While it may not technically be winter until December 21, it sure as heck feels like the chilly season is already upon us.
And while for many, this means it's time to retreat to the indoors until spring, the Muskoka-bound know the outdoor fun is only just beginning.
Whether cottage country is your permanent place of residence, a regular getaway, or a once-in-a-while vacation spot, there’s no denying the region — with its natural landscapes, cozy holiday homes and small-town vibes — is perfect in the winter time.
And on top of the generalized ethereal frosty energy that emanates through the area, there's a long list of fun activities that locals and visitors simply must enjoy.
In addition to sipping hot cocoa and strolling through the neighbourhood, taking in the sights of holiday lights, you’re definitely going to want to go for a skate, sled ride, or snowshoe excursion this winter.
So as you work out your most ambitious plans for the months of chill ahead, be sure to mark down these activities as must-tries throughout the season. (And remember: keep your masks on when it's required, and be sure to leave folks from other households plenty of personal space.)
Whether you're looking to explore a full trail of icy wonder, or simply swirl around a rink to help break up the day, there are plenty of places across Muskoka begging you to lace up your skates. All-ages, all-levels fun like this is ideal for Saturday mornings with the family, or Saturday nights for a romantic excursion with your one and only.
How: Check for your nearest location's opening status and arrive with your skates!
While it might sound like Arctic behaviour, there's no need to travel more than a couple hours north for this bucket-list (and super cute) experience! North Ridge Ranch, located at 1823 Williamsport Road in Huntsville, is open for dogsledding, accommodating groups of nine people or fewer in response to COVID-19. Book your time slot in advance online and be sure you bundle up, because not only is this going to be a wild ride, it's going to be a cold one too.
Where: North Ridge Ranch - 1823 Williamsport Road, Huntsville Ontario
How: Book your ride in advance online
Who said fishing is for summertime only? If you're keen on dropping your line through a hole in the ice, you can do so on Helve, Burns, or Buck Lake through the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve. For most species open season starts in January; note: those between the ages of 16 and 65 must have an Ontario fishing licence and Outdoors card, and must follow provincial regulations.
Where: Limberlost Forest & Wildlife Reserve - 1088 Buck Lake Landing, Huntsville, Ontario
How: Consider calling ahead to check the status of the lake
While Gravenhurst / Muskoka KOA is typically a campground, the area is perfect for enjoying via cross-country ski through the chilly season! From November 1 through to April 30, the grounds offer 15 km of groomed and track-set cross-country ski trails, passing through 785 acres of wilderness. Ski equipment and accessories are available to buy or to rent, and snowshoeing supplies are also available through equipment rentals. The grounds are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Where: Gravenhurst / Muskoka KOA - 1083 Reay Road East, Gravenhurst, Ontario
How: Drop by, or call ahead if you're curious about the day's conditions
If you're already visiting Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery to skate over some cranberries, why not experience snowshoeing while you're on site? This property provides "over 10 km of awesome" to explore. Simply walking through it isn't allowed on this trail due to the risk of sinking -- of course, that's what the snowshoe experience prevents from happening. "If you can walk, you can snowshoe," these folks say!
Where: 1074 Cranberry Road, Bala
How: Open from December 27 to March Break, weather permitting