Escape the usual and discover a magical winter landscape in Ontario’s Near North with its vast network of trails through quiet snow-laden forests and frozen waterways.
Experience the perfect winter getaway for a weekend adventure featuring winter fat biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Printed Map - Discovery Routes Adventure Trails Map Multi-Adventures - Education Centre Ski & Hiking Trails (openstreet map) Multi-Adventures - Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park (pdf) Fat Biking - Laurentian Escarpment (trailforks) Fat Biking - Stepping Stones (pdf) Cross-Country Skiing - Almaguin Community Ski Trails (png) Cross-Country Skiing - Mikisew Provincial Park (trailforks) Snowshoeing - Forgotten Trails (pdf)
- Winter Fat Biking – easy riding to full throttle
- Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing – groomed club trails to backcountry
- Multi-Adventure – One-stop for fat biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter hikes and more.
As soon as the snow starts to fly in Ontario’s Near North, local cyclists hang up their summer bikes and break out the fatties. With hundreds of kilometres of multi-use trails and many now-frozen lakes, where you choose to ride depends on your comfort and fitness level as well as the kind of experience you want to have.
If you are new to Fat Biking read our guide for gear tips and tricks and how to prepare for the cold!
If you’re looking for an easy ride that will leave you with plenty of energy for your winter multi-adventure, then Laurier Woods Conservation Area is your first stop. These multi-use trails aren’t groomed but Laurier Woods sees plenty of foot traffic and the terrain is flat, so unless you’re the first one there after a snowfall, the snow will be hard-packed. Loop around the main marsh on the White and Purple trails for a refreshing 3 km ride. For an additional 2 km, a few short uphills, Jennings Lake and plentiful deer tracks, add in the Red trail.
Still in North Bay, enjoy a refreshing ride close to downtown alongside Lake Nipissing on the 12 km multi-use Kate Pace Way that links North Bay and Callander. City staff groom 3 km from Lee Park to Marshall Avenue, and the trail is popular so expect to find more hard-packed snow for your riding pleasure here.
Bring it Up a Gear
Newbies and intermediate riders will enjoy the variety found in the informal Horse Trails, also known as the Monastery Trails. If you travel these unmarked escarpment trails in an east-west direction, you’ll experience an easy to moderate ride, depending on how hard-packed the snow is from snowshoers and dog walkers. Riding the hilly north-south should bring you into your threshold heart rate zone if that’s what you are looking for. Give the Monastery Tower Loop at 4.5km loop a try or add on the Cedar Heights East extension for up to 11 km.
If you’re more of an endurance rider, 15 minutes southeast of North Bay, the Callander Trans Canada Trail is a multi-use trail that offers up to 20 km (10 km one-way) of moderate groomed trails. Park at the Pinecreek Rd S. access point. These trails are maintained by the South Shore / Restoule Snowmobiling Club so expect to share the way with snowmobilers.
Turn the notch up with this gem for experienced Fat Bikers looking for a heart-pounding challenge. The Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area offers two sanctioned trails, the 2.1 km McNutt Family Trail loop that ambles along a creek between rock faces and connects to the longer and much steeper 6.8 km Richardson Ridge trail. The trails are popular, wide and often groomed by unofficial volunteers, so they provide a nice hard-packed surface for fat biking. Additionally, there are several volunteer-maintained trails on the escarpment, some of which are groomed for fat biking. However, many of these trails are not sanctioned and cross over onto private land, so please respect private property when you fat bike at the conservation area. Park at the Laurentian Ski Hill to start.
With the abundance of lakes and rivers in the Near North, frozen waterways set the stage for a unique wilderness playground.
Before rolling onto any frozen body of water, it is critically important to be aware of the ice conditions in the area. Warmer winters with inconsistent below-freezing temperatures do not lend to safe ice conditions. Clear blue and black ice are the strongest and a minimum of 4” ice depth is required for non-motorized activities. Consequently, be sure to check snow reports, local ice conditions, and ice safety advice and contact local cycling clubs or shops for more on local trail conditions.
Stepping Stones Trails
Looking for a ‘cool’ adventure? Try lake riding on the Stepping Stones Trails in the Mattawa River Provincial Park. The trails are maintained year-round by volunteers and accessible right from the Macpherson Drive Boat Launch. Check out this video for a preview of the fat biking experience at Stepping Stones. You’ll find a mix of smooth easy riding on packed trails and challenging ups and downs on narrow trails through rocky terrain and forest. When the conditions are right, you’ll be able to ride across Long Lake and several small inland lakes on this unique ride. On the other hand, if you’ve had your fill of fat biking, the Stepping Stones are a fabulous and well-marked trail system for snowshoers.
Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
Mikisew Provincial Park
Mikisew Provincial Park in the winter is a hidden gem cherished by locals for all kinds of winter fun. Although the park is closed in the winter for camping, dedicated volunteers maintain and groom trails for cross-country skiing and walking. A 2 km track-set ski trail is maintained on the campground side, while a 1 km loop is groomed for casual walkers and furry friends. If you’re keen to try some backcountry skiing, make your own trails or follow the locals’ tracks around Eagle Lake. For a ‘snowshoe with a view’ choose the Lakeview Trail at Mikisew Provincial Park along the shores of Eagle Lake or the Beaver Meadow trail for a 2.1 km loop around wetlands forged by resident beavers.
Almaguin Community Ski Trails
When it’s time for more cross-country skiing, try out the Almaguin Community Ski Trails about 15-20 minutes east of Mikisew Park. Enjoy 7+ km of ever-expanding groomed trails maintained by volunteers working to put their community on the nordic skiing map. Additionally, there is a short snowshoe loop adjacent to the ski trails.
The Forgotten Trails are four-season backcountry trails in the vast wilderness between South River and Algonquin Park that will fulfill any off-the-beaten-path explorer’s need for adventure. The trail network has historical significance and was managed by volunteers, the Forgotten Trails Association, for non-motorized recreational trail activities like hiking, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. For an authentic winter wilderness experience with spectacular views and plenty of wildlife, favourites for snowshoeing and winter hiking are Moose Mountain and Laurier Tower Trail.
A favourite deep wilderness trail in the Forgotten Trails system for backcountry skiing is the Loxton Beaver Trail. This trail is for advanced DIY backcountry skiers due to its mixed terrain, spotty wayfinding and long uphills followed by steeps and challenging downhills. The Loxton Beaver Trail is not groomed so be prepared for heavy and deep snowpack.
Ski & Snowshoe Clubs
The North Bay Nordic Ski Club has over 50 km of easy-to-expert cross-country skiing trails, including skate skiing, 6 km of snowshoeing trails and night skiing. Undeniably popular with families, this club is full-service with lessons, rentals and a clubhouse.
The Wasi Ski Club in Astorville is smaller and likely to be less busy, so if your vibe is more solitary these 43 km of easy-to-advanced track-set trails are gorgeous and worth the visit. Winter nights are the best for stargazing so don’t miss their monthly moonlight snowshoe!
You can do it all at the locations below – fat bike, snowshoe, cross-country ski, winter hike and more.
Education Centre Ski and Hiking Trails
The Education Centre Ski Trails in North Bay are a local treasure. Enjoy 4 km of wide undulating trails groomed for cross-country skiing, skate skiing and fat biking. The intermediate to advanced ski trails are groomed for the Nipissing University Ski team, so they are in tip-top shape and free to use. Just bring your cross-country or skate skis and you’re all set!
Fat Biking is welcomed along the wide groomed edge when snow depth is sufficient to avoid tire ruts. Be sure to keep your tire pressure low and avoid crossing the track sets. For an extensive network of up to 12 km of steep singletrack that’ll have you to your base layer in no time, continue to the Education Centre Hiking Trails that go west to Duchesnay Falls.
The hiking trails double for a fabulous and invigorating snowshoe. You’ll have a chance to reconnect with nature in this quiet forest peppered with deer tracks and birdsong. Start from Nipissing Parking Lot 8 and head up the side of the nordic trails to the Stepping Stones Trail and onto the network of well-marked hiking trails that traverse rocky ridges to Duchesnay Falls. Take a stop at the Lookout Tower for a view of the many ice fishing huts dotting Lake Nipissing in the distance. Make it to Duchesnay Falls and you will be rewarded with a wealth of spectacular ice formations.
Missing Link Adventures
Stay as a guest at Missing Link Adventures near Sprucedale and fat bike to your heart’s content on rolling hills and packed trails through fields and forests in the gorgeous Almaguin Highlands on this 82-acre private farm. The looped trails are a variety of distances, so vary your efforts and focus on the sections that work well for your skill level, from easy to challenging. The owners are experienced cyclists and have built these trails with care and expertise. Just ask if you need to rent fat bikes, and they can help you find local rental options. Enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing and winter activities galore. Just 15 minutes away, Burk’s Fall Heritage River Walk is an excellent option for a casual and scenic fat bike, snowshoe or walk along the Magnetawan River and town visit.
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park near Mattawa stands out for fat biking beginners and aficionados alike. Be prepared for a gorgeous and pleasant ride through this park famous for Voyageur history along the Mattawa River and Amable du Fond River. Staff groom 3.8 km (one-way) on the main park road for fat biking, including track sets for cross-country skiing.
