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5 Can't-Miss Ice Skating Trails

5 Can't-Miss Ice Skating Trails

Ice Trail at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery

Ontario's hottest winter trend heads north

Experience the thrill and serenity of some of the best outdoor skate paths through forests, parks, ponds, and lakes.

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Lacing up your skates to glide across a frozen lake or around an outdoor rink is a cherished Canadian tradition. So how do you improve on such a quintessential winter experience? Witness the exploding popularity of dedicated skating paths across Ontario. These icy routes offer smooth, maintained surfaces and a spectacular variety of scenery—from intimate forest trails to urban lake views. Some even light up the night with trailside tiki torches for skating after dark.

Clergue Park Skating Trail

Sault Ste. Marie’s new skate trail at Clergue Park overlooks the city’s bustling river.

New this winter, Sault Ste. Marie’s kilometre-long skating circuit opened late December 2018, and has quickly become a hit with Saultites and visitors to the city’s waterfront. Winding through Clergue Park, adjacent to the Art Gallery of Algoma and the Elsie Savoie Sculpture Park, the trail is lit for evening skating and offers views of the St. Mary’s River and easy access to the popular, multi-sport Hub Trail network. Bonfire nights on Friday and Saturday are fun for families, couples, and friends, with a trailside fire pit and concession where skaters can warm up and refuel with s’mores kits, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate.

Instagram post of 2 skaters on outdoor skating trail
Clergue Park’s intimate skating trail is best enjoyed with a friend.

Recommended après-skate attractions include the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre (just downriver) and the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site (upriver). 

Ramsey Lake Skate Path

Instagram post of areal view of Ramsey Lake skating trail at sunset
Sunsets are spectacular on Sudbury’s Ramsey Lake skating path.

In the heart of Sudbury, this wide swath of natural ice on Ramsey Lake stretches 1.5 km from the boardwalk at Science North along the shoreline to Bell Park at McNaughton Terrace. Construction on the path typically begins in early January, when the lake ice is 12–18 inches thick. Work crews clear a meandering course (lots of sinuous curves to show off your crossover technique!) and flood the ice for an optimally smooth surface. Heated changing facilities at both ends of the path pamper skaters. Don’t miss the annual Valentine’s Day Warm-Up event, when skaters can enjoy free hot chocolate and s’mores, a bonfire, and unique rest stations designed by Laurentian University architecture students. 

  • Admission: Free     
  • Hours (skate patrol on duty): 4–8 pm weekdays, noon–8 pm Saturday, noon–6 pm Sunday
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Tom Thompson Park Ice Ribbon

Close-up shot from knees down of a woman in skates facing a man in skates
The popularity of skating trails has soared in recent years, leading to homegrown efforts like South River’s Tom Thompson Ice Ribbon.

Inspired by the runaway success of Arrowhead Provinical Park’s trendsetting skate trail (see below), South River local Todd Lucier decided that his village needed its very own ice ribbon. Lucier began raising support for the project last December, and by late January 2019—with the help of nearly 30 volunteers and 200 hours of collective effort—the 400-metre loop through Tom Thompson Park became a reality. Skaters can lace up on benches crafted by another local volunteer, then wend their way around the snowy shores of Forest Lake. If the ice ribbon continues to be well used through this winter, supporters have pledged to make the trail even bigger and better in 2020. South River serves as a gateway to western Algonquin Park and the Almaguin Highlands. Plan your visit to include a range of outdoor activies, from dogsledding with Chocpaw Expeditions to nature retreats with Northern Edge Algonquin Awareness Centre

Cranberry Ice Skating Trail

A man and a woman skating on an outdoor trail
Winter transforms the cranberry marshes at Bala’s Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery.

Famous in the fall for hosting the Bala Cranberry Festival—when the annual cranberry harvest creates the eye-popping spectacle of acres and acres of floating, brilliant red berries—Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh is transformed in winter. When the snow flies and the cranberry bogs freeze over, the Johnston family builds a 1.2-km skate loop around the 12-acre field. Surrounded by sweeping pines and hardwood forest, the skate trail boasts a mid-way bonfire beside a scenic waterfall. Also on-site are ponds for playing bog hockey, snowshoeing trails and skate rental. Every Saturday, Light the Night evenings feature torchlight skating beneath some of the darkest skies in the province (Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve is just down the road). There’s nothing quite like the thrill of gliding through the night accompied by the flickering of 400 tiki torches and thousands of stars. This is also the only skating trail in the world with its own on-site winery, Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery. Après-skate, enjoy delicious hot mulled wine, hot cran-apple cider, wine and cheese plates, and other culinary treats.

Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail

Woman skating on ice trail surrounded by tall trees
Visit Arrowhead’s skate trail midweek to avoid the crowds.

No shortlist of skate trails is complete without a mention of this 1.3-km gem that winds its way through the Muskoka Forest. Aside from the Rideau Canal, the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park is almost certainly the most famous skate pathway in Ontario. Since the trail opened in 2012, it has been named one of the Top 50 Canadian Winter Experiences, and one of 19 Stunning Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World by Travel+Leisure. Pretty impressive for a small park located just outside the town of Huntsville. Visit midweek to enjoy the quiet serenity of gliding among the evergreens. On Saturdays and select Fire and Ice nights, when hundreds of tiki torches illuminate the trail, the ice becomes a veritable conga line of flashing blades and snowy toques. 

  • Admission: Provincial Park fee is $17 per vehicle Monday–Friday, $20 on weekends
  • Hours: 11 am–5 pm daily, torchlight skating 6–9 pm on select Saturday and Thursday nights
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