OFSC Trails in the South of District 12

Where to ride, eat and stay around Espanola, the North Shore and the La Cloche Mountains.

With sled adventures on Manitoulin East and West in our rearview mirror, we arrived at the Pinewood Motor Inn in Espanola. Greeted by the friendly, accommodating staff, we were checked in quickly, then we unloaded the sleds and parked them right outside our doors. As sledders, we love the convenience of having them close for easy packing, to make our morning launch efficient.

Snowmobile trails right from the Pinewood Motor Inn

As usual, we reached out to a fellow volunteer (we had met a few times at volunteer functions) for some riding ideas and trip plans. Our contact this time was Dennis Lendrum, the past president of the Espanola and District Snowmobile Club. Luckily for us, he offered to give us the fifty-cent tour, which turned out to be priceless and way beyond our expectations.

The Pinewood is located right in downtown Espanola, close to all amenities including fuel. To our delight, it was only two shots of the throttle to get to the D trail. 

Here are some of the fun spots we came across on our travels on the North Shore area trails of OFSC District 12:

Oh Sh¡t Hill (for real…that’s what’s on the sign)

You will find this sledder’s dream (groomer operator’s nightmare) halfway between Espanola and Narin Centre on the D trail. When you stop to take your pictures, indulge yourself with a holler into the hills and experience nature’s acoustic wonder. Woooonnndddeeerrr…der...der…der… (That there was an echo…) 

Jeremy’s Truck Stop

Located right on the D trail, at Jeremy's Truck Stop. you will find all grades of fuel, a convenience store/gift shop, and great food. This is where Rick made his decision that breakfast truly deserves a dessert. and forthwith butter tarts are no longer taboo at breakfast.

Augusta Ice Falls (Caves)

Ice falls and ice caves always provide a fantastic natural backdrop for photos. This one on Augusta Lake on the C108D is no exception to that sledding staple. Take a break, stretch your legs, explore, and get some great shots.

Red Dog Grill – Whitefish Falls  

This community centrepiece, located right on the ESP 11, Whitefish Falls access spur has tonnes to offer the wandering traveller. We were welcomed by friendly hosts and staff who absolutely love sledders. Generous portions of home-cooked fare are a staple inside this very whimsical oasis with its tropical décor (think palm tree wall decals and hula skirts lining the bar).

As with any of the smaller communities, if you are riding in a very large group, it’s always a great idea to get in touch with them via Facebook or telephone with your ETA, so they can make sure they are prepared for your arrival.

North Channel

Like the 400-series highways, the North Channel is the ways and means for a quick route to get around the area for both recreationists and residents. It is flanked on the north by the La Cloche Mountains and on the south by the majestic bluffs and idyllic coves of Manitoulin Island, with its many inner islands and inlets between the shores. As a tourist, it’s simply something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Remember, as with any ice crossings, smart choices have to be made and they should only be used when showing “available” on the Interactive Trail Guide. If you wish to explore beyond the stake-lines, make sure you have a local guide. This is big water and ice conditions can change with something as simple as the wind direction. Know before you go.

La Cloche Mountains and Lakes

The fantastically fun D110l winds through the 3.5-billion-year-old mountains, which are one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth. At one time, they were thought to be higher than the Rockies. They still remain some of the highest altitudes in Ontario. As we wound our way through the changes in elevation, we were greeted by myriad lakes, nestled in crevices that rival Scandinavian fjords.

While taking a break up there and enjoying the scenery, make sure to experience the local Native tradition of using the mountains as “tocsins” (warning bells). This practice was used by local First Nations to signal each other. Voyageurs, learning of this tradition, named them (en français) La Cloche, meaning “bell,” thereby naming the mountains as we know them now. All you have to do is bang two rocks together and listen to the reverberation of the sound against the hills around you. Try it — you might even get a response from somewhere across the range. 

Back at the well-appointed, comfortable inn, and after a quick refresh from the day’s ride, it was a treat to be able to put on indoor shoes and not have to dress for the weather to get to the restaurant via the inside hallway door. The home-cooked meal portions were more than generous and cooked to perfection.

The Pinewood is often overlooked as a place to hub out of, but it offers convenient staging for not only the Rainbow Elk Loop, but the other District 12 snow tours and Espanola and District Snowmobile Club's impeccably maintained trails too, as well as just passing through on a bag trip. It was clean and comfy, a great finale to wind up our three-day Rainbow Country Adventure.

About Rick Sauer & Marni Smith

Rick "Nutter" Sauer is a certified motorsports junkie who volunteers his time with his local snowmobile club and provincially with the OFSC. During the other 3 seasons his passion is cruising around on his current iron, a 955 Triumph SuperSport.

Marni "DooDette" Smith is a longtime snowmobiler and volunteer. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the OFSC. In the off season and when she’s not selling real estate, you can find her riding the highways and biways of Central and Northern Ontario on her Katana.

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