For many snowmobilers the name “Cochrane” is synonymous with some of Ontario’s best trail riding. In fact, the local snowmobile club welcomes visitors to their trails with a huge billboard proclaiming the “World’s #1 Snowmobile Trails.” To the uninitiated this may seem boastful, but anyone who has snowmobiled there knows better—these Northeastern Ontario trails are as good as it gets. Better yet, Cochrane's trails are just the gateway to an incredible, seamless network of equally amazing trails known as the Northern Corridor in District 15 of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC).
In the Beginning
Originally, the Northern Corridor referred to TOP (Trans Ontario Provincial) Trail A, a 241-km run stretching between Cochrane and Algoma County's Hearst. Comprised of super wide trails predominantly on utility corridors and old resources roads, the Northern Corridor earned its well-deserved reputation as a snowy destination for flat-out riding—and as the best place to start your season early or finish it late. That the trail passed through many hospitable Francophone communities gave the Northern Corridor a special flair and a unique distinction among Ontario snowmobiling regions.
But as good as the Northern Corridor was (and is), it was essentially a linear ride out and back on the same trail, even after a 159-km extension from Hearst to Hornepayne. So several years back, District 15 snowmobile clubs decided to make things more interesting by developing some alternative routes. Five snowmobile loops quickly debuted: Abitibi Canyon (Cochrane/Smooth Rock Falls area); Gateway to the North (Cochrane/Smooth Rock Falls area); Lumberjack (Kapuskasing area); Missinaibi (Hearst area) and Bobcat (Hornepayne area), each connected to the main TOP Trail A.
These added 915 kilometres more riding opportunities to what was already a stellar experience. In fact, they were so good out of the box, so to speak, that each of these five loops has been recognized as OFSC Promoted Snow Tours for the past couple of seasons.
The Big One
And now for 2016, District 15 has upped the ante yet again by launching the Northern Corridor Adventure Tour. This 1,645-km odyssey packs the original Northern Corridor ride plus all five of the new loops into one fantastic, multi-day saddlebag journey from one end of the district to the other. Suddenly, that gateway from Cochrane just got a whole bunch more exciting!
Regardless of whether you arrive by trailer or sled, most riders will start their Northern Corridor Adventure Tour in Cochrane thanks to its Highway 11 access for those from Southern Ontario and U.S. Border States. But with American riders able to take advantage of what is essentially a 25% or more discount on U.S. dollars spent here, more visitors will be crossing at Sault Ste. Marie and accessing the Northern Corridor Adventure Tour from the Hornepayne end, although there are more services choices in the next town along the trail, which is Hearst.
Where To Stay, Eat & Fuel
In Cochrane, good staging hotels with parking for trucks and trailers include the Travelodge, Best Western Swan Castle and The Station Inn and the Westway Motor Motel. Favourite restaurants include Terry’s Steakhouse, JR's Bar-B-Q Ranch, Ice Hut and again, the Station Inn Hotel, while gas is available in several locations near the trail. In Hearst, check out the Queen’s Motel or the Companion Motel, which also has a good restaurant and fuel nearby. In between, the most popular places to stay are the Comfort Inn or Super 8 in Kapuskasing, where Casey’s and Papa Franco’s are great eating joints. East to west across TOP Trail A, fuel is available in Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls, Moonbeam, Kapuskasing, Val Rita, Opasatika, Mattice, Hearst, Calstock, and Hornepayne. Before starting, download a list of services for each loop as a quick reference guide.
Navigating the Tour
The District 15 trail guide highlights the location and route of each snow tour and is easy to follow. You can also count on Northern Corridor Adventure Tour trails to be well marked and impeccably groomed. Trail numbers are plentiful and so are destination signs, while each of the snow tours is marked at virtually every intersection with a bilingual loop sign indicating the way the loop route goes. You can also view a map of each Snow Tour online on the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide or at the Northern Corridor website.
Few snowmobilers who make the 650-km trek from the Greater Toronto Area to Cochrane make any complaint because their riding experience in District 15 is so exceptional. And now that the Northern Corridor Adventure Tour is operational to tie all of their product offerings together in one super-duper ride, there’s more reason than ever to head to Northeastern Ontario this winter!