My husband (let’s just call him Eric) and I went to Arrowhead Provincial Park this week! Like Onaping Falls, this is somewhere I’ve had my eye on for awhile but just hadn’t made it there yet. This was a Sunday day trip for us, although it was a wee bit of a drive at around 2.5 hours each way…OK so maybe a bit more than “a wee bit”. Luckily it was a beautiful day and I spent most of the drive there ogling at the ice-covered trees sparkling in the sunshine (I know that sounds really lame but seriously, they looked magical so I’m standing by that statement). Eric nicely pointed out that I looked like an excited dog (in a complimentary way I’m sure) as I was practically hanging out the window looking at the scenery.
The major winter attraction at Arrowhead, which is located in Muskoka just north of Huntsville and easily accessed off Hwy 11, is the 1.3 km skating path that winds through the forest. There are other hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails to explore here too! Oh, and also a tubing hill, which was unfortunately closed when we went. If you don’t have an Ontario Parks Seasonal Day Use Permit then it will cost $17 per vehicle for a day pass and there is an extra cost to use the ski trails. The skating path was open from 10AM-5PM and you can check here for a schedule of their Fire and Ice Nights, where the path is open at night and lit by tiki torches! Check the park’s website or social media accounts before you go to make sure the path is actually open since it is condition-dependent.
If you go on the weekend, expect it to be busy and to probably have a bit of a tough time finding parking. The parking available right by the entrance to the skating path is limited and is a small space. It was a bit of a struggle manoeuvering the Pilot around this lot especially since definition of “parking spot” seemed to be up to individual interpretation. We ended up parking in the Birch parking lot, which is adjacent to the equipment rental building. At the entrance to the skating path, there were benches, cubbies for your boots, a ton of people and a bonfire to help you warm up. Thankfully, it was nowhere near as cold as last weekend – only about -12!
And then we were off! Now, I’m approximately 100x better at skating than I was at cross-country skiing (not meant as a brag, just a really terrible skier) so I had that going for me this time. We went around the path probably 8ish times so it was also a pretty good workout. However, it was hard to skate at a decent pace for any extended period of time due to the copious amounts of children (and adults) falling everywhere or taking up the entire width of the path (pet peeve…also applicable to sidewalks). There were definitely times when you got a nice clear route but there were a lot of bottleneck areas especially at the beginning of the loop. This proved to be an especially hazardous spot for those who hadn’t mastered the art of stopping on skates. The path was pretty carved up by the time we were done skating (at around 1:00) and was definitely rougher on the edges from the get go so you had to be extra careful when passing on the outside. As long as you are prepared to skate at a fairly (sometimes painstakingly) leisurely pace, keep a cautious distance from unpredictable skaters and stay alert of your surroundings, I’m sure you’ll have a great time like we did!
After skating, we decided to give one of the snowshoe trails a try. We set out on the Stubb’s Falls trail, which is a 2.6 km trail that you could access right by the skating path entrance. This was a very well-groomed trail that crossed over the ski trails at some points and had a nice bridge and lookout to Stubb’s Falls (no surprise there). The trail was so well-groomed, in fact, that our snowshoes were rendered almost completely useless (especially Eric’s which are huge and meant for deep snow – see photo below), but we still had fun stomping around in them. I always like putting on my snowshoes – they are red and cute. Anyway, this trail was much less crowded than the skating path and after the Falls lookout, where a few people were gathered, we had it to ourselves until the end. Lovely.
We ended up spending a good couple of hours in the park and were pretty tired by the end of the day. Since we wanted to get the most bang for our buck, we said that we would also check out the tubing hill on our way out. It was closed. Neither of us were that disappointed. In the end, this was a super fun winter outing and I recommend checking it out! There seemed to be lots of places to stay nearby and Arrowhead would be a nice addition to a cottage country winter getaway itinerary 🙂