The Top Winter Activities To Do in Muskoka, Ontario

As a 4-season cottage rental company, representing over 200 private rental cottages throughout Ontario, we get this question a lot!  Understandably, as most people associate cottaging with summer fun, swimming, watersports, etc., they don’t know how to fill their leisure time there during the winter months and often ask us if it’s worth going to Muskoka in the winter.  Rest assured, there are many activities to enjoy during the winter too and this blog will outline all of those activities!

Here are some of our favourite winter activities to enjoy while staying at your Muskoka cottage rental!

Muskoka stream in the winter
Riverstone – One of our cottage rentals in Muskoka

Hit the Trails in Muskoka | Ice Skating | Cross Country Skiing | Snowshoeing | Snowmobiling | Fat Biking

Arrowhead Provincial Park Ice Skating Trail

Recently named one of the “19 Stunning Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World” by Travel and Leisure, Arrowhead’s ice skating trail has been an extremely popular addition to the Park, so much so that we recommend booking your winter visit to the park early to avoid disappointment! It has gotten much more popular over the years as it has become better known, including through viral videos of the outdoor skating trail which looks like a winter wonderland, and is also a great day trip idea in the Muskoka area. 

Arrowhead Provincial Park Fire and Ice skate trail
Source: Muskoka Tourism

You’ll find that it’s even more beautiful during the Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail Fire and Ice Nights, when it’s lit up at night with hundreds of tiki torches, making it a fairytale skate through the forest, an unforgettable experience!  Fire and Ice Nights are held every Friday and Saturday night beginning in late January, dependent on weather and ice conditions of the trail, from 6pm – 9pm, but it’s important to book your visit in advance to avoid disappointment. Please note, on Fire & Ice nights the skating trail is closed for maintenance from 3pm until 6pm.  If you lack skates, don’t worry!  Skate rentals are available too. We also have a blog that goes through other great skating trails in Ontario.

Cross Country Skiing in Muskoka, Ontario

Arrowhead Provincial Park is also the best place to head for cross country skiing, with rentals for that sport too.  The Park offers 28 km of classic ski trails and 16 km of skate cross country ski trails, so you won’t lack a variety of trails to explore.

If you’re not a veteran cross country skier, and just want to try the sport out, Gravenhurst Nordic Trails is great for that!  The terrain is pretty flat, with just a few small inclines, so it’s easy to ski even for beginners. The Burnt Pine and Mohawk trails are slightly more challenging, with bigger climbs, and are rated intermediate. Rentals are available there as well.

Muskoka cross country ski trail
Source: Muskoka Tourism

If you have your own equipment, why not try the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre off Highway 11 northbound, north of Highway 117.  This property is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and offers approximately 16.5 kilometres of cross-country ski trails in 3- to 8-kilometre loops, and is free for the public to use.


Snowshoeing on a frozen Muskoka, Ontario lake
Source: Township of Muskoka Lakes

Snowshoeing is amazing too in Muskoka, and there are trail options abound!  The Frost Centre near Dorset has 22 km of trails for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing, Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, and of course, Arrowhead Provincial Park!  There, you’ll find more than 8 km of marked snowshoe trails, as well as off-trail snowshoeing through mature hardwood forest.  Rentals are available in the rental building beside the Visitor Centre on a first come first serve basis. They frequently sell out on weekends, so arrive early to avoid disappointment! 

Snowmobiling | Muskoka, Ontario

The snow cover is usually pretty reliable in Muskoka, allowing for some amazing snowmobiling throughout the winter, and there are OFSC (the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s) trails throughout the region.  

Snowmobiling in Muskoka, Ontario
Source: Muskoka Region

Two recommended day trips in Muskoka include the Lake Muskoka Magic Tour, a leisurely ride of approximately 125 km around Lake Muskoka.  The loop offers fantastic scenery, taking you through Port Carling, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Torrance, and Bala, with easily accessible services off the trail.   

The Lake of Bays Watch Tour is a slightly longer day ride (approximately 200 km) exploring a different part of Muskoka, around the Lake of Bays.  This tour travels through amazing scenery that includes ice cliffs, Oxtongue Rapids, Dyer Memorial and the historic Big East River Bridge, through Baysville and Dorset, and getting close to Huntsville and Dwight. 

Downhill Skiing | Hidden Valley Highlands | Huntsville, Ontario

If downhill skiing or snowboarding is more your style, Hidden Valley Highlands in Huntsville is the place to go!  Rentals are available as well as a Snow School program. Hidden Valley Highlands is located just off Highway 60, 6 km east of downtown Huntsville, close to both Deerhurst Resort and the Hidden Valley Resort. Lift tickets can be purchased on a walk up basis, but it’s recommended that for lessons and rentals you book in advance online to avoid disappointment. 

Hidden Valley Highlands ski area, Huntsville, Muskoka, Ontario
Source: Snow-Online

Fat Biking | Muskoka, Ontario

This sport is rapidly growing in popularity, and there are several places to go in Muskoka to participate.  The Bracebridge Resource Management Centre offers a mix of double track and single track trails along the edge of the Muskoka River. There are both rocky technical trails with ups and downs and some less challenging fun trails winding through pine forested land. The trails near the main parking lot tend to be more mellow and less rocky, perfect for beginners, and the trails south of the main lot highlight the amazing exposed Canadian shield landscape. Please note that wearing a helmet while riding is mandatory. Fun for all skill levels!

