Each winter in Ontario, there is a world-class snowmobile trail network to discover that spans more than 30,000 km. These well-maintained snowmobile trails make it the most expansive on the planet. Of course, thousands of miles comes with thousands of possibilities. So, deciding where to spend your precious leisure time can seem overwhelming if you are new to the sport. Luckily for you, we’ve given a breakdown of how to get started and a list of the best snowmobile trails in Ontario.
A snowmobile is an automotive vehicle for travel on snow. It is steered by skis at the front and propelled by a belt of track at the back. Québécois mechanic, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, made the first snowmobile in 1935. Today, there are more than 600,000 registered snowmobiles in Canada. They are used for transportation, recreation, hunting and trapping, especially in rural areas and the North. In short terms, a snowmobile is an automotive vehicle for travel on snow.
If you are new to the world of snowmobiling, also referred to as “sledding”, here are some interesting statistics about Canada’s love of snowmobiling you may not know:
- 118,657 snowmobiles were sold worldwide in 2017. Of that number, 44,161 were sold right here in Canada.
- There are currently over 600,000 registered snowmobiles in Canada—that’s close to 17% of the population!
New to snowmobiling? The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is offering its popular Driver Training Program for the 2021-2022 season. OFSC is the leading authority when it comes to trail riding in the province. They’re the organization through which to obtain a permit that grants access to the 30,000 kms of interconnected trails that crisscross the province.
OFSC Driver Training has made a major contribution to snowmobile safety since 1976 by educating students aged 12 and older, and providing qualifying graduates with a Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator’s License from the Ministry of Transportation. This season, the course will be held entirely online, allowing you to complete the course at your own pace from home.
How to get started
Depending on your level of comfort and experience, putting together a doable snowmobile route can be a challenge. Just knowing that you’ve got the basics covered along the way will provide much-needed peace of mind so that you can truly enjoy your travel experience.
1. Get your Ontario snowmobile trail permit
No matter what part of the province you’re traveling to, you’re going to need to ensure you have the proper permits to operate on OFSC trails before riding. Getting your Ontario snowmobile trail permit has never been easier. Order your permit online directly from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. For more information on permits, including current fees for day permits and how to purchase them online, click on the link.
No snowmobile? No problem!
Snowmobile rentals are available in close proximity to many major riding areas. If you are unable to bring their machine along for the trip or are new to the sport, there are plenty of rentals shops to assist you. With so many types of sleds and amazing places to ride them, renting can be a very practical way to get the most out of the winter season.
If you know you want to dive right in and get a ride of your own, you have a lot of choices. And of course, if you are bringing your own sled, you’ll want it to be running in top form. A comprehensive guide to renting, buying or repairing snowmobiles in Ontario can be found here.
2. Latest trail availability information
Make sure you’ve got everything you’ll need before heading out, including the latest trail availability information from the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide or the Go Snowmobiling Ontario Interactive Trail Guide App.
The OFSC Interactive Trail Guide is Ontario’s only province-wide snowmobile trail reference tool. This app provides you with real-time trail conditions, nearby fuel and other points of interest. All of this is conveniently and easily displayed on your smartphone. The app has been updated and is very easy to use; a new drop down menu named “Snow Tours” is one of the upgraded features. When you select a tour, it is highlighted on the map face for you. In “Trail Network” view, you will see what trails are included in any Snow Tour you click on. And finally, the “Trail Status” view allows you to check the trail’s current availability status. The Interactive Trail Guide is a user-friendly app that helps take the guess work out of your trip.
The Go Snowboarding Ontario Interactive Trail Guide App offers features, such as preloading the route and having access to it offline. This allows you to locate yourself on the map anytime, anywhere along the trail, and allows you to create, save and share a trip with your friends and check trail availability.
With these apps, integrating technology to help you plan your trip and stay on course has never been easier!
3. Pick a snow tour and plan your trip
Ontario has over 30 pre-planned snowmobile tour routes to help riders who aren’t sure where to start or who are looking for something new.
Guided tours are an option for those who don’t feel like going it alone. It is a great way for novice and seasoned sledders to experience all of the fun and excitement of a snowmobile adventure, without any of the duties that come with owning a sled. Trained professionals are available to guide you on your snowmobile adventure.
Typically, there are two options for guided tour packages:
- Permitted sled owners
- Sled renters in need of all the necessary gear as part of a tour package
Riders can customize their trip from a variety of guided tour options, including duration, distances and regions to choose from. Some companies also offer day rides, or even hourly outings, for those who are short on time or are just getting started.
Many guided tours also include your snowmobile rental and riding gear, making this adventure accessible to anyone who is looking for excitement on the trails. For the most complete information about snowmobile touring in Ontario, check out DestinationOntario.com.
On your own
Hyped as a unique kind of rider experience, the Ontario Snow Tours integrate existing snowmobile trails into new branded rides. These loops make it easier for those unfamiliar with an area to get around and have an enjoyable journey.
