Dreamy Snowshoe Getaways in Ontario

Bundle up and head north for a tranquil snowshoe trip this winter.

Winter is essentially half the year in Northern Ontario. Instead of fighting the cold, it’s best to embrace it. The snowfall here tends to stick around, opening up the opportunity for many activities. Snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are two of the most popular activities, but snowshoeing is quickly growing in prominence. The gear needed is limited (snowshoes and winter clothing) and the skills are easy to pick up—it’s like hiking but with a slightly wider stance.

The trails in the winter have an entirely different look and feel from warmer seasons. The forest feels much more open with leaves gone and snow blanketing the ground. The packed snow smooths out roots and ruts that would get boots muddy and trip up feet in the summer. The snow also softens noises, adding a profound sense of calm and quiet.

The following Ontario snowshoe getaways are sure to be a highlight of your winter. Get planning!

a snowy cabin at Stokely Creek in winter
Return to your cabin after a day of breaking trail. Source: Martin Lortz // @lortzphoto

Getaway #1: Algoma Highlands & Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie is smack in the middle of the upper Great Lakes, which are renowned for producing colossal winter weather events. The lakes bring an average snowfall of around 300 centimetres to this city, blanketing the nearby trails with the fluffy white stuff.

It’s a 6.5-hour drive from Toronto to the Soo, but it’s a quick trip to get out into the woods once you are there. The city is a short distance from the Algoma Highlands, an ancient mountain range with rolling granite hills and towering sugar maple stands. Within the city limits are the Hiawatha Highlands trails, offering a fun half- or full-day of snowshoeing or fat-biking. A little farther north are some cozy cabin accommodations where the trails are just outside your door.

Where to Stay:

Stokely Creek Lodge is nestled in the Algoma Highlands on over 8,000 acres of terrain. While primarily a cross-country skiing resort, this all-inclusive lodge also features an expansive network of snowshoe trails. Here, the emphasis is on connections and disconnections. No televisions are in the main areas of the lodge, although Wi-Fi is available. The meals are included and served family-style, where guests can mingle and swap stories or plans for the upcoming day. Even the parking lot is separate from the lodge, adding to the feeling of natural solitude. Sled transportation is provided for luggage from vehicles to rooms.

What to Do:

The trail system here was built with cross-country skiing in mind, but the network of snowshoe trails are gems in their own right.

Choose anything from a two-kilometre stroll to a full day, packed lunch, thigh-burning workout. If you choose to hammer out 25 kilometres on snowshoes, it might be wise to book a hot stone massage after. One of the classic snowshoe trails to embark on is the King Mountain Trail. This 12-kilometre out-and-back trek reaches the summit, providing one of the best views of the Highlands in the whole region. Three of the lodge’s six warming huts are accessible by snowshoe, where fireplaces await. Pack a lunch and enjoy it in the comfort of the hut.

a person wearing snowshoes looks out at a hilly winter view
Take in views of the Algoma Highlands. Source: Martin Lortz // @lortzphoto

Get Outfitted:

You can rent snowshoes from Stokely Creek Lodge for $10 a day, plus tax. Great Lakes Outfitters in Sault Ste. Marie is the local gear shop with any outdoor equipment you might need before heading out on the trails.

Why Go:

The natural scenery is diverse and emblematic of the region. The deep greens of the spruces contrasts with the stark white pillows of snow accumulating on their boughs, while frozen waterfalls reveal every hue of blue imaginable.

Stokely is a great place to start if you are new to silent winter sports like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Pack plenty of layers you can change into as temperatures fluctuate through the day. The staff and other guests can offer insight into the latest trail conditions, and by the end of your stay, you’ll surely be sharing stories as well.

Alternatives:

More intimate accommodations are in the Goulais River area, including Bellevue Valley Lodge, with a chalet capable of hosting two separate groups or one larger group. Bellevue’s owners, Robin and Enn, are passionate telemark skiers, but snowshoers are also welcome on the trails.

For those who want to stay in town, book a room at the centrally located Water Tower Inn or the Delta hotel at the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront. Then make day trips to the Hiawatha Highlands trail system, which has two trails for shorter snowshoe outings. Locals run out here after work or to walk dogs, but the longer four-kilometre Crystal Trail is an excellent loop for a two- to three-hour outing. Trail passes can be purchased online and picked up on site.

warm entrance to a Quetico Cabin on a snowy winter night
Stay in a cozy cabin in Quetico. Source: Alan Poelman // @alftown 

Getaway #2: Quetico & Thunder Bay

In the northwestern corner of the province, Quetico Provincial Park’s wilderness has inspired influential writers and conservationists like Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olsen. The land here is notable for countless lakes and stands of old-growth forest. Quetico teems with canoeists in the summer, but things slow down significantly in the winter. The Park maintains a series of classic and skate cross-country skiing trails, and the hiking trails are open to snowshoeing.

