Skating through the woods

The massively popular skating trail at Arrowhead Park will draw thousands of visitors this weekend. The trail may have been this region’s first, but it’s not the only one now: there are some others in Muskoka that aren’t as well known, letting you avoid the crowds.

And believe us when we tell you there will be crowds at Arrowhead Park on Family Day weekend. Many years the park reaches capacity on Saturday and Sunday of the weekend, and people are turned away at the gate.

If you go on Family Day weekend, your best bet is to go on Monday. Or better yet, go midweek if you can. It’s worth the effort: the trail was recently included in a global list of 19 stunning natural skating trails compiled by Travel + Leisure. The trail winds through the woods through what is a campground in summer.

It’s even more magical on Fire and Ice Nights, when the trail is lit with tiki torches for its entire length. There’s one of February 14, and again on February 23, March 2 and March 9. The midweek ones, of course, are less crowded.

The trail is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (6:00 p.m. in March). On Fire and Ice nights it’s open from 11 to 3 and from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission to the park is $17 per vehicle on weekdays, and $20 on weekends and holidays. If you go, bring your skis and make a day of it – Arrowhead has some of the best cross-country skiing trails in the region, as well as a tube run and miles of snowshoeing terrain.

Cranberry trail

The incredible popularity of the Arrowhead trail has spawned a host of other trails, which is fantastic for all of us. Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh was one of the first out of the gate, taking advantage of their extensive cranberry bogs and turning them into a winter playground. They have a 1.2 km loop around one of the marshes, complete with a bonfire warming station. You can also warm up with a mug of cranberry-apple cider, or enjoy some of their excellent wine – they claim to be the only skating trail in the world with its own on-site winery.

There are also a couple of pond hockey rinks, complete with boards and nets for those who want to take up a game of shinny. The trail is lit for night skating every Saturday, weather permitting, with 400 tiki torches flickering the landscape.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children, and there are ski-and-snowshoe combo passes available as well. The trail is open from 11 to 4 daily, and from 6 to 9 on Saturday nights.

Downtown Bracebridge

For a completely different take on the skating trail, check out the Memorial Park Winter Village in Bracebridge. Opened to coincide with the first Fire and Ice Festival – the town’s massively successful winter carnival format – this trail winds through the park and around the bandstand, and feature gorgeous lighting every night. Admission is free, and the trail is lit until 9 every night.

It also has the best warming stations around, with restaurants and pubs located within walking distance of the park. You can even follow your skate with a movie – the Norwood Theatre is right next to the park.


Posted in Connecting with Nature.