Snowmobile Season at Halfway Haven Lodge
Famed among adventurous snowmobilers, Halfway Haven Lodge rests in a secluded spot on Northern Ontario's extensive, pristinely-kept D trail, at the top of serene Jeep Lake, where half the year is spent in deep snow and the other half in summer sun.
One of the Top 5 snowmobile vacations in Northern Ontario, the rustic Halfway Haven Lodge welcomes expert and new riders, families and groups of friends to eat at its fully equipped, restaurant-certified dining hall, sit by the wood stoves, stay a night or three and, of course, fill their snowmobile tanks for long rides on the wide, densely forested trails of Algoma Country.
Halfway Haven's original claim to fame speaks to the necessities of a sledder's life: fuel, food, and warmth. About five hours' drive from the city of Sault Ste. Marie located on the Ontario-Michigan border, the lodge boasts the only snowmobilers' gas station on the D trail between the towns of Searchmont (90 miles south on the trail) and Wawa (70 miles northwest)—yes, just about halfway—and also links backcountry sledders to the town of Chapleau (60 miles to the east) and further north to Dubreuilville and northeast to Foleyet and Timmins. Yet in its 21 years of existence, Halfway Haven has become more than a pit stop: it's a welcoming and relaxed home away from home for many visitors.
Welcome to the Canadian backcountry
Some of the most-well-kept trails in Ontario surround the lodge for miles in every direction. “People come up here, ride for 120 km, and only see six other sleds or bikes,” says Halfway Haven Lodge general manager Drew Hoag. You'll also see bears, wolves, deer, and all manner of wildlife. And if fishing is on your agenda, Halfway Haven Lodge can make that happen through the ice in winter and by boat in summer.
“What we call ourselves is a bush-camp bed-and-breakfast,” says Hoag. “The night of your arrival, we'll feed you a robust dinner, you can relax in the common room, have a great sleep, and the next morning before you get on the trail we'll feed you breakfast. It's all included in the stay.”
The Halfway Haven restaurant stays busy all day, serving hearty meals to riders stopping in to get gas as they make their way along the trail, while the lodge hosts up to 38 people in its rooms, with double and twin beds, and in three cabins for stays ranging from a night to a week or longer. “Our guests come in and they'll cut wood with us, work on the building—it’s astonishing to me that they get so involved,” says Hoag, “but they're really coming for the bush camp experience, in addition to the greatest trails in the world.”
The lodge itself recently underwent renovations on its well and plumbing, while the parking lot was expanded to accommodate backcountry riders with trucks and trailers. And though the lodge remains a very rustic, off-grid place, generating all of its power, its range of amenities might surprise visitors coming off the trail.
“We know people want to get warmed up fast, so we insulated the building very well, use wood burning as heat, and in deep cold we have propane. We have a sauna too,” says Hoag. And yes, they have flush toilets too, not to mention internet and satellite TV.
Winter trail access
Situated at the top of Jeep Hill, Halfway Haven's remote location might not be easy for the fuel truck to get to along 64 km of bush road—“This summer we spent six full weeks rebuilding the bush road so the fuel truck can come in,” says Hoag—but for snowmobilers, it's an essential destination, and has become popular among summer ATVers too.
“Everybody along the D trail cooperates, typically because of the length of the trail,” Hoag says about the riders who come to Halfway. “People come out of the Sault and stay with us, use us to hub and go to other towns and locations, then come back to us on their last night before they head back down south.”
In keeping with the snowmobile and ATV community, which works together to maintain trails in Algoma, Halfway Haven Lodge has a symbiotic relationship with the area's many snowmobile and ATV clubs, like the Wawa Sno-Riders, the Sault Trailblazers, and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (responsible for over 30,000 km of trails), tour companies, and other wilderness lodges and hotels along the D trail.
“Volunteers groomed a trail from here to Chapleau, and the local trappers tell us when a beaver dam spills over a trail,” Hoag adds. “We call it family. I'll have three or four big groups coming together at the camp, and within 10 minutes everybody's talking together. They're really there for the experience.”
With its remote location, excellent trails, and creature comforts, the Halfway Haven experience is certainly like no other—not only when it comes to snowmobiling, but when it comes to a Canadian backcountry adventure.