6 Reasons Why Mattawa is Canada's Off Road Capital

Here's why VMUTS in Mattawa, Ontario is this rider's choice for the ATV (and UTV, and dirt bike, and ADV) capital of Canada.

I’ve thought long and hard about any area being coined the “off-road capital” of our vast country and what it would take to qualify, as there are no official criteria to earn this top rank. 

I thought about all of the riding I’ve done over the years. The trails that made me smile. Food that made my mouth water just thinking about it. Unwind and recharge accommodations. New-found friends—and of course burnt-in memories of backwoods spectacles.

Using my rider-based gasoline-fueled criteria I conclude that Mattawa, Ontario just might be Canada’s Off-Road Capital. 

Why? 

It's home to the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (VMUTS). Nestled in the rugged foothills of the Laurentian Mountain range, these trails are a bucket list destination for off-road enthusiasts. 

Here are 6 reasons why VMUTS in Mattawa is Canada's best off-road adventure. 

1. All Are Welcome (Yep even you, dirt bikes)

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Side-by-Sides (SXS), Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV), dirt bikes, Adventure Motorcycles, trucks, SUVs, Jeeps, and in the winter, snowmobiles are all welcome on the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System

2. Trail Diversity is Unmatched

ATV in Mattawa
VMUTS has got a trail for everyone. // Photo credit: Rob Stimpson 

Simply put, VMUTS offers challenging terrain and spectacular views. Whether you’re an experienced rider or just getting started, there’s something for everyone here: Streams. Twists. Mud. Rock. Forest. Fields. Flats. Mountains and hilltops. Scenic lookouts.

Famous for mud lovers is Trail 666; there’s plenty of opportunity to rock crawl up elevation; navigate through dense Great Lakes St. Lawrence Forest with century-old or older gigantic maples, birch, and white pine; or just meander down a sandy route in a 4x4 dream. 

3. Off-Road Friendly Accommodations

One of the initial items of consideration here is whether you can ride your off-road vehicle from your accommodation or restaurant of choice to the trails. The answer is YES for all types of vehicles including dirt bikes—as long as you are complying with provincial and local regulations/laws (plate, insurance, ownership, helmet – the easy stuff.) You have the option to stay at several different places in town where operators will be happy to see your dusty faces!

Mattawa Adventure Camp is known for under-one-roof cabins where you can share a great evening with your riding pals. The cottages vary in size but are all located with a spectacular view of the Ottawa River.

Valois Motel & Restaurant has both riverfront units and traditional motel/hotel-style rooms as well as a famous onsite restaurant.

Le Voyageur Inn is located in the smalltown (not a typo – its downtown but its smalltown if you know what I mean) and is a historic building with boutique-style accommodations and an in-house restaurant that was awarded best food in northern Ontario (more on that later)

Mattawa River Resort is nestled on the very scenic Mattawa River just west of the town, it boasts 147 acres of land to explore with numerous waterfront cabins as well as a seasonal RV campground. Upscale casual dining is on offer at their onsite restaurant the Cardinal

Lazy Rock RV Park & Campground offers camping, RV sites, RV on-site rental, and chalet rentals all located directly on stunning Taggart Lake.

Sid Turcotte Park is located on the Mattawa River in very close proximity to “smalltown downtown” and offers Cabins, Camping, RV Sites, and RV Rentals.

Disclaimer: please verify with your accommodator on the best, easiest, and legal route to the trails from your accommodations. 

4. Family-Owned Restaurants Serving Ontario Dishes

There’s some really really great food here. With a few exceptions, you will only find locally-owned awesome places to eat around town. 

turcottes poutine steak pad thai pickerel
Clockwise from left: Poutine from Turcotte's Chip Stand, steak dinner from Mattawa River Resort, Pad Thai from Le Voyageur Inn, and the classic pickerel dinner from Val's.

In Mattawa you can choose from the traditional Pickerel dinner at Valois Restaurant plus, of course, a full menu; the best authentic Canadian poutine at Turcotte’s Chip Stand; Mattawa Adventure Camp will cook you the best darn striploin east of Alberta but you have to be staying there to taste this luxury; Myrts has a panzerotti that is beyond belief tasty—just ride on in (ask for a side of 3rd degree); and Le Voyageur Inn was recently voted the Best Thai Food in Northeastern Ontario. Mattawa River Resort has "plated" dialed in and encourages you to take a photo of your dish and share it cause “ya know its good.” You can also simply enjoy traditional Chinese Canadian food at the Tai Pan Café. In a rush? Grab a Tims or “eat fresh” at Subway.

5. The Community (You'll hear a story or two or three. And expect a friendly wave.)

In order to earn a title as prestigious as this there have to be smiling faces when you ride by. Seriously—locals here are genuinely happy to see ATVers visiting and enjoying this paradise. You can absolutely expect when you’re filling up your tank at one of the two local gas stations that you'll be told to “have a great ride” or get asked, “How was the ride?”

ATV at Mattawa gas station
Fuel up and drive straight to dinner or your hotel. Even the gas stations are friendly. // Photo credit: Rob Stimpson

Plus, if you pop into a special local shop called the Clermont Duval Art Gallery you may just get to meet Clermont himself who is a local legend but also the constructor of the gigantic statue of Big Joe Mufferaw at Explorer's Point—ask him about it and more.

Speaking of community, I’ll note the success of this off-road paradise is down to the volunteers who keep the trail system operational—without them VMUTS wouldn’t be what it is today. Looking ahead, much potential for growth exists as VMUTS is part of a larger “off-road” community—it's a member of the Ontario Federation of ATV Clubs. I’m hopeful in future years we will see a connection to the south + east via the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail.

6. The Epic Northern Ontario Scenery

2 ATVs in Mattawa VMUTS
The Boreal forest in the Laurentian Foothills makes for scenic rides. // Photo credit: Rob Stimpson

We don’t remember days we remember moments. And from the moment you arrive to the moment you are stuck in the mud hole you will be in awe of the scenery. In all seriousness, Mattawa is one beauty little town and this extends out and into the backcountry where you will be riding. Having the opportunity to immerse yourself in such diverse terrain, see stunning vistas (be sure to visit the Redbridge Lookout and Birds Eye View) and experience ignition of all five senses is really what makes this area so off-road special—you’re simply surrounded by off-road awesomeness when you get out into it.

Plan Your Trip to Canada's Off-Road Capital Today

I always like to close off every article with a little motivation, if you’ve never been GO! If you’ve been before bring a new friend. And finally a quote from Heraclitus, an ancient Greek: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” This ideology applies perfectly to the trails and the forests—each ride is a new ride!  

About Jeff McGirr

Jeff McGirr is a powersports & marine enthusiast who loves sharing Northern Ontario experiences with you through his articles and videos.

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