An Outdoor Adventurer's Guide to Ontario
Ontario is the picture of cities near nature. You can leave a major urban center and be out on a boat or climbing a mountain in just a few hours. This proximity has turned Ontario into an outdoor adventure capital, one so extensive that you’ll never run out of new experiences to try.
We’ve put together a quick outdoor adventurer’s guide to Ontario so you make the most of your days in the wild.
Adventure by land
There are 270 provincial parks and six national parks in Ontario, and every inch contains some new opportunity for an adventure.
For one, these parks are an absolute hub of hiking. Over 1100 miles of hiking trails crisscross the province, bringing you through all kinds of terrain on both short treks and days or weeks-long trips. Hike your way to the 330-foot deep Barron Canyon in Algonquin Provincial Park, marvel at the picturesque Chutes Provincial Park waterfalls, or test your physical fitness by climbing “The Crack” at Killarney Provincial Park, a series of huge tumbled boulders. There’s no way to do all of the hiking in Ontario justice in just one paragraph. You’re just going to have to go out and live it!
Seeing things from the ground isn’t always enough of an adventure. Thankfully, Ontario is also home to fantastic rock climbing and bouldering. Popular climbs include the limestone peaks along the Niagara Escarpment and the rock walls of Bon Echo Provincial Park. Plus, once you’ve conquered the outside of mountains, head inside for some spelunking. Take a cave tour and hunt for fossils at Bonnechere Caves in Eganville or explore the seven Warsaw Caves, formed by glaciers during the last ice age.
From two feet, move to two wheels. Similar to hiking, there are more miles of mountain biking trails than you could possibly conquer in one lifetime. Abandoned logging roads, steep descents, deep forest routes; you name it and Ontario has it. Single Tracks has compiled a list of many of the province’s mountain biking trails with helpful information like degree of difficulty and length. If you really don’t know where to start, the Bruce Peninsula Mountain Bike Adventure Park and Sir Sam’s trail network are both popular among locals.
If extreme is your middle name, all kinds of gravity-defying adventures (that probably don’t fit in the “land” category) can be found in and around Ontario. Cross the Eagle Canyon Suspension bridges, 152 feet above the canyon floor. Walk through the tree canopy of the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. Zipline 1,000 feet over Heart Lake in Brampton. Strap in for a tandem hang glide through the skies above Waterloo. Bungee jump 150 feet above the Ottawa River. Go skydiving in Toronto or Niagara. These are the activities bucket lists were built for.
Adventure by snow
As the seasons change and the weather gets a little colder, a new group of outdoor adventures become accessible to those who love the snow and ice.
Skiers and snowboarders can hunt down powder across a number of different mountains in the province. If you’re visiting Toronto, Blue Mountain Resort is a great bet. The largest ski resort in Ontario, it’s only a couple hours from the big city. If you’re in Ottawa, Calabogie Peaks Resort has the highest vertical in Ontario, at 780 feet. If you’re not in the big city, there are other mountains and resorts scattered throughout the province, from Mount St. Louis Moonstone in Coldwater, to Devil’s Elbow Ski Area outside of Peterborough, to Horseshoe Resort in Barrie.
Horseshoe Resort is also a great place to try fat biking. If you’re a mountain biking fan, fat biking is like the winter equivalent, allowing you to take on the snow in two wheels thanks to some extra wide tires.
Are you a fan of man’s best friend? There are a number of places in Ontario where you can mush a dogsledding team and fly through the snow at a good pace. The real power of these animals is put on display during the province’s dogsled races, including Marmora Snofest near Peterborough and the Kearney Dog Sled Races north of Huntsville. If dogsledding wasn’t already adventurous enough, skijoring incorporates cross-country skiing into the mix. Visit Magnetawan’s Quiet Bay Log Motel or Woodland Echoes, strap some skis to your feet, and let the dogs take you for a ride.
The vast wilds of Ontario also provide plenty of opportunities for ice climbing. Strap spikes on your feet, grab a couple of ice axes, and take off on a 300-foot high ice route… or just stay near the ground and learn the ropes. Join Outdoor Skills and Thrills for a guided climb of beautiful sites around Thunder Bay, or try both ice climbing and winter caving close to Toronto with One Axe Pursuits.
Adventure by water
If you thought Minnesota had a lot of lakes, you won’t believe what Ontario brings to the table. Over a half million lakes and waterways can be found within the province, meaning there are about a half million ways to have an adventure on the water.
If you love to get out there in the white water, the Ottawa River is a great place to start. In fact, the Ottawa Valley is known as the Whitewater Capital of Canada. Choose one of the local rafting companies and, with experienced guides at the helm, safely splash and roll through one of the world’s great whitewater routes. Whitewater canoeing is also available on six different rivers at Algonquin Provincial Park. These rivers take on new life during the spring melt when the water levels rise, so you’re going to want to plan your visit for then.
Or, for a completely different way to split through the whitewater, sign up for a Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour of the gorge on the lower Niagara.
You can also experience Ontario’s many waterways from down below. Head to the 1,000 Islands region, strap on your scuba gear, and dive among the region’s 200 shipwrecks. Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory is also home to over 20 shipwrecks, and is one of the most popular scuba destinations in Canada.
Closing out this list of water adventures is kiteboarding. Take advantage of the wind and waves in Georgian Bay and learn this new sport with Blue Mountain Kiteboarding. You can also get lessons from the Toronto Kite Club without leaving the comforts of the city.
Ready to start planning your adventure? Visit the Ontario Travel website