Torrance Barrens, just outside of Port Carling offers about 15 km of looped trail. Much of this loop is an open area of flat, rolling Canadian Shield rock with bits of trail connecting to the next table top of rock. This is a scenic, remote location with few trees, and there are a few stairs you’ll need to carry your bike up. Torrance Barrens is actually a dark sky preserve, one of the best places in the area to see the stars on a clear night, so why not consider a magical night ride on your fat bike? Make sure you dress warmly, so you can relax a bit while enjoying a ride while taking in the night sky!

Cross country skiing in Muskoka, Ontario

The Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve is a publicly accessible private year-round wilderness park near Huntsville, Ontario, with more than 70 km of skiing and snowshoeing trails for free use by the public.  These trails offer the options of either easy trails for a leisurely outing or a lot of really challenging climbs.  The added bonus here is that the trails are usually packed down from skiers and snowshoers.

If you’re new to fat biking, and lack the right equipment, no problem!  Rentals can be arranged through LivOutside in Bracebridge.  They have developed their own network of groomed, single-track cycling trails winding through the Muskoka woods. 

Muskoka Outdoor Adventures | Dog Sledding | Ice Fishing | Sleigh Rides | Ice Climbing

Dog Sledding at North Ridge Ranch | Huntsville, Ontario

Dog sledding at Northridge Ranch, Muskoka, Ontario
Source: North Ridge Ranch

North Ridge Ranch offers two different options for your dog sledding adventure, either one hour or a half day.  The half day tour is the most popular, approximately 2.5 – 3 hours long.  It’s a 20km experience through their forested trails and is offered 7 days a week, but note that reservations are necessary.  For those who just want to try it out, the one hour tour is a great option, but is only available during midweek days only.  This shorter tour takes you on a 10km ride, but still has some exciting twists and turns in store!

Ice Fishing | Muskoka, Ontario

Source: The Great Canadian Wilderness

Muskoka has over 1500 lakes, and many of them are great for ice fishing in the winter.  Four weekends a year Canadian residents are able to fish in Ontario without obtaining a license – and one of these weekends coincides with the Family Day weekend in Ontario, generally the third weekend of the month.  Plan your trip around the Family Fishing weekend and try this sport out.  Hut rental packages are available at Primetime Ice Fishing Huts on Lake Rosseau, Muskoka if you want the full experience!  

Sleigh Rides – Back of Beyond | Huntsville, Ontario

Sleigh ride, Back of Beyond Equine Centre, Muskoka, Ontario
Source: Back of Beyond Equine Centre – Private Evening Sleigh Ride

Here are a couple of experiences that don’t require any level of fitness!  Back of Beyond Equine Centre operates as a sanctuary for rescued and retired horses that no one else wants, where they can live out their remaining days in peace.  The farm also offers farm tours, fall wagon rides, pony rides for the kids, and in the winter, a sleigh ride to see Santa, winter sleigh rides and campfires for the whole family, and private evening romantic sleigh rides.

Ice Climbing at Liv Outside | Bracebridge, Ontario

Liv Outside offers outdoor equipment rentals in Bracebridge and at their other locations throughout Muskoka for ice climbing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and fat biking.  They also offer ice climbing tours and instruction, and have been introducing many people to the sport over the past 15 years. Their Intro Program was designed for the beginner, with quality instruction and great thrills. This program operates regularly on weekends throughout the season or by private group booking on any day between early January and late March.

Ice climbing in Muskoka, Ontario
Source: Destination Ontario

If you’re already experienced at ice climbing, they also offer some of the best routes for intermediate climbers on a 6 hour adventure held every Sunday throughout the winter season.

Winter Carnivals in Muskoka

Winter carnival in Muskoka, Ontario
Source: Discover Muskoka

Maybe you’d like to plan your winter getaway around some of the best winter events for your Muskoka cottage rental experience!  February is the month for winter events, with winter carnivals being held throughout Muskoka, including Dorset, Gravenhurst, Port Sydney, Algonquin Park, and Baysville.  

Indoor Fun in Muskoka, Ontario

Of course, your private Muskoka cottage rental has its own indoor activities to enjoy, and perhaps a hot tub too for wonderful winter evenings under the stars!  If you wish to get out and sample the wares at a Muskoka craft brewery, take in a trivia night or enjoy live music, karaoke, and open mic night at Kelly’s Kitchen Pub, an authentic Irish pub in Bracebridge, or just sit back and enjoy having your meal prepared for you at one of the best restaurants in Muskoka, you’ll find lots of indoor options too!

We think you’ll find that winter rivals summer as the best time to visit Muskoka, and you won’t find any shortage of activities to enjoy both outdoors and indoors.  There are a few differences to consider when renting a cottage during the winter.  Here’s information on what to expect from winter cottage rentals, and some very important tips on winter driving in cottage country too – after all, we want you to safely enjoy this very beautiful time of the year!

CottageLINK Rental Management
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