The Province of Ontario is huge. In fact, its 415,000-square mile land mass makes Ontario larger than either Alaska or Texas.
The province also has over 19,000 miles of maintained snowmobile trails, often cited as “the world’s largest recreational trail system”. So, when it comes to planning a short Ontario snowmobile adventure, your first decision is where to ride.
Choose Eastern Ontario
One good choice is Eastern Ontario, home to about 20% of the provincial trail system operated by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). This heartland of rural Ontario is located in the southeast corner of the province, bounded on the south by the St. Lawrence River, and to the north by the Ottawa River and Algonquin Park. On the south side, it also shares the international border with the State of New York, and its eastern boundary is with Quebec.
From a snowmobiling perspective, Eastern Ontario includes the Upper Canada Snowmobile Region (OFSC District 1) and the Snow Country Snowmobile Region (OFSC District 6). These two adjacent regions are linked by Trans Ontario Provincial (TOP) Trails. Each also provides a myriad of local trails ripe for exploration and generally decent snow conditions in a normal winter.
Choose Smiths Falls
But even Eastern Ontario is too much territory to ride for a short visit. So, with only three days available, we looked at what doable loops are available from a central location. This narrowed our staging choice to the Town of Smiths Falls in Lanark County. With a population of 8,780, Smiths Falls is big enough to offer a full range of amenities and services for snowmobilers, while retaining its hospitable, small town friendliness.
Most important, TOP Trail E runs right through town. It provides easy access to interesting day loops in every direction. And best of all for our three-day visit, this trunk trail also offers direct trail access to a well-appointed staging hotel, the Best Western Smiths Falls (See Where We Stayed).
Amenities & Services
The Best Western Smiths Falls provides ample truck & trailer parking, plus sled parking in front of its ground floor rooms. Reservations include a complimentary hot breakfast, and there’s a gas station right across the street. Meanwhile for a town its size, Smiths Falls boasts a plethora of tasty eateries.
We sampled several great ones for our nightly diners (See Where We Ate). What’s more, our treat-loving group were thrilled to discover the neighbouring Dairy Queen, which quickly became our nightly go to for frozen goodies!
Where We Rode
LOOP ONE: From the Best Western, we snowmobiled three loops. Our 178-mile Day One started going south towards The City of Brockville and the St. Lawrence River. Then, our route swung east and north to within a stone’s throw of the Ottawa Airport before hightailing it west back into Smiths Falls. We lunched at the popular Red Dot Café in Osgoode, where we also fuelled up.
LOOP TWO: Day Two, we travelled 179 miles north on TOP Trail A, swung east on local trails through Constance Bay, and stopped at Pakenham for fuel after lunching at Bridges Grill & Pub. From there, it’s an easy ride south through Carleton Place back to the Best Western Smiths Falls.
LOOP THREE: We couldn’t leave Lanark County without a meal at the famous Wheeler’s Pancake House. So, our 137-mile Day Three found us westbound through The Village of Lanark towards Wheeler’s location on Local Trail 1 south of MacDonald’s Corners. After a maple syrup infused lunch and sugar camp museum tour, we steered our sleds east again to Smiths Falls. This brought us back early enough for some of our group to trailer home that night.
More Good Reasons
I highly recommend Smiths Falls as a staging destination for day loops. Thanks to multiple trail choices, each of our rides could easily have been either shorter or longer to suit our daily preference. While our expectation was to ride plenty of farm country in Eastern Ontario, we were pleasantly surprised at the diversity, including woodlands, bush lots and variable terrain.
Meanwhile, with good signage everywhere, navigation was never an issue. Nor was there any feeling of being too far from help if needed, thanks to the reassuring presence of countless farms, businesses, roads, rural villages and friendly people.
Eastern Ontario is most certainly an appealing place to snowmobile. Plus, its proximity to the U.S. border, combined with good highway access, make it a serious contender for your next long weekend getaway.
WHERE WE STAYED:
WHERE WE ATE: