A New Day for ATV Tourism in Ontario

After years of hard work by advocates, it looks like the tides are finally shifting in favour of ATVing in the province. What has changed and what will come of it?

The sport of ATVing in Ontario has long suffered under antiquated regulations that snowmobiling overcame long ago. After many years of not being able to ride two to a bike on machines designed for that purpose; not being able to legally ride side by side machines anywhere on any road, limiting access to resorts, cottages and other accommodations; as well as being unable to access fuel, food and other necessities, changes have been progressing quickly in the last year.

Photo of legal riding on Parry Sound roads, courtesy of
Park to Park Trails

The Wheels of Change at Work in Parry Sound

Since 2-ups and SxS machines became legal to ride on the road in the province of Ontario July 1, 2015 (with permission from local regions and townships), the changes have come along very nicely. Many local areas have granted permission for ATVs to either ride on the roads outside of town, or ride anywhere throughout their catchment areas, including riding in the towns. 

Just this month, the Town of Parry Sound was working to establish a single route link through town to connect the southern and northern links of the Park to Park trail (otherwise known as the Seguin trail) when surprisingly, they went over and above and decided to allow region-wide ATV and SxS access on all roads for a one-year trial period! (Excepting of course, Highway 400, a four-lane, divided highway that ATVs are provincially prohibited from riding on, as are other similar major highways province-wide, and obviously, this is how it will always remain.)

At the beginning of a beautiful day on the
Park to Park Trails 

Here are some comments recently published by Andrew Ryeland of ATV Ontario, and the president of Bear Claw ATV tours in Parry Sound

As President of ATVOntario Tourism Initiatives Inc. (ATVOntario) I congratulate the Mayor and Council of the Town of Parry Sound for their vision in realizing the tremendous economic development opportunities with welcoming ATVers' participation in the discovery of all the wonderful assets of the Town.
This by-law, in my opinion, is less about the option of driving an ATV or Side-by-Side on streets and much more about recognition of the culture of the outdoors that Parry Sound embodies. This change in law will enable many visitors and residents the option of enhancing their superb trail riding experiences with purchases of goods and services that are only found in the town setting.
For nearly two decades ATVers have been drawn to the Parry Sound area on our Park-to-Park Trail system. That trail now has a means to join the northern sections from Killbear Provincial Park all the way through to the south and eastern boundaries of Algonquin Park. We now have a truly 'World Class' Trail System offering that includes places to shop, eat, stay and participate in festivals, music concerts and much more!
Enjoying easy access to Kearney Ontario's
Edgewater Park Lodge

Ontario GetS ATV-Friendlier

The province of Ontario passed the Supporting Ontario’s Trails Act, 2016 on June 1, 2016. From their newsroom:

The Supporting Ontario's Trails Act, 2016 will strengthen ‎Ontario's extensive trails system. It will protect and enhance thousands of kilometres of the province's urban, suburban, rural and remote land and water trails while also encouraging its expansion by:

  • Providing the trails community with enhanced tools to effectively develop, operate and promote trails
  • Removing barriers to help connect and expand trails across the province
  • Increasing trail awareness and promoting local tourism by enabling the recognition of Ontario trails of distinction, supporting communities and jobs across Ontario
  • Enabling the development of a classification system to help users find trails that match their interest and ability.

It remains to be seen what the details of this act will actually mean in practice, but all of the developments in the last year have been extremely positive for Ontario’s extensive, world-class trail system, and I believe this will continue the trend. The OFSC alone manages more than 30,000 km of trails in Ontario. If you aren't familiar with their trail maps that extend across this great province, have a look here (make sure and zoom in). It’s very impressive, and I can attest that the trails indicated here are a mere fraction of all the trails that are out there in our great province. 


The Possibilities Are Endless

Ontario (and Quebec) have the largest trail systems in the world, and are indeed the envy of every other jurisdiction in the world in this regard. The famous Hatfield/McCoy trail system in West Virginia, even with all their recent expansion efforts, only operates about 1,600 km of trail, but with that, and support from the state government, they have contributed greatly to their local economy with their relatively low number of trails available to them. Just think what we can do with far more kilometres of trail than what they have!

Photo courtesy of
Park to Park Trails

The developments, as they progress, are giving the industry the tools they need to actually connect trail systems together, and finally allow ATV/UTV tourism to seriously benefit many hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, local businesses – much like what snowmobiling has accomplished long ago, but with a much longer, and more reliable season for everyone to benefit from. It will be a pleasure to take advantage of the ability to tour Ontario by ATV/UTV alone, without having to trailer from point to point, and for all of us to enjoy the ability to connect legally on the road from trail to trail, and to access services, and more in the townships that support our sport. It truly is a win-win for everyone!

Fueling up in Parry Sound is easy now! Photo courtesy of
Park to Park Trails

All in all, the developments in Ontario in the last year have been extremely positive for our sport, the trails that we use, other users of the trail system, pedestrians, cyclists, dog teams, other users, towns, businesses, and for powersports in general! It will help bolster support for local clubs, increase volunteer participation, and help pay for all the work required to keep trails open, particularly brushing the bush back from the trails to keep them passable, a mundane task, but essential none the less. Please consider finding the time to help out with the clubs, and trails where you ride; pretty much every club in Ontario has a serious need for more volunteers, who are the backbone of every club in Ontario, and indeed, volunteers are quickly becoming the only remaining “missing link” needed to further connect and develop our sport and trail systems into a truly great experience for all.

It is indeed a new day for the trails system in Ontario and all of the users of our great trail system, as everyone will benefit, including all non-motorized users! Enjoy!

About Adam Columbus

Adam is the former webmaster for the Algonquin West ATV club webmasters. He lives north of Huntsville, Ontario with his family. He is also an ex-business owner from the GTA who is now semi-retired.

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