By: Mike Jacobs
The late start to 2020’s sledding season means number two in a series of articles that aim to answer the most important question in early-season snowmobiling: Where Can I Ride Right Now? This entry is all about the town of Cochrane, Ontario. Home to the Polar Bear Habitat and launching point for thousands of amazing sledding trips into the wilds of the true North, Cochrane is a sledding town if there ever was one.
Right now there are plenty of trails open in and around Cochrane, making it an easy choice for early-season riding. You can be pretty sure they’ll have snow no matter what, and the local clubs work hard to ensure the trails are thoroughly prepped for locals and visitors alike. You’ll be sure to get a warm welcome no matter where you stay, as this is a town that loves snowmobilers.
Officially part of OFSC District 15 AKA the Northern Corridor, Cochrane is the start of the broader Northern Corridor system. Hotels, restaurants, snowmobile and powersports dealers and suppliers, gas and food are all laid out to ensure easy access for snowmobiles, as the deep cold gets here early and stays late.
Most important, though, is the work the Polar Bear Riders do to get the trails here ready. We highly recommend following their Facebook page for the most up-to-date condition reports from the area.
Just wrapping up some substantial renovations, the Best Western Swan Castle Inn is a great place for large groups. You can get rooms all on the same floor, and they have “party rooms” and a hot tub in the basement, with a locking sled storage area outside. Parking for big rigs is across the street at the Station Inn.
The Station Inn is a different sort of accommodation: set inside Cochrane’s train station, there’s a great restaurant attached, and plenty of parking.
Long loved by sledders, as it’s the first hotel you see on the way into town and is located right on the trail, the Thriftlodge recently redid their rooms in 2015. Fridges and microwaves in each room, a hot tub, fenced and gated sled parking, tons of space for your trailer and truck, fuel across the road, and they’re pet-friendly—it’s an easy pick.
One of the first places to pick up on the snowmobile craze, the North Adventure Inn has some wonderfully unique features like two-story rooms and igloo-style cottages. There’s a restaurant and bar on site, so you don’t have to go into town, and a secure sled garage to keep your machines warm. Add in an outdoor hot tub and massive parking area, you’ve got a recipe for a good time.
Huge, and we mean HUGE parking lot, where you can drive your sled right up to your door. Right next to the Esso. The Travelodge in Cochrane has clean new rooms, with TVs and pod-style coffee makers. If parking your sled right outside your door is important, this is the place.
Family-run motel with modern features, huge parking lot and drive-up parking for sleds. Many rooms have been redecorated with fireplaces, big flat-screen TVs, and plenty of space if you want to host a group in your room. The Westway Motel is definitely worth checking out.
The Chimo offers bare bones accommodations with kitchenettes, Wi-Fi and TV.
Cochrane is the closest place to ride currently that has literally days worth of riding without any yellow trails. There’s one complete loop to the south, riding to Timmins, then over to Iroquois Falls, then back up to Cochrane via TOP A, A111C, TOP C, A106C and TOP A (270 km total).
There’s a smaller loop to the north currently open, but you can also ride to Kirkland Lake and back, or to Smooth Rock Falls—heck, technically you could ride all the way to Hearst on the TOP A trail.
Unfortunately the Abitibi Canyon loop isn’t fully open yet, but you can still ride up one side, fuel up, and ride back—and as anyone who’s ridden these areas before can tell you, these trails are like snowmobile superhighways. When the loop to Fraserdale is complete you can ride up for food and gas, returning through Smooth Rock Falls for a 300-km ride.
When more of the trails open up, you have tons of options—and by the time you hit the road, many of these may be open. There’s the trail to La Reine, Quebec for gas and food, using A105Q. Take another day loop via TOP A, L103, TOP A106C and TOP C to Smooth Rock Falls (lunch & fuel), then back to Cochrane via TOP A, TOP A103, L101, A105Q & A (250 km total). Then there’s the southern loop to Iroquois Falls and Timmins (lunch and fuel).
There are several other small loops using local trails L101 and L103 and larger loop via TOP A106C and TOP C to Timmins and back. L105 is a cool ride to the provincial park called Greenwater.
Finally, you could always head back south to do the Gold Rush Tour—we love this video of that loop from a couple years back.
Cochrane is always a safe bet—the work of the volunteers, the friendliness of the local accommodations, and their naturally cold and snowy locale make it easy to recommend as a place that has snow right now!