Some of my most amazing sledding has occurred on snowmobile trails on various logging roads, abandoned rail lines, utility corridors and forest access routes. So just imagine if these routes were connected in one seamless trail network through the forested terrain of the rugged Canadian Shield. Well, dream no more because this is exactly what happens on OFSC recreational snowmobile trails in Northeastern Ontario.
Discover Northeastern Ontario
Northeastern Ontario is a vast expanse of wilderness territory located due north of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) between Algonquin Park and James Bay. Its eastside borders the Province of Quebec. The region includes Districts 11, 12, 14 and 15 of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), all of whom print district trail guides.
In Northeastern Ontario, I’ve found some of the widest-open, most horizon-stretching, adrenalin-pumping and eye-popping sledding anywhere. Thanks to this unrivalled network, anyone can put on serious miles there. 300-kilometer days are a breeze – snowmobiling simply doesn’t get any better than this. But it helps if you start with a plan.
Snowmobile touring in Northeastern Ontario is not the same as spending time on your local trails with family & friends or even going on a long day ride with your buds. It usually involves trailering and saddle bagging from location to location over multiple days.
The planning for your Northeastern Ontario snowmobile tour will depend on whether it’s for a family, couples’ or a guys’ ride. Also, what everyone’s expectations are and how experienced each rider is with touring. Just make sure that each rider has the legalities covered, such as a valid Ontario Snowmobile Trail Permit affixed to their sled, along with sled registration and insurance papers in pocket. The “who is going” decision plays a major role in deciding how far to trailer to a destination, daily ride distances, number of pits stops each day, and style of accommodations required.
There’s another huge determinant in deciding who’s going: Is each rider’s sled capable of doing a Northeastern Ontario tour? As much as a sled may be able to complete local rides at home, a snowmobile on tour has to be in good enough condition to make the entire trip without incident. Certainly there’s no guarantee even with new sleds, but why take the chance of all your best laid plans going down the dumper because someone’s sled is too old, always requires tinkering, is simply not well enough maintained, or won’t start when it’s really cold? Another concern is that even if a sled is in great shape, is it tour suitable and capable of keeping up with the others?
One other planning consideration is that when touring Northeastern Ontario, there’s always the possibility of encountering colder sub-zero temperatures than you may be used to. So be sure to take more under layers than usual, and have space to store them on your sled, because you may want to strip off some when the temperature climbs in the afternoons. Working hand & thumb warmers are a must and handle bar muffs are welcome, to say nothing of heated seats!
On each snowmobile tour, visiting riders need to respect the safety of the Northern Ontario communities you visit, service providers you encounter, residents you interact with, and of other snowmobilers, by following health protocols established by the Province and public health units. For your own convenience, this also means planning ahead for outdoor eating locations, washroom breaks and warm up stops.
Pick a Suitable Destination
When it comes to choosing a Northeastern Ontario tour destination, pick one that takes as little time as possible to trailer to given the time you have available, offers good staging accommodations, has enough different trails and towns for the number of days you want to ride, and that has sufficient amenities and services available on route to satisfy everyone in your riding group. Northeastern Ontario certainly checks all of these boxes, as well as delivering reliable snow and trail conditions throughout the winter. Just be sure to check the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide (ITG) for latest trail status before leaving home and each day’s ride.
Three Large Riding Areas
On the ITG, you’ll see that Northeastern Ontario is comprised of three large riding areas – south, central and north. In the boreal forested south, the gateway cities of Sudbury (via Highway 400/69) and North Bay (via Highway 11) provide many good trail riding choices, including multiple accommodations for day rides or staging tours farther into Northeastern Ontario. For riders hailing from the Ottawa area, Mattawa (via Highway 17) also provides good alternative access to trail riding. For Southern Ontario riders who choose to get on the snow with as little time on the road as possible, these destinations are closest to home.
Centrally, Northeastern Ontario is bounded to the west by Highway 144 (running from Sudbury to Timmins) and Highway 11 (running from North Bay to Cochrane and west to Hearst). TOP Trunk Trail C parallels Highway 144 from Sudbury to Timmins and on to Smooth Rock Falls, while TOP Trunk A meanders close to Highway 11 from North Bay to Hearst.
So once again, visiting sledders have multiple choices in this central area, three in fact. One is to trail ride north from North Bay to overnight at Temagami, Temiskaming Shores, Kirkland Lake or Elk Lake. Or ride north from Sudbury to overnight at Shining Tree, Gowganda, Mattagami or Gogama. Choice two is to trailer into this central area on Highway 11 for day rides around, or to stage your tour though the rest of Northeastern Ontario from any of Temagami, Temiskaming Shores, Kirkland Lake or Elk Lake.
Then there’s the north area. Here, you can do what hundreds of snowmobilers have done since before Christmas – trailer to the north area and ride the Northern Corridor to Hearst from Timmins, Matheson, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls or Kapuskasing. Or explore its many club trails.
Whatever your choice of area, Northeastern Ontario offers plenty of trail choices and Snow Tours for anything from a long weekend getaway to a full blown sledding vacation. Regardless of your choice, fuel, food and lodging are located on every Top Trail and there’s always a snowmobile-friendly community waiting just down the trail to welcome visiting snowmobilers. So why not take advantage of your Ontario Staycation Tax Credit in Northeastern Ontario?