Meet Me on Manitoulin

Pt. 1 - How to Get to the Snow Without Going the Long Haul

We know we have to head North if we want a guaranteed good snowmobile trip. Is Manitoulin Island far enough?



With the crazy winter Mother Nature threw at us this year, popular northern sledding destinations were besieged with riders going to where the snow is. Rather than risk dealing with full hotels, no parking, long waits for food and fuel, and heavy traffic on northern Ontario highways (can you imagine?) we opened up the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide looking for something a little different. Was there somewhere we could go that’s less than 7 or 8 hours drive away? Manitoulin Island popped onto our radar and we decided to zoom right in. 

Much to our surprise we found that the island is home to almost 400 km of trail not including three of the longest and most scenic ice crossings in the Province. That set off our “sled senses”. The thought of finding trails where there might be less traffic with only a 4.5 to 5 hour drive seemed almost too good to be true. We delved deeper by pulling up the Manitoulin Snowdusters SC  FB page and were excited by their posts and pictures. Why hadn’t we seen this before? What were we missing out on all this time? What was this hidden gem? We had to find out. We’d both been there in other seasons doing things like fishing, hunting or riding bikes but we had never considered this for a sled destination. We were going to change that. Facebook is a great tool, one quick message to the club FB page, and we were invited to join a few of the members on a ride.    

We noticed that the Manitoulin Inn and Conference Centre was a POI (Point of Interest) on the Interactive Trail Guide and offered all small town amenities within walking distance or a short drive. A restaurant onsite, trail to the parking lot, and space to park definitely caught our attention. There are several other places to stay, but choose wisely since amenities change throughout the seasons.  

INSIDER’S TIP: If you choose to stay at the Manitoulin Inn and Conference Centre, inquire about a room facing North. At no extra cost you’ll find yourself overlooking the North Channel and the spectacular LaCloche Mountains in the distance. 

Morning

A freshly groomed ribbon with a layer of Manitoulin snow dust greeted us in the morning when we met up with our new found friends on the C107D, just a short ride on a feeder trail from the parking lot of the MICC. Within the first 3km we knew we were in for a treat.  

We headed to our lunch destination via C107D, M3 and then M4 into the hamlet of Mindemoya. During our fantastic lunch at Mum’s Restaurant and Bakery, we recounted our morning ride that was made up of smooth, flat, well groomed trails leading us through a mix of twisty bush and rolling meadows where we witnessed the transition from fossil fuel to new age wind energy farms with high tech and somewhat majestic windmills scattered along our route.

Noon

Fully refuelled, both body and sled, we were ready to conquer the afternoon. The local riders suggested that we take a quick side-trip to Providence Bay where surprisingly, the trail runs within steps of the Lake Huron beach where summer visitors flock to soak up the sun and sand. The contrast from summerscape to winterscape shouldn’t be missed. 

We doubled back to the M2 to trail M1 and headed towards the community of Manitowaning which took us through some of the island’s frozen farmland and ridges overlooking Lake Manitou, which lays claim to being the largest lake, on a freshwater lake island in the world.

Night

After a quick break and fuel stop in Manitowaning, our riding buddies from the Manitoulin Snowdusters S.C, Don Roseborough, Brian Moser, Ryan Cartier and Matt Missere reminded us that in the winter, unbeknown to anyone but the locals, choices for a warm meal taper off considerably as darkness falls upon the island.

TIP: Make your dinner arrangements before heading out so you know exactly where and when to hang up your gear for dinner (NO JOKE - this is a must if you don’t want to eat chips and dip from a corner store, which also closes early compared to mainland conveniences).

The final 60km to our starting point in Little Current led us to more deceiving elevation changes that served up stunning vistas and views of the impressive scenery, with the setting sun as our backdrop.  

Day one of our island trip was in the history books and we were happily impressed.

Stay tuned to hear what we found on Manitoulin West...

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