For a moderately challenging snowshoe try the 2 km Kag Trail loop where you will encounter some steep inclines, or for an easier route try the gentle Forest Research Trail through 100-year-old pines. Snowshoeing along the groomed park road is always an option. Rest up and prepare yourself with water, snacks and layers for the Etienne Trail. This challenging, yet rewarding 9 km snowshoe loop along high ridges and low valleys leads you to spectacular views of the Mattawa River and over Long Lake. If you decide to make the park your home base for your winter adventure, the Canadian Ecology Centre rents rustic cabins right in the park, all year round.
Northeastern Ontario may be one of Ontario's best-kept secrets for winter adventurers. With thousands of lakes and rivers, lush forests, and multi-use groomed and backcountry trails, this 'Great Canadian Wilderness' is situated between the Far North and Muskoka's 'cottage country' - 'just North enough to be perfect'. With Algonquin Park at its edge, it is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true.
Sugardogs Co. near Sundridge offers tours from 1 hour up to a full day of explorations on the western border of Algonquin Park.
Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
Experience winter horseback riding at Van Doeler’s Ranch on snowy trails along the Mattawa River. They also offer cozy log cabin stays and winter horseback riding camps.
Kicksledding is a unique and fun way to get around on snow and ice. Experience this invigorating winter activity with longstanding Finnish roots through SISU Adventures and their curated kicksledding adventures suitable for all ages and abilities.
Winter Events & Festivals
Dog Sled Races
Kearney is keeping the tradition alive with Ontario’s largest dog sled race held annually in February in this quaint town of 800. Cheer on novice and competitive mushers in 5 categories from the U.S. and Canada, or give it a try yourself.
Ice Follies is a biennial outdoor contemporary and community art festival in February set on the frozen canvas of Lake Nipissing in North Bay and the shores of Nipissing First Nation. This unique event invites audiences to experience art outside the gallery and enables direct interaction with the local landscape and culture.
Into the White Snowshoe Fun Run
Le Carnaval des Compagnons des Francs Loisirs
Le Carnaval des Compagnons des Francs Loisirs. Since 1953, every February the Francophone community in North Bay and the area comes together with art, music, performances, food and games to celebrate the vibrant French-Canadian culture and language. Savour authentic poutine, soak in the folk sounds and wait for the Bonhomme reveal, who will it be?!
Tours & Outfitters
Algonquin Base Camp
Algonquin Basecamp offers Winter Camping Programs in Hot Tents or 4-Season Tents for those who are new to winter camping or want a supported experience. Experienced winter campers can book a site and rent all the winter camping gear they need here.
Missing Link Adventure Tours
A year-round farmstay retreat near Burk’s Falls on 82 acres. Winter explorations include snowshoeing, fat biking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, bonfires and more! The guesthouse features three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open-concept kitchen, dining and lounge area. Complimentary tea, hot chocolate, fair trade & organic coffee and cooking staples are provided. Dishes or full meal packages prepared by Santosha Farm, the on-site 1.5-acre organic vegetable farm, can be arranged in advance.
Nature's Harmony Ecolodge
Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge near Mattawa offers day passes and overnight accommodations. Activities include snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, kick sledding, snow tubing, ice skating and more. Fat bikes are welcomed on their trails, though the trails are not groomed for fat biking.
Based in North Bay, SISU Adventures is a mobile wilderness adventure company that offers unique self-guided and curated winter wilderness experiences for kick sledding and snowshoeing. You can rent your winter gear here for the weekend and they will conveniently meet you onsite.
Voyageur Quest Outfitters
Want to snowshoe the Forgotten Trails right from your door? Make your home base the cozy Algonquin Chalet with a wood-burning fireplace and 2 sets of snowshoes included. Visit Voyageur Quest Outfitters to design your own adventure and add dogsledding, ice fishing or backcountry skiing to your package.
Gear Rentals & Clubs
Kicksled Rentals – SISU Adventure Rentals
Clubs that may be able to provide more information on local conditions. For Fat Biking try North Bay Mountain Biking Association or Almaguin In Motion (AIM) Cycling Club. For Cross-country Skiing see North Bay Nordic Ski Club or Wasi Ski Club for snow conditions.
Winter Yurts & Glamping
Deer Lake Wilderness Retreat. Winter glamping at its best in the Stargazer Geodome. This is the perfect place to relax in nature, reflect on life and restore your soul. Two pairs of adult snowshoes come with your rental. Only 10 minutes from Mikisew Provincial Park. Open year-round.
The Near North has a wide range of winter accommodations from resorts and hotels, to bed and breakfasts and motels, search our tourism partner’s up-to-date listings for your dream stay.