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Muskoka in Winter: 8 Can’t-Miss Winter Activities in Muskoka and Beyond

Muskoka in Winter

Muskoka in winter: the fluffy snow of the Muskoka winter can do much more than bury chairs (Photo: John Maddin)

By CRAIG MOY

Ontario’s cottage country is a popular summertime destination, but devotees of fresh-air fun know Muskoka in winter can be a blast too. Head up north for the snowy scenery, but stay for the snowshoeing, dogsledding and other wonderful activities offered in the region when the temperature drops. Below, we’ve picked the eight top activities to take advantage of Musoka in winter, and recommend places that you can sign up for all them.

See the list of 8 can’t-miss activities during the glorious Muskoka winter » 

#1 & #2 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITIES: Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
The absolute best way to enjoy the Muskoka winter landscape is to bundle up in your warmest clothes and clip into a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes. Numerous trails crisscross the region, giving you easy access to nature, and a great cardiovascular workout to boot. Among the top spots are Algonquin and Arrowhead Provincial Parks. Near Dorset, the Frost Centre Ski and Snowshoe Trails also offers ample space for an outdoor adventure, with nine track-set ski loops of varying difficulty, plus nearly 40 kilometres of backcountry hiking trails through the Muskoka winter wonderland. If you’re in need of equipment, the trusted gear gurus at Algonquin Outfitters and Muskoka Outfitters offer myriad rental options.
• Frost Centre Ski and Showshoe Trails, Hwt. 35, south of Dorset, skithefrost.ca
• Algonquin Provincial Park, Hwy. 60, east of Huntsville, algonquinpark.on.ca, map and reviews
• Arrowhead Provincial Park, Hwy. 11, exit 226, website, map and reviews
• Algonquin Outfitters, 218 Highland St., Haliburton, 705-457-3737, algonquinoutfitters.com, map and reviews
• Muskoka Outfitters, 271 Ecclestone Dr., Bracebridge, 705-646-0492, muskokaoutfitters.com, map and reviews

[RELATED: 15 Things We Love About Muskoka: a To-Do List of the Region's Most Memorable Experiences]

#3 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITY: Snowmobiling
An exhilarating way to experience the Muskoka winter is snowmobiling through the forest. Sure, it’s noisier than skiing or hiking, but it also allows you to cover a lot more territory. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs manages a 1,200-kilometre network of tracks, stretching across the Muskoka winter landscape, offering virtually unlimited touring opportunities. To ride in Ontario you must have a valid driver’s license and purchase a trail permit, but you need not own your own sled. Check out Dwight’s HSR Ski-Doo Rentals, or visit the OFSC’s website for a list of snowmobile rental and tour companies.
• HRS Ski-Doo Rentals, 25888 Hwy. 25, Dwight, 705-754-3667, skidoorentals.com, map and reviews
• Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs,
various locations, ofsc.on.ca  

#4 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITY: Skiing
Ontario isn’t exactly bristling with mountainous terrain, but there are enough peaks and valleys to take advantage of the Muskoka winter on the slopes. In Huntsville, the Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area features a dozen runs (plus a snowboard terrain park) with options for all skill levels. If you’re travelling from Toronto, note that some of Ontario’s best skiing is available on the way to Muskoka. Just north of Barrie is popular Mount St. Louis Moonstone and its 36 slopes, and Horseshoe Resort, which features 26 downhill runs as well as 35 kilometres of Nordic skiing trails.
• Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, 1755 Valley Rd., Huntsville, 1-800-395-9555, skihiddenvalley.ca
• Mount St. Louis Moonstone, 25 Mount St. Louis Rd., Coldwater, 877-835-2112, mountstlouis.com
• Horseshoe Resort, 1101 Horseshoe Valley Rd., Barrie, 705-835-5578, horseshoeresort.com, map and reviews

[RELATED: 16 of Muskoka's Best Nature Trails and Hiking Destinations]

#5 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITY: Dogsledding
You needn’t travel to the Arctic Circle to experience the thrill of dogsledding. Huntsville haven Deerhurst Resort offers visitors the opportunity to “mush!” with a team of Siberian and Alaskan huskies. Step-by-step instructions are provided if you want to give it a go on your own, or choose to ride in a guided sled with other adventurers. The five-kilometre course may be compact, but it’s enough to provide an excellent introduction to a classic northern activity with some new canine friends.
• Deerhurst Resort, 1235 Deerhurst Dr., Huntsville, 705-789-6411, deerhurstresort.com, map and reviews

#6 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITY: Ice Fishing
The region’s most popular on-water activity doesn’t have to halt just because the lakes have frozen over. In the Huntsville area, Hooked Young provides all-inclusive ice fishing experiences in mobile shacks or in a large cabin with cooking facilities and a washroom. Knowledgeable guides take you to where the fish are, maximizing your chances to hook a lake trout, northern pike or pickerel, while enjoying the company of fellow anglers.
• Hooked Young, Lake Vernon, Huntsville, 705-788-4220, hookedyoung.com

[RELATED: Five Cottage Renovation Tips from HGTV's Colin Hunter]

#7 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITY: Winter Camping
It’s not the most convenient cold-weather activity, but winter camping can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors while cozying up with family and friends. Algonquin Provincial Park, one of Ontario’s best-loved sites for summer camping, draws guests as the snow begins to fall. Its Mew Lake campground is suitable for setting up a tent. For a slightly more modern experience, reserve one of seven roofed yurts.
• Algonquin Provincial Park, Hwy. 60, east of Huntsville, algonquinpark.on.ca, map and reviews

#8 MUSKOKA WINTER ACTIVITY: Taking a Spa Day
A day on the slopes or in the woods can take a toll on your body. Fortunately, Muskoka is home to a number of prime spas. Among the most luxurious is the Spa at the Rosseau, which offers facials, body treatments, couples packages and more in a calming space overlooking its namesake lake. Elsewhere, Touch Spa and Spa Taboo feature equally diverse treatment packages and calming ambience—perfect for a bit of rejuvenation as your trip winds down.
• Spa at the Rosseau, 1050 Paignton House Rd., Minett, 866-240-8605, jwrosseau.com, map and reviews
• Touch Spa, 1869 Muskoka Rd., Bracebridge, 705-764-5353, touchstonemuskoka.com, map and reviews
• Spa Taboo, 1209 Muskoka Beach Rd., Gravenhurst, 705-687-2233, tabooresort.com, map and reviews

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