Top 5 Reasons to go ATV-ing in Northern Ontario this Summer

With tons of diverse trails, epic lookouts, access to rentals and the sheer beauty of nature, Northern Ontario is the spot to ride this summer

Have you noticed the days are finally starting to get longer? The depressingly early sunsets of winter are quickly becoming a thing of the past and this can only mean one thing – ATV season is just around the corner! With all forms of powersports enjoying the current “bull market” in our post-2020 world, what better time to give you my top five reasons to go ATV-ing in Ontario this summer?

1. An abundance of trails

Photo credit: Virgil Knapp

Hands down, Northern Ontario has one of the most comprehensive and diverse, dedicated ATV trail-networks in the world. Much like the our snowmobile trails, they are maintained and sanctioned by dedicated local volunteer groups organized by regional clubs, many of which can be found under the OFATV banner (Ontario Federation of ATV Clubs).  Another plus of the Ontario trail systems is the wide ranging terrain, that includes but is not limited to tree lined corridors, hydro fields, elevation changes, and river crossings. You might even see a line up of quads at the local Tim Horton’s drive-through!

2. Epic Lookouts

Photo credit: Virgil Knapp

Northern Ontario boasts some truly jaw-dropping sightseeing opportunities, some of which are conveniently located off of main trails. Two of my favourites in this class can be found in the Northeastern part of the province. The first is located in The Madawaska Valley region overlooking Algonquin Park, while the second can be found along the iconic Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (or VMUTS). If you can make it to either during the fall foliage season, the photo opportunities (or better yet bring a drone!) would off the charts, producing ‘viral’ worthy social media content. 

3. ATV Rentals 

Photo credit: Virgil Knapp

Not too long ago if you wanted to go trail riding for the day, you had two options: buy a machine or beg a friend to borrow theirs. Thankfully, in 2022 rental outfits have filled that particular void in the market, offering new and reliable machines, as well as rider training and head-to-toe safety gear for ‘newbies’. Some outfitters even run private guided tours with experienced and knowledgeable staff. One outfitter I’ve had personal experience with that checks all these boxes is Mukwa Adventure Tours. Based out of Spanish, ON in Algoma region, Mukwa offers year-round ATV tours on over a thousand kilometers of picturesque Northern Ontario trail systems. They include complete instruction and guided tours running in all four seasons, using current BRP machines (in winter they even run tracks instead of tires for optimal traction and performance).

4. UTVs

Photo credit: Virgil Knapp

The landscape of what is considered “ATV-ing” changed drastically in the 2010s with the explosion in popularity of the UTVs – Utility Terrain Vehicles. Commonly known as ‘side-by-sides’, the biggest difference to their ATV cousins is that you actually drive a UTV as opposed to riding an ATV; It’s closer to a little off-road car that fits on the trails. Other big plusses are the added safety of protective roll cages and 5-point safety belts. UTVs give people with old injuries (or those averse to new ones) the opportunity to participate in the sport safely.  The other notable benefit is storage space. A typical UTV provides several times the luggage capacity of a traditional ATV. Thanks to their current popularity, machines catering to every segment of the market now exist, from full on workhorses to high performance racers. The only perceivable downside is the added cost, as these sell for two to three times a traditional quad.

5. Trail riding equals freedom

Photo credit: Virgil Knapp

Arguably the most important reason to go ATV-ing in Northern Ontario this summer is for the sheer joy and sense of freedom trail riding provides. Imagine in 2022 doing something that doesn’t involve your phone, and in fact allows you to completely disconnect from it all. Due to its physical nature and inherent risk, you’re forced into constant state of attention and readiness. I’ve always found this had a therapeutic effect that allowed me to shut down my brain and just exist in the moment. When you add in all the beauty of nature, maybe ATV-ing in Northern Ontario this summer is a pretty easy sell after all.

Photo credit: Virgil Knapp
About Virgil Knapp

Virgil Knapp is a freelance motorsports photographer and writer.

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