Winter ATVing with Mukwa Adventures

A family-run business takes new and experienced ATV riders out in the snow

When winter hits Northern Ontario, snow-covered wilderness trails might seem off-limits to all but the hardiest of adventurers. But with the right guides, winterized ATVing opens up the landscape and its seasonal wonders to everyone. 

Photo: David Bouthillier

Family-run Mukwa Adventures takes a holistic approach to winter ATV tours: expect to ride with ATV experts who know the Algoma Country area, have a background in eco-tourism, and share a passion for reconnecting people with the natural world. 

Located in Spanish, Ontario, an hour west of Sudbury, Mukwa Adventures leads custom ATV tours throughout the year, ranging from the ATV-friendly town of Elliot Lake into further afield northern trails. They've equipped their fleet of ATVs with winter riding tracks that elevate the vehicles and even have the trailers to haul them, ready to go forth and explore forests, lakes, and routes well off the beaten track. 

ATV tours with a winter twist

When Amanda Trudeau and her partner Arthur Trudeau co-founded Mukwa Adventures almost three years ago, they knew they'd found a way to bring together their educations in nature-based adventure tourism and environmental technology. They also knew their personal perspectives would create a unique adventure experience for visitors: Arthur grew up in Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, hunting and gathering as a lifestyle, while Amanda integrates her background as a holistic health practitioner into the company. As well, they encourage their employees to share their exceptional skills and knowledge, emphasizing Mukwa's mission to connect visitors with nature.

Amanda Trudeau (centre) with satisfied customers (Photo: David Bouthillier)

“People who come to us are looking for a new kind of experience, riding a machine and simply being out in nature,” says Amanda Trudeau. “It's fun to be able to show what we have here. People are often shocked, they'll be riding along and yell out, 'Another lake? And another lake!' And then we'll see a moose, or wolf tracks, and that makes it even more awesome.”

Photo: David Bouthillier

Mukwa Adventures' half-day, full-day, and weekend tours are made for families, groups of friends, and anyone simply looking for a unique outdoor experience. Each trip comes complete with safety and equipment training, ATVs and helmets, as well as snacks and the advice of experienced winter ATVers. 

“I always bring hot drinks like coffee, chocolate and apple cider,” says Trudeau. “Usually on winter tours, we have a fire in the middle of the day and a cook out as part of the experience. I'll bring extra balaclavas, mitts, and Hot Paws to warm up hands and feet on a colder day. We really want to make sure everyone is comfortable on the trail.”

Adventures on ice 

Mukwa Adventures also coordinates custom tours for groups, from ice fishing at frozen lakes to women's adventure retreat weekends

“When we do ice fishing in the winter, we'll ride to remote lakes where normally you can only fly in—they're untouched, no houses, no people,” explains Trudeau. “We'll set up ice huts, make a fire, roast marshmallows and hot dogs or something more extravagant like steak, depending on the group.” 

Along the way, the guides stop frequently to share information about the area and its history, vegetation, and wildlife. “It's a natural, very authentic thing that happens,” says Trudeau. “We'll point out trees, animal prints, beaver dams, as well as the history of Indigenous culture in the area—that's a big part of what we do, sharing that tradition and culture with people.”

Along with tours, Mukwa Adventures works with First Nations communities and youth in the area, offering wilderness training, freshwater fishing guiding courses, hunter safety courses, outdoor survival courses, and other courses that bring all of Mukwa's resources together and address several layers of what outdoor adventuring really involves. 

Tracks on the trails 

Photo: David Bouthillier

Leaving narrow ATV trails to snow machines in winter, the slower-moving Mukwa Adventures winterized vehicles take to connector trails, frozen lakes and First Nations trails that accommodate the width of ATVs on tracks. Unlike a snowmobile where you have to dress extremely warmly due to the speed and associated wind, winter ATVs move at a slower speed: “It's not a race out there; it's more about seeing the scenery,” says Trudeau.

Trudeau adds that driving an ATV on winter tracks feels “more like you're driving a tank,” letting riders get up big hills and through areas that snow machines can't. With over 1,000 km of trails in the Elliot Lake area alone, ATVers can ride for days and be on a different trail every day. 

“I particularly enjoy Sagamok First Nation in winter and their beautiful old growth forests and frozen waterfalls,” says Trudeau. “It's surrounded by Lake Huron and also features the Fort La Cloche historical site, which used to be a Hudson's Bay trading post.” 

For all tours, Mukwa works with resorts and lodges in the Algoma and Sudbury districts to provide authentic accommodations that suite visitors. Guests can stay at in Elliot Lake at The Hampton Inn by Hilton Elliot Lake and Dunlop Lake Lodge or at northern wilderness lodges such as Laurentian Lodge, Ritchie Falls Resort and Magpie Relay resort. 

No matter where you stay, expect a hearty breakfast to start the day, hours exploring the pristine wilderness, and a sauna or fireside warm-up as night falls in Northern Ontario. 

About Robyn Fadden

Writer and editor Robyn Fadden is an explorer searching out hidden historic gems, city secrets, and quiet green spaces off the beaten track. Based in Montréal, Robyn covers outdoor activities, music festivals, art, tech, and numerous other events for Tourisme Montréal, MUTEK, CKUT 90.3 FM radio and other organizations.

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