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25 Winter Getaways in Ontario for People Who Love the Outdoors

• Credit: David Jackson
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25 Winter Getaways in Ontario for People Who Love the Outdoors

These small towns are the perfect settings for snow-filled adventures

Find cross-country skiing, tobogganing, skating and more in these stunning locales.

Ontario is a hotspot for winter adventure. Pretty much every community in the province embraces winter with outdoor activities, ranging from cross-country skiing and ice skating, to dogsledding and ice climbing—which made assembling a concise list of the top winter getaways a tricky endeavour. But we were up to the task: Here’s a rundown of some of the best cold-weather getaways Ontario has to offer in communities large and small, all across the map.

1. Sudbury

The Nickel City comes alive in winter with a number of great activities to enjoy within city limits. You can skate on the natural ice of the Ramsey Lake skating path, next to popular Science North and minutes from downtown.

Cross-country ski areas in Sudbury include Kivi Park, with 35 km of trails and onsite rentals; Walden Cross Country, a vibrant club that takes pride in maintaining nearly 25 km of trails for classic and skate skiing; Capreol Cross Country Ski Club, with 32 km of crowd-free trails; BioSki Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Club, which grooms 17 km of trails; Laurentian Nordic, which offers 9 km of trails adjacent to the university and downtown; and Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club, with 15 km of trails that pass through the snowy boreal forest.

In between adventures, warm up at Twiggs Coffee Roasters or Old Rock with a cup of locally roasted java. And once you’re done for the day, enjoy a relaxing evening and the delicious fare at Di Gusto or La Fromagerie in downtown Sudbury, before turning in at the Hartman House B&B.

Sitting on a bench off the ice trail at night
The wilderness is aglow on the ice trails at Crimson Ridge. Photo: Jasmine Darlow

2. Sault Ste. Marie

This mid-sized Northern Ontario city is becoming known as one of Canada’s top adventure destinations for good reason. In the winter, you’ll find some of Ontario’s best cross-country skiing within Sault Ste. Marie’s city limits at Hiawatha Highlands, with over 40 km of trails groomed for classic and skate skiing (rentals are available, too), as well as dedicated fat bike singletrack. Meanwhile, Searchmont Resort—located under an hour’s drive from downtown—boasts Ontario’s highest vertical downhill ski runs.

Head to Clergue Park in downtown Sault Ste. Marie to go skating on an ice trail alongside the St. Marys River. Crimson Ridge boasts a forested skating trail, as well as fat biking and snowshoeing. Get ready for adventure with a hearty breakfast at the aptly named The Breakfast Pig, and follow up with a locally brewed beer and pub fare at Northern Superior’s brewpub. As for where to stay, you won’t find better than the independent and family-run Water Tower Inn.

3. North Bay

North Bay embraces winter with a number of activities that take advantage of its ample 117.9 inches of average snowfall and average winter temperatures hovering around -11 degrees Celsius. For starters, numerous outfitters rent cozy, well-equipped ice fishing huts (perhaps cabins is a better word) where you can test your luck jigging for walleye on the frozen water of sprawling Lake Nipissing.

Rather stick to land-based adventures? You’ll find lots of cross-country skiing options, including 50 km of groomed trails at the North Bay Nordic Ski Club and a shorter network at Canadore College. Downhill skiing is available at the nearby Laurentian Ski Hill, and the city maintains 11 outdoor skating rinks.

Base your stay at the Pinewood Park Resort and enjoy a heated outdoor pool, onsite dining and easy access to all of North Bay’s urban attractions. Cecil’s Brewhouse & Kitchen is a favourite local eatery with prime rib weekends and seasonal beers.

4. Blind River

Like many other Northern Ontario communities, Blind River boasts a vibrant outdoors scene. In the winter, cross-country skiers enjoy almost 20 km of groomed trails at the Boom Camp, a unique natural space including wetlands, rocky ridges and tall pines that’s adjacent to Lake Huron and the mouth of the Mississagi River.

The Voyageur Trail is open to snowshoers and is accessible in various locations north and west of Blind River. A great one-way, 8-km winter hike traces the Mississagi River from an access point on Melwel Road to the village of Iron Bridge.

Spend your evenings and mornings at the cozy Pier Seventeen.

A cabin in the snowy woods at Mattawa River Resort
Stay at a cozy cabin on the Mattawa River. Photo: Mattawa River Resort

5. Mattawa

Book a cabin at the Mattawa River Resort and enjoy a quiet retreat on the historic Mattawa River, with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing available right from your door. The town of Mattawa also boasts a little-known downhill ski area that’s one of Ontario’s finest. Antoine Mountain features 630 vertical feet and 15 runs—including the longest alpine ski run in the province at 2.92 km.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Ecology Centre provides access to the Mattawa River, dozens of kilometres of ski and snowshoe trails, as well as cabin rentals.

