By: Mike Jacobs
Last, but definitely not least, in our series of places that riders can ride right now, is the Northern Corridor.
One thing we love about the Northern Corridor is that it represents snowmobiling the way it used to be. It’s a bit more homemade, a bit more authentic, a bit less big business and a bit more adventurous.
Officially the name for OFSC District 15, the Northern Corridor is also the name of the trail system that connects 1,645 km of trails to the five major communities across the North— Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing, Hearst and Hornepayne—into one giant loop, along with five smaller loops and a whole bunch of local trails.
Super wide and low-traffic trails of the Northern Corridor
With very wide sled trails that are often likened to highways, these runs are built on old utility corridors and logging and mining roads, which keeps things fun. When we say that this is the way snowmobiling used to be, nowhere is this more evident than in the amazing accommodations all along the way, each with their own unique features. But more than anything, they all love snowmobilers.
Ownership changed hands recently, and there’s a real effort to reinvent the iconic Moose Motel in Smooth Rock Falls. It has a massive indoor storage garage that could easily house dozens of sleds, and a parking lot that is so massive, the owner allows tractor trailers to park outside.
An absolutely legendary motel/hotel, the Companion in Hearst is pure, unadulterated fun. There’s a super fun bar (which we’ve heard is being changed into a sports bar), an amazing restaurant with excellent food, indoor sled storage, and a monstrous parking lot.
An absolutely beautiful custom built inn, the Villa is the brainchild of Ghyslain Jacques, who has spared no expense making a high-class retreat in Hearst. The breakfast here is healthier than anywhere else on the Northern Corridor.
One of our favorite places to stay in Cochrane, the Best Western Swan Castle Inn has recently been renovated and has a free breakfast with a local touch.
There is a lot of pride in accommodations in the North, and nowhere is this more evident than the Queen’s Motel in Hearst. We love the pool for its throwback brown tile, the rooms are big and clean, the parking lot is huge, and the staff love sledders.
New rooms, pool and free breakfast—if only their parking lot was a big bigger. However, the trail goes right by the back door, so the Super 8 is great for riders passing through Kapuskasing with no truck!
Offering free breakfast and a giant parking lot, the Comfort Inn is located a little further into town than the Super 8, but is just as comfy.
Enjoying the “man cave” at Magpie Relais
Although not technically part of the Northern Corridor trails, if you keep riding south after Hornepayne, you’ll get to Dubreuilville where you’ll find this motel dedicated to powersports. The Magpie Relais has heated indoor storage for sleds, and a man cave in the basement.
As of right now you can ride the entire length of the TOP A from Cochrane to Hornepayne—a mighty 400-km run that technically could be done in a day. Better, though, to split it into two and spend a night in Kapuskasing or Hearst. There are some amazing places to stay listed above.
Right now you can do a nice little day loop north of Cochrane, on the L101, or head south for a big loop to Timmins and back on the TOP C. There are a few small loops around Kapuskasing north (L125) south (L123) east (L119) and west (L143). Northeast of Hearst are at least two day loops using L163 or L165. All of these are currently green, with a spot or two of yellow here and there. But trust us: their yellow is our green. The pride taken in these trails is second to none.
There are five tours on the Northern Corridor, but only one is open right now—although even as we write this article, the rest could open any day.
The Gateway to the North goes south from Cochrane to Timmins and clocks in at 215 km. It’s the only loop currently fully open.
The Abitibi Canyon Tour is 300 km and goes up and back to Fraserdale from Smooth Rock Falls where you’ll find gas and a tuna sandwich, if you’re really hungry. Gas is pricey, but you are deep in the middle of nowhere.
The Lumberjack Loop, at 145 km, is a good way to add a day to a longer trip, or if you just like to go slow and don’t feel like doing 300 km in a day. It launches and lands in Kapuskasing.
The Missinaibi Expedition Tour around Hearst is currently only half open, but we fully expect it to open within the next week. At 165 km, it’s the perfect day ride.
With all of these loops, you could easily spend a week in the Northern Corridor and never hit the same ground twice.
The choice is abundantly clear. If you want to make the most of your snowmobile season, you need to hit up the Northern Corridor. You won’t regret it.