aside from connecting otherwise roadless communities, ice roads are also common on larger lakes across the region, where many residents travel the ice to access their homes and favourite fishing spots. Before getting out and exploring with the locals, brush up on your ice road etiquette.
- Take a drive around Lake of the Woods, which has an extensive ice road system around the towns of Nestor Falls, Sioux Narrows and Kenora. Get out for a day of ice road ice fishing with local guide Jeff Gustafson Outdoors.
- Fly to Moosonee and take an ice road taxi to Cree Village Ecolodge. Situated at the edge of James Bay in the traditional Cree island community of Moose Factory, the lodge offers an authentic Indigenous cultural experience and superb aurora-viewing in the inky skies above the ice-locked Moose River.
16. Winter Spas
Pack your swimsuit and embrace stillness and relaxation at one of Ontario’s blissful spa retreats. Whether you’re looking to be pampered with an all-inclusive resort experience, or just in need of a day of meditative soaking, there’s something for you!
- Bathe in outdoor hot pools alongside the Mattagami River and treat yourself to a massage at Timmins’ Cedar Meadows Resort & Spa
- Unwind at one of Blue Mountain Resort’s three luxury spa centres. Find your zen in Iwa Spa’s warm volcanic rock yoga studio, or indulge in a full Nordic spa experience at Scandinave Spa—complete with steam rooms, thermal waterfalls, hot baths, forest bathing and mountain views.
- Escape to Sudbury’s Touch of Heaven Nordic Spa & Retreat for a restorative overnight stay
17. Ice Caves
Search for otherworldly ice caves along the frozen shores of Ontario’s largest lakes, where the splashing waves of early winter storms have transformed rock shelves and cliffs into ethereal caverns of aqua-blue ice.
- Strap on a pair of snowshoes to explore ice cave hotspots like Old Woman Bay at Lake Superior Provincial Park and Gros Cap headland near Sault Ste. Marie
- Take a guided cross-country ski adventure with EcoAdventures into Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve. You’ll ski the frozen shoreline of the Bruce Peninsula and travel alongside icy formations at the foot of 200-foot cliffs.
18. Winter Birds
Bird-watching enthusiasts will find plentiful opportunities to enjoy this relaxing pursuit all over Ontario in the winter. After the frenzy of fall migration, you’ll find only the hardiest species wintering over in Ontario’s snow-shrouded forests, fields and wetlands. The brilliant white backdrop and naked branches mean it’s a great time to spot resident blue jays, pileated woodpeckers, spruce grouse and curious Canada jays.
Some northern species, like beautiful snowy owls and snow buntings, also move south into Ontario for winter—making this the season to check these avian travellers off your birding list.
- Take a birding tour in Algonquin Park with Eastern Ontario Birding
- Join EcoAdventures for a night hike “owl prowl” on the Bruce Peninsula near Lion’s Head
- Visit the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site at Whitefish Island. The waters of the St. Mary’s River stay open all winter, attracting a huge variety of northern waterfowl and raptors, including tundra swans and bald eagles. Get birding lists and resources from the Sault Naturalists.
19. Winter Festivals
Every year, Canadians are plunged into a months-long deep freeze with short days and long, dark nights. No wonder Ontario has so many fantastic winter festivals to heat things up!
- Don’t miss Muskoka’s Bracebridge Fire and Ice Festival, known for a spectacular fireworks display and the legendary downtown tube run—when the steep main street is piled with snow and converted into a tobogganing hill
- Get your stick on the ice at Sudbury’s Pond Hockey Festival on the Rock, complete with fireworks and hot air balloon rides
- Find tons of family fun including snow sculptures, skating and snowmobile rides at Sault Ste. Marie’s Bon Soo Festival
- Head north for the Cochrane Winter Carnival, an 11-day extravaganza featuring a torchlight parade, fireworks, a polar bear dip, ice sculpting, curling, hockey tournaments, snowmobile races and a demolition derby
- Join in the fun at the Voyageur Winter Carnival held at Fort William Historical Park over Family Day Weekend. Enjoy their outdoor winter Zorb Ball track, human bowling alleys, giant snow maze, tubing hills, skating, wagon rides, winter games and more.
Discover the Joy of Winter in Ontario
Winter truly is a magical time to explore Ontario. This is the only time of year when you can enjoy fabulous winter sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, tobogganing and more. Keep this extensive list of winter activities in Ontario handy when the snow flies—and make sure you get out and make the most of this spectacular season!