6. Temagami

The small community of Temagami on Highway 11, north of North Bay, is best known for its namesake lake, which is a popular summer destination for paddlers and anglers. In the winter, this expansive body of water is a forgotten treasure. Great Spirit Lodge offers four heated cottages for winter use, providing weeklong rentals for families and winter enthusiasts. While there, try ice fishing or explore the frozen bays of Lake Temagami by ski or snowshoe for a unique perspective of one of Ontario’s greatest lakes.

Northland Paradise Lodge offers accommodations and unique experiences like trapline tours. If you’re looking for a harder core cold-season adventure, book a winter weekend getaway with Temagami Outfitting and try winter camping in the frozen wilderness with heated prospector tents, snowshoes and toboggans.

7. South River

South River is another blip on the map, located between Huntsville and North Bay on Highway 11. It’s fitting that a small, out of the way community contains one of Ontario’s coziest cabins—Voyageur Quest’s Algonquin Log Cabin. It’s hard to believe this off-grid retreat with an impressive stone fireplace is located barely a three-hour drive from the GTA, making it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway for couples or families. The lodge serves homemade meals and offers access to great winter activities like cross-country skiing, dogsledding and snowshoeing. Be sure to book early to avoid missing out.

A woman snowshoes on groomed trails in the forest
Snowshoe or ski on groomed trails while at the Georgian Nordic Outdoor Activity Centre. Photo: Peter Istvan

8. Parry Sound

Looking to try fat biking in a stunning winter setting? Parry Sound makes for an easy getaway from Southern Ontario—yet this community on Georgian Bay is a world apart in the winter. The Park to Park Trail offers a great introductory experience for new fat bikers, with local rentals available at Parry Sound Bikes. Explore the groomed trails by fat bike, cross-country skis or snowshoe at the Georgian Nordic Outdoor Activity Centre. You can also go snowshoeing in Killbear Provincial Park to enjoy the frozen Georgian Bay waterfront at one of Ontario’s most scenic parks. Snowshoe rentals are available at White Squall.

While in town, climb the Tower Hill Lookout for an easy way to appreciate the expansiveness of the 30,000 Islands. Then head to your accommodations for the night, choosing from one of the many local inns and bed & breakfasts. Enjoy seasonal microbrews at the town’s two local breweries: Norse Brewery and Trestle Brewing Company.

9. Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is known for its vibrant Finnish population and, true to its Scandinavian heritage, the city on Lake Superior comes alive in the winter months. Kamview Nordic Centre and Lappe Nordic Ski Club offer some of Ontario’s finest cross-country skiing within Thunder Bay city limits. On top of that, the Sleeping Giant Loppet is one of the province’s best cross-country ski events, with a variety of distances for all levels of skiers in the stunning hills of Northwestern Ontario.

After a hard day of adventure, refuel at the Caribou Restaurant + Wine Bar and prepare for another day of adventure with a solid sleep at the Victoria Inn.

10. Wawa

Wawa is certainly better known as a summer destination, popular with anglers and adventurers alike. However, this small town—located on the Trans-Canada Highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay—is a great winter getaway if you’re willing to venture off the beaten track.

Stay in town at the Wawa Motor Inn and make day trips to Lake Superior Provincial Park, where you can snowshoe on hiking trails that lead to and along the Lake Superior coastline. Wawa maintains an outdoor skating rink on expansive Wawa Lake, which is also home to a serious ice fishing derby each March.

A person gazes out over the snow valley in Goulais River
Traverse rolling landscapes to find valley views. Photo: Stokely Creek Lodge

11. Goulais River

The community of Goulais River barely registers as a blip on the map north of Sault Ste. Marie—yet it boasts two great winter destinations. Stokely Creek Lodge is a Scandinavian-style cross-country ski resort with over 100 km of groomed trails in a wilderness setting, gourmet meals and cozy accommodations. If you’re looking for Ontario’s best backcountry skiing, check out Bellevue Valley Lodge, which provides family and group rentals of a hillside chalet and guided backcountry ski adventures in rugged, snowy terrain.

Snowshoeing is another great way to experience this magnificent landscape. For a guided snowshoe adventure in the Goulais River area, check out Forest the Canoe or Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes.

