Sitting in the middle of southern Ontario, this area – best known for its communities of Barrie and Orillia – is easy to travel to from any direction, including north from Toronto via Hwy. 400. Nestled between Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, it has great access to on-ice activities while its vast forests and trails offer many adventures on land as well.
1. Tube down the mountain
Snow tubing offers the rush of the downhill experience without the speed and equipment needed for skiing and snowboarding. The whole family can enjoy this old-fashioned winter fun together. Tubing rates at Blue Mountain range from $7 for tykes to $17 for adults (Monday – Friday) and $9 for tykes, to $19 for adults (Saturday, Sunday and stat holidays). Of course, the slopes also boast seven glade runs, three terrain parks, two beginner centres, seven chairlifts and four surface lifts for skiers.
Address: 190 Gord Canning Drive, Collingwood
2. Exhale along the trail
For any level and any length, jump aboard the Ganaraska Trail for any stretch of its 500-kilometre network for a hike, ski or snowshoe adventure. It begins in Ramara then follows the shore of Lake Couchiching and the Lightfoot Trail system through the City of Orillia, the Mariposa Trial, through Scout Valley, to Old Barrie Road and Oro-Medonte through fields and woods.
3. Ski over the Moonstone
This family-owned ski resort, which is located just north of Barrie in the snow belt region of Ontario, offers 36 slopes, three terrain parks, nine chairlifts and three carpets with great hills for skiing and snowboarding. It recently expanded its chalet, lifts and lighting along the slopes for safer night skiing.
Mount St. Louis Moonstone
Address: 24 Mount St. Louis Road W., Coldwater
4. Skate atop Blue Mountain
Cruise along a 1.1-kilometre ice-skating loop while enjoying extraordinary views along the Niagara Escarpment. Ice skate rentals are available and all skill levels are welcome. Rates range from $7 for tykes to $17 for adults (Monday to Friday) and $9 for tykes to $19 for adults (Saturday, Sunday and Stat Holidays).
5. Saints and Sinners Bootleggers’ Tour
This former epicentre for bootlegging now welcomes visitors to tour 23 of its legal microbreweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries. Much of the brews produced here come from locally grown grapes, apples and potatoes, adding to their stories. Download the map here.
6. Ride the trails your way
Hardwood Ski and Bike is a full-service cross country ski and mountain bike centre with more than 40 kilometres of cross-country ski trails and 14 kilometres of snowshoe trails. Get out and enjoy the trail network of eight different loops ranging from three to 22 km. There is a trail for every skill level, from beginner to elite racer seven days a week. Trail passes cost $29 for seniors and students and $35 for adults for the day. (Blue Mountain also offers fat bike trails.)
Address: 402 Old Barrie Road, Oro Station
7. Follow the quest for quilts
If you want to stay in the warmth of your car, but still get out of the house, you can trace the Barn Quilt Trail. Farmers have painted bright designs on their barns with the help of local artists and volunteers. The trail meanders through every township with 150 designs to discover from Bradford West Gwillimbury to Collingwood and from Severn to Adjala-Tosorontio.
8. Trace the First Nations’ peoples’ path
Experience the Nine Mile Portage Recreation Trail that our First Nations people created, that fur traders followed and the British used to win the War of 1812. Nine Mile Portage Recreation Trail begins in Memorial Square in Barrie and ends at Fort Willow in Springwater, with a variety of terrain types along the way. Note that some portions of the trail include steep inclines.
9. Hike along the harbour
The Penetanguishene Trail is part of the Trans Canada network and links Tiny Township and the Town of Midland as well as two other routes to points of interest along the harbour including Marinas, Tom Coffin and the Discovery Harbour. The trails are suitable for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
10. Ski into the Valley
Horseshoe Valley Resort near Barrie offers more than 30 kilometres of double-track set machine groomed trails for cross country skiing. The resort has 28 ski runs, 304 feet of vertical rise, five lifts and Ontario’s longest beginner’s carpet. Cross-country, fat biking and snowshoeing trails are also open daily.
Address: 1101 Horseshoe Valley Road, Barrie
11. Fill your day with birdsong
The Copeland Forest, owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, has 4,400 acres with many kilometres of trails and is a great destination for snowshoeing, x-country skiing and hiking. There are a couple of access points available. Visit the Friends of the Copeland Forest website for a map with trail information and parking lot locations.
Address: Ingram Road, Hillside
12. Introduce your kids to the great outdoors
Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre has more than 25 beautiful kilometers of groomed trails to explore. The paths are suitable for both beginner and experienced skiers. It is a good idea to call ahead to inquire the availability of rentals. Admission costs $9 for kids over age four and $12 for adults. For fun, at-home, nature-based crafts and games, go to Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre.
Address: 16160 Highway 12 East, Midland
13. Bring your furry friend to the Bark Park
Unleash your pent-up pooch and socialize with other dog owners at this three-acre paradise just five minutes from Bradford. Park for free and walk for one minute through the trees to find a pet playground that will amuse you and your beloved animal companion.
Address: 2450 9th Line, Bradford
14. Get your sled roaring
The region has more than 300 kilometres of scenic groomed snowmobile trails linking to Georgian Bay, Blue Mountains and Muskoka. The trails offer a variety of terrains including forests, rolling hills, rail lines and farmers fields and are the gateway to trails heading north. Travel through quaint communities on trails within the City of Orillia and the Townships of Oro Medonte, Ramara and Severn. A permit for the full season costs $260.
