Though everyone loves to get away for a week on the open road exploring the best this beautiful country has to offer, sometimes you just can’t make the time! Fear not – a weekend getaway can be everything you need, complete with the most Canadian of activities, from skating to dog sledding.
Arrowhead Provincial Park boasts one of the most beautiful natural skating trails around, clocking in at just over 1.3km in length. As with most things, it’s important to keep in mind that weekends tend to be busier than weekdays, so get there early to ensure you can hop on. If the trail is at capacity, the park also has a skating rink you can check out. If you’re visiting a little later in the winter season, be aware that skating is weather permitting. Unfortunately when we visited, a heat swell had just occurred and we were unable to hit the trail. If ice skating isn’t your cup of tea, the park offers rentals on snowshoes, and there are plenty of options for hiking in general (their classic trail runs a whopping 8km). If you want to stay the night, Arrowhead has cabin rentals as well (though these usually need to be booked well in advance due to demand).
After a long day of driving and exploring, Deerhurst Resort is the perfect spot to kick your feet up and relax (even parking here is stress-free, as they have plenty of room). Naturally, we had to check out the Amba Spa for a little downtime. Offering a full line of massages and other spa services, the staff do an excellent job of making your experience special. If you aren’t quite ready to call it a day yet, Deerhurst Resort has tons of other fun activities, like snowshoeing, fat biking (cycling through the snow on big tires), snowmobiling, and winter disc golf. If you brought the kids along, take them to the Stoneleigh Farms to visit the animals or ride a pony! You can even take the whole family on a sleigh ride, driven around by two majestic horses. For the less outdoorsy, grab a few friends and check out the escape cabins where you work as a team to solve puzzles and solve the room.
North Ridge Ranch
This is what we’ve all been waiting for. North Ridge Ranch is the destination for all things dog sledding. Operating out of Huntsville for more than 15 years, owners Brad and Leah create an unforgettable experience (along with their 60+ Alaskan Huskies) racing through the wilds of Muskoka. Due to COVID restrictions, the experience differed slightly from their standard operations, but it was still amazing. Since congregating indoors isn’t permissible during these times, waiting for check-in, as well as the outdoor instruction session after (40 minutes) got quite chilly, and we certainly did not dress warm enough. Don’t make the same mistake, come prepared! The trail run was alongside 4 other couples. At 6 dogs per sled, the group had a whopping 30 Huskies ready to take us on an adventure. These strong, perfectly trained pups have power beyond what you can imagine. If you didn’t have your foot slightly on the brake throughout the whole ride (or even when you come to a complete stop) the eager beasts will pull the whole sled out from under your feet. There were numerous times where you experience total tunnel vision with the trees whipping by as you travelled along at speeds above 15 kms/hr. You can literally feel the excitement of the dogs as they pull your sled, and it’s certainly something everyone should try once.
Finally, we arrive in the heart of the Kawarthas. Elmhirst’s Resort is one of the most beautiful destinations, sitting directly on Rice Lake. The lake is widely considered to be one of the best fishing destinations in Eastern Ontario, as the multi-species lake has everything from big and smallmouth bass, walleye, and even muskie. During the winter, ice fishing is a popular option, with people flocking from far and wide to experience the fishing. You can rent a cottage at the resort, but conveniently enough, there’s plenty of room to park a Class B Motorhome or Campervan. While many of the activities here are geared toward the warmer months, we found ourselves quite content walking around, exploring the many trails, and just hanging out on the ice watching people ice fishing! The weather was changing slightly when we were at the resort, and so the idea of skating was a little bit scary. Due to the temperature, the ice below was shifting slightly, causing really loud noises that echoed throughout the lake. As neat as this wonder of nature was, it was certainly a tad unsettling.