12. Cochrane

Cochrane is the gateway to Ontario’s James Bay frontier, providing year-round train access to the remote communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory via the Polar Bear Express. A train journey to the James Bay coast in winter is the ultimate bucket list item for adventure travellers. Stay at the Cree Village Ecolodge on the island of Moose Factory for a unique Indigenous cultural experience when you arrive.

Cochrane hosts Ontario’s oldest winter carnival. You can also experience the northern winter on a dogsled tour with Ravens Adventures, and cozy up afterwards at the historic Station Inn Hotel.

Man standing at edge of frozen lake.
Find solitude at Silent Lake Provincial Park, just outside Bancroft. Photo: Marissa Evans // @marisevans

13. Bancroft

Bancroft is your jumping-off point for Silent Lake Provincial Park, which is aptly named for its appeal to winter adventurers. The park, located in Central Ontario, offers tent campsites, yurts and cabins for winter overnight stays, and great access to over 20 km of cross-country ski trails with options that will appeal to all levels of skiers. You can rent your cross-country ski equipment at Trips and Trails Adventure Outfitting in town.

The park’s hiking trails also make for great snowshoeing (rentals available at the park) and anglers can try their luck ice fishing for elusive brook trout. There’s no better place to get a taste of winter camping and fall in love with year-round outdoor adventure in Central Ontario.

14. Tobermory

Tobermory is your gateway to Bruce Peninsula National Park. This spectacular park is popular in the summer months for good reason: The Lake Huron coastline is jaw-dropping and there are plenty of trails to explore.

Bruce Peninsula National Park remains open in the winter, too, with backcountry camping available on a self-registration basis. Camping in the snow is pure solitude; just be sure you’re prepared to weather the cold. Visit Suntrail Source for Adventure for all your outdoor gear needs and snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals.

Want an easier introduction to winter camping? Cozy yurts are available year-round at nearby MacGregor Point Provincial Park.

15. Elliot Lake

You won’t spend any time waiting in chairlift lines at Elliot Lake’s Mount Dufour. The hill features seven runs and 320 feet of vertical drop, minutes from the city centre. Rentals and lessons are available, as well as a licenced fireside lounge. The town also provides 20 km of groomed cross-country ski trails and snowshoeing on numerous trails. Dunlop Lake Lodge offers year-round waterfront accommodations. You’ll find great local eats at the FireSide Classic Grill.

A child feeds one of the local wildlife at Cedar Meadows Resort
Get up close and personal with local wildlife on guided tours. Photo: Destination Ontario

16. Timmins

This Northeastern Ontario city has a vibrant winter scene, and is home to one of Ontario’s largest cross-country ski clubs. The Porcupine Ski Runners maintain over 25 km of ski and snowshoe trails for all levels of winter enthusiasts, minutes from downtown.

Enjoy a weekend in Timmins at the Cedar Meadows Resort and Spa, a surprisingly luxe experience in Northern Ontario, with suite and chalet accommodations, gourmet meals, a Nordic spa and a 100-acre wildlife park.

17. Temiskaming Shores

The communities of New Liskeard, Haileybury and the Township of Dymond, on Highway 11, are a hub of winter activity with a well-established cross-country ski club and impeccably groomed trails. The area is also home to the Hilliardton Marsh Research and Education Centre, a must-see attraction for birders and nature lovers, which provides an intimate glimpse of Northern Ontario’s winter birds.

While in Temiskaming Shores stay at one of the Presidents’ Suites’ historic homes and be sure to check out the food scene at Tap That Bar & Kitchen.

18. St. Joseph Island

This large island that’s located in the North Channel of Lake Huron, east of Sault Ste. Marie, holds the distinction of being Ontario’s largest producer of maple syrup. Get a head start on the season by signing up for the Maple Syrup Stampede, a recreational ski loppet held each February in Jocelyn Township near the community of Hilton Beach. This family-friendly event includes a 14-km skate category, along with 7-km and 2-km classic races—all with a casual atmosphere and the lure of great draw prizes.

Stay at the Sunnyside Bed & Breakfast and fuel up at the Tilt’n Steakhouse.

Looking out at frozen lake from top of ski hill.
Hit the slopes at Sir Sam's in Haliburton. Photo: Marissa Evans // @marisevans

19. Haliburton

You’ll find no shortage of winter activities in this bustling cottage country town in Central Ontario. To start, there’s great downhill skiing at Sir Sam’s—including family-friendly lift tickets and rental rates. Looking for cross-country skiing? Check out the 22 km of trails at the Frost Centre. You can rent cross-country skis from Algonquin Outfitters’ Haliburton location.

