Snowmobiling the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop in Northwestern Ontario

Check out this 3-day itinerary and some hot tips for riding near Sioux Lookout!

Michael Starratt of Mike's Winter World is an avid snowmobiler and photographer. We checked in with him to find out about his adventures riding the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop. He told us everything you need to know about this epic Northwestern Ontario snowmobile experience! 

What is the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop?

The NWOSTA Wilderness Loop is also known as TOP A Trail. It is a 900 km groomed snowmobile trail that connects all the communities that make up the Northwestern Ontario Snowmobile Trail Association (NWOSTA) which is part of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). This OFSC trail is suitable for all experience levels—in fact, we had a beginner snowmobiler join us on our trip. Unlike denser populated areas, these trails still offer a wilderness feel and are relatively untravelled. 

What was your itinerary? 

We started and ended our trip in the town of Sioux Lookout. The first night, we stayed at Yellowbird Lodge in Sioux Narrows. The second night was in Fort Frances at the hotel La Place Rendez-Vous and the last night was at Perch Lake Lodge, just outside of Atitkokan. Usually, we hit the trail after breakfast by 9 am, stopped somewhere for lunch, and tried to make it to our destination by suppertime.

Tell us about the accommodations available to riders along the trail

YellowBird Lodge

This is their second year in operation for the winter season, with a snowmobile trail directly to the lodge. There is a restaurant on site for supper and breakfast and gas is available.

La Place Rendez-Vous

This hotel is located in Fort Frances with updated rooms. It is easy to navigate from the trail to the hotel and a restaurant on site for supper and breakfast. The restaurant offered a variety of menu options, including vegetarian and other dietary accommodations. Gas, however, is a 2 km drive on the trail.

Perch Lake Lodge

Perch Lake Lodge is open all year round. They offered supper and breakfast at the lodge and gas was available on site. We had called ahead and prearranged a more custom meal. Our group stayed in one cabin with 3 bedrooms.

All the locations had gas available within a reasonable distance just off the trail. To facilitate the ease of the trip, we elected to travel with a chase vehicle to carry our gear. 

What was the absolute highlight?

Most people would think that the highlight of the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop is the White Otter Castle – and I would probably agree, however because of a trail reroute, we found a hidden gem. The trail reroute was between Yellow Bird Lodge and Nestor Falls, heading to Emo. Due to power line work on the TOP Trail A113A, it was torn up. The reroute took our group on Lake of the Woods to Atikaminike Bay and we happened to stop by chance to see a rock wall with pictographs. Thanks to Chad Jack for the updated trail info and providing the reroute.

Can Americans easily ride this loop?

Yes. As of the 2023 season, riders can ride direct from Minnesota right to Yellowbird Lodge—a quick 45-minute snowmobile trail into the state. This new trail is huge for our communities, allowing cross-border transit in either direction.

Do you have any tips for riding the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop?

1. Make sure to do your research ahead of time. Due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, many hotels, restaurants, and gas stations have limited hours or have permanently closed. For example, we had planned to stop in Emo for lunch but found out that the restaurant was closed on Mondays. 

2. Logging is one of the main industries here and riders should also expect hydro line maintenance, so it is important to check the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide (ITG) for updates on trail status. Alternatively, call the local area NWOSTA representative on the print map for local trail information and any plowed ice road locations.

3. As a backup, bring a GPS. This will help with poor visibility days or with any missing signage.

4. If you are looking for a longer trip, consider staying an extra day or two to accommodate any of the local day tour loops offered by each community snowmobile club.

About Northern Ontario

Welcome to Northern Ontario, Canada! Bigger than Texas, wilder than the west, more welcoming than a campfire in October, Northern Ontario is like no place else. Sunset Country is famous for its spectacular fishing lakes, Superior Country stretches into the deep north wildnerness, Algoma Country has Lake Superior as their back yard, and the Northeast provides excellent vacation destinations close to Toronto and other large urban centres in Southern Ontario.

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