Chilling in Cochrane: Embracing Ontario's Subarctic Winter Wonderland

Polar bears, hockey, snowmobiling, Northern Lights. Now this is a road trip to the North!
a person standing with their hand on a glass window that looks into the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. There is a polar bear sitting on a large piece of ice surronded by light blue water on the other side of the glass.

Cochrane, Ontario, located off of Highway 11 in northern Ontario with a subarctic climate and thrilling snowy adventures, making it an ideal destination for those looking to embrace a winter wonderland and possibly see the northern lights. Along with its snowscapes, there is also a small-town charm in spending a weekend in Cochrane.

Here’s how to make the most out of your winter getaway:

Explore the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat

Kick off the weekend with a visit to the Polar Bear Habitat, a unique conservation center dedicated to the world's largest land carnivore. It’s not every day you get to see these magnificent animals up close, and the Habitat provides an educational and respectful environment to learn about polar bears and their conservation. It's a rare and enlightening experience highlighting Cochrane's unique nature.

Cochrane's Snowmobiling Adventures

A rider on a snowmobile crossing a steep hill covered in soft powdery snow that flies up around it. The sky above is bright blue.
Seriously, you've got to try this. — Abitibi Canyon. // Photo credit Virgil Knapp

Cochrane is a dream destination for snowmobiling enthusiasts looking to log some serious distance. Adventurers can embark on the Northern Corridor (TOP Trail A) towards Hearst and make their way back, or tackle the renowned loop that stretches to the Abitibi Canyon via TOP A103. For a unique experience, L105 offers an intriguing route into Greenwater Provincial Park. Additionally, Cochrane serves as the gateway for ambitious tours to Moosenee on James Bay.

Northern Lights Viewing in and Around Cochrane

A stripe of aurora borealis lights up a dark night sky with brilliant purple, green, and yellow tones that are reflected in a glassy still lake below. A lit up cabin is in the distance.
You don't get nights like this anywhere else.— Aurora Borealis near Cochrane, Ontario.

One of Cochrane’s most mesmerizing natural phenomena is the Aurora Borealis. After dinner, head to a viewing spot away from the town’s light pollution. The dark, clear skies of the subarctic offer a spectacular backdrop for the dancing lights. Dress warmly and bring a thermos of hot chocolate to enjoy the show in comfort.

Visit the Tim Horton Museum

The entrance to the Tim Horton Museum, with a large sign overhead featuring graphics of the hockey player and the words "Welcome to the Tim Horton Museum".
The Tim Horton Museum presents fascinating facts about Canada's now legendary hockey player and businessman. // Photo credit Caroline El Khoury

The Tim Horton Museum, which is in the heart of Cochrane, Ontario, pays homage to one of Canada’s most iconic figures in both the realms of sports and business. As the birthplace of the legendary hockey player and entrepreneur, Cochrane is proud to showcase the life and legacy of Tim Horton through this dedicated museum.

One of the museum’s key features is its comprehensive collection of Horton’s hockey memorabilia. Fans can admit various artifacts from his playing days, including jerseys, equipment, and awards, which celebrate his achievements and contributions to the sport. 

two people in winter outdoor clothing smiling and laughing while posing with a white car on a remote snowy road surrounded by snowcovered forest.
Time for a Cochrane roadtrip and some winter fun. // Photo credit Caroline El Khoury
About Caroline El Khoury

Caroline is an astronomer who graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Physics and Astronomy. Her research focused on studying fast rotating neutron stars called Pulsars and their behaviour in the galaxy. In 2019, she received a research grant to work as an intern at ASTRON in the Netherlands where she got to expand on my research on pulsars—and from there she was inspired not only to continue doing research, but to begin a journey that involves a lot of outreach! Caroline is also passionate about outdoor adventures and hiking and has been working in the outdoor community to bring people closer to the night sky. She took her love of astronomy and hiking and started a social media page (@caroline_elkhoury) where she showcases all her astronomical adventures around Ontario and offers stargazing tours and group hiking series.

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