Address: Orillia District Snowmobile Club
15. Walk beside your novice skater
The Hanna Park Skating Trail in Port Carling is a perfect option for parents or grandparents who might not be able to skate. The walking path around the outside of the trail for you to follow along with a skating child. Enter via the end of Bailey Street.
16. Fly down a hill on your toboggan
The hills in this area provide ample opportunities to burn off some calories as you climb uphill before the thrill of descending anew. The following is a list of toboggan slopes in Simcoe County:
• Midland – Campbell’s Hill in Little Lake Park, 606 Little Lake Park Road
• Clearview Township – Highlands Nordic, 1182 Nottawasaga Concession 10, Duntroon. The cost is $8 per person or $4 per person in a group of 10 or more and those under three are free.
• Orillia – Couchiching Golf & Country Club – 370 Peter Street North. The hill is on North East Street.
• Barrie – Sunnidale Park – 27 Sunnidale Road or Hillcrest Public School – 184 Toronto Street
• Innisfil – Innisfil Beach Park – 676 Innisfil Beach Road
• Ramara – 7269 Simcoe Road 169, Washago
• Oro-Medonte – Sweet Water Park – 6 Line North, Sugarbush
• Wasaga Beach – 92 Wasaga Sands Drive
17. Life’s okay aboard a sleigh
Rainbow View Farms near Phelpston offers horse-drawn sleigh rides and wagon rides through a scenic vista. Slow down and enjoy the company of friends and family in the fresh farm air. Rides cost $190 for up to 15 people for an hour.
Address: 1274 Rainbow Valley Road West
Rolling Sands Percherons offers the same service.
Address: 2251 Line 4 North, Oro-Medonte
18. Gush then mush
Windrift Adventures provides dog sled rides and tours. Half hour dog sled tours last 30 minutes and depart every 45 minutes from December to March. The tours cost $60 per person Monday – Thursday and $70 per person Friday – Sunday and on holidays. Prices are based on two participants per sled.
Address: 5753 Line 8 North, Moonstone
19. Ice fishing – hook, line and sinker
Kempenfelt Bay is one of the most popular spots to drop a line and bring home dinner. If you’ve ever been to Barrie in the winter, you may have noticed a huge number of tiny huts sitting on frozen surface of Kempenfelt Bay, or Barrie’s waterfront area. Contact outdoor companies about renting huts and gear if you don’t have your own.
20. Settle into a saddle
RD Farms offers horseback riding along its picturesque trails and the town of Coldwater. Make an appointment and call for pricing.
Address: 3171 Line 8, Coldwater
21. The beach is for more than summer
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park offers more than 30 kilometres of groomed trials. Experienced skiers can challenge themselves on the High Dunes Trail, while beginner skiers can enjoy the Blueberry Trail. The Wasaga Nordic & Trail Centre rents out equipment rentals, sells refreshments and offers shelter when you need to warm up! Your park entrance of $23.75 per car gives you access to the trails, but not the rentals and snacks.
Address: 11 – 22nd Street North
22. Skate through the forest
Arrowhead Provincial Park Skating Trail near Huntsville offers a unique skating trail amidst the trees. The trail is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and closes from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for maintenance.
The cost to use the trail is $18 vehicle on weekdays and $21 on weekends. (For a break, you can also go tubing on its hill.)
Address: 451 Arrowhead Park Road, Huntsville
23. Skate around a museum
Simcoe Museum Skating Trail in Minesing just adds to the charm of the other services offered indoors. It wends its way for 1.2 kilometres through the buildings and trees on site. Admission costs $10 for the trail and the museum combined.
Address: 1151 ON-26, Minesing
24. Six more trails to ski, snowshoe or hike
There are many other options to get out and explore. For variety, try any one of these as well:
North Simcoe Rail Trail
The all-season trail runs from downtown Springwater from the edge of the Minesing Wetlands then into Tiny Township, and Heritage Park in Elmvale. It is part of the Trans Canada Trail.
The Hunter Russell Nature Trail
The trail winds along Willow Creek in Midhurst from the corner of Doran Road and Belmont to Cowdray Park.
Simcoe County Forest
This municipally-owned forest in near Springwater has more than 130 individual tracts of forest covering more than 32,000 acres.
Uhthoff Recreational Trail
The trail runs from Orillia to Waubaushene for hikers or snowmobilers.
Oro-Medonte Rail Trail
This 28-kilometre rail trail near Orillia gives visitors a view of lovely Oro-Medonte close up. The trail is shared with the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club each winter.
Matchedash Bay Provincial Wildlife Area
This two-kilometre loop trail near Coldwater take you through the largest marsh in the area. It is ideal for skiing and snowshoeing.
Use this interactive map tool to show you how to access them all:
25. One more retreat for skiers and snowshoers only
At Bass Lake Provincial Park, follow Waterview Trail and learn how this former farm was reborn as a vital recreational area. The parks fields and trails are perfect for skiing and snowshoeing in peaceful quiet.
Address: 2540 Bass Lake Road East, Oro-Medonte