Want to try something truly exciting? Sign up for an ice climbing lesson with Yours Outdoors. For a quieter outing, go snowshoeing and observe birds and wildlife at the Snowdon Park Nature Reserve. Or if you’re looking to meet new friends, check out the Hike Haliburton winter festival, held annually in February. You can base your stay the Arching Pines Bed & Breakfast.

20. Kirkland Lake

There’s a snowshoeing adventure for everyone in the town of Kirkland Lake, located in Northeastern Ontario. The town offers snowshoeing trails and free rentals in green space adjacent to the community centre. For the more adventurous, venture into the snowy backcountry of nearby Esker Lakes Provincial Park. Cross-country ski trails are also available—both in Kirkland Lake (starting from the community centre) and at Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park.

You can book a stay at the Prospectors’ Inn and sate your appetite at Gimmi-Wun.

Shovel finishing clearing the ice with yurt in background.
Anyone up for some pond hockey at Minaki Yurt Adventures? Photo:

21. Kenora

The famous lakes of Northwestern Ontario are a fantastic winter destination. Located 45 km north of Kenora, Minaki Yurt Adventures offers four yurts and a tipi for small group rentals year-round. The main attraction for winter guests to this off-the-radar retreat is excellent cross-country skiing, with 20 km of groomed trails. Larger groups can book the 2,800-square-foot Mee-nah-kee yurt, which features a kitchen, several bathrooms and space for up to 11.

The Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is a Kenora staple, with a popular taproom in a reclaimed historic firehall.

22. Nipigon

Located just east of Thunder Bay, Nipigon is a small town in the heart of some of the finest scenery on Lake Superior’s north shore. Cliffs and cold weather combine to make Nipigon the best place in Ontario to go ice climbing. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, check out Nipigon Ice Fest to discover a new adventure sport or test your skills—while admiring the stunning vistas of Northwestern Ontario.

Rather stick to flat ground? Check out the Nipigon to Red Rock hiking trail on snowshoes. This 10-km path traces the backwaters of the Nipigon River and climbs flat-topped hills with great views of Lake Superior. Modern snowshoes with traction spikes are advised. You can rent from Nipigon River Bait, Tackle & Souvenir Shop.

Base your stay at the cozy Red Rock Inn and enjoy the fare at the Red Pebbles Cafe.

23. Atikokan

Though the community is undoubtedly quieter in the winter months, the Northwestern Ontario town of Atikokan remains the gateway to Quetico Provincial Park. Check out 15 km of groomed cross-country ski trails at the Dawson Lake Campground. Or, if you’re truly up for the challenge, explore the park on snowshoes and try backcountry winter camping.

There’s no shame in not wanting to rough it though. In town, you’ll find great accommodations at the Quetico Inn and eats at The Wanigan.

A person stops to look at the surrounding wilderness
Take time to pause and soak it all in. Photo: @discoverMuskoka

24. Huntsville

This trendy near-north town, located barely two hours north of Toronto, is the perfect setting for a getaway with access to a variety of winter adventures in Central Ontario. Hit the slopes for some downhill skiing and snowboarding at Hidden Valley Highlands. Arrowhead Provincial Park offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating and snow tubing—equipment is available to rent at the Visitor Centre (just remember to purchase your daily vehicle permit in advance). Take to the trails at charming Limberlost Forest for 25 km of additional cross-country skiing. Algonquin Outfitters in downtown Huntsville rents fat bikes, which can be used at Limberlost or nearby Echo Valley Nature & Bike Trails.

If you want to partake in all the winter activities imaginable without having to even get in your car, book a stay at Deerhurst Resort. Not only is it renowned for its upscale accommodations and fine dining, you can enjoy fat biking, cross-country skiing and even winter disc golf, to name just some of the activities on offer on location.

The town of Huntsville is located too close to Algonquin Provincial Park to not mention it here. Head to the park for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking. You can rent snowshoes from Algonquin Outfitters, their Huntsville and Oxtongue Lake locations being most convenient.

25. Hearst

Hearst is one of Ontario’s northernmost road-accessible towns, so there’s no surprise it’s home to plenty of snowy adventures. The town offers 15 km of groomed cross-country skiing trails and 9 km of snowshoeing trails. Nearby Fushimi Lake Provincial Park is also a quiet winter retreat for the more adventurous.

You can base your stay at the Villa Inn & Suites and try out the extensive menu at the 241 Bar & Grill.

Winter is the Best Time to Get Outside

Many people are tempted to save their vacation days for the summer months, and plan a getaway then. Those who do, though, are missing out on incredible experiences and landscapes. This year, dedicate a getaway to winter and find out just what Ontario has to offer

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