“They will tear you apart if you call it The Muskokas.” As I referred to it during our lunch in Huntsville. “It is Muskoka, not The Muskokas” as I've been foolishly referring to it for years! There you go, and now you know. Either way, Muskoka is beautiful and contrary to popular belief, it is open all year long!
Recently we finished a 100 km epic trek that took us way Up North to the Arctic Watershed of Lake Missinaibi in Ontario. We can't wait to share that incredible story with you starting next week. The video is nearly done! It was one of the most intense things we've ever accomplished and it was a life changing experience. Now, we know that an epic adventure like that isn't for everyone, that's why we do them for you. But, we do know that if you head out of the city and give a few winter activities a try, you may end up falling in love with the snow and one day go on your own epic trek.
Sure, winter is cold. There is no doubt about it. But when you dress for it and get outdoors to play, it can be very comfortable. (See our winter packing list)
Eat at 3 Guys and a Stove
We set our sights on Huntsville, Ontario for our Winter Sampler. Huntsville is in the heart of cottage country and has ranked #1 by National Geographic as the Best Trips of Summer. We all know that Muskoka is the premier cottage country in Canada attracting celebrities like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks but contrary to popular belief, it doesn't close up after the leaves fall. As a matter a fact, winter in Muskoka is magical.
We started our Winter Sampler getting our energy up at 3 Guys and a Stove. Chef Jeff Suddaby treated us to a sampler menu of fresh Pastas stuffed with Ricotta cheese, fresh blackened yellow fin tuna, pumpkin and sweet potato soup and a crisp mixed green salad among other items filling our table with a feast fit for a king. It's the place to be in Huntsville, the celebrity autographs on the wall prove it! Sadly, they didn't ask us to sign a menu, we'll have to up our game to make it on the 3 Guys and a Stove Wall. I think I'm going to make that my new mission.
Stay at Cedar Grove Lodge
With our bellies full, we checked in to Cedar Grove Lodge for three nights of winter fun. Cedar Grove is a member of the independently owned and operated Resorts of North Muskoka. It's a welcome change to the large resorts, offering guests a more intimate setting with all the amenities of four star service. Our spacious cabin had a wood burning stone fireplace, a luxurious bathroom with slate heated floors, and a jet tub. Its location directly on the lake made for a picture perfect retreat.
We didn't have to rush out right away to enjoy the snow either because there is snowshoeing and ice skating on sight. We caught a game of hockey before dinner too! Snuggling up on Muskoka chairs we stayed warm by the outdoor fire watching the sun set as we waited for the 6:00 pm dinner call.
Snowshoe in Algonquin Park
One of the highlights of our Winter Sampler was to be able to snowshoe in Algonquin Park. We've only been to Algonquin during the summer months, but to see it in the winter is an entirely different experience. There are several loops for snowshoers to take a hike to in the middle of this iconic Provincial Park. We picked up our gear at Algonquin Outfitters and set out with guide extraordinaire and adventure blogger Gord Baker. Gord is our type of guy. We just loved his laid back attitude mixed with his heir of confidence. His years of experience made us feel comfortable following him onto the frozen lake or along the snow covered trails directly beside rushing waterfalls.
Our favourite moment was when Gord jumped in to the snow off the trail. If you've never snowshoed before, you may not know that the reason people snowshoe is so that the shoes keep them from sinking into the snow up to their waist. The snowshoes help you stay above the snow, if you don't walk on them you end up like this!
Algonquin Outfitters rents all the gear you need to snowshoe or cross country ski in the park and surrounding areas, and can give you maps and recommendations on where to go. Make sure you stop at the park headquarters on your way in and say hello to the friendly staff. They'll let you know what's open and what trails are in the best condition.
Snowshoeing is a fantastic workout, but some people may want a little bit of motorized power. If you haven't snowmobiled before, this is the place to do it. The trails around Explorers' Edge (as the area is known) are well groomed and marked and you can choose from hundreds of km of tracks. Snowmobiles are easy to drive and they even have a lot of modern comforts like heated handle bars. There's no more worries about your fingers getting cold while you ride. Throw in a couple of toe warmers and you'll be out all day feeling toasty warm!
Snowmobile the Muskoka Trails
If you are worried about not having gear to ride, don't be. Backcountry Tours has sleds to rent including winter coats and snow pants with insulated helmets with face masks. Snowmobiling is the great Canadian adventure so make sure to give it a try!
What we love about the Explorers' Edge region is all the choices. There are several provincial parks in the region, 11 to be exact covering an area larger than many European countries. Both Algonquin and Arrowhead Provincial Parks are open all year long! There's everything up here from Dogsledding to cross country skiing. We got the chance to sample it's two most unique attractions though, skating on the ice trail and fat bikin
Skate the Ice Trail at Arrowhead
Arrowhead Provincial Park packs a lot of punch in a small area and it is perfect for families and couples too! The 1.5 km ice skating trail is the prime attraction allowing visitors to go for a skate in the middle of the forest. They even have a zamboni taking care of the ice. When we were there, they had just re-opened after being closed for three days of grooming. They take their ice seriously here and it's in immaculate condition for an outdoor arena. We've skated on the choppy ice of the Rideau Canal and this ice trail is in way better condition. It's a lot of fun too as you can stop for a rest on picnic tables, warming stations and after you are done, you can head over to a cabin for some warmth by the fire in the woodstove.
Fat Biking at Arrowhead Provincial Park
Kids and adults alike love playing in the snowtubing park and maybe, just maybe by this time next year, you'll be able to ride Fat Bikes like Dave and I. We gave it a test run while visiting and have decided that it will be the next big thing in winter sports!
Feel like a kid again and Snowtube at Arrowhead
Take a Romantic Sleigh Ride
Finally, your winter sampler wouldn't be complete without romance, and a sleigh ride with Back of Beyond Equine Centre is just the ticket. Snuggle up with your sweetie under a blanket as you explore the beautiful forest followed by hot chocolate and apple cider by the fire roasting marshmallows.
Dinner at the Mill on Main is a great option for a meal to get out of Cedar Grove for the night. It's Asian/English fusion cuisine was a surprise in this small town, but it was totally delicious.
So, that's your winter sampler in Huntsville. There's plenty to do here to keep winter fun and exciting. So what are you waiting for? Grab your coziest warmest clothes and get outta town! With a getaway to northern Ontario, you just may find that you will fall in love with winter!
For more information on travel to Muskoka visit Explorers' Edge and for information on the places we visited, stayed and ate, check out the links below:
Arrowhead Provincial Park
The Mill on Main
|3 Guys and a Stove|
Back and Beyond Equine Centre
Travel with Us!
Follow OntarioTravel.net for all things Ontario Travel and Ontario Outdoor for Great Ontario Outdoor Adventures. Make sure to visit their updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Outdoor Ontario on Twitter and Facebook too!