Hastings County stretches from Lake Ontario near Belleville to the southern boundary of Algonquin Park near Barry’s Bay. In between, you will find lookouts, trails, lakes and many opportunities to get outside and lose yourself in thought in winter’s glory.
Here are 20+ things to do outdoors during winter in Hastings County including Belleville, Quinte West, Centre Hastings, Hastings Highlands, Marmora and Lake, Tweed, Bancroft, Deseronto, Carlow/Mayo, Faraday, Limerick, Madoc, Stirling-Rawdon, Tudor & Cashel, Tyendinaga and Wollaston.
1. Trek from Stirling to Tweed
Let’s start with one of the longest and most stunning trails that signifies the natural beauty of the area. The Central Hastings Heritage loop covers 156 kilometres for hikers, skiers and snowshoers along a former rail line. On the way, you’ll see quaint towns, such as Madoc, Marmora and Stirling, while catching glimpses of waterways too.
Price: Skiers pay $3.50 for a day pass, $15 for a week, or $35 for the year.
2. Go treasure hunting
If you love an adventure, you’ll love exploring the 50 geocaches sites around O’Hara Mill Homestead near Madoc, including five on its 85 acres. This blends the history of this heritage property with the high-tech hobby of finding treasure in nook and crannies all over the area, even Ontario’s first gold mine. Admission is by donation.
Address: 638 Mill Road, Madoc
3. Hike a ridge to see frozen rapids
You’ll have to break your own trail at Vanderwater Conservation Area but it’s worth the sights you’ll see from its high ridge. Several spots along the 15-kilometre trail will inspire you to stop and admire the scenery. You can also hike on its 257 hectares on the Moira River to see the frozen rapids.
512 Vanderwater Road, Thomasburg
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4. Go downhill in Belleville
Get your thrill on two large tobogganing hills. Head to the north end of West Riverside Park, after parking on North Park Street off Bell Boulevard. For a second adventure, the east side of Zwick’s Island Park allows you to descend from the top in any direction.
373 Moira St. East and 10 Bay Bridge Road, Belleville
5. Hit the trail or the boardwalk
H.R. Frink Conservation Area and Outdoor Education Centre offer two sets of trails. You can go south to the wetland via a boardwalk and the provincially significant wetland and its denizens. Or you can meander through the forests along Thrasher Road. Either way, you can walk along multiple trails that amount to 12km and really stretch your legs.
381 and 384 Thrasher Road, Plainfield
6. Hook some walleye
If you want a photo with a trophy fish, a big walleye will take that item off your bucket list. The Bay of Quinte is a hot spot for these big fish as they migrate there from Lake Ontario and snap at the bait that comes down through the ice. You can rent a hut near the Norris-Whitney Bridge on Hwy. 62. Call for prices. An interactive fishing mapcan be obtained from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
7. Visit an old homestead
The McGeachie Conservation Area takes you back in time to 150 years ago when settlers built a structure there. However, in the winter, the highlights are outside on the 358 acres and the walking trails that take you to Steenburg Lake and past creeks and beaver ponds.
8. Saddle up near Stirling
Fina Vista Farms welcomes riders to its trails through the Oak Hills. Get out into the fresh air with an equine companion as you wind your way through rolling fields. An hour-long ride costs $65 per person.
1008 Tuftsville Road, Stirling
9 Get your motor running
A trip along the Hastings Highland Tour will cover 240 kilometres on your snowmobile. You’ll ride along forest access roads, rail beds and the curves of rolling hills, with a mix of terrain.
Price: Get your permit from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobiling Clubs for $45 for a weekend or $270 for the full season.
10. Take a trail with a horse, of course
Drawing their name from their location at the southern tip of Ontario’s most famous park, South Algonquin Trails welcomes riders from ages six and up. Their guided trail rides take beginners through veterans through fascinating landscapes.
Price: Reserve in advance. Rides cost $60 for a half-hour, $80 for a full hour and more for longer explorations to Gut Rapids or High Falls Lookout.
11. Explore in peace
Lester B. Pearson Peace Park can easily be missed on Hwy. 7, but it’s worth a break during a road trip. Tucked in from the noise of the highway, it is a retreat with sculptures and signs that encourage you to find meaning in the natural landscape around you.
12. Ride in the wild
Your ride could be a snowmobile, dogsled or ATV. Highland Wilderness Tours offers every option for its guided tours around Bancroft, Maynooth and Algonquin Park. A dogsled tour costs $100 for two people. Book early and get additional rates for other services.
13. Meander around the Mill
Follow any of the seven ski and snowshoe trails around the O’Hara Mill Homestead and Conservation Area. The routes crisscross each other so you can stay out in the fresh air for as long as you want, depending on which way you go. Watch for old stone fences, majestic trees and crackling creeks.
Address: 638 Mill Road, Madoc
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14. Lake view vs. nature view
Potters Creek Conservation Area has two personalities expressed by its two trails over seven kilometres. If you go south of Old Hwy. 2, you’ll find an easy-to-follow paved path with a view of Lake Ontario. Head north instead and you meet hikers and cross-country skiers revelling in the beauty of the forest. It’s your call.
2061 and 2056 Old Highway 2, Belleville
15. Wildlife watch
The Corbyville section of the Eastern Ontario Trails system is rich in wildlife. Start in the village now absorbed by Belleville and stride north on skis or snowshoes. Along the way, you may see bears, deer, rabbits, fox, squirrels, wild turkeys, woodpeckers…you get the idea. Bring your camera to capture the memories.
Price: Trail fees cost $3.50 for a day pass, $15 for a week, or $35 for the year
16. Spot the roots of the old hotel
Massassauga Point Conservation Area once housed a hotel whose foundation can be discovered along the four-kilometre of trails on the property. However, you will likely be looking at the view of the Bay of Quinte or the limestone outcroppings on your route. You can hike, snowshoe or ski on the alvar plains.
1280 Massassauga Road, Belleville
17. Travel the trail from Tweed to Bancroft
This section of the Eastern Ontario Trails system takes 78 kilometres to cover the many scenic highlights, including the former Marmora Mine. You can begin in Tweed, just south of Hwy. 7, and trek north to gem-rich Bancroft or just cover part of the route in between. Eastern Ontario Trail fees are $3.50 for a day pass, $15 for a week, or $35 for the year for skiers, but hikers and snowshoers are also welcome.
18. Stroll on the Sager Trail
For an easy outing, just to get out of the house, strut your stuff on the half-kilometre Sager Conservation Area trail. It travels through level fields for those who aren’t seeking a strenuous adventure.
30 Golf Course Road, Quinte West
19. Visit Coe Hill
This lovely town is home to Nellie Lunn Trail Park, a 100-acre recreation area with two trails, one leading to Urbach Lake. Find your way there along Ridge Road and enjoy the peace and quiet as you follow the red and blue trail markers.
20. Go Skating
No winter is complete without hitting one of the rinks. Head to your neighbourhood rink or the rink at Robin Jeffrey Park or Bird Park. You can also check out the free outdoor rinks by Batawa Lions Club.
21. Geocache at this giant rock
If you like to geocache, then you may wish to try the related activity of EarthCache, where you discover unique geological formations. The Bleasdell Boulder makes the cut as it stands almost seven metres tall, 13 meters long and more than seven meters wide. Discover it as you snowshoe or hike around the conservation area that carries its name.
Address: County Road 33, Quinte West
22. Cross Country Skiing, Hiking, Snow Shoeing
Eastern Ontario’s snow-covered trailsoffer some of the best cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking trails around.