For more experienced “sledders,” these self-guided rides showcase some of this province’s best riding experiences and most popular snowmobiling regions. Each Snow Tour is a route carefully planned by its participating OFSC district on established trails that are well-mapped, marked, maintained and have good access to services. You won’t need to worry about anything, which leaves more time for exploring.
Ride local on Ontario’s snowmobile routes that explore dense forests trails and snow-filled valleys. Stop for a hearty lunch at one of the many trail adjacent eateries and be back on the trail in no time!
For a complete list of Snow Tours in Ontario, click here.
Where to go snowmobiling
There are many options for you to choose from along the 30,000 km of trails available to explore in Ontario. Here are the top five trails that will deliver not only excitement and hours of trail time, but are conveniently situated to nearby hotels, gas stations, snowmobile shops and restaurants:
1. The Northern Corridor Snowmobile Trails: 6 hours north of Toronto
These trails have been described as some of the best in the world. There are many loops of various distances and also many possibilities for off-trail adventure. Officially the name for OFSC District 15, the Northern Corridor is also the name of the trail system that connects 1,645 km of trails to the five major communities across the North — Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing, Hearst and Hornepayne — into one giant loop, along with five smaller loops and a whole bunch of local trails. Snowmobilers in Hearst can ride along the downtown streets and can park their machines right outside their motel room door. An impressive size, these trails have often been likened to highways. Their runs are built on old utility corridors and logging and mining roads, which adds a a little history lesson into your trip.
2. Sled Algoma: Just across the bridge from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Algoma is a sledder’s paradise
No traffic, friendly faces, awesome trails and sled-friendly accommodations — the Algoma area snowmobile season lasts longer than other parts of Ontario, usually well into late March. By way of introduction, Algoma Country encompasses almost 52,000 square kilometres of unspoiled wilderness. Lake Huron borders it on the south, with Lake Superior on the west. Anchored towns include the popular retirement community of Elliot Lake to the east and by the City of Sault Ste Marie in the west. Snowmobilers from both sides of the Canadian border have been visiting and raving about Algoma’s 3,700 kilometres of groomed trails for years. At less than six hours from the Greater Toronto Area, snowmobiling the Algoma North Shore Loop will prove to be a true winter sledding escape.
3. North Bay and Mattawa
Located in Ontario’s Near North at the junction of Highways 11 and 17, this city of about 52,000 sits at the eastern end of Lake Nipissing near TOP Trail D in OFSC District 11. Many of the breathtaking snowmobile trails are bordered by the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers. Nestled between the Laurentian Mountains, these trails offer incredible viewing and riding opportunities. The well-groomed trails meander through tall pine and mixed hard wood forests, taking you past beautiful remote lakes and rivers.
4. Timmins: The mining town with 400+km of local trails
The venerable mining town of Timmins is one of the largest, and coolest, urban centres in the wilds of Northeastern Ontario. In Timmins, sledding is a way of life. It’s a die-hard snowmobile town where people ride their sleds to work, to school, and to visit family and friends. With annual snowfalls of over 300 cm, and temps that regularly hit -40°C, make sure to pack warm and be ready to ride! Trails here open early, close late and run for hundreds of miles in every direction — there are 440 km of trails on the local club system alone! If you’re feeling trapped by the rain and high temperatures in the south, just hit the road and head north. You’ll find that old-time snowmobiling is still going strong in Timmins and there are tunnels for sleds — ones you can actually ride through!
5. Temiskaming Shores: Part of the little clay belt and the start of the deep cold
Located on Highway 11, Temiskaming Shores is comprised of New Liskeard, Haileybury, and Cobalt. Temiskaming Shores is only an hour-and-a-half further north than North Bay. It’s community of about 25,000 is located at the northwestern end of Lake Temiskaming. Whether you wish to stay at the same lodging and ride small loops or prefer to take a longer trip and travel through several communities, the Lake Temiskaming Tour region offers you a variety of great choices. Thousands of trails are available, thanks to dedicated volunteers who are as passionate as you about snowmobiling. OFSC 14, better known as TATA, (the Temiskaming Abitibi Trails Association), is one of the most legendary districts in all of the OFSC. There’s a reason they call this place the World’s Best Snowmobiling!
If you are looking for more information about each destination listed above, click here.
If your interest is piqued and you want to learn more about Ontario’s Snowmobile culture, check out these great reads:
- Winter Weather Forecast 2021-22
- Ontario’s Bucket-List Snowmobile Adventures
- The Complete List of Snowmobile Events in Ontario
- The Complete List of Snowmobile Rental & Repair Shops
- Ontario Snowmobile Clubs Online
FYI: Some things may not be available due to COVID-19
Many tourism experiences require advance bookings or have restrictions in place due to COVID-19. It is important that you check directly with the business operator before you travel.
Snowmobiling is one of the best kept secrets in Ontario. With amazing trails, comfortable lodging, comprehensive tours and great Canadian hospitality, why wouldn’t you want to give it a try this season? Start planning your very own winter wonderful experience today and discover the province in a whole new way with amazing snowmobile trails in Ontario!