Where to stay:

Quetico’s roofed accommodations perfectly blend wild isolation and the comforts of a walled cabin. Aside from local skiers, the campground sees limited use in the winter outside of the three available cabins, which are rented out at a reasonable nightly price. Two of the three, the Log Cabin and Art Retreat Cabin, are accessible by car in the Dawson Campground. Reaching the third takes a bit more sweat, but the solitude is worthwhile.

The Ojibwa Cabin is located in an unplowed section of the frontcountry campground. Accessing it requires a two-kilometre hike, hauling everything you’ll need by toboggan. The cabin that awaits is equipped with electric heat, a kettle, a jug of water and a barbecue for outdoor cooking. Visitors pack their own food in. The rangers stock the firewood with enough for a weekend but will drop off more if you wish.

What to do:

The cabins are at the head of 35 kilometres of trails. A short, family-friendly snowshoe is the six-kilometre round-trip hike to the frozen waterfalls of French Falls. The hike shares the trail with cross-country skiers for part of the way but breaks off for a short meander among boulders with short, steep sections.

A full-day winter adventure is a snowshoe to “The Pines,” a campsite and lunch spot underneath a stand of towering old-growth red and white pines. If ice conditions allow (and they usually do in midwinter) the waterways can also be explored by snowshoe. There are plenty of winter birds to see along the trails: chickadees, Canada jays, black-backed woodpeckers or possibly even owls. The tracks left in the snow tell stories of lynx stalking hares or moose bedding down for the night. Lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of these larger mammals.

Why go:

Quetico is one of Ontario’s premier wilderness parks. Winter use of the Park is mostly from locals driving out for day trips or the odd winter camper, but the roofed accommodations are one of the most accessible ways to experience the Park. Get out there and enjoy the blankets of snow and tranquil forests.

The trail options vary from a few hours to full-day endeavours. You aren’t limited to the trails either; snowshoeing across a frozen lake on a sunny winter day is a fantastic experience. If the weather picks up, there’s the option of returning to the cozy, heated cabins to watch the storm pass through comfortably.

Get Outfitted:

Wilderness Supply in Thunder Bay provides snowshoe rentals and sells any piece of camping or outdoor gear you might need before heading out on your adventure.

Alternatives:

The region gets a lot of snow, and visitors may find they are breaking trail—a rewarding but tiring experience. After spending time in Quetico, a stop in Thunder Bay on the way home is an excellent opportunity to recharge. It’s two hours away with nice accommodations on the waterfront, like the Delta or the Courthouse Hotel. Winter sunrises over the iconic Sleeping Giant and frozen Lake Superior highlight a spectacular pastel palette. Take a break from cooking and sample some local restaurants that are part of Thunder Bay’s burgeoning food scene

About Jake O'Flaherty

Jake O’Flaherty is a freelance outdoor guide who loves to explore the remote corners of the world, but Lake Superior is where he feels most at home.

Recommended Articles

11 Jaw-Droppingly Beautiful Landscapes

Don't miss the splendours of Northern Ontario

Best Waterfalls in Ontario

Discover where they are and how to get there.

Crown Land Camping

What it is and where you can camp in Ontario.

Natural Highs

7 magnificent mountains in Ontario to climb, hike, ride, ski and more.

2024 Triathalons

Swim, cycle and run your way to triathlete status at these Ontario events.

Ontario Trail Races

Find out where to test your limits and get out in the woods.

Go Winter Glamping

Get cozy at these 11 snowy Ontario getaways.

19 Winter Activities to Add to Your Bucket List

Must-do activities that are snow much fun.

March Break

Everything you need to know

The Best Camping In Ontario

Discover the best car-camping and backcountry locations.

Beach Camping in Ontario

14 sandy places to pitch your tent and swim to your heart’s content.

Hike The Best Trails

Discover your next great adventure.

6 Best Places To Camp On Manitoulin

Book a campsite as your base to roam this chill oasis.

Ontario's Other Camping Option

10 best private campgrounds in the province.

Ontario's Best Family Resorts

Your trip planning starts here.

Insider’s Guide to Sleeping Giant

Everything you need to plan a trip to this iconic provincial park.

Incredible Swimming in Ontario

12 best destinations to take a summer dip.

Your Outdoor Adventure Vacation Starts Here

10 best activities in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Backpacking Trails in Ontario

7 multi-day hiking trips to the province’s most beautiful places.

Best Outdoor Adventure Locations in Ontario

Plan a trip to one of these incredible destinations.