With a population of about 165,000, The City of Greater Sudbury is the largest urban centre in Ontario completely surrounded by snowmobile trails.
The so called “Nickel City” is located less than a four-hour trailer drive north of the Greater Toronto Area on Highway 169. As such, it’s a main gateway for snowmobilers riding farther into Northeastern Ontario.
But Greater Sudbury is also a popular snowmobiling destination in its own right. From here, 2,000 kilometres of well-maintained trails spoke out to places like Espanola, Killarney and Wanapitei Lake.
So there’s plenty of great day riding to be had staging out of Sudbury. This includes four premier snow tours, designated loops that make area exploring and navigation even easier.
Four Day-Ride Snow Tours
On a previous visit to the home of the Big Nickel and Science North, I enjoyed snowmobiling the two snow tours positioned north of Sudbury.
The one to the northeast is the 223-kilometre Chiniguchi Wolf Loop around Wanapitei Lake. Meanwhile, the 253-kilometre Cartier Moose Loop circles to the northwest. Both of these are primarily land-based routes with only a few staked ice crossings.
But for this ride, my goal was to ride the region’s other two snow tours. The Rainbow Elk Loop runs south of Sudbury to Killarney for a round trip of about 252-kilometres.
Beside it, the 185-kilometre Deer Loop circles southeast of the city towards La Cloche Mountains to take in the Espanola area. Each of these snow tours are a mix of land and ice routes, with some major stretches of staked lake trails.
Calculate Daily Distances
For planning purposes with each of these four snow tours, please note that your actual daily ride distance will depend on where you stage from. In our case, the Moonlight Inn & Suites. So calculate the mileage from your starting location to the access point for the snow tour you are riding that day. And then double it to take into account the same return distance. These additional kilometres will make your day trip slightly longer than the distance shown for the snow tour itself.
Rainbow Elk Loop Options
With the Rainbow Elk Loop, snowmobilers have two options if you do it clockwise. One is to do the full ride to Killarney for lunch and fuel. This town provides the only fuel, food and lodging services actually on the tour.
The other option is not going into Killarney to shorten the loop by about 68 kilometres. Instead, cut off on to TOP C113. It travels numerous ice crossings, so the going is quicker than by trail. But there are two other factors to consider with this shorter option.
One is that there’s no lunch stop on route, so bring a snack. The other is that there’s no fuel on route. So unless you’re carrying extra gas, this alternative round trip total may be too far for most sleds to go without filling up. However, Panache Lake Marina has gas and a variety store. It’s only a quick 12-kilometre detour west from the Rainbow Elk Loop intersection of TOP C113 and TOP C108D following the stake line on the lake of that name.
Deer Loop West of Town
Our next day’s ride, the 185-kilometre Deer Loop, is positioned west of the Rainbow Elk Loop. This mileage count starts at the eastern terminus of the loop on TOP Trail D109 near the Town of Lively. From the Moonlight Inn & Suites, it’s about 46 additional kilometres via TOP D111 & C108D to access this loop. So its total distance becomes about 277 klicks door to door, returning the same way. On route, there’s fuel and lunch outbound at Nairn and Espanola. And on the way back, gas at Panache Lake Marine.
For the final day of our Sudbury visit, we wanted a short loop so we could load up in daylight to trailer home. Having completed the two southern loops, we headed north of town for a circle ride to Kukagami Lake (fuel only) and then west to Wanapitei Lake for lunch at Rocky’s (fuel). Our total was 180 kilometres, which got us back to the Moonlight by mid-afternoon to head home.
Snow Tour Signage
Whatever your choice of trails and loops in the Greater Sudbury area, all routes and intersections typically provide some of Ontario’s best signage for easy navigation. Both the northern snow tours, Chiniguchi Wolf Loop and Cartier Moose Loop also have their own snow tour signs to assist snowmobilers to stay on track.
Unfortunately, the snow tour signs for the Rainbow Elk and Deer Loops are a confusing mish-mash. So on the snow, riders are left trying to figure out which loop is which and where each goes. My advice to visiting riders is to follow the trail numbers, not loop signs for both the Rainbow Elk and Deer snow tours.
Regardless, trail riding in the Greater Sudbury typically ranges from good to exceptional. Yes, as with any major population centre, in town trails can take a beating that constantly challenges clubs to keep up with grooming. But snowmobilers don’t have to go far out of town to hit generally impeccable trails spoking out in every direction.
So if you’re looking for a long weekend staging destination with plenty of trail options plus big city amenities, the Greater Sudbury Region has it all!
Where We Stayed: