The Sure Bet—Snowmobile Vacations in Northern Ontario

If failure isn't an option, you've got to go where the snow is guaranteed. Ryan Hawkins and pals make the trip north to ride OFSC tour loops around Cochrane, Kapuskasing and Smooth Rock Falls and save their season.

It's no secret to snowmobilers that Ontario is, bar none, one of the best places to ride. From the vast landscape to the open trails and beautiful wildlife, it has something to offer every snowmobiler. There are many OFSC Snow Tours being established and we've been lucky enough to enjoy some of these loops.

With all the ups and downs this 2017 season, Mother Nature has sure made it interesting for the snowmobiling community. But regardless of the unpredictable weather, organizing a snowmobile trip in Northern Ontario will be an experience that will last a lifetime. It should take your group no convincing that putting fuel into the trucks is as essential as into the sleds.

With sleds in tow, we head to where the snow is, Northeastern Ontario. First stop on our adventure is New Liskeard, Ontario (part of Temiskaming Shores). We checked in to the Quality Inn right on Highway 11, which is a great starting point to head north or start the famous OFSC Gold Rush Tour. There was plenty of parking for trucks and trailers, so that was no issue, leaving us to head straight for the pool, hot tub and sauna to get us ready for the trip ahead.

Snow Tours of Cochrane

The Town of Cochrane, Ontario is approximately 300 kilometres from New Liskeard, and the trip between them can be done in one day via snowmobile, if you choose the right route. Following the A trail north will bring you through snowmobiler-friendly Northern Ontario towns including Earlton, Kirkland Lake and Iroquois Falls. Cochrane is a snowmobiler mecca, as you will quickly realize, when it becomes apparent that there are sledders at every turn. And for good reason—it’s a hub for three of Ontario’s best snowmobile tours, the Abitibi Canyon Loop, the Gateway to the North Tour and the massive Northern Corridor Adventure Tour.

We stayed at the Best Western Swan Castle Inn, a great snowmobile-friendly place to stay while in the area. Right in the heart of town, it’s close to restaurants, shops, gas stations and, of course, the snowmobile trails. The hotel works hand in hand with the Polar Bear Riders Snowmobile Club to ensure snowmobilers have the most up to date trail information.

Others in Cochrane include The Cochrane Classic Vintage Riders Snowmobile Museum (which you’ll find adjacent to the Welcome Centre of the Polar Bear Habitat) and the Tim Horton’s Event Centre that houses a pool, waterslide, lazy river and skating rink. And don't forget to check out a Cochrane Crunch Junior A hockey game during your stay! The Best Western has a weekly draw for free tickets so be sure to enquire about it if heading over to the arena.

The Lumberjack Loop

The next morning we pull out of Cochrane to head towards Kapuskasing, Ontario. The 145-kilometre Lumberjack Loop, one of the 33 official OFSC snow tours, is a part of the OFSC District 15 Northern Corridor snowmobile system. After a 160-kilometre ride across the A trail from Cochrane, Kapuskasing was our first fuel stop of the day. With the sleds topped off, we continued to head west to the L145 which would take us south to hook up with the open section of L123.

The Lumberjack tour has an assortment of wide open trails through remote areas as well as tighter, more technical sections which will keep you smiling underneath your helmet. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will find smooth trails and an abundance of snow in this area. I’ve had the opportunity to ride the Lumberjack Loop in previous years, which is exactly why we went back to enjoy it once again. On our way back to Cochrane we once again rode through Moonbeam, Ontario, which has a clubhouse that caters to snowmobilers. It’s a great place to warm up and grab a bite to eat if you’re looking for a pit stop along your route.

Fed and back on our way, the sun was slowly starting to set as we pulled into the town of Smooth Rock Falls to fuel up our sleds before running the last 70 kilometres back into Cochrane. After almost  400 kilometres on the trails, we could all agree that the Lumberjack tour did not disappoint! 

Taking The Scenic Route

After a satisfying night’s rest, our group decided to stay a little closer to town for some easier riding and sightseeing. We made our way south on the A106C to the L103 where our first stop was the Frederick House River bridge for some great photos at the Zeverely rapids.

Picking up the A trail shortly thereafter will take you north back towards Cochrane. This 75-kilometre section of trail is great loop if arriving late into town or to kick off an excellent day of riding. We continued up the A105Q to the L101 which runs just east of Cochrane. A family of bobcats hustled across the trail, but we couldn't get the cameras out quickly enough to capture the event.

We ventured south on the A103 to link up to the A trail and over to Smooth Rock Falls for fuel. After a quick stop, the sleds took us down the 20-kilometre section of L105 through Greenwater Provincial Park to the Calhoun Fire Tower lookout.

We were stopped by a large moose as we came into the lookout on this scenic trail. Fortunately, this large bull gave us time to snap a few quick pictures before continuing on his way. Retracing our steps from the fire tower, another moose was making a dash for it across the hydro cut just before arriving at the Greenwater warming shack. Suffice to say, the wildlife in this area was nothing short of spectacular. Just shy of 300 kilometres had us rolling back into Cochrane well before dinner to finish up the day.

To the Canyon

Waking up early to some fresh snow had us excited for our trip up to the Abitibi Canyon. This 300-kilometre loop out of Cochrane is a must-do and has a reputation for being one of the most popular of the OFSC Snow Tours. A 165-kilometre ride up the east side of the A103 holds some of the best riding that Northern Ontario has to offer! Make sure to bring your camera to capture your group as you head up to one of the most remote areas that you can access on an OFSC trail.

After checking into base camp and putting some fuel into the sleds, you can head into the canyons for some off trail fun before heading back down the west side of A103. This 85-kilometres of trail runs through a long, fast section of hydro cut down into Smooth Rock Falls before making a 70-kilometre trek back to Cochrane to complete the loop. Check out Shelby Mahon's article for more information on the Abitibi Canyon and all it has to offer.

Extend Your Season

With our annual snowmobile trip coming to a close, I can’t help but reflect on this time spent on the trails with a great group of friends. While Mother Nature dictates the length of the snowmobile season for most of us, Northern Ontario is not only one of the best snowmobiling areas but it also has an extended season. The experience is definitely something you don't want to miss!  "Go North, Young Man"... and be sure to bring along your riding pals! 

Stay tuned for future articles on additional Northern Corridor loops such as the Missinaibi Expedition Tour in Hearst, Ontario and the Bobcat Loop in Hornepayne, Ontario

About Ryan Hawkins

Ryan Hawkins (Canuck Powersports) eats, sleeps, and breathes snowmobiles and motorcycles. As a freelance writer and aspiring photographer, he can be found carving up twisty roads and trails year round.

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