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The Lowdown on The Highlands

Snowmobiling Ontario's Almaguin Highlands

By: Martin Lortz

Can it get any better than this? When it comes to winter and snowmobilers, our demands are simple: make it cold, make it snowy, and make it long—oh yeah, and let there be groomed trails.

Take today, for example—its midday, midweek, and approaching mid-March. We already ticked off 120 km on the odometer riding a perfectly groomed trail through a forest turned into a winter wonderland, courtesy of an overnight snowfall. Now we’ve regrouped in the company of strangers for a meal at a restaurant—where snowmobiles outnumber cars 10 to one in the parking lot—before we disperse back into the forest. Welcome to the snowmobile experience in Ontario.

I say Ontario as this scene is repeated all over the province—check out the OFSC Interactive Trail Map to see what I mean. But today, to be more specific, welcome to the Almaguin Highlands.

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Located along Highway 11 in the northern half of Ontario’s Explorers’ Edge region, between the towns of Kearney and Powassan, the Almaguin Highlands has become somewhat of an outdoor adventure secret playground. The area's mysterious existence is partly due to the fact that highway improvements over the years have bypassed all the small towns along the way. I have been guilty of following Highway 11 north many a time, unaware of what I'm missing.

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As snowmobilers, what we’re missing is snow and plenty of it. Thanks to the lake effect snow courtesy of the Georgian Bay, 300 cm of the white stuff blankets the forest each year. Add to that plenty of trail options lovingly pampered by the local clubs and you’ve got yourself a destination.

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On the plus side of the highway improvements, getting here is now a breeze, and you can find staging areas just minutes off the highway. We opted for the centrally located town of Sundridge. If you’re visiting for the day, you can park at the hockey arena. If a more extended stay is in order, it’s hard to beat Caswell Resort. The historic hotel has it all—comfortable rooms, pool, food on site, choice of a room or cabin—and of course, the trail right at your door.

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Once ready to ride, there are trail options in all directions. Day one, with the Ontario snowmobiling trail guide in hand, we go west. We check out the famous Ice Caves on the east end of Dewfish Lake and enjoy a delicious lunch at Edgewater Park Lodge. 220 twisty kilometers of trail makes for an unforgettable day.

Day two, we point the sleds northeast along perfectly groomed trails where the highlight of the day is sharing the trail with no one.

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No snowmobile, no problem: the good folks at Eagle Lake Narrows Country Store will be happy to set you up. They’ve been renting sleds and introducing people to snowmobiling for 20 years. You can head out for a guided tour or explore the area on your own.

Almaguin Highlands Snowmobiling - Martin Lortz - 20022625-edit

Snowmobilers really do have simple needs, and the Almaguin Highlands are happy to fill them. Lots of snow, a long season, excellent trails, and easy access. The secret is out: the Ontario snowmobiling experience doesn't get any better than this!

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