This Year's Bucket List ATV Ride
Ontario may be North America's best kept secret for ATVers. Everyone knows the Hatfield-McCoy trails in West Virginia, the Moab, Paiute in Utah, but far fewer people are as familiar with the 1670 miles of backcountry trails in the Canadian Shield known as the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance (EOTA).
For the last 20 years, these trails have been managed and maintained, signed, drained, and upgraded so well that, to be completely frank, there might not be a better time ever to ride these trails.
Closer to the densely forested trails of Hatfield, the main difference between the Carolinan forests of West Virginia and Ontario's Boreal mix is the Canadian Shield, a massive exposed rock face that stretches from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean. This gives the trails a completely different feel than the deep woods—here there are rivers, streams, and major lakes throughout, as well as towering cliffs and exposed rock. To give you a sense of the elevation changes throughout, the EOTA also includes one of Ontario's highest populated towns, Foymount, at 1,600 feet above sea level.
So, what makes EOTA your next ATV destination?
One minute you're running through deep forest, with glimpses of freshwater lakes and streams on both side; the next you're in wide open farmers' fields with split rail fences lining the boundaries. Rock cliffs, massive inclines, deep valleys, and steady descents. This is the stock and trade of the EOTA, and it keeps the ride interesting.
The central parts of the EOTA were built on old railways, which means it's easy and quick to get from one area to another—making exploring far reaches of the trail system possible. There's also hundreds of miles of logging roads and old colonization roads that stretch off the main trunks—there's never any need to ride the same trail twice. It's easily possible to do 100 miles a day, or more if you want.
While the railbeds are fairly uneventful riding, there's plenty of more technical trails just around every corner. There are four self guided tours available on their website, in case you don't want to plan your own trip and prefer to just follow a loop. Click here to see the four trails.
EOTA also offers a number of package deals for ATVers who want an all-in-one solution. Visit this page to see those packages.
Towns throughout the entire system love ATVers and want them in their towns, so they make sure there's lots of parking and staging areas for trucks and trailers, and plenty of resorts and motels have power washers and gas on premises. There's even a few good ATV events if you're the social type.
Trail permits all go back into the system, so you'll notice how well-signed the trails are. Along with the EOTA printed map (which you can order here), and trip planner, it's nearly impossible to get lost. Trails are maintained at the highest standard. To see all your options for purchasing trail permits, and prices, click here. Permits $150 Canadian for the year or $75 for a week, or $20 for one day.
Currently the EOTA website and map erroneously displays some trails that are not covered by its current trail pass. These include trails from the Renfrew Country ATV Club, marked in orange in the online trail map, and Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail , marked in red dotted line, which require either an OFATV permit separate from EOTA’s OnePass, or no permit at all. To ensure your trip is not interrupted unnecessarily, please contact the local clubs with your ride plan to verify your passes match the trails you plan on riding.
As the popularity of the trail has increase, ATVers from Ohio, Michigan, Vermont and New York State have started riding here. Getting into Canada is super easy, and the border guards are usually pretty familiar with the EOTA. Entry through Buffalo/Niagara Falls, Kingston, or Windsor are all straightforward.
If you want to combine activities on your trip, there are plenty of possibilities for backcountry camping, fishing, and paddling. The trails here also accommodate horses, walkers, joggers, cyclists, dogsleds, and snowmobiles, as well as ATVs.
In order to fully appreciate the trail and plan your trip, we highly recommend ordering a free trail map be mailed to you. While the online trip planner is excellent and offers a wealth of information, we all know that the best plans are made on paper. You can also follow EOTA on Facebook—they're pretty good at answering questions there! See you on TheTrail.ca!